MARQUETTE — The Menominee boys basketball team’s cold shooting performance proved costly against a red-hot Ishpeming team, as the Hematites slipped past the Maroons 56-50 in the MHSAA Division 3 Region 17 semifinals on Monday.
The victory was Ishpeming’s seventh in a row and snapped a five-game winning streak for the Maroons.
The Maroons (14-11) knocked down 41 percent of their shots in the first quarter to build an 11-point lead, but Menominee cooled off as the game wore on, finishing just 16-of-62 from the field (26 percent).
Menominee’s long-range shooting also failed to ignite, as the Maroons went 5-26 (19 percent) from 3-point land.
“We must have had eight points in transition in the first 10 minutes, and I’m not sure if we had eight points in transition for the rest of game because we never pushed,” Menominee coach Sam Larson said. “We’ve won games with our 3-point shooting, but once you miss three or four in a row, it’s probably a good time to get to the rim, and tonight we never did that. If you want to settle for outside shots, there may a game when you don’t hit them, and that’s the day you go home.”
Despite its offensive struggles, Menominee was still able to build a 12-point advantage midway through the second quarter before the Hematites reeled off eight unanswered points to cut the Maroons’ lead to 24-20 at halftime.
“When you start fast in the early part of a game, you have an ability to end the game in those situations. We were up by 12 at one point, with an opportunity to really clamp down, and if we could have pushed that lead out to 20 or so at halftime, I think that it’s very hard to come back from that,” Larson said. “Instead, we give up a layup or a kick-out 3 and the next thing you know, it’s a four-point game at the half when it really never should have been.”
After hitting only one triple in the first half, Ishpeming (14-10) drilled three in the third quarter to seize a four-point edge before baskets from Caden Luoma and Hayden Hares pushed the Hematites ahead by eight.
Trevor Theuerkauf responded with four straight points of his own as Menominee closed the gap to 37-33 entering the fourth quarter.
Ishpeming opened the final frame on a 6-0 run before a pair of free throws by Kaden Starzynski coupled with seven points from Eli Beal trimmed Menominee’s deficit down to four.
Alex Sundberg and AJ Prosser both put the ball through the nylon as the Hematites lead grew to nine before Beal converted a pair of free throws to make it a 50-43 game with two minutes left to play.
Free throws from Luoma and Hunter Smith nudged Ishpeming ahead by nine before Menominee answered with free throws of its own by Trevor and Tanner Theuerkauf, cutting the Hematites’ lead to four with 6.3 ticks on the clock, but Smith tacked on two more insurance freebies ice the game.
“Ishpeming played a heck of second half. They came out with a lot of energy. They dove around for loose balls when those things came up, and we didn’t. In March, at some point in the second half, a team says ‘We’re not losing’, and that wasn’t us tonight,” Larson said.
Trevor Theuerkauf led all scorers with a game-high 20 points. Eli Beal finished with a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds), while Tanner Theuerkauf added seven. Starzynski, Landan Bardowski and Darrent Butler all chipped in three.
Luoma and Griffin Argall each had 11 points for Ishpeming. Prosser tacked on nine with Smith contributing eight.
Monday’s loss was the game for Menominee’s two seniors, Starzynski and Brock Murphy.
“They’re just awesome guys. Brock has been a four-year guy and Kaden didn’t play last year but came back out and joined us this season. They’re just hard workers in practice. They’re everything that you’d want from a maturity standpoint, but also as human beings. We’re certainly going to miss them,” Larson said.
Larson added that he expects the sting of Monday’s loss to linger, but hoped that the Maroons will use it as motivation to come back even better for the 2022-23 season.
“I know it hurts and there was tears in the locker room. It hurts for me too, but our entire roster has a chance to come back. I hope that they wake up in the middle of June and still feel that same feeling. I hope that they’re angry, frustrated and motivated by this so that we work harder.,” he said. “We flat-out weren’t good enough tonight, and that’s they way it goes in tournament basketball. If you aren’t good for one night, you go home. Well, make yourself good enough so that it doesn’t happen again.”
Ishpeming 56, Menominee 50
Ishpeming 7 13 17 19 — 56
Menominee 18 6 9 17 — 50
Menominee: Tr. Theuerkauf 20, Beal 14, Ta. Theuerkauf 7, Bardowski 3, Butler 3, Starzynski 3; FTs: 13-15
Ishpeming: Argall 11, Luoma 11, Prosser 9, Smith 8, Sundberg 7, Hares 4, Ryan Maki 4, Connor Gauthier 2; FTs: 10-15