Charlevoix earns district title with hard-fought victory over J-L
JOHANNESBURG — The Charlevoix boys basketball team earned a district title Saturday, defeating Johannesburg-Lewiston 58-49 on the road.
Both teams started the game on fire from beyond the arc. The first six made baskets of the game were all 3-pointers, with the Rayders grabbing an early 12-6 lead.
“We came into this game thinking it was going to be a post battle, a bruiser," Charlevoix point guard Evan Solomon said. "But shots were falling on both sides, so we just took it and ran with it.”
The Cardinals roared back, using a 7-0 run to grab a 13-12 lead with just over three minutes left in the first quarter.
Shots continued to fall for both teams in a first quarter of runs, and the Rayders regained a 24-17 lead late in the first.
Cardinals center Jordan Crane ensured his team would have some momentum, however, by two-hand slamming home a dunk just before the buzzer to get the Cardinals within five points.
After a high-scoring first quarter, both defenses started to settle in during the second quarter, limiting the offensive output.
Charlevoix, still scoreless in the second quarter led 24-23 with five minutes left before halftime.
“They were packing it in," Charlevoix head coach Matt Stuck said of J-L. (Jordan Crane) stayed in the middle and almost played a one-man zone while the other players were matched up.
"We have kids who can shoot it, and if they are open they have the green light. The downfall after hitting four or five 3-pointers is that you start taking bad shots. We kind of got lulled into living beyond the arc. J-L had a good scheme, a good plan, but we had some players step up. That’s what Evan is capable of, he’s able to make tough shots and he did that tonight.”
Solomon scored a game-high 25 points. Luck was also on his side, as he banked in a 3-pointer in the first quarter and ended the second quarter with a banked pull-up jumper to give the Rayders a 31-25 lead at the break.
“I tried to attack with the same mentality at all times of the game," Solomon said. "I wanted to get downhill and attack the basket. J-L is a strong team who likes to play in the paint — they are physical, so I was trying to draw fouls.”
The Cardinals started out strong in the third quarter, cutting Charlevoix's lead down to 33-31, but Solomon started to heat up. He buried a couple deep 3-pointers, and Caleb Stuck was a workhorse around the rim, getting offensive rebounds for put-backs. Stuck finished with 10 points, showcasing his versatility to score beyond the arc and around the basket.
“Caleb competes. That what he does," Stuck said. "When the game starts he competes for however long he’s out there. He’s done that in every big game this year.
"He’s been able to grab an offensive rebound, hit a big shot. He didn’t shoot it well today, but he got some big offensive rebounds and put-backs for us, and he’s done that consistently this season. He goes 100 percent all the time.”
Charlevoix's lead swelled to 42-32, but the Cardinals immediately responded with a 3-pointer to get back within seven points. For the third straight quarter, a shot fell just before the buzzer. This time it was Cardinals forward Ethan Voss draining a corner jumper to put the Cardinals down 46-37 entering the fourth.
The Cardinals slowly started to gain some ground in the fourth quarter with Preston Marlatt knocking down a 3-pointer to cut Charlevoix's lead down to six points.
Solomon eight points in the fourth, remaining a thorn in the Cardinals' side, but J-L guard Shawn Ziobron hit a 3-pointer to get his team within five points with around two minutes left on the clock.
From there, Solomon and the Rayders made their free throws to ice the game and set up a regional semifinal matchup against Oscoda (19-0).
“(This district championship win) is definitely different," Stuck said. "On a normal year this gym would have been packed. It wouldn’t have been during spring break, and people would have felt comfortable coming.
"That’s disappointing because these kids know that district finals are supposed to be wall-to-wall people, but they got through it mentally. This season has been a mental toll on the kids. It’s a different year. We have seven strong who continue to fight, and we’ll see how far we can go.”
Outside of Solomon's 25 points, the Rayders had a balanced scoring attack, with several players making key contributions. Max Ostrum scored eight points, while Jacob Mueller added seven points, and John Sauer scored five points.
“Max (had a solid game); John Sauer hit a big 3-pointer for us, which is huge," Stuck said of his depth, despite having only seven active players. "It’s what we need them to continue to do. We need them to step up and hit open shots. They are all capable.”
The Cardinals were down four players from this week's victory over St. Ignace — for non-injury or health-related reasons — including starting point guard Carlos Gascho.
“I thought the boys played with a lot of heart," J-L head coach Troy Huff said. "It was nice to see us shooting the ball well. It was a (close) game in the fourth, we just showed a lot of resiliency.
