Versatile Mustangs wear down Black Bears, win district title

GARDEN CORNERS – The No. 3 ranked Munising Mustangs have a lot of options and they were on full display Friday night, in a 55-38 win over Big Bay de Noc for the Class D District 125 championship.

“We did a great job in the first half stopping (Ben) Stasewich in the middle and we stopped (Colin) Immel from the baseline and then they just had that third guy who comes,” said BBdN head coach Angie LaLonde. “Our shots didn’t fall for us and there’s did.”

“You stop their first and second option and the third one gets you.”

Both teams struggled to make shots early but the Mustangs closed off the first quarter on a 7-0 run, capped off by Austin Kelto’s pull-up jumper at the buzzer. Munising led 11-2 after the first, with four different players recording buckets.

“I thought by the end of the first quarter we had kind of settled in and I was just happy with the way we were playing,” said Munising head coach Dan Waterman. “We were getting good looks at the bucket and I knew they would start going eventually.”

The shots kept falling for Munising as they found Stasewich inside to begin the second quarter, followed by a bucket from Alex Hill, that gave them a 15-2 lead.

BBdN senior Cole Potvin ended the scoring drought, that lasted nearly nine minutes, by draining a 3-pointer with 5:30 left. Zachary Pomeroy followed that up with another 3-pointer as the Black Bears cut the Munising lead to 15-8.

Austin Kelto responded for Munising by draining a 3-pointer. BBdN continued their hot shooting as Bryce Thompson connected from deep on their next possession but Kelto answered with another bucket. Potvin hit another 3-pointer, cutting Munising’s lead to 20-14 with 2:25 left, but that was as close as BBdN would get. Kelto hit again from the lane and the Mustangs scored the final four points, taking a 26-16 advantage into half-time.

Waterman had high praise for his junior point guard, who also had the task of guarding Big Bay’s leading scorer Potvin.

“He (Kelto) controlled the tempo of the game, he did a nice job just staying in front of Potvin and making him work and he really stepped up,” Waterman said. “He picked his spots well and hit some big shots to get us out early in the game.”

The Mustangs were able to slow the game down in the third quarter and pick their spots against Big Bay’s 2-3 zone. Munising junior Garrett Blank scored six points in the quarter, including two free throw line jumpers in the middle of the zone. He also scored and was fouled with five seconds left in the quarter to put the Mustangs ahead 43-22.

“That’s where the hole in that defense is,” Waterman said. “If you can get the ball into the high post you can break it down and Garrett did a good job. When he was open he turned and he shot it. When they collapsed on him he kicked it to a shooter and Noah made a big 3 for us on the wing.”

The Black Bears continued to fight in the fourth quarter but struggled to make free throws, as Munising’s lead hovered around 20 points. BBdN had difficulty getting into the lane as Munising sagged it’s help defense in to slow Potvin’s penetration. BBdN’s second leading scorer Tyler DeMars also struggled to get into a rhythm after picking up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game.

“We didn’t have an offense flow tonight,” LaLonde said. “Sometimes we can go to our post and we can get 10 or 15 there and even tonight we didn’t have the outside game either.”

Potvin, who left school early with the flu, played almost the entire game, leading Big Bay with 20 points. Pomeroy netted six points in his last game for the Black Bears. Eight seniors played their final game for Big Bay de Noc.

“For them to have had three coaches in four years and their last coach being a female, I give them all the credit in the world that they pulled together and hung tough and they went out on top,” said an emotional LaLonde.

“People think you stand over here and sub them in and out but the game of basketball is so much more than that. It’s so much of your life and your passion. When you get a group of boys like this that is passionate about the game you’re really lucky.”

Stasewich led Munising with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Immel chipped in 11 points and Kelto added 10.

Big Bay de Noc finishes the season at 13-9. Munising improves to 19-3. They advance to the regional semifinal to take on No. 1 ranked North Central (23-0) this Monday in Escanaba.