Miners roll with pressure
ESCANABA – If the Harbor Springs Rams of the second quarter on came to play in the first quarter, it might have been a different game. The vaunted Negaunee Miners ensured that it was never close.
Using their brand of relentless pressure right from the start, Neguanee got a huge jump en route to a 64-37 victory in a Class C regional semifinal game Monday night.
Negaunee forced turnovers on Harbor Springs’ first five possessions and Tyler Jandron capitalized on each one. The Miners’ star guard scored the first 10 points of the game. It only got worse from there. The Rams committed 15 first quarter turnovers and had 28 throughout the game to Negaunee’s eight. Jandron later had a 6-0 run and scored 17 points in the first eight minutes as the Miners shutout Harbor Springs 23-0 heading into the second quarter. Jandron finished with a game-high 25 points with seven rebounds, six assists and five steals.
“Obviously, 23-0, that says it all right there,” said Negaunee coach Mike O’Donnell. “We played well, got in our pressure and we thought it would be successful for us. It really created a lot of offense out of our defense, which is big because for whatever reason we weren’t hitting big from the perimeter tonight.”
Rams coach Geoff Morse said the poor start amounted to mental errors.
“We faced a lot of good pressure all year. We’re in a conference where everyone pressure and we should have been able to handle it without question,” he said. “We were tentative and you can’t play tentative. You have to play like you believe you can play.”
Negaunee increased their lead to 25-0 to start off the second quarter before the Rams got on the board with a triple from Peter Kelbel 50 seconds into the quarter. Things then began to change.
The 3-pointer sparked a 7-0 run for Harbor Springs, which outscored Negaunee 18-13 in the quarter.
At halftime, the Miners still carried a 36-18 lead but the Rams were charging.
They kept the pressure on in the third quarter. Six-foot-six center Neal Zoerhof disrupted Miners’ plays in their offensive zone and down at the other end, six-foot-five forward Spencer Kloss was able to get down low and post up as the Rams’ superior size seemed to wear down Negaunee.
After a 9-2 run midway through the quarter, It was only a 10-point game (39-29) and it briefly looked like Harbor Springs was ready to make it a game again.
“All of a sudden, there was a realization that maybe we could play with them, and from then on, we did,” said Morse. “If we came out with that same intensity and thought process from the start, I think we would have been alright.”
However, as soon as the Rams got it within 10, like flipping a switch, Negaunee revved back up and went on a 10-0 run to put the game out of reach. They dazzled on offense, flipping it to Brock Weaver for the reverse layup a handful of times, or it was Tanner Uren with the fade away jumper.
Weaver finished with 14 points and three blocks while Uren scored 13 points with seven rebounds.
The Rams had no answer once the Miners’ pressure got going again.
“We called a time out (when Harbor Springs got within 10) and talked about getting back into our full court pressure again,” said O’Donnell. “It seemed like we got going out of that time out. We got a steal and a layup and got back into that flow of the game that’s successful for us.”
Kloss led the Rams with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Morse said after digging such a deep hole, his team simply ran out of gas.
“It takes a lot of energy to come back from that far down. THe kids got a little gassed but give them credit. Negaunee’s a great team, no question,” he said.
Negaunee will return to Escanaba Wednesday night at 7 p.m. to take on Houghton in the regional final. The Gremlins dominated Norway defensively in a 45-28 victory in the late game Monday night.