“We lost Carlos, and Logan May, my seventh man, which hurt against a team of this caliber. It shows a lot of heart from the nine guys who showed up today, and their commitment to the team.”
Marlatt led the Cardinals with 16 points, showcasing his ability to get to the basket and hit outside shots. Crane added 12 points; Ziobron scored seven points, and Huff added six points.
Charlevoix and Oscoda will head back to Johannesburg on Tuesday for their regional matchup.
Cardinals defeat St. Ignace in thriller; advance to district final
ST. IGNACE — Survive and advance; that's what March is all about.
The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team scraped out a high-octane 64-63 victory Thursday night against St. Ignace.
Although the Cardinals had to travel across the Mackinaw Bridge, and even fell behind 9-0 in fouls in the second half, they persevered and advanced to the district finals.
The Saints started out with the hot hand, draining 3-pointers to take a 13-6 lead midway through the first quarter. But the Cardinals rallied back and trailed just 16-15 to close out the first.
J-L tied the game 19-19 early in the second quarter. Sheldon Huff then drained a 3-pointer to give the Cardinals a 22-19 lead. Preston Marlatt doubled down with another 3-pointer and all the sudden J-L led, 25-19.
Maintaining momentum, the Cardinals led 32-24 with just over a minute left in the first half. Then the Saints almost won back momentum. Cardinals point guard Carlos Gascho was called for a double-dribble, erasing a past-break basket. The Saints scored on their ensuing possession, and Huff was given a technical foul. After all of that, the Cardinals' lead was down to 34-27.
But the Cardinals immediately responded, as Gascho fired up a half-court shot at the buzzer and watched it sail straight in. J-L led 37-27 at the break.
St. Ignace slowly started to chip away at the Cardinals' lead in the third quarter. J-L, at one time, had nine fouls while the Saints had zero. The Cardinals were in foul trouble, which forced them to back off a bit on defense.
J-L held on to a slender 47-45 lead after three quarters of play.
The Saints almost immediately took the lead to start the fourth quarter, stretching their advantage out to four pints midway through the fourth. Huff had fouled out for the Cardinals with 10 points. He hit a corner 3-pointer and then picked up his fifth foul.
Jason Richter earned heavy minutes with so many Cardinals in foul trouble, and he earned praise from his coach.
“Sheldon fouled out early in the fourth and other players stepped up," Cardinals head coach Troy huff said. "I thought Jason Richter played the best game of his season tonight. He hustled on defense and blocked shots."
Jordan Crane would also foul out for the Cardinals, but not before Gascho and Preston Marlatt made 3-pointers to give the Cardinals a 62-60 lead with 1:30 left on the clock.
Not only did Marlatt lead the Cardinals with 16 points, he also guarded St. Ignace's talented freshman scorer, Jonny Ingalls. Ingalls scored 11 points, but most of that came in the second half when Marlatt was in foul trouble.
“I said before the game that I’d let anyone beat us but Jonny," Coach Huff said, "I knew he was a good shooter. We knew we’d take our lumps after him, but we couldn’t let him beat us."
J-L scored again to take a four-point lead, but Ingalls launched a deep 3-pointer to get the Saints back within a point.
The Cardinals had a couple nervous turnovers and missed a couple free throws down the stretch, giving the Saints the ball with a chance to win the game.
St. Ignace had one last shot with three seconds left on the clock, but a turn-around jumper missed the mark. The Cardinals went wild.
“We needed a game like this (before) Charlevoix, to get us into a fast-paced tempo and face good shooters," Huff said. "St. Ignace had that. They also did well in help defense. I told my team to keep their eye on the prize. If they were hitting baskets, we had to hit baskets. We were letting them get in the paint, which was an advantage for them. We were in foul trouble, so that changed the aspect of the game.”
Huff thought his team's experience was on full display in the fourth quarter, leading to the comeback.
“The junior-senior leadership showed," he said. "We still took good shots. We still attacked and got some of the looks we needed. We hit three 3-pointers, which got us back in rhythm. It’s a game of rhythm, so when you have three guys feeling it from beyond the arc, it’s huge.”
Gascho scored 14 points for the Cardinals, while running the offense. Crane added 11 points, and Richter scored nine points.
Kevin Fraizer led St. Ignace with 20 points. Ely North added 19 points, while Ingalls and Jacob Dorenbecker added 11 points apiece.
The Cardinals will now host Charlevoix in the district final on Saturday. The Rayders are led by 6-foot-3 junior point guard Evan Solomon, and 6-foot-7 senior Jacob Mueller.
J-L boys basketball district preview
JOHANNESBURG — It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Cardinals.
