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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Maroons Claim D3 State Silver

Issue Date: April 3, 2022

MHSAA Basketball

Menominee's magical run to the Michigan Division 3 state title game came to an end Saturday with a 59-49 loss to Schoolcraft at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

Menominee has taken the state by storm during its state tournament run, and the Maroons have been taking opponents by storm early as well, using their suffocating pressure defence to take frequent early leads. That didn't work quite as well on Saturday afternoon, as the Eagles' two 6-foot-7 forwards, Ty Rykse and Tyler DeGroote acted as the team's primary ball-handlers and were able to beat the Maroon press.

In the first quarter, Rykse scored nine points, making four of five field goals. As a team, Schoolcraft turned the ball over just twice and made eight of 11 field goals in the period, leading 20-10 after eight minutes.

"The tough part is with them, our full court pressure is based on getting a trap. If we can trap one of those guards at halfcourt or wherever else, it puts some pressure on them and makes them throw a really difficult pass. Their two bigs were their primary ball-handlers, and they're both 6-7, so we're setting a trap and they can see over the top of it, and they can deliver a pass," Menominee coach Sam Larson said. "The pressure was somewhat neutralized just by the fact they had ball-handlers that were that big and could see over the top of it. They weren't turning it over. They were patient, they were making the right read and finding the guy on the backside that was open."

Menominee cut the lead to six, 22-16, on a 3-pointer by Brady Badker, but from there, Schoolcraft re-took a double-digit advantage, and the lead sat at 31-20 after 16 minutes, with Eli DeVisser scoring a bucket 25 seconds before the halftime horn.

Two and a half minutes into the third quarter, the Eagles led 37-22, with Tyler DeGroote hitting a jumper to stretch the lead. The lead was 15 after three quarters, with Schoolcraft scoring 10 of its 15 third-period points in the paint.

The Maroons had one last run in them, cutting the lead to eight with two minutes to play on two free throws by Brady Schultz, but they couldn't cut it any closer.

Ty Rykse and Shane Ryske each scored 15 points, DeVisser scored 14, DeGroote scored seven, and Asher Puhalski scored eight. Those five were the only players to score for the Eagles, and they also played almost every possible minute in the game. Puhalski left the game for three minutes, but other than that, four of the five starters played for 32 minutes. Part of Menominee's plan was to slow down the Eagle starters with 32 minutes of pressure.

"We talked at the end of the quarter, we were down 10, they're not going to keep this up, but part of our gameplan was they play five guys, and we wanted to wear them down and thought that if we wear them down and play at the tempo we're capable of playing, those shots aren't going to fall in the second half and the decision making will probably deteriorate over the course of time," Larson said. "I just didn't think we ever got to the tempo we needed to. We wanted to make that game as fast and chaotic as possible and it just never really happened for a multitude of reasons. That game had to be faster, and it had to be more chaotic for us to succeed."

Menominee forced 12 turnovers and committed just eight, but the Maroons' shot-making wasn't quite there either. They went 16-47 from the field, including 5-20 from 3-point range. They made 12 of 21 free throws.

Schoolcraft, meanwhile, was 22-47 from the field, including 6-12 from 3-point range. That made a big difference, especially as they made all four of their first-quarter 3-pointers.

"If we saw two or three more 3s go down, and maybe another four free throws, we'd have been in for a nail-biter of a game. It would have been a possession game in the final couple of minutes, but it just didn't go down that day, and that's OK too," Larson said.

Aidan Bellisle finished with 14 points for Menominee, and Schultz was 6-12, as well as 6-8 on free throws, to score 19 points. Badker scored eight on 2-3 shooting.

"We shot the ball very well this playoff run, starting from Manistique all the way on. We shot the ball really well throughout the playoff run, and we had a poor shooting night in the finals," Larson said. "We didn't shoot well from three, we really didn't shoot it well from the free-throw line, and to win that game, we would have had to have a good performance for ourselves. I don't think we needed to play our A-game to win that game necessarily, but we couldn't play a C-minus game, and shooting the ball, we played a C-minus or a "D' game."

Regardless of the final result, this basketball season isn't one that will soon be forgotten, especially for all the Maroon fans that made the trek down to East Lansing for the state tournament.

"There were some moments at the Breslin or even at our quarterfinal game where you're just able to sit back during our pregame and look around and see all the people in the stands, and the student section, and the support we had, which if you talk to anybody that was downstate at the Breslin, multiple people have told me Menominee fans traveled better than anybody else," Larson said. "It was crazy down there. We had the Marriott hotel, and if you went down to the lobby at any hour of the day, it was packed with Maroon parents and fans. It was a little bit nutty at times, but it was super cool to see the support that the whole entire community showed, and really the surrounding communities. Marinette and Peshtigo, I heard from a lot of people there, and the entire UP as well."

The season ending sees the departure of eight Menominee seniors: Brody Waara, Aden Laurin, Badker, Bellisle, Andrew MacIntyre, Schultz, Cooper Conway, and Jonathan Lewis.



Menominee Eliminates

Ecorse to Earn

State Final Spot

Coming into Thursday's state semifinal matchup against Ecorse, many would have pegged the Menominee Maroons as the underdog, despite the Maroons having won 23 of their 26 games on the season.

Ecorse, despite a handful of forfeits early in the season that put its record at 9-11, boasts two players with Division 1 NCAA interest, including junior Kenneth Morrast Jr., who reportedly has drawn interest from Alcorn State, to Malik Olafioye, who is one of the top-ranked players in all of Michigan, with recruiting buzz from Georgetown, Boston College, Arizona State, and a long list of other schools.

