L’Anse seizes second half

BARAGA – Seeking its first win of the year, the Baraga boys’ basketball team trailed rival L’Anse by just eight points at halftime, but the host Vikings only scored eight second-half points in what quickly became a lopsided win for the Purple Hornets.

L’Anse only led Baraga 15-14 after the first quarter and 33-25 at the half before exploding for a 26-6 third quarter and finishing off a 73-33 non-conference win with a 14-2 fourth stanza.

“We went from playing the best half of basketball all year to some of our worst,” said Baraga coach Doug Hodges, whose Vikings fall to 0-10 this season. “I told them we wanted to do four things before the game.

“I said we wanted to have better effort, better attitude, defense and patience. I told them we were 4-for-4 in the first half, then we were 0-for-4 in the second half.”

The tale of two halves featured an opening 16 minutes with an intensity level befitting an evenly matched rivalry, complete with a raucous crowd, while the second half quickly deteriorated into a rout that only maintained its intensity level through frustration fouls – including two technicals – and chippy play from both teams.

“It was a typical L’Anse/Baraga game,” said L’Anse coach Mike Ostermeyer, whose team improves to 5-7. “It’s a rivalry game and you can throw out the records, so I was not at all surprised at Baraga’s first-half effort.”

After getting outworked in the first half, though, the Purple Hornets came out of the halftime break with a renewed defensive intensity that led to sloppy Baraga play and four L’Anse points in the first 30 seconds. It snowballed quickly from there.

“We didn’t have the mental toughness to overcome 30 seconds, and we turned it into a whole 16 minutes of bad basketball,” Hodges said.

“The rivalry game in the first half was fun, it was competitive, it was loud in the gym. It was nice, it was a great atmosphere. The second half was a circus.”

In the first half James Veker scored 16 of his game-high 30 points – tying his season high – but Baraga countered with three players scoring at least six. Dillon Hueckstaedt tallied nine of his team-high 11 points to help counter Veker, and the Vikings also got all four of their triples in the first half, capping off patient offensive possessions.

In the second half, though, L’Anse’s full-court man-to-man defense forced Baraga into an up-tempo game it was clearly uncomfortable with.

Hodges tried to slow things down with several timeouts, but the Purple Hornets quickly channeled more defensive stops into whatever they wanted offensively.

Veker kept driving the lane at will, occasionally pulling up for a mid-range jumper; Daniel Perrow scored seven of his 12 in the third quarter in a variety of ways; and Keith Denomie added seven of his 16 in the third frame as well, including his fourth trifecta.

“We’re improving,” Ostermeyer said. “Veker is a difficult match-up for anybody and he worked hard without the ball tonight, creating some open shots for himself and others.”

L’Anse will look for its first winning streak of the year and first WestPAC win (0-4 so far) Friday when it visits Hancock, while Baraga will on paper have one of its best chances of securing its first overall and Copper Country Conference (0-5) win Friday at Dollar Bay, which is currently 1-10.