With win over Bessemer, Dollar Bay can begin looking forward to matchup vs. E-TC

Dollar Bay’s Devin Schmitz rises for a layup as Bessemer’s Uriah Aili gives chase Monday Jan. 30 in Dollar Bay. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

DOLLAR BAY — Finally, Jesse Kentala and the rest of Dollar Bay can comfortably look ahead after Monday’s 73-54 Copper Mountain Conference win over the Bessemer Speedboys. Because for all intents and purposes, the matchup with Bessemer was the No. 1 Blue Bolts’ final hurdle before their showdown with fellow No. 1 Ewen-Trout Creek on Feb. 7 at Michigan Tech. No disrespect intended to the Watersmeet Nimrods (1-6) and Baraga Vikings (1-9), but hey, it is what it is. 

So yes, Kentala was ready to publicly acknowledge one of the most-anticipated Class D games in the state.

“We’re going to start Ewen prepping,” Kentala said. “We’re not overlooking anybody, but to be honest with you, we already have started prepping.

“This is fun for people to be this excited about Copper Country basketball and this big stage at Michigan Tech. I think we’re going to get a lot of people. It’ll be a great experience for these guys.”

The matchup between top-ranked teams will pit perhaps the best player in the U.P. in E-TC’s Jake Witt against one of the most explosive lineups. On Monday, Dollar Bay (10-0, 7-0) showcased its senior scoring ability with Jacob Iacono leading the way with 18 points, Jaden Janke and Brandon Thompson each adding 15 and Devin Schmitz chipping in with 13. 

“It’s like you don’t have to put all your eggs in one basket,” Iacono said. “We can share the ball and anyone can go off on any night.”

No one was going off to start the game, except for Bessemer senior Brayden Tomes who scored 11 first-quarter points to give his team a 16-12 lead after the first. The Blue Bolts started the game just 5 of 15 and missed all six of their 3-point attempts in the opening period. 

Tomes finished with a game-high 21 points while Bessemer (6-5, 5-4) managed to take a 32-31 halftime lead. 

“Some shots were good looks, some weren’t. I think we forced about five or six shots,” Kentala said. “I don’t know why, but we just don’t start well. I don’t know how to explain it. We have a hard time getting off the blocks, have all season and last year was the same thing.”

But just as slow starts have been a theme in the first half of Dollar Bay’s season, so too has third-quarter domination. The Blue Bolts have yet to be outscored in the eight minutes following the halftime break and are outscoring opponents by an average of 20.3 to 10.7 in their first nine games. 

That differential continued to grow. 

Dollar Bay converted 8 of 11 shots for 22 points while limiting Bessemer to five points on 2 of 12 shooting during Monday’s third quarter to blow the game open and take a 53-37 lead.

“I felt that Dollar Bay was able to take us off the dribble and get to the hoop,” Bessemer coach Richard Matrella said. “I felt (Dollar Bay’s) defense was the same intensity as the second quarter, but we just handled it way worse. I told the kids the same thing. 

“(Dollar Bay) was physical inside, which is good, they have to be because we have a big guy (Tyler Busch) down there. But they’re just able to beat us one-on-one off the dribble.”

The Dollar Bay faithful could begin shifting its attention to the showdown with E-TC when Thompson connected for his third 3 of the night for a 61-39 advantage with 5:35 left in the fourth quarter. 

In addition to Thompson’s two 3s, the second half highlighted the Blue Bolts’ versatility where they made 17 of 23 shots (74 percent). Schmitz got it going with seven points in the third quarter as he utilized his quickness to facilitate the offense, while Janke used his 6-foot-4 frame to make 4 of 5 shots, and Iacono did everything from running the fast break, challenging shots at the rim and converting 4 of 5 shot attempts, too. Junior Brendan LeClaire also added six of his nine points in the second half. 

As a team, Dollar Bay made 28 of 50 attempts (56 percent) and held a 31-28 rebounding advantage. Bessemer finished 21 of 56 from the field (38 percent).

“I think we got really good skill players,” Kentala said. “Guys who can all handle the ball, shoot the ball and all have good lateral quickness.” 

Next, Dollar Bay hosts Watersmeet on Thursday before heading to Baraga on Friday. The Blue Bolts defeated Watersmeet 83-33 on Jan. 9. After the back-to-back contests, Dollar Bay will have four days to get ready for E-TC.

“We’ve been prepping for Ewen for about a month now,” Iacono said. “We’re ready. We’re definitely ready.” 

– – – 

Bessemer 16 16 5 17 — 54

Dollar Bay 12 19 22 20 — 73

Bessemer — Mazzon 12, Uriah Aili 7, Janczak 2, Trudgeon 7, Row 1, Tomes 23, Busch 2. F: 16; Fouled out: None; Technical foul: Mazzon; Free throws: 5-9; 3-point field goals: Tomes 3, Mazzon 2, Uriah Aili, Trudgeon.

Dollar Bay — LeClaire 9, Ashton Janke 1, Thompson 15, Schmitz 13, Jaden Janke 15, Iacono 18, Hosking 2. F: 13; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 12-18; 3-point field goals: Thompson 3, Schmitz, Jaden Janke.