The Wykons’ Joe Pisoni and Ryan Rogers (24) try to disrupt the play for L’Anse senior Ryan LaBerge, as he drives to the basket during the teams’ game Dec. 20. Adam Newby (22) is nearby.
IRON RIVER—On the Iron County sports scene, nobody may welcome the start of 2014 more than Dan Schive and his West Iron boys basketball team.
2013 sure ended on a sour note for the Wykons. Playing three times over the holiday season, the Wykons lost all three: at home against L’Anse, 69-55 on Dec. 20; at Houghton, 64-34 on Dec. 23; and back home vs. Escanaba, 66-45 on Dec. 27.
So it’s Auld Lang Syne and let’s turn the page to a brand new 2014. They start it 1-4 overall, 1-2 in the West Pac.
Vs. L’Anse, after an 18-18 first quarter, West Iron went on a 14-1 run to go ahead 32-19. Andy Ridolphi scored seven during that run, and Adam Newby knocked in a three. L’Anse wanted time.
The Purple Hornets called a new game after that, with a 9-2 run that cut WIC’s lead to 34-28 at halftime. They kept going in the third quarter, going ahead 46-39 after an 18-5 rally.
Ridolphi and Ryan Rogers kept WIC within two (50-48) after three, but L’Anse broke out 15-7 early in the fourth quarter, boosted by three triples. They shut out West Iron in the final four minutes.
Jimmy Veker led L’Anse with 29 points (nine in the first quarter, 11 in the third), backed up by Jacob Ostermeyer (21) and Ryan LaBerge (14). L’Anse hit nine triples: LaBerge banged in four, and Ostermeyer hit three.
Ridolphi led WIC with 23 points, and Adam Newby and Rogers each added 12. Nobody else scored more than two.
“We can’t give up 41 in the second half, simple as that,” Schive said later. L’Anse made the most of high percentage shots. “We can’t give up easy post possessions.”
P.Hornets 18 10 22 19 -- 69
Wykons 18 16 14 7 -- 55
At Houghton, the Wykons trailed 25-16 at halftime and still were within 10 (40-30) after three. But the Gremlins floored it with a 24-4 fourth quarter.
“It [Houghton’s lead] was nine a couple minutes into the fourth quarter,” Schive said. The Wykons tried to change things up to eat into the lead, and they didn’t work.
“But you can’t be satisfied to lose by a certain number,” the coach said. “We tried to win the game, and it backfired.”
Nate Gockenbach and Eero Niemela both scored nine in the fourth frame. Gockenback led both teams with 22 points, Justin Ruotsala had 14 and Niemela scored 13.
No Wykon scored more than Ridolphi’s eight, all in the first half. Joe Pisoni and Aren Newby both scored seven, and Adam Newby and Rogers had six.
Wykons 8 8 14 4 -- 34
Gremlins 10 15 15 24 -- 64
Back home against Esky, WIC’s 9-0 rally gave the Wykons a brief lead (11-10) in the first quarter. The Eskymos led 14-11 after one and took charge with a 14-4 burst early in the second quarter. It was 36-26 at halftime.
Down by 13 early in the second half, West Iron battled hard and got within six (48-42) early in the fourth quarter. Then it was like those Road Runner cartoons—Esky scored the next 11 and vanished over the horizon just like that.
Esky had size, speed and experience—the same group has starting for three years. Brandon Robinette led with 21 (eight in the fourth) and Sam Molnar scored 16 (three 3-pointers). Robinette and Jordan Ogren combined for 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Like at Houghton, the Wykons tried different approaches to cut into Esky’s lead. Like at Houghton, they didn’t work. “When you get behind,” Schive said, “sometimes you’ve got to just change.”
Ridolphi kept WIC in the game with 10 in the first quarter and 21 for the night (along with 11 rebounds). Adam Newby added 11 and Aren Newby added six.
“I’m very happy with the effort the kids played with,” their coach said, “and how hard they played. Now the goal is to get them to play that hard every time we get on the floor, whether it’s practice or a game.”
He said West Iron attacked the rim hard and worked the ball well against Esky’s zone. “But we just see teams that are taller than we are. It’s hard to fight through the trees all the time.”
Eskymos 14 22 12 18 -- 66
Wykons 11 15 14 5 -- 45
• So pin up the new calendar. The Wykons visit North Dickinson Jan. 2 and return home for back-to-back games: Florence on Jan. 6 and Norway on Jan. 7. That starts an intense run of home dates: five in just 11 days.