Class D Regional: Jets want to run past Mustangs

ESCANABA – North Central wants to run, Munising wants to slow the pace, and something has to give as the two teams meet tonight for the Class D regional semifinal in Escanaba.

The No.1 ranked Jets (23-0) high powered offense averages nearly 75 points per game, while No. 3 Munising boasts one of the U.P.’s top defenses. The Mustangs (19-3) are the only team that has held North Central under 50 points this season.

“First time against them we slowed it down and tried to keep the score in the 40s or 50s, we felt that gave us the best chance to win,” said Munising head coach Dan Waterman. “We’re going to have to slow it down again. If the score gets up in the 70s and 80s I don’t think anybody in the U.P. can play with them.”

Munising slowed North Cental in the Feb. 17 contest, but couldn’t stop the Jets, who hung on for a 45-41 victory. North Central head coach Adam Mercier said the tempo favored Munising in the first match-up and he’d like to see his team get out in transition more.

“We’ve only scored under 60 on two occasions this year, so that game was definitely a different feel for us,” Mercier noted. “We’d like the game to be in the 60s. I think the first one to score 60 points wins, because I don’t even know if either team will get there. So we definitely need to put the foot on the gas a little bit.”

Offensively, the Jets have a range of options, led by Central U.P. and Skyline Conference MVP Travis VIncent.

Junior Rob Granquist and freshman Jason Whitens were also First Team CUP selections. Senior center Trevor Ekberg was named Second Team CUP. Vincent leads the team in scoring at nearly 16 a game, but he is part of an offense that has seen five different players score 20 or more points in a game this season.

“We did a nice job on Vincent the last time around, but he’s the player of the year in our league for a reason, he’s really good and really consistent,” Waterman said. “We’re going to have to try to duplicate that effort and maybe do a little better job of keeping their other guys in check but they’ve got weapons all over.”

The Mustangs also feature a balanced attack that starts with junior center and leading scorer Ben Stasewich. Mercier noted that Munising’s offense runs through Stasewich and his Jets have to be ready to help.

“We’ve got to make sure we collapse really well down on him, but then they also have some outsider shooters that can step in and hit outside shots, with (Austin) Kelto, (Colin) Immel and (Noah) Ackerman. They have a mix of everything, and it’s a tall order.”

In the Feb. 17 match-up, Munising was patient on the offensive end, taking over a minute on some possessions. The score reflected the slow pace as the teams were tied 13-13 at half-time. Mercier said that he wants a faster tempo tonight but also said he wants his team to get looks within their offense.

“We realize if we go out there and take bad shots they’re going to get the ball and they’re going to use the clock to their advantage as much as possible,” he said. “We still need to run our offense efficiently and get quality shots up.”

North Central’s last regular season loss was at Munising, 63-56, on Feb. 18, 2013. That same North Central squad made it to the state semifinals and returns their entire roster with the addition of freshman starter Jason Whitens.

“We might be considered the favorites but by no means are we thinking that,” Mercier said. “Once again we’re just thinking one game at a time and we know how tough Munising is and how well coached they are, so we need to really step up our game and bring a high level of mental energy and also physical intensity.”

On the other side of the bracket, Forest Park (19-3) will take on Lake Linden-Hubbell (19-3). The Trojans have only lost to North Central and Carney-Nadeau this season and feature a similar style as North Central with big athletic forwards and a quick and elusive point guard in Austin Snell. Forest Park defeated Wakefield-Marenisco 65-50.

Lake Linden-Hubbell won its first 13 games this season before finishing the season 3-3 with losses to L’Anse and Houghton (twice). They feature an effective inside-outside duo of Tyler Roose whoaverages 15.9 pointe per game and scored 34 points with eight triples in a 57-40 district final victory over Jeffers, and Brett Poissant who chips in 15.5 points per game and close to 10 rebounds. He had double-doubles in all three district games.

The first game between Lake Linden-Hubbell and Forest park tips off at 6 p.m. with North Central-Munising to follow at 7:45 p.m.