Hancock boys fight back to .500

CALUMET – The Hancock Bulldogs completed a crawl from December depths to January joy Thursday night, evening their record at 5-5 with a 36-26 WestPAC boys’ basketball win at Calumet.

It didn’t come easy or pretty, but that’s of little consequence to Hancock after suffering through an 0-5 start.

“We struggled early, a lot of close games. We had a couple easy ones just recently. I think it helped us with a little confidence, got us on a roll right now and let’s just see if we can keep it going,” Hancock coach Curtis Wittenberg said.

The Bulldogs packed it in with a series of zone defenses, daring Calumet to shoot from the outside. Calumet’s inability to make much of anything for much of the night ensured Hancock would put a ‘W’ next to its lowest scoring output of the season.

“Bottom line is you’ve got to stick some shots. We had jump shots all night and we’ve got to stick some. You hold a team like Hancock to 36 points and you should probably have a decent shot of winning the game,” lamented Calumet coach Mike Ojala.

In addition, the Bulldogs got a season-low 14 points from center Alex Almquist, but with the 6-foot-8 junior patrolling the interior, Calumet couldn’t attack the basket with its usual results. It’s an option Wittenberg was happy to give the Copper Kings.

“Obviously percentage-wise, a three-point shot is a lower percentage shot than a layup,” he said.

Hancock led from Matt Yao’s triple 2 1/2 minutes into the game to the finish. Though the Bulldogs were up 12-5 after a quarter, Calumet’s brightest offensive quarter pulled them within three at halftime. All nine points came on threes, two from Chad Sturos and one from Daniel Olson. They’d be the only treys Calumet made all night.

Almquist, who had six points in the first half, had his best quarter in the third, scoring seven points, including an and-one inside the last minute of the frame, to push the advantage to 26-18.

The teams traded possessions and occasionally baskets through the fourth, with Calumet getting no closer than six before a Shane Raasio three-point play put it away with just less than a minute to go.

Raasio played an aggressive floor game, going two rows into the bleachers behind the Hancock bench to rescue a ball on one play and crashing through the Calumet bench on another. His aggressiveness was exactly what Ojala said his team can’t afford to lack.

“If we can’t trust ourselves to score offensively, we can’t physically get beaten up, and as far as rebounding, loose balls, that’s two conference games in a row I felt physically, we got beaten up. That’s not going to happen anymore. The offense can come and go, but we are not going to get beaten up anymore,” he said.

Raasio scored 11 points for the Bulldogs (1-2 WestPAC), who are at West Iron County Tuesday night.

Calumet, led by Paul Torola’s 12, falls to 6-4 (2-2 WestPAC) and hosts Baraga Tuesday.