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Stretch Drive Math

February 17, 2009 - David Karnosky
It’s hard to believe that the stretch drive of the winter sports regular season is upon us. Some conferences are already in the bag (like Houghton’s girls in the WestPAC) and others are darned close to it (Ontonagon girls and Baraga boys in the Copper Country).

Others are much more in flux. Locally, the most obvious of these is the WestPAC boys’ basketball race. Houghton owns a 1 1/2 game cushion with just two to play, but those two are Ironwood tonight and a tough road trip to Calumet.

A Houghton win, though far from certain, would clinch a share of the WestPAC title and eliminate Ironwood and West Iron from contention for the top spot. If the Red Devils win tonight, all heck breaks loose. Houghton would still lead the conference, but the field would have games in hand. The best part is that there’s a entirely likely scenario by which we could still have a four-way tie:

1. Houghton loses to Ironwood and Calumet.

2. Calumet beats L’Anse (tonight), beats Houghton (March 3), loses to Ironwood (Friday)

3. Ironwood loses to West Iron (Feb. 24)

4. West Iron wins out.

At that point, all four teams finish 7-3. The most implausible part of the scenario is Ironwood winning both its games in the Copper Country this week, but the Red Devils beat Calumet and took Houghton to overtime when they played in Ironwood.

The CCC is much less complicated. Baraga wins tonight in Dollar Bay (or in its remaining two league games at Chassell or Jeffers) and they’re conference champions. Ontonagon’s girls have it the same way, with their first chance to clinch Thursday at Baraga).

Elsewhere in the U.P. tonight, the Nimrods visit Jeffers, Hancock is at Bessemer, Ontonagon visits Chassell and Wakefield-Marinesco visits Ewen-Trout Creek.

There are two boys’ games Thursday: Lake Linden-Hubbell is at Jeffers and Baraga visits Watersmeet.

Friday’s best boys’ game is Ironwood at Calumet. L’Anse hits the road at West Iron, Ontonagon visits Hancock, Wakefield’s at Baraga, Chassell is at Ewen-Trout Creek in what is sure to be a high-scoring affair, and Houghton visits Escanaba.

As for the rest of the U.P., imagine as if the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes were run on the same day, on the same track, which some of the same horses competing against each other in both. That’s what it’s like to try and figure out the Central U.P. and Skyline boys’ races.

The two leagues are like a Venn diagram, with Big Bay de Noc and Superior Central in the CUP only, and North Dickinson, Forest Park and Republic in the Skyline only, and Mid Peninsula, Bark River-Harris, Rapid River, North Central and Carney-Nadeau in both. The three major teams at issue are BR-H, Big Bay and Rapid River.

BR-H and Rapid River are currently tied at 9-1 in the Skyline (they split their season series) and unless North Dickinson (5-4) in the league upsets either, they’re probably headed for a tie. In the CUP, Big Bay and BR-H have two league losses apiece, with Rapid and SC having three each. SC still has to play BR-H twice, while Rapid and Big Bay de Noc play next Tuesday. So, if Rapid wins out, we could have a three-way tie between the Rockets, Broncos and Black Bears, or if Superior Central wins out, it could be the Cougars, Rockets and Black Bears. Yikes.

This conflagration only repeats itself on the girls side, which currently looks like this:

CUP: 1. SC (9-2), 2. BR-H (8-2), 3. North Central (7-2)

Skyline: 1. BR-H (10-1), 2. Forest Park (9-2), 3. North Central and North Dickinson (8-3)

Let’s start with the CUP. BR-H has to play Carney-Nadeau and at North Central (a rivalry game they lost at home earlier this year). North Central has two near-certain wins left and the Bark River game. Superior Central has one remaining cup game, at Carney (a tremendously tough place to win).

In the Skyline race, BR-H is in the lead, but has to play at North Central AND Forest Park. The Trojans play at North Dickinson Thursday. Forest Park’s other game is a home gimme against Mid Pen. Therefore, a four-way tie is still possible there too.

1. North Dickinson wins out (their other two league games are at 7th place Rapid River and at home to Carney)

2. North Central wins out (thus beating BR-H)

3. Forest Park beats BR-H and Mid Pen.

4. BR-H wins at Carney.

Everyone finishes 11-3. Yikes.

On the girls’ side, Hancock gets a chance to avenge one of its few losses this year Thursday against Jeffers. E-TC goes looking for its second win of the season against winless Wakefield-Marinesco, Lake Linden-Hubbell plays Dollar Bay and L’Anse faces Mid-Peninsula Conference backmarker Ishpeming.

Marquette is scheduled to make one of its two scheduled trips to the Copper Country to play the Houghton Gremlins Wednesday, but they’re predicting more than a foot of snow for the Marquette area starting tonight, so I’d call ahead on that one. Negaunee is at Calumet Thursday, while both the Copper Kings and Hancock Bulldogs visit the beautiful Wells Sports Complex (that’s Escanaba) for single games Friday (Calumet) and Saturday (Hancock).

Some of these permutations are downright frightening. Time for a break to figure it all out.


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