NORWAY—A strong third quarter and a steady parade to the free throw line in the final minutes gave Norway all it needed to defeat West Iron 50-45 in the championship game of the boys District 95 tournament here March 6.
It’s the 10th time Norway has won districts since the Wykons last brought the trophy home in 2000. The Knights advance to this week’s Class C regional tourney in Escanaba, while the Wykons end up 14-8 for the year.
“This is going to take a long time to get over,” Wykons Coach Dan Schive said. “This is three years in a row this has happened.”
Vs. Iron Mtn: West Iron got to the finals with a 63-53 win over Iron Mountain on March 4. A 16-7 second quarter boosted the Wykons, and they led by 12 early in the second half, but IM battled back into it.
The Mountaineers tied it at 51 with 3:18 left. Adam Newby’s bucket and Austin Waara’s free throw got the Wykons back in front, before Luke Zambon’s hoop got IM within one, 54-53, with 1:58 left.
But it was all Wykons after that: IM missed a series of shots, the Wykons’ Andy Ridolphi, Alex Ralston, Tyler Stafford and Waara grabbed the rebounds, got fouled and made 9 of 12 free throws to wrap it up.
Hot hands: Newby, Waara and Brock Hopkins each fired two baskets in the second quarter, but Taylor Huotari led IM’s rally in the third quarter with 10 points—Waara kept WIC’s offense going with six.
WIC’s defense did better on Huotari in the fourth quarter, and Zambon’s six was offset by Waara’s six free throws. Waara was game-high with 20 points
Coach Schive said IM rallied in the second half after the Wykons backed off on offense. “We weren’t doing anything—we were just standing around. If we get movement, we get good shots.”
Once that was corrected, WIC played better defense and rebuilt its lead.
Numbers: WIC team: 23-51 (45%) FG, 14-22 (64%) FT, 15 fouls, 30 rebs, 7 rebs. IM team: 8-15 FT, 22 fouls.
WIC stats: Austin Waara, 20 pts, 6 asts, 3 stls; Adam Newby, 12 pts, 2x3; Andy Ridolphi, 12 pts, 6 rebs; Ryan Rogers, 7 pts; Joe Pisoni, 6 pts; Brock Hopkins, 5 pts, 5 rebs, 3 asts; Tyler Stafford, 6 rebs; Alex Ralston, 5 rebs. IM stats: Taylor Huotari, 19 pts, 3x3; Luke Zambon, 14 pts; Jake Thoman, 8 pts.
Wykons 18 16 11 18 -- 63
M’tneers 17 7 18 11 -- 53
Vs. Norway: Yes, Norway lost to West Iron twice during the season (by seven at West Iron and by 35 in their own gym on Feb. 11). The Knights only won seven in the regular season.
But the Knights were charged up by hosting districts, and a noisy student section fired them up. Again, the “sixth man” didn’t score a point but had a big influence.
Norway led most of the night. A 9-2 run midway through the first half gave the Knights a 16-9 lead, but West Iron’s 10-3 run (six by Waara, four by Stafford) tied it 19-19 at halftime.
It was also tied at 21, 23 and 26 early in the second half. Midway through the third quarter, Hopkins scored on a pass from Ralston, putting the Wykons ahead for the first time since the opening minutes, 30-29.
Norway answered with a 7-0 run, featuring Austin Grayvold and John Grayvold Jr., who scored 11 in the third quarter. Norway led 36-30 after three.
Fatal fouls: WIC’s Newby hit three straight baskets early in the fourth quarter, cutting the Knights’ lead to 39-38 with four minutes left. But after that, fouls and free throws killed the Wykons.
WIC was whistled five times in the next two minutes, and Norway made 9 of 12 at the line, turning a one-point molehill into a 10-point mountain (48-38) with 1:10 left. Waara and Hopkins hit late baskets, but other shots rimmed away.
Norway was whistled for three fouls in the fourth quarter, and West Iron was called for 12. For the night, the Wykons were 3 of 4 at the line and Norway was 16 of 27. A 13-point advantage in a five-point win.
Out of control: But it was more than free throws. The Wykons created their own problems by letting Norway (and the crowd) get their engines revving too high. During a second half time-out, Schive pleaded with his players: “Slow down! Slow down! Please!”
Teams facing a zone defense have to be deliberate, he said, beating it with passing and proper cutting and footwork. “Everything was too fast. We made the proper cuts, but they were too fast or too early.”
Other problems on offense: too many turnovers and not getting the ball into the lane. “If a team leaves the middle of the lane open and you’re not going to take advantage, then you deserve to lose.
“We didn’t play well in the first half. Didn’t make shots. When we let somebody go to the basket, we made stupid fouls and gave up and-ones. And we just would not throw the ball into the post. I don’t know why.”
It was the final varsity game for seniors Waara, Stafford and Ralston.
Numbers: WIC team: 19-53 (36%) FG; 3-4 FT; 18 fouls, 15 turnovers. Norway team: 16-27 FT, 11 fouls.
WIC stats: Waara, 21 pts, 3x3, 3 stls; Newby, 12 pts; Hopkins, 7 pts, 8 rebs; Stafford, 8 rebs; Ralston, 5 rebs, 4 asts. Norway stats: John Grayvold, 20 pts; Austin Grayvold, 14 pts; Dan Bal, 8 pts.
Wykons 7 12 11 15 -- 45
Knights 10 9 17 14 -- 50