Mired by injuries and COVID-19 protocols early in the season, J-L got of to a disappointing 2-4 start. But with the lineup back in tact, the Cardinals have rattled off five straight victories, including wins against Ski Valley Conference co-champions Mancelona and Gaylord St. Mary.
The Cardinals feature a very balanced scoring attack, with Preston Marlatt, Carlos Gascho, Sheldon Huff and Jordan Crane all capable of putting up double-digit performances.
J-L also features solid height with Crane standing 6-foot-5, Jordan Richter at 6-foot-4 and Hayden Claeys at 6-foot-4. The combination of size and outside shooting could make the Cardinals a tough out in districts.
Despite winning the last five games, the Cardinals haven’t scored a ton of points. J-L has only eclipsed 60 points once all season, and recently won two games with 43 points.
Steady defense and physicality often drive the Cardinals’ success. J-L has been a solid rebounding team and has been good at forcing turnovers.
J-L’s quartet of guards: Huff, Marlatt, Gascho and Shawn Ziobron can all light it up from beyond the arc and get to the basket. Gascho runs the offense from his point guard position with Marlatt and Ziobron on the wings. Huff ran the baseline against St. Mary, finding success as a shooter and passer.
With everyone now available, the Cardinals draw strength in depth. They have several different rotations they can employ for certain situations. J-L can play big or go small with five guards. Teams have struggled dealing with the Cardinals’ overall versatility.
The Cardinals have an immensely difficult district. Every team has the talent to go on a run, and Charlevoix could have a truly special run. But J-L has the poise, athleticism and talent to pull up an upset like it did at Mancelona earlier this season.
Teams: J-L, Charlevoix, St. Ignace, East Jordan, Harbor Springs
Charlevoix boasts one of Northern Michigan’s premier players in 6-foot-3 points guard Evan Solomon. They also have 6-foot-7 forward Jacob Mueller, who can hit shots from beyond the arc.
East Jordan is very young, but they too have excellent size and athleticism. St. Ignace and Harbor Springs are led by big-time scorers who could get hot and lead their teams on a run.
Key Players: Carlos Gascho (J-L), Preston Marlatt (J-L), Evan Solomon (Charlevoix), Jacob Mueller (Charlevoix), Grant Richardson (Harbor Springs), Jonny Ingalls (St. Ignace)
Ingalls is especially one to watch as the son of Doug Ingalls, a former standout at Northern Michigan. The Charlevoix duo is tough to stop as an inside-outside duo, but J-L’s two guards can light it up from deep.
Richardson, and the East Jordan core could spoil the party. This should be a tough and exciting district.
Three takeaways from Cardinals' statement victory over Mancelona
JOHANNESBURG — The Cardinals' boys basketball team completed a season sweep over Mancelona Friday night with a 58-38 victory.
Johannesburg-Lewiston defeated the co-Ski Valley Conference champions earlier this season on the road, and used a balanced scoring attack to beat them again.
Preston Marlatt led the Cardinals with 12 points. Shawn Ziobron and Sheldon Huff added 11 points apiece, while Carlos Gascho scored 10 points.
The Cardinals jumped out to a commanding 10-0 lead early in the first quarter. Both teams were playing up tempo to start the game, and J-L thrived under pressure.
J-L led 14-4 after the first quarter, and stretched that lead out to 34-15 at halftime. Ziobron hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left on the clock before halftime.
The third quarter ended in more dramatics, as Gascho banked home a long-range 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Cardinals a 51-32 lead with just one quarter left.
Neither team mustered much in way of scoring in the fourth quarter, which was perfect for the Cardinals, as they closed out the game.
J-L fell just short of tying for a conference championship this season, but it beat Mancelona twice and St. Mary once — the two teams which tied for the title.
Here are three takeaways from the Cardinals win over Mancelona:
1. The Cardinals are a tough team to press — Mancelona usually runs a full-court press, trying to trap opposing ball-handlers into mistakes. Well, that didn't work out so well for them Friday night.
J-L starts four guards (Marlatt, Huff, Gascho and Ziobron), all of whom can handle the basketball and make plays. The Cardinals consistently beat Mancelona's press, leading to a plethora of transition baskets. Whether it was Gascho, Marlatt — the team's quarterback on the football field — or Huff, taking the ball out of the in bounds, they had plenty of time to sit back and throw long balls over the press.
Finally fully healthy after weeks of battling through injuries and COVID-19 protocols, the Cardinals have rattled off six straight wins heading into districts — including two against Mancelona.
