IRON RIVER—When is the last time a West Iron-Hancock game at the end of the season meant anything?
It means a lot this Friday, Feb. 24, when the Bulldogs and Wykons tip off at the Charles Greenlund Gym: The West Pac Conference boys title will be at stake.
“I want a ton of people in the gym,” Wykons Coach Dan Schive said. “It’s Parents Night and Fifth Quarter and Homecoming. And I don’t know if Hancock has played in front of more than a hundred people all year.
“So I would love to see the gym just packed.”
As this week starts, the Wykons are 5-2 in the West Pac, and Hancock is 4-2. A win over Hancock would wrap up the title for WIC, which lost 78-55 at Hancock on Jan. 24.
The Wykons (12-6 overall) defeated L’Anse 64-56 on Feb. 17 to move into first place. On Feb. 14, West Iron collapsed in the second half at Escanaba and lost 55-40.
After that loss, Schive said the team had some good practices to get ready for L’Anse. But the Purple Hornets, helped by Jimmy Veker’s 10 points, had the better start and led 22-15 after one.
Schive said he didn’t mind being behind. “I liked the pace, and I knew they wouldn’t be able to stay with that pace. It was pretty fast.”
In the second quarter, West Iron switched from a man defense to several different zones and held L’Anse to seven points while taking a 33-29 halftime lead.
“Offensively,” Schive said, “we got what we wanted.” Caleb Pellizzer followed his eight first quarter points with 10 in the second. “He played really well.—he was just faster than everybody else.”
The momentum continued in the second half. “We attacked the rim hard, shared the ball, and I thought we played really good defense.”
Andy Ridolphi boosted West Iron with nine points in the third. “They switched guys on Andy, so he had a guy his size, and he just beat him up in the post. It worked out real nice.”
The Wykons pressed L’Anse, forced turnovers and finished by making free throws—8 of 10 in the fourth quarter.
“It was exciting,” said Schive. “It was loud and fast and up and down. We’d go up, and they’d come back. Then we just kind of snuck away at the end.”
Pellizzer led West Iron with 26 points, Ridolphi finished with 12, Adam Newby had eight, and Ryan Richard and Austin Waara both chipped in with seven.
Pellizzer also led rebounding with nine, to go with four assists and five steals. Richard had four boards, and Waara had four assists. “The kids just played well.”
At Escanaba, the Wykons came out hot in the first quarter. Esky led by one after the first quarter, but Pellizzer’s seven points in the second quarter and five more by Newby boosted the Wykons into a 27-20 halftime lead.
It could have been as much as 15, Schive said, if the team hadn’t missed several routine shots.
The game changed in the third quarter when Esky started dialing long distance—five threes, including three by Ben Kleiman. “We didn’t guard the three-point line, and they went a little psycho. It was all really fast—we went from up seven to down, I think, 17 at one point.
It’s happened before. “Five of our six losses are because we just didn’t cover the three-point line.”
After that, “We just couldn’t get it together in the second half and make a run.” Esky led 42-33 after three and stayed in front. “We didn’t move enough, we didn’t cut correctly.” Waara scored seven points in the fourth quarter, but the rest of team were shut out. Pellizzer and Stafford didn’t score at all in the second half.
Pellizzer led the Wykons with 15 points, and Stafford and Waara added seven. For Esky, Kleiman led with 23 (five of his team’s eight triples), and Ian DeMarse scored 13.
Stafford led West Iron with 14 rebounds, with seven by Pellizzer and five by Richard. Waara dished out six assists.
• The Wykons’ Friday night showdown with Hancock Feb. 24 is their final home game. They wrap up the regular season Feb. 28 at Ishpeming.
The Class C District 95 tournament starts March 5 at Iron Mountain with the Wykons playing Norway in the late game (7:45 p.m. tip-off). IM plays Stephenson at 6.
The title game is March 7 at 7.
Wykons 11 16 6 7 -- 40
Eskymos 12 8 22 13 -- 55
Wykons 15 18 14 18 -- 64
Pur.Hornets 22 7 15 12 -- 56