No. 1 E-TC tops Jeffers 71-41; sets sights on showdown with No. 1 Dollar Bay

Ewen-Trout Creek's Tommy Cousineau scores a layup as Jeffers' Jerry Wakeham looks on Friday in Painesdale. (Daily Mining Gazette/Bryce Derouin)

PAINESDALE — As far as tune-up games go, Friday’s road matchup with the Jeffers Jets was perfect for Brad Besonen and his No. 1 Ewen-Trout Creek Panthers. 

They struggled, adjusted and figured some things out, and then flat out dominated for a 71-41 Copper Mountain win in a way that showed they are fully ready for the challenge of facing fellow No. 1 Dollar Bay (11-0, 7-0) on Wednesday at Michigan Tech. 

“Ready to play a big game? Yes,” Besonen said. “As far as preparing for our opponent, I’ve done zero to get ready for them. I have a couple of films that I’ve gotten, and I wouldn’t open them. I’ll open them (Saturday). I’ll watch a ton of film and the plan will start to take effect.”

While Dollar Bay has already started prepping for E-TC, the Panthers (13-0, 7-0) have preferred to stay in the moment and focused on the next game. Regardless of their approaches, they’ll both enter the contest undefeated in what will be one of the top games in Class D this season. 

Leading E-TC will be senior Jake Witt, the Michigan Tech commit who put up another ridiculous stat line on Friday; this time it was 32 points, 16 rebounds, eight blocks and four assists. Eighth-grader Jaden Borseth and junior Eli Nordine continued to be efficient on the perimeter with Borseth scoring 17 points and Nordine adding 16. 

E-TC is known for developing shooters, and lately, the strength of its 3-point shooting has made it a “pick your poison” situation for opposing defenses. Double or triple-team Witt inside and get stung by the 3, or shade to the shooters and let Witt go to work in the paint?

Early on, Jeffers sat back in its 2-3 zone and fronted and sat behind Witt to deny him the ball. That allowed open looks from the perimeter, which E-TC could not convert, unlike in Tuesday’s 77-45 win over Ontonagon when the team made 14 3s. The Panthers missed their first six 3s against Jeffers and were 3 of 13 from beyond the arc in the first half. They settled for a 31-27 halftime lead.

“We had open shots, but it wasn’t off a (drive) in or a collapse,” Besonen said. “It was just off a swing, and it wasn’t the same good rhythm shot.”

After being implored throughout the first half by Besonen to score the ball once he caught it on the block, Witt came out with a more aggressive mindset in the second half. Witt connected on back-to-back hook shots — one with each hand — to give his team a 40-32 advantage. He wound up with 19-second-half points and finished two transition layups after he dribbled the length of the court. 

“First half I was kind of feeling out the defense and getting too low on the block to make any moves baseline,” Witt said. “I realized I had to post a little higher. That helped me make more powerful moves to the block or baseline.”

Witt’s hook shots were part of a 20-3 E-TC run that included three 3s from Nordine and another from Borseth for a 53-32 lead. The Panthers made 8 of 14 shots during the 24-point third quarter. 

“We were fronting the post and (E-TC) had shooters on both sides. In the second half, they adjusted and put both shooters in the corner and we were helping on one and not the other,” Jeffers coach Trent Keteri said. “They move the ball really good, and that’s how they killed us.”

Jeffers’ Jerry Wakeham gave his team momentum when he converted a running layup before the first half ended to cut E-TC’s lead to four. With the Jets getting the ball to start the second half, they went inside to David Jukkala who missed a shot as Keteri thought he was fouled. Keteri was accessed a technical, and Borseth made the two free throws to begin what would be a 22-5 advantage for E-TC to start the second half.

“Jukkala should have had two free throws. I overreacted and got a tech and that screwed up our whole momentum,” Keteri said. “Me being a coach, I talk to them a lot, and I wasn’t able to do that with our defense when I was sitting down (after the technical). I feel like that helped a lot for them.”

Jeffers (6-6, 4-5) shot 15 of 63 (24 percent) and was 7 of 27 from 3 (26 percent). Carson Turner led the Jets with 15 points.

E-TC finished 25 of 54 from the field (46 percent) and 8 of 26 from 3 (31 percent). Both teams collected 39 rebounds. 

Next, Jeffers hosts Lake Linden-Hubbell on Monday. 

– – – 

Jeffers 9 18 10 4 — 41

E-TC 13 18 24 16 — 71

Jeffers — Kinnunen 9, Ruohonen 4, Wakeham 2, Hill 2, Turner 15, Jukkala 9. F 15; Fouled out: None;Free throws: 4-9; 3-point field goals: Turner 3, Kinnunen 3, Jukkala. 

E-TC — Cousineau 4, Eli Nordine 16, Cole Borseth 2, Jaden Borseth 17, Witt 32. F: 10; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 13-18; 3-point field goals: Nordine 5, Borseth 3.