Wykons take early WestPAC lead

CALUMET – West Iron County made a strong case for the role of WestPAC boys’ basketball favorite with a decisive road win over Calumet Thursday, 53-41.

The Wykons, already pushing the Copper Kings into the danger zone with a 9-3 lead to end the first half up nine, pushed them over the cliff to start the second half, outscoring them 14-1 in the third quarter.

“In the second half, they didn’t want to be in the locker room. They wanted to come out and play again. I just cut them loose in the second half and said ‘Go,'” WIC coach Dan Schive said.

The Wykons shot well, ran the floor and clamped down on defense, holding Calumet within a point of its lowest total of the year.

“There were some shots out there for us, but we certainly couldn’t keep pace with what they’re doing,” Calumet coach Mike Ojala said.

The Copper Kings (5-3, 2-1 WestPAC) nearly lost control of the game from the get-go. The visitors controlled tempo from the opening tap and led 16-5 less than three minutes in on the strength of two three-pointers apiece from Alex Ralston and Joe Pisoni.

Calumet made a 10-1 run to close the quarter, with Owen Kariniemi and Daniel Olson scoring four points apiece, mostly from in close.

The pace slowed down in the second quarter and the teams traded baskets until West Iron amped it up again wth nine straight points before a late triple from Kariniemi brought the halftime margin back inside single digits.

“When we pound the boards and we get a break, we want to try and get out and fill the lanes and get down the floor as quick as possible. I think what happened was we got a couple of fast-break baskets and when we didn’t have the break, we slowed it down and were patient enough in the halfcourt to get a good shot,” Schive said.

West Iron blitzed Calumet with seven more unanswered points in the first 1:28 of the second half for a 16-point lead, then layered on a few more as Calumet missed every field goal attempt it took in the quarter, avoiding the shutout only on a split pair of free throws from Paul Torola with 1:01 left.

“We’re not knocking down jump shots with any type of consistency right now,” Ojala lamented.

Calumet made a much better showing in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Wykons 17-7, but never closed within single digits.

“As much as I was proud of the kids for fighting their tail off in that fourth quarter, we really took a whupping in that third quarter,” Ojala said.

West Iron had a balanced attack, with Ralston and Tyler Stafford contributing 12 points apiece and Pisoni 11.

Kariniemi and Torola co-led all scorers with 13 points each, though Torola was held nearly five points below his average and had six in the nearly academic fourth quarter.

“When you become a good player, everybody knows who you are. And he’s a good player. So, we wanted to make sure we always had somebody fairly close to him,” Schive said.

Calumet is at Baraga Monday night.