IRONWOOD - In a non-conference game that had the feel of something much bigger, the tall and talented Ironwood Red Devils showed they could rise up in a big game and carved out a 65-58 win over Washburn on Tuesday night.
The game generated a lively interest among fans since both teams were undefeated in their divisions of the Indianhead Conference. Washburn was 7-0 in the West Division (10-1 overall) and Ironwood was atop of the East with an 8-0 record (8-1 overall).
The Red Devils were also ranked third in the latest U.P. Class ABC basketball poll.
"It had a big game atmosphere with the two leading teams squaring off from each division," Ironwood coach Pete Lewinski said. "It's fun to watch two good teams go at it. And it's a measuring stick of where you're team is at. You learn what you're good at and what you have to work on.
"The win gives us confidence versus the top team in the West. There's a lot of good basketball players in the West Division."
Lewinski said there was only one thing wrong about Tuesday night's game.
"The unfortunate thing was that it was a non-conference game," Lewinski said. "In two weeks, (Feb. 4), we go to Washburn and that will be a conference game."
Lewinski acknowledged the win was a team effort but said there were two good reasons for the victory . They were named Adam Mackey and Bryant Rowe.
"Mackey took over," Lewinski said. "He was his old, usual self. Great players rise up and he had 24 points. Rowe had an outstanding game, also. He was on (Cody) Tomlinson, who is their leading scorer with over 20 points per game. Tomlinson had seven points going into the fourth quarter. Bryant usually guards the top offensive player on the other team. He does an outstanding job and had 17 points himself. Tomlinson wound up with 16, but most were free throws at the end."
Mackey, who has played with Rowe for three years on varsity, said he knew why the 6-2 senior plays such good defense.
"He's long, lengthy and quick," Mackey said. "Bryant got us going with his defense and frustrated Tomlinson."
Lewinski also said Jacob DiGiorgio, Jon Erickson and Jared Sobolewski played well. Sobolewski hauled down 11 rebounds.
Mackey got the Devils rolling early on when he made two put-backs and then buried a deep 3 from the right wing. Rowe followed with something rarely seen in basketball these days (a bounce pass) to Sobolewski for a lay-in.
Ironwood led 9-4 and was looking good.
Mackey was on a 3 spree and this time he drained a triple from the left wing with 1:19 left in the quarter. With 53.6 seconds left, Mackey rebounded a shot and threw a baseball pass the length of the court and hit Denver Sharrow in stride. It was one dribble and a lay-up and Ironwood led 20-17 after one quarter.
Mackey would have 14 points by half-time and he was confident in his performance but not arrogant.
"I played well early on, but that's what I'm supposed to do for this team," Mackey said. "But the best thing we did was play team ball really well."
The Castle Guards went cold in their shooting in the second quarter and Rowe and DiGiorgio came on strong with a boost from Erickson. The Red Devils took their biggest lead at 34-24.
As the clock was running down, Mackey was being guarded and dribbled the length of the court. He was going full speed through the air and threw up a hook shot as he got close to the baseline. The shot went in and the crowd erupted. Very, very few people could ever make that shot and Ironwood went ahead 36-28 at the half.
In the third quarter, Tomlinson weaved through traffic on a nice drive from the top of the key and cut Ironwood's advantage to 41-38 with 3:57 remaining.
But the Red Devils reeled off five of the next six baskets. Rowe was fouled beyond the arc and sank all three free throws. Erickson and Rowe made back-to-back breakaway lay-ups and on a foul shot, Rowe snuck inside to prime rebounding position and made a putback. Ironwood led 52-42.
The quarter ended with Ironwood up 54-45.
The Devils maintained their lead midway through the fourth quarter and then with 4:48 left, Ironwood went to a semi-stall where they would shoot only if they had an excellent, short shot.
The Castle Guards did not come out to guard the Devils and minutes ticked away until Tomlinson made a steal and sank two free throws with 1:04 remaining.
Ironwood went back to the semi-stall and it was only fitting that Mackey rebounded a DiGiorgio shot with 11.3 seconds left and finished the scoring.
After Mackey's big scoring night, Rowe notched 17 points and DiGiorgio made it to double figures with 10.
After Tomlinson's 16 points, Brant Schick garnered 13 and Brett Rozier and Robert Wilkins had 11 and 10 points respectively.
Washburn won the junior varsity game
Ironwood (9-1, 8-0) goes to Ewen-Trout Creek in non-conference action on Thursday and hosts Ontonagon on Friday. Both games will have a tipoff at 6:20 p.m. CST.
Washburn - Noah Swiston 2, Robert Wilkins 10, Mac Reykdal 4, Brant Schick 13, Brett Rozier 11, Cody Tomlinson 16, Bryce Guski 2. FTs:14-17. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: none 3-pointers: none..
Ironwood - Denver Sharrow 4, Adam Mackey 24, Jon Erickson 6, Bryant Rowe 17, Jacob DiGiorgio 10, Jared Sobolewski 4. FTs:11-16. Fouls:15. Fouled out: none. 3-pointers: Mackey 3, Rowe 1.
Washburn 17 28 45 58
Ironwood 20 36 54 65