Despite slow start, No. 1 Dollar Bay rallies past Jeffers to finish regular season undefeated

Dollar Bay’s Jaden Janke scores as Jeffers’ Carson Turner defends Thursday in Painesdale. Dollar Bay recorded a 70-59 win to finish the regular season 20-0. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

PAINESDALE — In all likelihood, Dollar Bay probably needed a wake-up call like this for its own sake — especially when you consider the unpredictable temperament of high school teenagers. And add in the fact that everyone has been patting the Blue Bolts on the back for a job well done throughout the season, it’s only natural that complacency would set in for the U.P.’s No. 1 ranked team.

But complacency is how upsets happen and it’s how the Blue Bolts found themselves down 13 at the half against a fearless Jeffers team Thursday in Painesdale.

Sure, the Blue Bolts were trying, but they weren’t truly “trying,” you know?

“In the first half, they embarrassed us,” Dollar Bay senior Jacob Iacono said. “We just said we weren’t going to let it happen, and then we played our game in that second half.”

And so they did. The Blue Bolts regained their competitive nastiness and shut down the Jets in the second half to earn a 70-59 Copper Mountain Conference win, securing the overall conference title and the school’s first 20-0 season in recent history. A history that included just 17 wins from 2010 to 2016.

Jeffers' Austin Kinnunen looks to feed David Jukkala in the post as Dollar Bay's Brandon Thompson defends Thursday in Painesdale. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

“This was one of our goals,” Dollar Bay coach Jesse Kentala said of going 20-0. “We wanted to be undefeated. We thought that we could, we felt like we had that kind of talent and senior leadership … It’ll be something these kids always remember.”

One of the hardest parts of going undefeated is matching the other team’s intensity every night when your opponent would love nothing more than to pull the upset. The Blue Bolts (20-0, 15-0) did not do that in the first half and allowed Jeffers to light them up like a Fourth of July fireworks show as the Jets led 42-29 at the break after making 16 of 25 shots (64 percent).

But the Blue Bolts came out for the second half as if they were personally offended by their first-half showing. With Ashton Janke added to the lineup for more defensive team speed, the renewed defensive intensity was prevalent, from pressuring in their tight full-court man defense, to aggressively attacking passing lanes. The Blue Bolts weren’t going to give an inch, and Jeffers struggled against the pressure, making just 6 of 20 shots for 17 points while turning it over 11 times.

“Dollar Bay wasn’t their regular self that first half,” Jeffers coach Trent Keteri said. “We saw the real Dollar Bay team in that second half, and we weren’t aggressive enough. We weren’t back-cutting or trying to get to the hole enough. When we did get to the hole, we couldn’t finish.”

Third-quarter runs have been the hallmark of Dollar Bay’s 20-0 season. There have been times the team has looked immortal during stretches when the team features exquisite ball movement and executes out in transition a step ahead of the defense.

Jeffers’ Carson Turner shoots over Dollar Bay’s Jacob Iacono during the first half Thursday in Painesdale. Turner scored a game-high 31 points and had 10 rebounds. Dollar Bay won 70-59. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

It happened again on Thursday.

Two Brett Hill layups kept Jeffers (12-8, 8-7) ahead 46-33. But with 5:27 left in the third, Schmitz found Jaden Janke in the corner for a 3 — Dollar Bay’s first of the game after starting 0 of 9 from 3-point range — and it was on. Two free throws by Iacono and a hook off the block by Jaden Janke capped an 18-2 Blue Bolts run and gave them a 51-48 lead with 7:09 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Dollar Bay missed just six shots in the second half (13-19) and made three of four attempts from 3. For the game, the Blue Bolts shot 51 percent (23-45).

“We talked about (offensive) spacing at halftime,” Kentala said. “We talked about going into the low post. It was either attack with Janke on the block, or attack off a down screen. They did it and absolutely executed it.”

Jaden Janke finished the game with 22 points and Iacono had 18.

The second half also marked the return of Devin Schmitz. No, it’s not as if Schmitz has had a down year or anything (17.6 points per game on 51 percent shooting), but between not having to shoulder as much of the scoring load this season and him working through some shooting struggles, he hasn’t gone off as often as in past years. But Dollar Bay needed him, and Schmitz’s confidence and swagger were back. He scored 18 of his 28 points in the second half while making 4 of 6 shots from the field and 8 of 10 free throws. Schmitz swished a 3 from the left wing to give his team a 58-50 lead midway through the fourth quarter. Running back down the floor, he held three fingers in the air as he screamed in elation. This was the version of Devin Schmitz that is an All-U.P. Dream Teamer.

“Devin was fearless,” Kentala said. “He got his mojo back. He’s been good all year, but we saw that killer and competitor that we’re so used to seeing. He put us on his back, and we needed it tonight.”

Jeffers senior Carson Turner put on his own offensive show in the first half, finishing with 22 points while swishing 6 of 9 attempts from 3-point range. He finished a one-handed putback before the halftime buzzer to give the Jets all the momentum.

But besides three free throws and two late 3s, Dollar Bay’s Brendan LeClaire didn’t allow Turner to get free in the second half. Turner finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds.

“(Carson’s) been like that all year. He gets on those runs,” Keteri said. “But (Dollar Bay) sits on your best shooter in the second half, and we just need other guys to step up when he gets locked down. If you stop Carson, it’s tough for other people to score. Just need that one other guy to step up.”

Overall, Jeffers shot 22 of 45 for the game (49 percent) and had 16 turnovers.

Next, Dollar Bay hosts the Class D 128 district tournament. On Monday, the Blue Bolts play Chassell at 5:30 p.m. Jeffers will take on Ontonagon at 7:30 p.m.

– – –

Dollar Bay 16 13 18 23 — 70

Jeffers 21 21 6 11 — 59

Dollar Bay — LeClaire 2, Devin Schmitz 28, Jaden Janke 22, Iacono 18. F: 10; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 21-26; 3-point field goals: Devin Schmitz 2, Jaden Janke.

Jeffers — Kinnunen 2, Wakeham 2, Heinonen 10, Hill 8, Turner 31, Jukkala 6. F: 17; Fouled out: Hill; Free throws: 5-6; 3-point field goals: Turner 8, Heinonen 2.