Mayhem in Marinette Leaves Maroons Feeling The BluesIssue Date: December 28, 2016
A classic border battle clash between two cities that have a respectful dislike for one another took place Thursday night. This time, it was the hardcourt's version of the M&M game taking place at the P.F. Neverman Gym. Although playing in just their third game this season, the Menominee Maroons came out looking like it was the MHSAA playoffs. Marinette didn't lose focus, as help from behind the three-point line turned the game into an exhilarating showdown.
It was a tale of two runs in the first half of play. For the first eight minutes, the Maroons couldn't miss, connecting on 10 of their first 14 shots. Menominee's Jon Antilla, Levi Kempka and Marcus McKenney each connected on triples, as the Maroons jumped to an 11-3 lead. Kempka responded to a Connor Nelson three by draining a shot several feet behind the arc. Big man Tanner Mathias joined in on the action scoring eight straight points for Menominee, pushing the lead to 22-9. Marinette's Noah Miller momentarily halted the run with a layup, but another Kempka three and a McKenney layup extended the Maroon lead to 28-11 with 10:26 in the half.
A timeout by Marine Coach Nick Semenas seemed to calm his youthful squad as they came out of the huddle ready to go. Poetzl made a layup and Nelson sank another three before Poetzl dialed up a triple cutting the lead to 30-20. Menominee extended the lead back to 36-23 on a Kempka layup, before a moment in Matt Wagner's Marine career he may never forget. The sophomore guard seemingly could not be stopped as caught fire from behind the arc. In just under a two-minute stretch, Wagner hit four three-pointers that silenced the fans from Menonminee, and sent the Marine fans into a frenzy.
"The thing I said to Matt before the game was, "the first time you get a breath of air you take it'," said Marine Coach Nick Semenas.
Tyler Fayta continued the run with a triple of his own and a layup, before Nelson connected on a three to complete the 20-0 run that gave Marinette a 43-39 lead at the break.
"I know they were excited, but once we settled into our offense and moved the ball around it became just so much easier. We were just preaching patience," Coach Semenas said.
"We didn't play very well covering Wagner at times. We ran out at guys that don't want to shoot threes and gave up threes to guys that like to shoot them. That's the only aspect I was a little disappointed with," Menominee Coach Pete Pericolosi said.
Luckily for the fans in attendance, that was only the first half, there was still another 18 minutes left to be played. The teams went basket for basket as the second half began. Poetzl used his height to score inside for two easy baskets early. Mathias struck back with a layup for the Maroons. Later, it was Poetzl again making back-to-back hoops, before Wagner drilled another three, pushing the lead to 61-49 with 11:55 to play.
Menominee used a never give up mentally to fight their way back. Kempka drilled a three, McKenney a long jumper, and Mathias a layup as the Maroons went on a 7-0 run. Marinette responded with a 9-0 run as Poetzl drilled a short jumper, Wagner did his thing behind the arc, and the 5'7" Fayta got inside for two rebound-putbacks. Another Wagner triple, his seventh of the night, made the lead 75-61 with 4:04 on the clock.
"The funny thing about Tyler is he's 5'7", but he's got the heart of a lion. He's going to be a player you will see throughout the year that each game he will keep getting better. He made big shots, he's all over the place and I thought he did a really nice job shading Marcus McKenney. He's a heck of a player that's so quick and when's he's hitting his jumper he's tough to stop," Coach Semenas said of his sophomore point guard.
The Maroons implemented a full court press that helped them get back into the game. Kempka continued his three-point barrage before making two more two point baskets, Hunter Hass made a layup, Mathias made two free throws, and all of a sudden, a 11-0 Maroon run cut the lead to 75-73 with 1:10 on the clock.
"We're really not a pressing team but it really was effective. To be honest, since we've changed our lineup we haven't even gone over press much," said Coach Pericolosi of his pressure defense.
Wagner was fouled and sank both of his free throws making it a 77-73 game with 46.3 seconds left. Kempka delivered a clutch three from the top of the key making it a 77-76 game. Wagner's clutch play continued as he again connected on both of his free throw attempts, making the score 79-76 Marines. A late three-point attempt by Menominee was no good as the ball was given to Marinette, out of bounds, with 4.9 seconds remaining. On the inbounds pass, Hass tipped the ball away from a Marine player, secured the loose ball and hoisted up an off-balance three-pointer that would have tied the game. The shot went off the iron, was no good, and the Marines held on for an exciting 79-76 victory.
"In all three games, we never gave up, we fought to the buzzer. This was no exception and this is what I want the team to be known for: fighting till the end." Coach Pericolosi added, "Basketball is a game of streaks and how you handle them and I thought we handled the streaks negatively by turning the ball over.
Wagner led Marinette with 25 points, all coming off his seven three-pointers and four free throws. Poetzl added 20 for the Marines while Fayta scored 13 and Nelson pitched in 12.
"I was just really proud of our guys overall, no one panicked and every time they came back to the bench every single guy on our team said "we're okay, we're okay'. That was great to see. We stayed the course," said Coach Semenas of the gritty win.
Kempka led all scorers with his hot hand scoring 30 points for Menominee. Mathias scored 22 for the Maroons and McKenney added 11.
"Levi Kempka of Menominee was brilliant tonight. He was making shots that seniors just step up and make," said Coach Semenas of the performance by Kempka.
"Tanner is a big boy down there. I thought he had a great game, if he doesn't get into foul trouble that's how he can play the rest of the year. Levi needed to get going here, so I'm very happy to see that. Now we just need everyone on the team scoring a little bit," stated Coach Pericolosi.
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