Hornets oust Copper Kings

L’ANSE – Separated by no more than four points through the first three quarters Monday night, L’Anse took advantage of a burst of scoring from junior forward Keith Denomie in the final period to gain separation from Calumet in the Class C district quarterfinal before closing out the Copper Kings with textbook endgame strategy.

The Purple Hornets knocked down 8-of-12 free throws in the game’s final minutes – including the front end of each one-and-one – and came through with several steals and offensive rebounds to advance to the semifinals with a 51-41 win that was much closer than the final score indicates.

“We have had several games this year when we have blown the game in the fourth quarter, so it is nice to see us step up tonight,” L’Anse coach Mike Ostermeyer said. “I think the kids really played hard. I was very happy with our poise. We limited turnovers, especially late and I thought we did a better job rebounding the ball in the second half.”

With just over five minutes remaining, Denomie helped stretch the L’Anse lead from four to 10 points with a pair of baseline drives and lay-ups sandwiched around a Daniel Perrow steal-and-bucket.

The Hornets went into a patient, ball-moving offense from there to eventually earn their way to the free-throw line.

“I just kept going to my left hand because they weren’t guarding it,” Denomie, who finished with 14 points, said of the baseline drives.

“Our guards did a really good job of handling the ball and we had a good shot selection in the fourth quarter,” Ostermeyer added.

L’Anse was given a boost heading into the final period as Perrow banked home a three with the seconds ticking away at the end of the third quarter.

The three-point swing was especially frustrating for Calumet as it had been trying to hold the ball for the final possession of the quarter but a too-quick shot gave Perrow time to run down the floor and juice L’Anse during the break.

“That was a huge momentum swing for us,” Ostermeyer said.

Calumet kept the contest close throughout but was never able to find that decisive run to push the lead in their favor.

Several open-court steals and offensive rebounds went to waste in the first half as the Kings failed to convert at the rim. Paul Torola led the Kings with 16 points.

“The issue for us all year has been being able to get some guys to knock down some shots,” Ojala said. “I think the kids got frustrated tonight. In big games like this, when we missed a couple of those putbacks, the guys seemed to tighten up a little bit. a number from point-blank range that just didn’t go for us.”

Ojala made special mention of the five departing seniors postgame.

“I tell them this all the time, they are an incredibly easy bunch to coach,” Ojala said. “They work hard, take direction I’ve really enjoyed this group.”

L’Anse (10-10) advances to a 6 p.m. semifinal Wednesday against Ironwood. Calumet’s season ends with a 10-10 record.