West Iron’s Alex Ralston looks for a path to the net, as Kingsford’s Jake Menard (24) and Kevin Feira defend. In back, Caleb Pellizzer is on the move.
IRON RIVER—After getting buried at home 74-42 by Kingsford Feb. 7, West Iron County’s boys team found its footing Feb. 10 in a low-scoring game at Calumet, topping the Copper Kings 37-33.
Amid everything else, the win at Calumet puts the Wykons in a first place tie with Hancock in the West Pac Conference standings. The title will likely be decided Feb. 24 here at the Greenlund Gym when the Bulldogs visit.
Both teams are now 4-2, one game ahead of Calumet (3-3). Overall, the Wykons enter this week with an 11-5 record.
Unlike most West Iron games this season, this one was deliberately paced—though they won, the Wykons’ 37 points was their lowest total of the season.
“We were really patient,” Coach Dan Schive said, “trying to get good shots. We made them [the Copper Kings] work really hard on offense, and they were very deliberate, trying to find the shot they were looking at.
The Wykons led by four at halftime and by 10 in the fourth quarter, but Calumet wasn’t done. Logan Hrkas hit a three-pointer, and the Copper Kings then pressured the ball, got a steal or two and cut the lead to two.
“But it wasn’t because we were sloppy,” Schive continued. “We missed a couple shots, and they made theirs.”
The Copper Kings had a chance to tie it in the final minute, but their shot was off-target, and Austin Waara’s lay-up in as time wound down put West Iron up by four.
“We played really good team basketball last night, and we worked really hard on the defensive end.” The Wykons used five different defenses, “and it worked out fine.”
The Wykons have brought up Andy Ridolphi from the JV team for added physical presence inside. “He didn’t score, but he did his job.”
Waara and Tyler Stafford both played well. Waara took care of the ball and ran the offense well. Stafford was all over the floor and in position for passes.
“We were all on the same page, and we worked hard for that one.”
Caleb Pellizzer led West Iron with 13 points, Stafford and Adam Newby both had eight—Newby had a pair of two-pointers. Pellizzer had 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals. Stafford had five boards, and Waara dished out four assists.
Andy Tikkanen and Hrkas led Calumet with nine points each.
On Feb. 7, the Wykons hosted Kingsford, and it wound up being nearly a carbon copy of Iron Mountain’s visit a week earlier: The Flivvers dominated the game physically never let the Wykons into it.
Kingsford jumped out to an early 13-2 lead, with Kevin Feira scoring back-to-back baskets, followed by eight consecutive points from Aidan Wienke. The visitors led 21-6 early in the second quarter.
Missed shots and turnovers didn’t do the Wykons any good, and Kingsford kept on going. A basket by Pellizzer and two by Stafford got West Iron some points just before halftime, when Kingsford led 32-16.
Whatever adjustments made at halftime had little effect: Kingsford went off on a 19-4 spree in the third quarter and built up a 31-point lead.
Like the Iron Mountain game, Kingsford dominated the Wykons inside with more physical players. “We just got outplayed, outhustled, outboarded,” Schive said. “They ran us off our own floor, and they muscled us underneath.”
He also had a hard time believing the team’s stat sheet, which said the Wykons turned over the ball just nine times. “There’s no way,” he said. “We probably were pushing … 30?”
The problem wasn’t the offense. “We can run it in practice, and it’s fine.” But opponents know Pellizzer is the key to West Iron’s offense, so they put their attention on him.
The Wykons’ best offense came from Alex Ralston, in his first game back from an ankle injury. “He was constant movement.”
He also said that with all the attention Pellizzer is getting, the team needs to use Stafford more. “Until we get the ball into the post and run a post pattern, we’re going to be a mess.”
Pellizzer led the Wykons with 13 points, and Ralston and Adam Newby had seven each. Stafford scored six. For Kingsford, Wienke led with 21 points, Feira had 12 and Jeff Gregory scored 11.
• The Wykons are on the road all this week, visiting Escanaba on Feb. 14 and L’Anse on Feb. 17. Then they are off until their final home game, against Hancock, on Feb. 24.
Flivvers 18 14 25 17 -- 74
Wykons 6 10 10 16 -- 42
Wykons 10 10 9 8 -- 37
Cop.Kings 6 10 7 10 -- 33