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Bulldogs boys basketball’s offense seizes in loss to Nimrods

Hancock’s Ned Larson looks for an open teammate while also looking for a lane to beat Watersmeet’s Blake Shively during a game Tuesday at the Hancock Gym. (Daver Karnosky/Daily Mining Gazette)

HANCOCK — After senior Alex Pietila drained a three-pointer just over two minutes into the second quarter, the Hancock Bulldogs boys basketball team led the visiting Watersmeet Nimrods, 21-8, Tuesday evening at the Hancock Gym. From there, a seemingly innocent three from Miles McGeshick sparked a comeback by the Nimrods that saw them pull within six at halftime, 26-20, and then take the lead just about halfway through the third quarter en route to a 55-49 victory to open the season for both teams.

Bulldogs coach Zach Ohtonen liked the start he got from his team.

“We came out with intensity,” he said. “First game of the season, and we were running them pretty good, I’ll admit it. I think we’re up by 14 at one point.”

Ohtonen pointed to a crucial substitution situation in the second quarter that seemed to change the flow of the game.

“(We) made some substitutions and the flow just started going,” he said. “(We had) way too many transition layups missed. Way too many free throws missed. We had quality shots, they just have to go in.”

While there were things that Ohtonen liked in his team’s season opener, he also felt that the Bulldogs sent Blake Shively to the line too many times. Shively, a junior for the Nimrods, made his first nine free throws, several of which came when no one else on the Nimrods was scoring, and that helped turn the tide in his team’s direction.

“No. 4 (Shively) for them, he lived at the line,” Ohtonen said. “I think he missed one free throw.”

The Bulldogs led after the first eight minutes, 16-7, thanks to a three each from senior Myles Lewis and junior Shaun Kilpela, along with two buckets from Pietila, who finished with a team-high 18 points.

In the second quarter, Pietila had five more points once he hit that three, and then he added a free throw and two more layups. He was the only Bulldogs player to score in the quarter.

The rest of the team struggled to get things to the basket or the glass behind it. At times, they appeared to attempt shots before they set their feet. Part of the issue, according to Ohtonen, was the lineup he put on the floor, which was largely inexperienced at the varsity level.

“When I transitioned the second group in, there’s a lot of juniors, who all played junior varsity last season, the majority of them, and they seemed rushed,” he said. “There was no set. When they did get set, that’s when the ball went. It was nice. It’s when the offense flowed the way it’s supposed to.”

Junior A.J. Dulong provided a bit of a spark in the third quarter. He first responded to a short jumper from Shively, with 1:08 remaining in the period, and then he hit a three with about 24 seconds left, which pulled the Bulldogs back within five, 39-34.

Pietila hit a jumper at the buzzer to pull the Bulldogs back within five points, 41-36, as the two teams entered the fourth quarter.

In the fourth, Shively, who led the Nimrods with 18 points, made two baskets sandwiched around a pair of free throws. The second basket was a layup off of a fast break with 5:06 remaining. Watersmeet led 48-39 at that point.

Senior Lane Pennala had two late layups, the second one enough to pull Hancock within four, 51-47. Then, with 1:23 left, Kilpela, who had eight points on the night, stole the ball and completed a layup at the other end of the floor to pull the Bulldogs to within two, 51-49.

Shively closed out the scoring with a layup to respond to Kilpela’s layup.

UP NEXT

The Bulldogs are back in action at home on Thursday when they host Calumet at 6 p.m.

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