• HS Baseball 4/23: Kingsford 6, Marquette 2
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  • HS Softball 4/23: Norway 9, North Dickinson 5
  • HS Softball 4/23: Sault Ste. Marie 20, Marquette 10
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Wednesday April 24, 2024
JUST BARELY: Norse Basketball Opens With Sweep

Click the thumbnails to see photos and videos (thanks Ava Motin for the help), and to listen to post-game comments from Coach Matt Johnson, Nic Williams from Friday, and Joe Ofori from Saturday. Also hear player spotlight interviews with Genesis Kemp and Connor Smale.

ESCANABA---
The Bay College Norse men's basketball team opened the 2023-24 season with a pair of victories this weekend: one very easily and the other not so much. The Norse beat the Minnesota North-Hibbing Cardinals, 100-48, Friday night, and then had to claw from behind to escape with a 56-54 win Saturday over the College of Lake County (Ill.) Lancers.

 

After Bay used all 19 players on the roster and saw 15 of them score in Friday night's rout, they couldn't get anything going offensively for much of Saturday's contest against Lake County. At the same time, the Lancers executed their game plan well, despite the fact that the Norse shut down the Lancers' top scorer, Justin St. Louis.

 

Other guys stepped up for Lake County, notably James Glazebrooks, who scored eleven points in the first half, making three triples along the way.

The Norse, meanwhile, scored just 19 points as a team, were out-rebounded, and couldn't make their free throws.

 

Lake County led, 27-14, late in the first half, and settled for a 27-19 lead at halftime.

 

“We didn't pass the ball very well (in the first half),” Bay College Coach Matt Johnson said. “We had eleven assists and ten turnovers. That's not very good. It got better in the second half. We had nine assists and four turnovers. That was something that we talked about in the locker room, and obviously, the guys took it to heart. There were some good things and there were some bad things, but we executed when we needed to.”

 

The Norse played catch-up throughout the second half, with Nic Williams draining a triple with 4:31 to play to get Bay into a 48-48 tie.

 

The teams exchanged baskets down the stretch before Williams made another triple with 37.6 seconds left to give the Norse a 54-52 lead. The Lancers, though, when Leirre Collier made a lay-up with 12 seconds left on the clock. He scored a dozen points off the bench for Lake County, all of them in the second half.

 

The Norse worked the ball up-court, and Johnson chose not to call one of his timeouts. They ran a play into the paint, with Kairee Gadson dumping it to Joe Ofori on the baseline for the go-ahead lay-up with less than one second left on the clock.

 

“I didn't want them to get set up in something,” Johnson said of the decision NOT to call a time out. “I didn't want them to get the match-ups that they wanted. I didn't want them to be able to talk about how to defend certain actions that they expected us to run. I wanted to make sure that we were making them get back in transition, and maybe guard somebody they didn't want to guard.”

 

“I heard him call 'gap', that's the play where I come off, I have the ball, and it's pretty much a two-man game where the point guard has the ball, and me,” Ofori said. “Now, I realized they were gonna double team Kairee off of the screen because he was our leading scorer tonight."

"So, it left a slip open for me, so when I saw two people crash on me, so I went with just a little up-and-under reverse, and it went in. But I know I can play way better, and I know my team depends on me. When we travel to Minnesota to play our next games, I'm gonna be way better than I was today.”

 

The Lancers got a decent look from St. Louis with a 30-foot heave that hit the glass wide-right, and the Norse escaped with the win.

 

“We made a play,” Johnson said of Ofori's winning basket. “It was one of the first drive-and-dump-offs that we had all game. We made a great pass, and Joe finished it.”

 

Gadson scored 12 points to lead the Norse, while Williams added ten. Genesis Kemp came off the bench to score ten points.

 

Lake County had 13 points from Glazebrooks, twelve from Collier off the bench, and ten points from Randy Holm.

The Lancers outrebounded the Norse, 27-20, and Bay made only eight of its 16 free throw attempts. Still, the defending NJCAA Region 12 runners-up found a way to pick up an ugly win on the home court.

 

“Hats off to the College of Lake County, 110-percent,” Johnson said. “They played hard and they executed their game plan incredibly well. They took us out of what we do well, and made us win in a different way. Thank goodness we were pretty good defensively.”

 

Friday's game was much-less stressful for Bay College, as the Norse rolled to a 100-48 win over the Hibbing school that Johnson got his coaching start at. Bay led, 49-28, at halftime, and kept expanding that lead throughout the second half as everybody got in the act.

 

Ryan Sweeney led the way with 14 points and Williams chipped in twelve points. Kemp came off the bench for nine points and eight rebounds. The Cardinals were led in scoring by Colton Pagnac with 15 points. The Norse also made just ten of 16 free throw shots in this game, but they didn't need the points like they did on Saturday.

"I feel like I did all right," Williams said. "I feel I could've been better on defense, getting the rebounds, getting on the ball more. Just getting on both sides of the ball, not just worrying about offense. We have all of our guys working hard on defense, and it's going to be hard to beat us."

"The effort, energy, and intensity was there," Johnson said. "I was really happy with that. Our bench energy was awesome, and the guys on the floor played really, really hard. All in all, it was a really good day in the office for sure."

Then, the Norse took a step back on Saturday, which Johnson says will fuel the guys as they prepare to travel to Minneapolis next weekend to compete in a four-team tournament hosted by former Region 13 foe Dakota County Technical Community College.

"We're going to play two really, really good basketball teams," Johnson said. "If we play like we did yesterday (Friday), we have a chance to get two W's. If we play like we did today, we're probably going to have a long bus ride back from Minneapolis with two L's. We just have to get back in the gym (for practice). We don't have to regroup. We just need to lock in."
 









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