Menominee traveled down to East Lansing from the Upper Peninsula and showed that they belonged among the best in the state on Thursday, picking up a 74-56 win with strong defense and sharp shooting leading the way.

Both teams came out shooting the ball well. Ecorse took a 5-0 lead in the opening two minutes on a jumper by Morrast and a 3-pointer by Derrick Kemp Jr., but Menominee was quick with the answer.

On the next possession after Kemp's triple, Aidan Bellisle nailed a 3-pointer, and after a Olafioye turnover, Cooper Conway gave Menominee its first lead of the day, 6-5. Both shots were assisted by Brady Badker.

Menominee never relinquished that lead despite some strong play by the Red Raiders. Menominee extended the lead to 12-5, but Ecorse quickly brought it back to 12-10 on a Dennell Kemp 3-pointer.

Conway knocked down his second 3-pointer with 24 seconds to go in the first quarter to give Menominee a 19-13 lead at the first break.

The Maroons kept the pressure on in the second quarter, scoring the first eight points of the half, with a Badker 3-pointer extending the lead to 14. By halftime, it was 41-23 Menominee.

The halftime break was an energizer for the Red Raiders, while Menominee seemed to rest on its laurels a little bit, looking to run the clock perhaps a bit too early, coach Sam Larson said.

With 5:29 to go in the third, Brady Schultz hit a pair of free throws to give his team a 47-32 lead, but then Ecorse started to chip away. The lead hit single digits, 53-44, for the first time since the first minute of the second quarter when Dennell Kemp made a layup with 2:49 to play in the third. Olafioye cut the lead to eight with a free throw in the final minute of the quarter.

Ecorse took the Maroons out of their sets by doubling the ball right away in the second half, leaving Menominee ball-handlers to look for the open man instead of the man the offense normally would have run through, Larson said.

Schultz broke a nearly four-minute scoreless streak for Menominee with a layup on the first possession of the fourth quarter, but things got dangerously close from there.

Morrast made a layup and knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the lead to five, 57-52, with six minutes to play.

"We talked at halftime and said "They're not just going to fold. They're going to come after you, and you've got to be strong with the basketball, because they're going to try and rip it from you. I thought we held onto the ball fairly well, I just thought we got tentative," Larson said. "In the first half we were rolling so much without thinking, just trying to get a bucket, and then all of a sudden, we looked like we were trying to run some clock down, which was probably a little bit too early to be doing that. We had some opportunities where we caught it in the high post or we had it in a 2-on-1 and we pulled it back out. If you hold onto the ball for long enough, eventually you're going to turn it over."

The Red Raiders cutting the game to two scores might have been what turned the Maroons' mindset around, because offense seemed to come easy for the Marines in the final minutes.

Leading 60-54 with 4:27 to play, Menominee scored at least a point on seven straight possessions to close out the game, punctuated by a Schultz dunk with 57 seconds to go. Menominee made seven of its eight shots from the field and seven of 10 free throws in that final quarter.

"I thought there was a change at the six-minute mark of the fourth quarter where all of a sudden, we just said "hell with it, we're going,' and we started to attack the rim a little bit and had some success," Larson said.

Schultz was a force to be reckoned with on Thursday. He made 11 of his 15 field goal attempts to score a game-high 26 points, also recording seven rebounds, four assists, and six blocks. He also drew the tall task of guarding Olafioye, a test that he passed with flying colors.

The four-star guard (via Rivals) was held to just 2-15 shooting for six points. As a team, the Red Raiders were 19-52 shooting (36.5%).

"I thought Brady Schultz was just fantastic on [Olafioye] and shut him down," Larson said. "Our length had something to do with that because we are fairly long and we're able to at least deflect, block, or alter shots and make it a little bit tougher than what they're used to."

Morrast scored 20 points on 7-14 shooting and Dennell Kemp was 5-10 for 15 points, but the Maroons knew they were going to have a tough defensive task. The Red Raiders ran most of their offense in the 1-on-1, and they had some excellent athletes and shooters on the floor at all times.

"They were a break down off the dribble team, so our goal was to understand the guys who you're really worried about. There are some guys where we said if that guy wants to take us 1-on-1 and try to score, let that guy try and get 20," Larson said. "[Olafioye] and [Morrast], we understood that we're probably not good enough to cover them completely 1-on-1 and we had to have good help there."

Menominee got 18 from Conway on 6-9 shooting, 12 from Bellisle on a 4-9 day, and 10 from Badker, who was 2-4 from the 3-point line.

As a team, Menominee was 26-47 from the field (55.3%) and 7-15 from 3-point range (46.7%). The Maroons also made their trips to the free throw line count, making 15 of 20 (75%).

The day before the semifinal against Ecorse, Menominee stopped in Mount Pleasant at Central Michigan University's McGuirk Arena to get some shots up in the college arena setting and prepare for the 15,000-seat Breslin Center.

"We went to McGuirk Arena at Central Michigan that day before just to try and get comfortable with the size of the arena, the depth perception, and the lighting, and everything else, because it's a change from every high school game they've ever played in," Larson said. "I think that helped. We got a bunch of shots up at CMU on Wednesday and then went down and shot the ball really well, especially in that second half. But they were open looks too. Once you can get the ball into the paint against that zone they had for a little bit and then get a kick out, your chances of making them go up, and we were fortunate enough to knock them down."




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