Calumet holds Ontonagon to 2 points in 4th, wins 52-38

Calumet's Matt Ojala shoots over Ontonagon's Brendan Buzzo Monday, in Calumet. Ojala had 30 points in Calumet's 52-38 win. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

CALUMET — When it mattered, the Calumet Copper Kings played the hard-nosed defense that’s become the trademark of Mike Ojala-coached teams.

Travis Ojala and Evan Ekdahl pushed and battled with the taller and bigger-bodied Ontonagon post players, while the Calumet guards allowed no avenues for dribble penetration. It all amounted to holding Ontonagon to just two points in the fourth quarter, giving the Copper Kings a 52-38 nonconference win Monday in Calumet.

Junior Matt Ojala led the winners with 30 points, while junior Ed Polakowski paced the Gladiators with 14 points.

“Evan and Trav had just outstanding defensive games in the second half,” Mike Ojala said. “They amped it up. Those guys just worked a little harder to make it tough to get the ball where they were comfortable, and I thought our guard pressure wore them down a little bit, too.”

It was the second consecutive game that Ontonagon entered the fourth quarter with a lead before scoring just single digits in the final eight minutes and losing. The Gladiators (0-4) led Class D favorite Dollar Bay, 37-27, before falling 45-40 on Thursday.

“We got to work on our composure,” Ontonagon coach Andy Borseth said. “For whatever reason, we come out of the locker room and lose our composure to start the second half.

“We look like world beaters for the first halves, and that’s what we’re capable of.”

With a 36-34 lead entering the fourth, Calumet (2-2) started with an 8-0 run capped by a free throw from Matt Ojala. The Gladiators made just 1 of 9 shot attempts and turned it over five times in the fourth quarter. For the second half, Ontonagon shot 4 of 22 (18 percent) and had nine miscues.

“We were just impatient,” Borseth said. “We got away from our offense. A little panic set in. Eventually, we’ll learn how to handle a close game.”

Behind Ewen-Trout Creek’s Jake Witt, no other local boy has scored more points than Matt Ojala, who is now averaging 24 points per game. The 6-foot-1 junior connected on seven of his first nine shots for a quick 15 points in the first nine minutes of the game.

With Ontonagon taking up space with its size and length in the paint, the onus fell on Matt to break down the defense to start Calumet’s offense. Utilizing his quick handle, he was able to beat his man as well as shoot over smaller defenders. After one midrange jumper, Borseth could do nothing besides say, ‘Good shot’ to him as he ran back up the floor.

“He’s in a pretty good rhythm right now,” Mike Ojala said of Matt. “The thing we talked about in the offseason was finding that midrange jump shot, knocking that pull-up jumper down with people around him … It’s better and added another facet to his game.

“The other part of it is he’s spent two years floating around the 3-point line, so I talked to him about needing to score around the free-throw line, also, and he’s done an outstanding job of making sure he gets his free throws.”

Matt finished 12 of 23 from the field (52 percent) and was 5 of 7 from the free-throw line. As a team, Calumet converted 20 of 54 shot attempts (37 percent).

Ontonagon finished 17 of 49 (34 percent) and held a 36-28 edge on the glass with senior Tanner Balcomb securing a game-high 11 rebounds.

Ontonagon took a 28-24 halftime lead, thanks to its ability to dominate in the post. Polakowski scored 10 of his 14 in the first half, and Ontonagon assisted on 10 of its 13 made baskets as the Gladiators shot 13 of 27.

“That was the first time all year that we actually had a post presence,” Borseth said. “Eddy struggled the first three games but came out the way he’s capable of playing. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.”

Next, Calumet hosts Baraga tonight. Ontonagon hosts Bessemer on Thursday.

– – –

Ontonagon 14 14 8 2 — 38

Calumet 13 11 10 18 — 52

Ontonagon — Polakowski 14, Weisinger 4, Domitrovich 4, Buzzo 2, Blake 2, Balcomb 10, Menigoz 2. F: 14; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 2-2; 3-point field goals: Balcomb 2.

Calumet — Matt Ojala 10, Travis Ojala 11, Antilla 7, McParlan 4. F: 8; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 10-12; 3-point field goals: Matt Ojala, Antilla.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today