Wykon boys scare unbeaten IM
IRON RIVER—On Feb. 6, the West Iron County boys basketball team suffered a 32-point loss to UPSSA top-ranked and unbeaten Iron Mountain. Not that the Wykons were an outlier in that sense, for many teams this season had ended up on the wrong side of a lopsided score against the Mountaineers.
But West Iron coach Dan Schive, assistant coach Chris Thomson and the Wykon players were not about to roll over and accept another beating from Iron Mountain once the District 65 tournament rolled around. No, if the Wykons were going to lose to the state’s third-ranked Division 3 team again, the Mountaineers were going to face a far different challenge in the rematch.
To that end, the Wykon coaches worked out a defensive game plan that included switching between five different defenses on the fly, all designed to not let IM’s dynamic duo of Foster Wonders and Marcus Johnson do whatever they pleased whenever they desired.
Turns out, the plan worked perfectly for three quarters. But Wonders was finally able to fight off West Iron’s tenacious defense to score 16 of his team’s final 20 points and send his team to a hard-fought 55-45 victory over the Wykons on Feb. 27 at Charles Greenlund Gymnasium.
After shooting 1 of 7 in the first half and misfiring several more times in the third quarter, Wonders nailed back-to-back deep 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to help his team finally gain a bit of breathing room against a stubborn West Iron squad that probably played its best game of the season.
“I don’t think that there’s any doubt that that’s as hard and as much effort that we’ve played with,” Schive said. “I mean, it’s never fun to lose, but at least you’ve run a really good team as hard as you can.”
“For that team with their athletic ability, their ability to put up 80 points, we’re happy with our effort in the fact that we kept them to just 55,” senior Caden Pellizzer added. “I mean, we wanted to win for sure, but just our ability to keep them low and just give all we’ve got was (impressive).”
What made West Iron’s performance even more impressive was the results eventual champion Iron Mountain posted in the other two district games. In their opener, the Mountaineers pasted 19-win Ironwood 87-38 and then finished off their title run by hammering 17-win Calumet 71-41 in the final.
What the Wykons decided to do defensively, and began working on two weeks before their matchup with Iron Mountain, was to employ a 1-3-1 zone, a 2-3 matchup zone with three different traps and a man-to-man sprinkled in.
The principal aim of the strategy was to take the ball out of the hands of Johnson, who directs the IM attack after getting many of the play calls from his coach and father Bucky.