DOLLAR BAY - A long, hard road for the Baraga boys' basketball team finally bore some fruit Friday, as Zach Owens' putback at the buzzer was the margin in his team's first win of the season, 40-38 over Dollar Bay.
The mental strain of starting the season 0-11 is one issue, but Baraga also collected its first victory on night three of a back-to-back-to-back brought about by illness and weather postponements. The muscles below the neck might be a little sore this morning due to the work, but the muscles above the neck might be sore from smiling.
"I'm extremely happy for our guys. They deserve this. They're having a great time in the locker room right now. It's nice to see a smile on their faces after the game," Baraga coach Doug Hodges said.
Zach Owens, center, of Baraga celebrates his game-winning basket at the end of Friday’s Copper Country Conference game at Dollar Bay.
The match-up may not have been star-studded, but it was even, as evidenced by six second-half lead changes.
Baraga trailed going into the final minute until Taylor Lindemann knocked down a 12-foot jumper from the right corner with 44 seconds left. Dollar Bay had a look to re-take the lead on the other end, but it didn't go, and Baraga had its chance. The first look drew iron, but Owens won a scrum for the ball and put it up in the dying seconds without even having a chance to square himself to the target.
"I just kind of put it up there because I knew there was barely any time left," the junior said.
Baraga 15 8 9 8 - 40
Dollar Bay 8 12 9 9 - 38
Baraga - Zach Owens 15, Harley Lindemann 12, Dillion Huckstaedt 4, Brandon Nieskes 3, Jonah Goodreau 2, Taylor Lindemann 2, Bill Mayo 2; FT: 5-10; Fouls: 17; Fouled out: none; Technical foul: Bench; 3-point field goals: Owens 3.
Dollar Bay - Tom Dunstan 15, Mikey Marcol 6, Carl Kangas 6, Brett Houle 4, Cameron Ringler 4, Tyler Jarvi 3; FT: 11-20; Fouls: 15; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Dunstan 2, Houle 1, Ringler 1.
Owens, who led Baraga with 15 points, described the feeling as "Awesome. The best feeling ever," and said, for his team he was, "very relieved. We haven't won a game yet and it's so exciting to win one."
Baraga got off to a good start, going up 9-3 in the first three minutes on Dollar Bay's Homecoming night. It was 19-9 early in the second quarter until Homecoming King Tom Dunstan drilled a three to start a 11-2 run that closed his team within one.
Baraga expanded its lead to seven early in the second half until another run, this time 8-0, put DB ahead for the first time on Mike Marcol's putback.
A turning point could have happened at the beginning of the fourth when Baraga, leading by three, was assessed a technical foul for an error in the official scorebook. Dunstan made both free throws and a bucket on the ensuing possession to put DB up 33-32.
After two scoreless minutes, the Vikings righted the ship with a three by Owens and traded baskets the rest of the way.
"I think we're finally getting the mental toughness that we lacked throughout the first half of the season. Usually, before, when something bad happened we would implode," Hodges said.
Though the Bays (1-11, 0-5 CCC) were unable to get the victory, they did get improved defense in the last three quarters and good frontcourt play from Marcol and Tyler Jarvi, coach Jesse Kentala said.
"We have to learn how to win. We've lost a lot of games the past couple years, and these guys, they're not used to being in games and they're not used to winning. If we can control our mistakes and improve in shooting percentage and defense, we'll be all right down the stretch. We'll be competitive," he said.
The teams will meet again Feb. 12 in Baraga and once more in the first round of the Class D district tournament at Chassell March 4.
Dunstan led the Bays with 15 points. They'll make up a postponed home game against Watersmeet Wednesday night.
Baraga (1-11, 1-5 CCC) hosts Hancock Tuesday night.