LAKE LINDEN - The Calumet boys' basketball team has lost its share of heartbreakers this season, including a memorable triple overtime loss to Lake Linden-Hubbell in December. Friday the Copper Kings finally won a close one, 53-47, in the raucous, claustrophobic Lakes gym no less.
"We've had some brutal losses, and each one of them we've had the lead in the closing minutes, and haven't been able to put teams away, so it was big tonight," said Calumet coach Mike Ojala, whose team has lost five games by three points or less. "We knew it was going to be tough, hard-fought, physical, just like they all are with this team ... but fortunately for us we stayed aggressive, stayed tough and got it done."
The game was within single digits for all but 30 seconds, and it was within five points most of the way, but Calumet never trailed after the first quarter. Paul Torola led the Copper Kings with 19 points - despite missing nine free throws - and 11 rebounds. He also held Lakes' leading scorer Tyler Roose to a season-low four points.
Calumet's Paul Torola powers through the lane against Lake Linden-Hubbell defenders, from left, Brett Poissant, Cody Kumpula and Alex Knight during Friday's 53-47 Copper Kings win in Lake Linden. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
Brett Poissant did his part to make up for Roose's lack of scoring production, chipping in 17 points to go along with 15 rebounds. Calumet's Jake Pieti nearly cancelled out Poissant's monster game on the glass, pulling down half of the Kings' 28 boards, while also blocking four shots, picking up seven assists and six points.
"Paul's defense on Roose and Jake's physical presence in the paint on both ends were big keys for us tonight," Ojala said.
Both teams came out of the gates with defensive intensity and sloppy offensive play, leading to an 8-6 Calumet lead after eight minutes. LL-H's last lead of the game was at 5-4, but from that point on the Kings went on a 17-4 run after they adjusted to the Lakes' constant pressure defense.
Calumet 8 15 13 17 - 53
LL-Hubbell 6 9 17 15 - 47
Calumet - Paul Torola 19, Chad Sturos 10, Dan Olson 9, Owen Kariniemi 6, Jake Pieti 6, Eric Lasanen 3; FT 18-35; Fouls: 17; Fouled out: Olson; 3-point field goals: Lasanen 1.
Lake Linden-Hubbell - Brett Poissant 17, Trent Ambuehl 9, Cole Beauchamp 5, Luke Monette 5, Alex Knight 5, Tyler Roose 4, Cody Kumpula 1, Trevor Ongie 1; FT: 17-23; Fouls: 25; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Beauchamp 1, Monette 1.
"It was a good physical game. They kind of took it to us in the first half, and we kind of stood around," LL-H coach Jack Kumpula said. "We didn't come out and play well, and it was disappointing on our home gym to come out and do that. To their credit they played hard and I thought they were a little better than we were."
Calumet went into halftime with a 23-15 lead, but a never-say-die Lakes squad cut the deficit to 27-25 with a Luke Monette left-wing triple. Just before that shot, though, Lakes' defensive standout Konrad Klein picked up his fourth foul (he only played 15 minutes). Just after it, Torola nailed a highlight-reel lay-up while falling down.
LL-H notched four offensive rebounds and hit five of six free throws during a two-minute span midway through the third quarter to make it 32-30, only for Pieti and Torola to convert back-to-back buckets.
Calumet built the lead to 40-32 early in the third, but Poissant later helped the hosts hang around with six straight points to make it 43-40.
The Lakes needed to foul down the stretch, and even though Calumet only hit 18 of its 35 free throws - Torola 7 of 16 - it hit them when it counted most, converting in the final two minutes. LL-H seldom got a clean look, and when it did, the shots went begging.
"They just hit enough shots and enough free throws down the stretch to keep that little cushion," Kumpula said. "We kind of hung around, hung around. We had a nice little run in the third quarter, but we weren't able to get over the top and close that distance and get the lead."
Calumet (9-8) will wrap up the regular season against Houghton and Escanaba on Tuesday and Thursday, while Lake Linden-Hubbell (13-4) is making up a game today at the Gremlins before visiting Chassell and hosting Hancock next week.