Witt, supporting cast shine in Panthers’ win over Calumet
CALUMET — Jake Witt took a power dribble along the baseline and utilized his quick-twitch leaping ability to take flight before the Calumet defender could even challenge the shot.
Witt slammed home his only dunk of the game while he was fouled and converted the free throw for the highlight of the night in Ewen-Trout Creek’s 67-55 nonconference win over the Calumet Copper Kings Monday in Calumet.
“That one did surprise me,” E-TC coach Brad Besonen said, despite seeing all of Witt’s highlight-reel worthy plays throughout his career. “Just that late in the game, he had to play a lot of minutes and was contesting every drive that (Calumet) brought in, so he was doing a little more moving than the other teams made him do. So for him to have something left in the tank to go finish like that.”
Witt’s 3-point play gave E-TC a 62-44 lead with 2:34 left in the fourth quarter, putting the game’s outcome out of doubt. The Michigan Tech signee finished with 30 points, 17 rebounds, six blocks and three assists despite facing double teams and even triple teams from Calumet all night.
As impressive of a stat line as that is, it was far from Witt’s best game. He finished 12 of 25 from the field and was 6 of 11 from the free-throw line. But what’s different from this season than in one’s past, he no longer has to be at his best for E-TC to win, thanks to his teammates.
For as dominant as Witt is, it’ll be the supporting cast that determines just how good E-TC (3-0) can be. If the Panthers perform as they did on Monday, they could be legitimate threats to win a Class D regional title.
E-TC junior Eli Nordine made five 3s and had 17 points, freshman Tommy Cousineau added 10 points and eighth-grader Jaden Borseth chipped in with six points, seven rebounds and four assists.
While Calumet (0-2) alternated between a 2-3 zone and man-to-man defense, sending a double team and even a triple team at Witt was consistent the entire game. But E-TC made the Copper Kings pay.
Nordine connected on four of his 3s in the first half (4 of 8), with his fourth giving the Panthers a 24-15 lead with 4:56 remaining in the first half. Two of Nordine’s 3s came off cross-court passes from Witt on the right wing after Nordine ran off a double screen to the left corner against Calumet’s 2-3 zone.
“We talked about just trying to make it difficult on Witt, but the key was not letting some of these other guys go off,” Calumet coach Mike Ojala said. “When Nordine got a couple looks, that seemed to propel him and get them some separation.”
Cousineau made all four of his shot attempts, including two 3s. He converted a layup before the halftime buzzer off an assist from Nordine to give the Panthers a 35-20 advantage, and then Cousineau swished a 3 from the left corner on another assist from Nordine before the end of the third quarter for a 52-35 lead.
“Tommy played his best varsity game, by far, tonight,” Besonen said. “Even more than his scoring, he was very sound with the ball, and that’s something that hasn’t always been there, especially in games where we were defended very hard.”
After halftime, Calumet never got within single digits as its offense struggled without an inside threat. E-TC went man on the defensive end but kept Witt in the paint to protect the rim. The Copper Kings finished just 17 of 63 from the field (27 percent) and were 8 of 30 from 3-point range (26 percent) as they had to settle with the 6-foot-7 Witt consistently altering shots near the basket.
Junior Matt Ojala led Calumet with 18 points (12 of 13 from the free-throw line), while junior Brandon Antilla had 12 points on four 3s, and sophomore Eli McParlan finished with 10 points.
“We didn’t get into our sets a lot,” Mike Ojala said. “We wanted Eli to stretch their defense and make Witt get out of the paint and come out and guard him, and Eli hit a couple shots, but I thought he hesitated a little bit. Brandon got a couple shots from Matt, and I thought Matt passed up a few 3s in that half where he got locked in on creating for other guys, which is fine.
“But in games like this, if we can get some of those perimeter shots to go and get Witt away from the basket, it helps on that penetration. We’ll talk with Eli about getting hands and feet ready to shoot and not hesitate.”
E-TC finished 24 of 49 from the field (49 percent) and was 8 of 20 from 3 (40 percent). Both teams recorded 39 rebounds.
Each team was also without a rotation player as Calumet senior Cooper Twardzik sat out his second consecutive game, and E-TC sophomore Cole Borseth was not active.
Next, E-TC heads to Bessemer on Friday. Calumet goes to Lake Linden-Hubbell on Thursday.
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E-TC 14 21 17 13 — 67
Calumet 10 10 15 20 — 55
E-TC — Cousineau 10, Eli Nordine 17, Driesenga 2, Noah Nordine 2, Borseth 6, Witt 30. F: 16; Fouled out: Cousineau; Free throws; 11-20; 3-point field goals: Eli Nordine 5, Cousineau 2, Borseth.
Calumet — Matt Ojala 18, Travis Ojala 9, Antilla 12, McParlan 10, Ekdahl 6. F: 17; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 13-19; 3-point field goals: Antilla 4, McParlan 2, T. Ojala 2.