Copper Kings boys move on with win over Bulldogs

Calumet’s Blake Tarvis attempts to find a way to get the ball past Hancock’s Shawn Kilpela during a Division 3 District 65 quarterfinal game Monday at the Calumet Gym. (Paula Porter/For the Gazette)

CALUMET — The first round of the Division 3 District 65 basketball tournament was a “Copper Island” clash between the Calumet Copper Kings and the Hancock Bulldogs.

The squads split in the regular season, and both games were nail-biters (Calumet won 41-39 and Hancock won 37-35), so it was no surprise that the Calumet Gym was near capacity for the win-or-go-home game. The fans got their money’s worth; the contest had end-to-end, fast-paced scoring, calculated clinical offense, ferocious defensive pressure, and most importantly, an exciting finish, which favored the Copper Kings, 57-50.

“I am so happy for the kids,” said Calumet coach Frank Bonacorsi. “I’m so proud of their progression throughout the year from where we were to where we are now.

“The Torola brothers, Lenny and Paul, come in and help out during practice to help us figure out our team and how to get them going. The collective effort between players and coaches makes this district win so satisfying.”

In professional sports, there is a regular season MVP and a postseason MVP, but in high school, there is no playoff MVP award, even though players carry their team to wins and titles. On Monday, Blake Tarvis was that clutch player for Calumet.

Tarvis scored 21 points and hit 11-of-12 free throws in the final two minutes to shut down any Bulldog comeback attempt.

“Those were very clutch free throws,” Bonacorsi said. “Blake is a great kid, one of our senior captains, and after he hit the first couple, he’s like, ‘I got there;’ he told everyone, so I told the guys to get Blake the ball, clear out, and let him take us home, and he did.”

Hancock coach Zach Ohtonen felt his team played one of their better games of the year.

“Every time we play Calumet, it is a good game. Both teams are very aggressive, making it a good game to watch,” said Ohtonen. “Towards the end of the game, Calumet got the most rebounds, and the difference in the game is the rebounds and Tarvis hitting his free throws; you have to make the free throws when they count, and down the stretch, we missed a lot of free throws, and a lot of easy baskets.

“I think they still played well tonight, better than most games this season.”

On the verge of tears, Ohtonen only managed five words when describing his senior class, which he cares so much about.

“They are a fun group,” he said.

Calumet had Gavin Sturos and Micah Pieti back up Travis’ 21 points with a dozen each.

Alex Pietila led Hancock with 15 on the board, while Lane Pennala and Shaun Kilpela had eight.

If you left the game four minutes in, you would have been shocked when you heard the final score. Hancock was up 3-0 in half the quarter, but things picked up quickly once Calumet finally found the basket. The Bulldogs had an 8-2 lead with two minutes left in the first, but five straight from the Copper Kings made it a one-point game, 8-7. In the final seconds, Hancock scored and added two more points at the buzzer to take a 12-7 advantage into the second frame.

The Copper Kings continued to push, but couldn’t cut their deficit due to the Bulldog’s scoring ability. Hancock’s lead was six, 18-12, with five minutes left in the half. In the following minutes, the Bulldogs stretched their lead to eight, 26-18. The momentum began to change after four points by the Copper Kings right before the break; Hancock led 26-22 at the half.

Calumet continued their run in the third and eventually took their first lead of the night, 27-26. The Copper Kings scored three more points before the Bulldogs ended their 10-0 run. At 30-28, both offenses began firing on all cylinders. With just under two minutes remaining in the third, Hancock tied the again at 34-34. In the last minute, Calumet scored five, and Hancock scored four to make it 39-38 Copper Kings.

With the fourth-quarter pressure on, both teams were more careful with the ball, leading to just one bucket through three minutes: 41-38 Calumet. The Bulldogs tied the game with 4:50 left. The Copper Kings grabbed a one-point lead, 42-41, then with 2:20 left, the Calumet advantage was still on, 45-44. In 40 seconds, the Copper Kings jumped to a 50-44 lead. With just under a minute left, Hancock started to foul to preserve the clock, but Tarvis would not miss from the line, leading to the final spread of seven points.


Calumet moves on and will play Jeffers in Calumet Wednesday at 6 p.m.


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