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Wykons hope late comeback can spur growth

IRON RIVER—In the midst of an arduous start to the 2014-15 season, the West Iron County boys basketball team has shown one consistent positive trait through the first six games of the campaign.
    Despite dropping all six games, the Wykons have competed with character. That quality was on display Jan. 8 against North Dickinson.
    Trailing by 18 with a shade more than five minutes to play, West Iron embarked on a 12-0 run that clipped the deficit to six with two minutes left.
    The comeback eventually fell short, as the Wykons lost to the Nordics 53-43 in a nonconference game at Charles Greenlund Gymnasium. Nevertheless, West Iron coach Dan Schive’s squad went down with a competitive fight, just two days after getting blown out 65-23 at Escanaba.
    “They never stop playing hard,” Schive said after the North Dickinson defeat. “They go through stretches where they don’t play very well, but they never stop playing hard.”
    After the Nordics (1-4) took a 49-31 lead with 5:11 to play, the Wykons responded with probably their best stretch of the season.
    Brandon Olson sparked the comeback with a layup and a driving hoop. Cole Westphal buried a 3-pointer midway through the run and then Ryan Maki sank a trey that pulled his team to within 49-43 with 2:05 to play.
    Maki’s bucket brought a buzz to the gymnasium, as the Wykons had rallied back to within two possessions of a tie.
    “I think the comeback and the feel of coming back in a game is going to be pretty helpful for the guys,” Schive said. “We just found some shooters and make a couple of threes, and you kind of fight back in. We just can’t go through those periods of stagnancy where you get into a hole like that.”

By Jerry DeRoche
IRON RIVER—In the midst of an arduous start to the 2014-15 season, the West Iron County boys basketball team has shown one consistent positive trait through the first six games of the campaign.
Despite dropping all six games, the Wykons have competed with character. That quality was on display Jan. 8 against North Dickinson.
Trailing by 18 with a shade more than five minutes to play, West Iron embarked on a 12-0 run that clipped the deficit to six with two minutes left.
The comeback eventually fell short, as the Wykons lost to the Nordics 53-43 in a nonconference game at Charles Greenlund Gymnasium. Nevertheless, West Iron coach Dan Schive’s squad went down with a competitive fight, just two days after getting blown out 65-23 at Escanaba.
“They never stop playing hard,” Schive said after the North Dickinson defeat. “They go through stretches where they don’t play very well, but they never stop playing hard.”
After the Nordics (1-4) took a 49-31 lead with 5:11 to play, the Wykons responded with probably their best stretch of the season.
Brandon Olson sparked the comeback with a layup and a driving hoop. Cole Westphal buried a 3-pointer midway through the run and then Ryan Maki sank a trey that pulled his team to within 49-43 with 2:05 to play.
Maki’s bucket brought a buzz to the gymnasium, as the Wykons had rallied back to within two possessions of a tie.
“I think the comeback and the feel of coming back in a game is going to be pretty helpful for the guys,” Schive said. “We just found some shooters and make a couple of threes, and you kind of fight back in. We just can’t go through those periods of stagnancy where you get into a hole like that.”
North Dickinson was able to play keep-away down the stretch and sank four free throws to seal the win. The Wykons misfired on two 3-pointers in the final minute as the spirited comeback dissipated.
Olson carried the offensive load the entire night for West Iron, scoring a career high 26 points. The senior guard, who entered the game averaging 4.8 points per game, hit his first shot of the night – a 3-pointer off an inbounds play – and appeared to be much more confident in his game.
“I wasn’t having a good season to start off with, but tonight I stepped it up,” said Olson, whose previous high was 12 points. “Over the (holiday) break, I just did a lot of shooting to get my shot down.”
Schive moved Olson from the point to the off-guard for much of the game, and the switch seemed to help.
“He was real frustrated after Escanaba,” Schive said. “He just said his shot was wrong, so we kind of tweaked it a little bit. It would be a big help if he could do that (more often).”
Olson’s offensive explosion helped the Wykons achieve a season high for points scored. Prior to the North Dickinson game, West Iron had only scored 40 points once and had been held to less than 30 four times.
However, to become a more consistent offensive team, the Wykons need to get more out of their interior game. Making things more difficult, the Wykons’ top post player, junior center Mike Ivey, missed the Escanaba game with an ankle injury and was hampered against North Dickinson.
On the other hand, the Nordics went into the post time after time, mostly to 6-foot junior Noah Berg. Despite being undersized for a post player, Berg dominated the interior, scoring a team-high 19 points and drawing repeated fouls against West Iron’s defenders.
