West Iron’s Alex Ralston gets set to fire as Escanaba’s Daniel LaPalm and a teammate defend during their Dec. 29 game. Ralston scored 21 points for the Wykons.
IRON RIVER—With just six players in uniform and two starters absent, West Iron’s boys team kept on winning Dec. 30, finishing 2011 with a 64-53 win over Escanaba here.
Their fifth win in a row gives the Wykons a 5-1 record overall. They remain 2-0 in the West Pac Conference.
Coach Dan Schive already knew Kahrie Beaudrie (visiting family downstate) would miss the game. Three hours before the game, he got a surprise: Adam Newby was too sick to play.
That left him with six players to face the Eskymos, who had nine suited up. “I preached to them before the game, let’s be patient,” the coach said. “We can run when we get a chance, but be patient on offense.
“Keep moving the ball. If we stand and watch, we get in trouble. If we keep swinging the ball, we get open shots off of it.”
Esky got away to an early 7-3 lead on Samuel Molnar’s three and Dakota Tryan’s bucket. But baskets by Austin Waara, Alex Ralston, Caleb Pellizzer, Ryan Richard and Tyler Stafford put the Wykons in front, 13-12. When Ben Kleiman’s three gave Esky the lead, Waara’s three took it right back. The Wykons led 18-17 after one.
Early in the second quarter, Pellizzer’s three-point play (hoop plus one), treys by Waara and Ralston and twos by Pellizzer and Richard built up a 10-point Wykon lead, 31-21. But a series of WIC fouls and turnovers gave Esky a chance, and the tourists rallied with an 11-0 scoring run.
“That’s when we started standing and not moving the ball. That was the first thing we said at halftime: Keep moving, keep moving. That’s what the offense is—you gotta keep moving.”
Molnar and Ralston traded late triples, making it eight lead changes in the first half. It was deadlocked 35-35 at halftime.
Defense dominated early in the second half, but Ralston’s two buckets gave the Wykons a slim lead. In the final 90 seconds of the quarter, Pellizzer, who briefly left the game a few minutes earlier, converted two free throws, then drove the lane for a basket that put WIC ahead 47-42 after three.
West Iron stepped on the gas in the fourth quarter, and Escanaba couldn’t keep pace. Pellizzer’s fast break and free throw started the breakaway, and Ralston followed, burying a three off Richard’s assist, then driving the baseline for another hoop.
Behind 55-44, Esky called time—but when action resumed, Ralston stole the ball and scored on a lay-up. Escanaba never got closer than 10 again.
“They just got tired,” Schive said. “With six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, they were worn out. And we did that with six guys.” The Wykons, he noted, run extensively during their practices, giving them endurance late in games.
Pellizzer and Ralston shared the team lead with 21 points each. Waara scored 11, and Richard added eight. For Esky, Tryan led with 14 points and Brandon Robinette, a sophomore, scored 13.
“I’m ecstatic for Ralston,” the coach stated. “He’s needed one of these games.” The junior nicknamed “Cream o’ Wheat” started in place of Beaudrie. “He looked pretty comfortable tonight.”
Besides his 21 points, Pellizzer ran a patient, controlled game on the floor. “He’s a flat-out stud,” said his coach. “He can play.”
Waara played all 32 minutes. “He handled ball pressure as good as he has in two years. He hit two threes--he’s getting his stroke back.” Richard and Stafford both pounded the boards hard—both finished the game with four fouls.
Props also to Jared Saigh, the team’s only reserve, who was on and off the floor all night to give starters a quick rest. Saigh missed last season due to a hip injury, and it still hurts him when he runs.
Schive said he had to keep using Saigh because otherwise his hip would have tightened up. “Then we would have been in big trouble.”
Other stats: Pellizzer, eight assists, seven rebounds; Richard and Waara, eight rebounds each; Stafford, six boards; Waara, six assists; Ralston, three steals.
One Wykon problem was free throws: They were 11 of 25 at the line. But Esky had problems of its own: 2 of 8. West Iron also took good care of the ball—only about 10 turnovers.
With eight players, West Iron doesn’t have a large roster. But there are advantages, too, the coach noted.
“Everybody gets a ton of reps, and they’re getting to be pretty close-knit. Everybody’s starting to figure out where everybody’s supposed to go. I’ve got eight kids that I’m perfectly comfortable throwing on the floor.”
“Winning’s contagious. So let’s keep winning.”
• The Wykons visited North Dickinson on Jan. 2, their final game before an eight-day break in the schedule.
They return on Jan. 10 to face Florence, the first of four straight at home. Following the Bobcats are Calumet (Jan. 13), Houghton (Jan. 16) and Forest Park (Jan. 19).
Eskymos 17 18 7 11 -- 53
Wykons 18 17 12 17 -- 64