Best for last
Dollar Bay erases 9-point deficit in the 4th to beat E-TC 59-56
EWEN — Devin Schmitz admits he plays better angry.
And following the first half Tuesday against the Ewen-Trout Creek Panthers, the Dollar Bay junior had his reasons for being upset after watching his usual, sure-thing shots clank off the rim.
“I was mad at halftime because I wasn’t making any shots, so I wanted to come out and make some shots,” Schmitz said.
The law of averages evened out, and Schmitz scored 10 fourth-quarter points on 4 of 5 shooting to lead the Dollar Bay Blue Bolts to a 59-56 victory over E-TC (8-7, 6-4) in Ewen. Schmitz finished with a team-high 19 points in the Copper Mountain Conference contest that matched the top two teams in each division.
“He’s a guy that doesn’t get enough credit for the little things he does,” Dollar Bay head coach Jesse Kentala said of Schmitz. “Whether it’s handling the ball on the press, taking care of it and burning clock or assisting, he doesn’t always get recognized for that stuff.
“People know him for his scoring ability, but having him on the floor late in the game is such a luxury for a coach.”
Now, the people of Ewen know about Schmitz’s flair in late-game situations.
With Dollar Bay (10-2, 8-0) trailing E-TC 52-51 midway through the fourth, Schmitz scored the game’s next six points, including two mid-range jumpers off the dribble over his defender for a 57-52 lead.
E-TC utilized senior Austin Berglund as a help defender and as someone to assist junior Jake Witt on the boards. That left E-TC eighth-grader Tommy Cousineau with the difficult task of stopping Schmitz — one of the league’s most versatile scorers.
“The way I felt, it didn’t matter which of our other guys we put on Schmitz because he was going to beat them anyways,” E-TC head coach Brad Besonen said. “We just went with the lesser of the evils.
“That’s good for Tommy. He’s going to play a lot of minutes for us in the next four years, so to go up against someone like that and find out you have a long way to go, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
Still, E-TC managed to rally and make it interesting, late.
Witt — who finished with 22 points and 21 rebounds — finished a putback; and sophomore Eli Nordine drilled a double-clutch 15-foot jumper from the corner to trim Dollar Bay’s lead to 58-56 with 3.3 seconds remaining.
After a foul, Dollar Bay junior Jacob Iacono made the first free throw before missing the second, giving E-TC a chance to tie the game. But Berglund’s desperation-half-court shot was off the mark, completing Dollar Bay’s nine-point fourth-quarter comeback.
Neither team shot well — E-TC was 23 of 62 (37 percent) and Dollar Bay was 22 of 55 (40 percent) — but Dollar Bay’s offense came alive when it mattered, scoring 25 points in the fourth while shooting 9 of 14.
“Our intensity in the fourth quarter was what I’ve been looking to see all year,” Kentala said. “We just continued to push and wanted to play fast and in transition.
“We were trying to draw up some plays to get us opposite the block of Witt, but it just wasn’t there and we weren’t executing. Finally, I just said, ‘Play ball.’ We went five-out, spaced the floor and hit some 3s and got some turnovers.”
Coming into E-TC’s Silent Night game, Witt was 30 points away from the 1,000-point milestone. And despite battling sickness, he appeared on track for the achievement as he scored 12 points in the first quarter on 5 of 7 shooting while showing his offensive repetoire by knocking down a 3, swishing a mid-range jumper off a screen and going glass on a runner in the lane.
By halftime he had 17 points, but Dollar Bay’s junk defense managed to hold Witt to five points in the second half.
Dollar Bay used two defenders to defend Witt at all times. When Witt got the ball, another defender made it a triple-team and a fourth occasionally came over to stop his drives. All eyes were on the 6-foot-7 forward.
“He didn’t get many opportunities in that fourth quarter and late in the third quarter,” Besonen said. “Part of that was I don’t know if he had enough in his tank to go get a touch. He has to work his tail off to get a touch.
“We tried screening away to get him some touches and we weren’t good at it tonight. This 10-day stretch, we’ll work on that.”
The most encouraging sign for E-TC came on a run when Witt wasn’t even the focal point. To close the third, sophomore Noah Nordine scored two layups off assists from senior Levi Lindberg and Eli Nordine, and Cousineau converted a 3-point play for a 7-2 rally, giving the Panthers a 43-34 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“That was really good. Very happy for Noah and Tommy in that stretch,” Besonen said.
Dollar Bay’s Iacono scored 14 points to go along with eight rebounds, and junior Jaden Janke scored 11 points.
Berglund was a rebound shy of a double-double, finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds.
Next, Dollar Bay goes to Ontonagon on Friday. Meanwhile, E-TC is off until going to Baraga on Feb. 17.
Dollar Bay junior Brandon Thompson suffered a knee injury in the first half and did not return. He spent the remainder of the game icing his knee on the bench.
“We’re hoping for the best. It looks pretty bad right now,” Kentala said. “That means Lance Kangas and Cade Klobucarich will have to step up.”
Dollar Bay 14 9 11 25 — 59
E-TC 16 7 20 15 — 56
Dollar Bay — Thompson 3, Iacono 14, Schmitz 19, Janke 11, LeClaire 5, Klobucarich 7. F: 11; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 9-16; 3-point field goals: Schmitz 2, Thompson, Iacono, Janke, Klobucarich.
E-TC — Eli Nordine 4, Driesenga 4, Cousineau 5, Berglund 16, Witt 22, Noah Nordine 5. F: 12; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 5-10; 3-point field goals: Berglund 4, Witt.