That, in part, led to a massive free-throw disparity. North Dickinson sank 17 of 29 free throws, while West Iron attempted and connected on just five.
“I’ve got to do a better job of figuring out how to get the ball inside,” Schive said. “It will help when Mike gets healthy, but we’re not getting enough post touches. And if we’re not getting enough post touches, we’re going to struggle, especially if we’re not hitting anything from the outside.
“Then we’re back to scoring 20 points again.”
Both coach and players hope that the final minutes of the North Dickinson game can spur growth in a team that has gone through the growing pains associated with vast inexperience.
“It’s a great confidence boost; we just fell a little short in the end,” Olson said.
“We had a long talk (Wednesday) before practice,” Schive said. “I told the guys, and they agreed, that we’re past the point of being comfortable making little steps. We’ve got to make bigger strides faster.”
The Wykons now embark on a four-game stretch away from home, beginning with a trip to Norway on Tuesday.
NORTH DICKINSON – Mattson 3-11 1-2 9, Berg 7-15 5-9 19, R. Johnson 2-8 7-11 13, Wagner 2-3 2-2 6, O’Neil 0-3 2-4 2, Jauquet 2-3 0-0 4, Ackerman 0-2 0-0 0, Roell 0-1 0-1 0, G. Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-46 17-29 53.
WEST IRON – Westphal 1-5 0-0 3, Weisnicht 2-6 2-2 6, Ivey 0-1 0-0 0, King 0-2 0-0 0, Olson 10-22 2-2 26, Helgemo 1-3 0-0 2, Schmelebeck 1-7 1-1 3, Manitta 0-0 0-0 0, Nelson 0-0 0-0 0, Maki 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 16-47 5-5 43.
3-point shots – North Dickinson 4-13 (Mattson 2-5, R. Johnson 2-4, O’Neil 0-2, Wagner 0-1, Roell 0-1. West Iron 6-22 (Olson 4-11, Westphal 1-4, Maki 1-1, Helgemo 0-2, Schmelebeck 0-2, Weisnicht 0-1, King 0-1) Rebounds – North Dickinson 38, West Iron 31. Turnovers – North Dickinson 14, West Iron 20.
Nordics 15 17 12 9 -- 53
Wykons 13 9 6 15 -- 43
In their first game after the holiday break, the Wykons traveled to Escanaba on Jan. 6, where they lost to the Class ABC fourth-ranked Eskymos 65-23.
West Iron’s best stretch of the game came in the last minutes of the first quarter after Escanaba (4-3) jumped out to a 15-3 lead. The sophomore tandem of Cole Westphal and A.J. Weisnicht teamed to spark the Wykons on a 7-2 run as they closed to within 17-10 late in the quarter.
Westphal finished with a team-high nine points, the best output of his inaugural varsity season. He connected on the Wykons’ only two 3-pointers.
“It was very good for him to see the ball go through the basket,” Schive said. “(His outside shot) is why I brought him up (to the varsity). That’s why he’s here.”
Weisnicht finished with five points, while Phil King added four points.
Against a quick, guard-oriented Escanaba squad, West Iron faced full-court and half-court pressure. Still, the Wykons kept their turnovers down to 18 but were unable to cohesively run their half-court offense.
The Wykons shot 22 percent from the field and hit just eight shots from the field in the game.
“We did a better job in the press-break, but we didn’t get a lot of decent shots because we couldn’t run the offense,” Schive said.
West Iron played without starting center Mike Ivey, who suffered an ankle injury in practice the night before.
Wykons 10 4 6 3 -- 23
Eskimos 19 21 12 13 -- 65
West Iron scoring: Westphal 9, Weisnicht 5, King 4, Olson 2, Helgemo 2, Schmelebeck 1.
Escanaba leading scorers: Skufca 15, Molnar 11, Van Effen 10
Free throw shooting – West Iron 5-11, Escanaba 7-11. 3-point field goals – West Iron 2 (Westphal 2), Escanaba 6 (Skufca 3, Baribeau, Molnar, Schlenvogr). Fouls – West Iron 11, Escanaba 12.
The West Iron JV team earned a split in the games. The Wykons fell from the ranks of the unbeaten when they lost at Escanaba 66-27 but got back to their winning ways with a 43-36 home victory over North Dickinson.
Against the Eskymos, the hosts outscored the Wykons 32-5 in the second half to break open a relatively competitive game. Steven Nelson was West Iron’s lone double-digit scorer with 12 points.
Against the Nordics, West Iron (5-1) outscored the visitors 14-6 in the final quarter to post the victory. Nelson once again topped the Wykons with 21 points. Jayce Brockhagen added nine points and Neil Tomasoski chipped in with seven.