Taking Flight

POWERS – The North Central gym was filled with the colors of Christmas as the red denizens of the Jets and green of Carney-Nadeau met Thursday night in an early dual Skyline/Central U.P. conference matchup between the two rivals.

But as the Wolves found out this holiday season, it’s better to give than receive. Carney-Nadeau (2-1) was on the receiving end of a 93-56 shelling this night, and the Jets (4-0) gave them all they could handle and more.

The Jets’ blitzkrieg shelled Carney from start to finish, beginning with Rob Granquist’s open layup barely a second into the start of the game.

North Central’s guards forced at least five turnovers in the first half of the opening frame and transitioned them all into points. Tyler Polfus topped off a massive 27 point quarter with his second of three first-half triples as the buzzer sounded.

“We just wanted to come out fast and physical right off the bat and use our size and strength to our advantage, and that’s what we did,” said Granquist who put in a 19 point effort.

The talent level of the Jets was very evident early on as they leapt for rebounds, heaved perfect cross-court passes, hitting the open man in stride and unleashed a variety of nice moves to drive inside. Granquist said it wasn’t quite as easy as it may have looked though.

“They’re a good team,” he said of the Wolves. “We have a lot of skilled guys and we work so well together, that sometimes we make it look easy.”

Jets coach Adam Mercier said his team talked about coming out with a high level of intensity, based on prior experience playing the Wolves at home.

“The first half was important for us to start out, because Carney has always started well in this gym in the first quarter. Our defense was important early on, eliminating good looks, holding their big guys to low scores,” he said. “We were scrappy, getting to loose balls, using our athleticism and getting in good position defensively. We shared the basketball as well, and hit the open man on a lot of good looks inside, and that opened things up outside. Those three three’s Tyler Polfus hit really pushed us to that big lead there.”

By halftime, the Jets enjoyed an 48-18 lead, stunning the large visiting section of a packed gym.

“We talked about it, and we had a gameplan going in, but when you turn the ball over five times in a row to start the game, you put yourself in a hole right away, and you can’t do that against a good team like this,” said Wolves coach Jake Polfus.

Carney-Nadeau recovered in the second half and hung with the Jets the rest of the way.

Dionte Blahnik, who struggled in the first half, came out on fire to begin the third, where he scored 14 of his team-leading 18 points. In that quarter alone, he was fouled on his way to the basket three times, completing a three-point play and a rare four-point play.

“I thought Dionte could have played that way in the first half, but it just took a little while,” Polfus said. “He really stepped up in the second half and that was good to see. He was a lot more aggressive going to the boards.”

The Wolves outscored North Central 22-20 in the third and it’s worth noting that the Wolves 38 second half points didn’t come against North Central’s bench, but their starters.

“I’m very happy that we competed in the second half. We played against the same guys they played in the first half, but we only lost the second half by four points,” said Polfus. “You can’t complain about that. The kids never gave up, and that was good to see.”

Throughout, the Jets were extremely balanced and unselfish with the ball. They put four players and nearly a fifth in double figure scoring. Travis Vincent got a lot of the tough points and led the game with 24 points, Freshman guard Jason Whitens poured in 21 points, an early career-best for the young phenom. Tyler Polfus scored 11 and Trevor Ekberg added nine.

“We work on it all the time in practice,” Rob Granquist said of his team’s balance. “Be unselfish, if you see an open guy get it to him and if you have an open shot, take it.”

Both teams will play over the break. Carney-Nadeau travels to Rapid River, Monday while North Central hosts Stephenson Dec. 28.

The Jets also won the junior varsity game 80-30 with freshman Dawson Bilski scoring 40 points for the victors.