As teammates watch closely, the Wykons’ Adam Newby tries to figure out how to get around Forest Park’s Raymond Tomasik.
IRON RIVER—They only led midway through the second quarter, but Forest Park gave West Iron a tough time in boys basketball action here Dec. 11.
The Wykons had to work hard to earn a 56-52 nonconference win. It gives them a 2-0 record overall.
That was West Iron’s only game last week, while Forest Park won at Rapid River Dec. 13 (separate story).
Hyped up: It was the second game of the season for both teams, so they are works in progress. The hyped-up atmosphere of facing a cross-county rival so early guaranteed more adrenaline than skill on display, especially in the first half.
Threes by WIC’s Adam Newby and FP’s Austin Snell highlighted an even-steven first quarter—it ended in a 9-9 tie. Shots were rushed, players took plenty of chances, and a whole lot of banging went on. “It felt like a district game, with it being so physical,” said Wykons Coach Dan Schive.
Austin Waara’s three launched a 9-0 rally that put WIC ahead 25-16 at halftime. Their lead grew to 12 (38-26) halfway through the third quarter—and then vanished just like that.
Trojans attack: Jeff Johnson made it disappear by burying back-to-back threes and then a pair of free throws. His eight-point run cut the Wykons’ lead to four.
After Waara made another three, FP got a basket from Micah Bal, a free throw from Derek Aberly, a Chris Hilberg basket off a missed freebie and an Aberly rebound hoop, tying it at 41-all as the third quarter ended.
It was a scramble after that. WIC’s Tyler Stafford scored twice on putbacks midway through the fourth quarter. FP never trailed by more than two possessions, but it was the Wykons who got points at the key moments:
--With 3:11 left, L.J. Burns made two free throws, getting the Trojans within one, 48-47. Adam Newby passed under the basket to Andy Ridolphi for a hoop; WIC, 50-47
--With 2:03 left, Burns made two more at the line—within one, 50-49. WIC missed a shot, got the rebound and Stafford scored on an assist from Aren Newby; WIC, 52-49.
--With 49 seconds left, Aberly got open and popped in a three--within two, 54-52. But Waara was fouled and made both free throws. WIC, 56-52, and that’s how it ended.
Getting close? Trojans Coach Chris Nocerini said his team played well, “but they have to learn they can’t turn it on when they want to—they need to play four quarters.
“We’re a better team that what showed up on the floor.”
Nocerini said he was reminded of two years ago, when he coached most of the same players on the Trojan JV team. At first, he said, they couldn’t get over the hump in close games. “About five games into it, it clicked, and we jelled as a team.”
WIC Coach Dan Schive said the game was like some of the Wykons’ recent practices—the team got less focused as it went along.
“We’ve been real lackadaisical in the second half of practice,” he explained. “We have to have a great practice every day, or it’s going to show on the floor.”
Schive said his team missed too many close-in shots in the first half. “If we make six of them, we have 12 more points. When we are patient and technical in the half court, then we get good shots.”
He also wasn’t thrilled with his players firing threes with a lead late in the game. “You’ve got to learn how to win” by waiting for higher-percentage shots.
Big inside: Stafford and Waara shared top scoring honors with 12 each. Stafford scored six key points in the fourth quarter, and Schive praised his efforts. “He raked the boards in the second half and had some putbacks. Really important tonight. His effort and enthusiasm is off the charts sometimes.”
Coach Nocerini agreed. “He’s just a class kid who comes out, plays hard. He hit some big shots at crucial points and got some nice rebounds, too.”
The Trojans got a big lift by Aberly’s return from a football injury—he had eight points and 10 rebounds after just two days of practice—and scoring bursts by Johnson, Raymond Tomasik (six in the third quarter) and Burns (six in the fourth).
The Trojans’ coach was also pleased with his team committing fewer fouls and getting to the free throw line more often. Next, they have to shoot better than 50% (10 of 20) at the line.
“Hats off to the Wykons,” Nocerini said. “But we’ll be waiting for them at Forest Park.” The rematch takes place Jan. 17.
Numbers: Team stats: WIC, 18-52 (35%) 2’s; 3-14 (21%) 3’s; 11-16 (69%) FT, 15 fouls, 52 rebs, 14 TOs. FP, 15-55 (27%) FGs; 4-19 (21%) 3’s; 10-20 (50%) FTs, 18 fouls, 54 rebs, 11 TOs.
Wykon stats: Tyler Stafford, 12 pts, 9 rebs; Austin Waara, 12 pts, 2x3, 5 asts; Adam Newby, 9 pts; Alex Ralston, 8 pts, 5 asts; Brock Hopkins, 6 pts, 9 rebs; Andy Ridolphi, 6 pts. Trojan stats: Jeff Johnson, 10 pts, 2x3; Austin Snell, 9 pts; Raymond Tomasik, 8 pts, 10 rebs; Derek Aberly, 8 pts, 10 rebs, 3 sts; L.J. Burns, 8 pts.
Trojans 9 7 25 11 -- 52
Wykons 9 16 16 15 -- 56
Coming up: The Wykons hosted Houghton on Dec. 17 and visit Norway on Dec. 20. After a short holiday break, they head to Escanaba Dec. 27.