Hornets can’t catch up to Devils

CALUMET – L’Anse found itself chasing the game throughout the second half in its Class C district semifinal, but never caught it, nor the Ironwood Red Devils Monday.

In a battle between the No. 4 (L’Anse) and No. 5 (Ironwood) teams in the final U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association basketball poll of the season, Ironwood shot 55 percent from the field, outrebounded L’Anse and trailed for only 26 seconds en route to eliminating the Purple Hornets 70-57.

“They executed offensively. I don’t think we did. When they had good shots, they made them,” L’Anse coach Mike Ostermeyer said.

The Hornet offense featured 11 triples, but just eight twos, as they consistently struggled to get the ball inside to forwards Jimmy Veker (five points) and Keith Denomie (nine points, all on threes).

“Overall, I thought we did a tremendous job. We didn’t give them anything in the paint defensively. They did knock down those threes, but we maintained the lead. We started off well and we continued to hold that lead and repel any run that they had,” Ironwood coach Pete Lewinski said.

Throw in offensive efficiency Lewinski said matched that of any game the 18-3 Red Devils played this year, and it was too much for L’Anse to handle.

“We wanted to take away their drives. We played from the inside out, but they seemed to get in the lane on us at will most of the night. We wanted to make it into a half-court game, but the turnovers we had wouldn’t let us,” Ostermeyer said.

L’Anse’s only lead came after a Cody Clement three 5:09 from halftime, making it 21-20. Jared Sobolewski scored on the other end on the ensuing possession and Ironwood finished the half on a 9-3 run with all the points coming from All-U.P. senior Adam Mackey.

Mackey drilled a three 2:22 into the second half to make it a 14-point game, but the Hornets hung within shouting distance, then made a move when Mackey went to the bench with four fouls early in the fourth.

Denomie got hot from the outside, making all his threes and helping L’Anse slice a 15-point lead down to nine with 2:31 to go, then eight on a Daniel Perrow trey with 2:02 to left, but Ironwood closed the game and L’Anse’s season out on the free-throw line.

“They’ve played together a long time,” Ostermeyer said of the Red Devils. “You’ve got so many options you’ve got to account for and if you take away one, they’ve got other guys. They’ve got a great inside player, they’ve got shooters, they’ve got good ballhandlers. And they’ve got in Mackey, one of the top five kids in the U.P. They’re a hard matchup.”

It was the end of the line for six L’Anse seniors, including Ostermeyer’s son Jacob, Veker and point guard Ryan LaBerge, all of whom earned at least one All-U.P. selection in their careers.

LaBerge had a strong all-around game and led L’Anse’s offense with 16 ponts. Ostermeyer added 11.

Jacob DiGiorgio led Ironwood with 18 points and 11 boards. Mackey scored 16, Bryant Rowe 13 and Jon Erickson 12.

The Red Devils advance to face host Calumet in Wednesday’s title game.

“When I took my starters out after the game, I told each and every one of the starters that came out, Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday,” Lewinski said. “This is not over by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a big win. I told the kids in the locker room, we didn’t win anything yet.”