Wykons push past Bulldogs to retain WestPAC chances

HANCOCK – Friday’s WestPAC loss to West Iron County left the Hancock boys’ basketball team searching for silver linings. Here’s one: at least they didn’t hand the league crown to rival Houghton.

The Wykons pushed past the Bulldogs, playing without junior center Alex Almquist for two-thirds of the game after a second-quarter hand injury, by a 52-41 count. With the win, West Iron can claim a share of the league title if the Gremlins lose Tuesday at Calumet.

The fate of the league title is now out of their hands, but Wykon coach Dan Schive said a more important prize awaits in the district tournament.

“It’s got to be. If it’s not, you ought to just get ready for the 20 games and forfeit the districts,” he said.

The Bulldogs whipped the Wykons by 20 in January in their first meeting in Iron River and were off to a hopeful start through a quarter and a half, leading 19-10 two minutes into the third quarter.

West Iron had scored back-to-back buckets when Almquist caught his right hand against another player in search of a defensive rebound and came out of the game in obvious pain. He did not return.

The Wykons continued their run and took a late lead before a Brian Kass basket tied it at the half.

Hancock remained within a possession until the late third quarter, but another dry spell of almost four minutes without a field goal early in the fourth sealed its fate.

Austin Waara scored nine of his 16 points in the final quarter as the Wykons pulled away.

Schive said his team had prepared to be more precise in an attempt to crack open the Bulldogs’ zone defense. Without Almquist to patrol the paint, the Wykon offense needed a major recalibration.

“To go from slow, slow and then you’ve got to jack (the tempo) up, we were a little sloppy until we got our legs underneath us,” he said.

Hancock coach Curtis Wittenberg said his players kept the intensity level up but the adjustment on both ends was too big to make in-game.

“Even though you work hard defensively, you’re still used to having the big guy back there to help out inside,” he said.

Offensively, Shane Raasio mounted a brave effort driving the lane in an attempt to spark Hancock’s offense, but faced fierce resistance from Adam Newby and several help defenders whenever he attempted to gain the middle.

“It was fun to watch those two kids battle one-on-one,” Schive said. “I knew if we could slow (Raasio) down and close out on shooters, then we could get the boards and we could go.”

Newby led all scorers with an evenly distributed 17 points. Raasio led Hancock with 14.

Hancock has road games at L’Anse Tuesday and Lake Linden-Hubbell Friday to get used to the new normal, if Almquist is unable to go. Wittenberg said he started learning how to approach those games Friday.

“I got an idea a little bit more of what guys can do and maybe what guys can’t do,” he said.

The Wykons have one more regular season game, Tuesday at home vs. Ishpeming.