“I thought it was a great flow, we got into a great rhythm early, and we have gotten better every game with our transition ball," Cardinals head coach Troy Huff said. "I thought tonight far exceeded any game we’ve played all year (in regards to transition play).
"It looked like old Cardinal basketball, pushing the ball up the floor. We are long, so we get good position, and the physicality with is unstated. We are very physical, but we were patient, too
It appears teams are going to have to find more creative ways at stopping this Cardinals squad, deep in talent at guard and in the paint.
2. The Cardinals might just have Mancelona's number — J-L found the secret formula every other team in the Ski Valley Conference was looking for to defeat the Ironmen.
The Cardinals were the only conference team to beat Mancelona this season, and they did it twice — both times fairly convincingly. J-L had six players with at least four rebounds Friday night, and had four players reach double-digit scoring, showcasing its versatility and depth.
J-L also held Mancelona's all-state candidate Jayden Alfred to three points, locking down the paint so he couldn't use his athleticism around the rim, and limiting his ability to break in transition.
Playing a kind of collapsed man-to-man defense, the Cardinals baited Mancelona into shooting a ton of 3-pointers Friday night. The Ironmen fell cold from beyond the arc, which played perfectly into the Cardinals' game plan.
“I just think we are that team," Huff said. "When football was ending, I honestly thought we’d be the conference champs (in basketball). I knew it would be between us and Mancelona. Our basketball I.Q. early on we were still trying to find it, and throughout the year we’ve found a rhythm.
“I’m (excited to see where this (momentum) takes us. Hopefully we can make some noise and pull a district championship out.”
The Cardinals utilized their physicality and depth to wear down a Mancelona team that just couldn't get anything going from the field. The Ironmen likely didn't face that level of physicality from any other opponent it played this season.
3. The Cardinals are trending in the right direction — Back healthy, and on the heels of six straight victories, the Cardinals look like a squad few teams will want to encounter in the upcoming tournament.
J-L does have a difficult district, with St. Ignace a tough task right out of the gates. Charlevoix also boasts a strong squad with all-state candidates Evan Solomon (6-foot-3) and Jacob Mueller (6-foot-7) leading the way.
However, J-L appears to have the versatility and all-around depth to make a long run this postseason.
In addition to the Cardinals' four players in double figures Friday night, they also got five points apiece out of Hayden Claeys and Jordan Crane, two strong post presences with length and skill in the paint.
The Cardinals haven proven the ability to beat teams from all levels offensively and defensively. Gascho, Ziobron, Huff and Marlatt are threats fro beyond the arc and around the rim, while Crane, Jason Richter and Claeys have displayed solid post moves.
“This was Sheldon’s fourth game back, so we are getting in the flow better, attacking at the right time, and staying patient," Huff said. "I probably take it for granted a little bit (his versatility) because he’s been a four-year starter and I know he can handle (multiple roles), but he’s strong, no one’s going to take the ball from I’m, and he’s got good handles, which shows when it comes down to crunch time.
“Preston has really stepped up his game. Confidence is through the roof with him right now. We’re getting good minutes out of a lot of different guys. Hayden can come in and shut down the opposing team’s best player, and Logan May gives quality minutes off the bench, too.”
With a healthy squad in tact, and momentum on their side, this could be a very exciting postseason for the Cardinals.
Late spark lifts Cardinals past Snowbirds
GAYLORD — The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team erased a four-point halftime deficit Friday to defeat Gaylord St. Mary 43-38 on the road.
Both teams played with evident passion and energy, adding another epic chapter to their rivalry.
Snowbirds forward Conrad Korte dominated early, bossing the paint by using his strength and skill to bully Cardinals defenders on the block.
Korte scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the first half. The Cardinals couldn’t slow him down, which gave St. Mary a 22-18 lead at the break.
The two teams traded baskets in the first half, but the Cardinals made the first big move when Preston Marlatt completed a four-point play at the buzzer to end the first quarter. The Cardinals led 12-8 at that point.
Despite the early deficit, St. Mary found some offense in the second quarter, utilizing their advantage in the paint. The game had something of a playoff atmosphere to it, and St. Mary held the advantage at the midway point.
Undeterred, J-L came out of the break in a sunken defense, collapsed in the paint to try and limit Korte’s touches. Their gamble left the 3-point line almost unguarded.
With Korte’s offensive impact mostly impeded in the second half, St. Mary was more reliant on outside shooting. But the Snowbirds’ guards had an off night from beyond the arc.
“It was a physical game and (J-L) played really well,” Snowbirds head coach Dale Jacob said.
“They didn’t have any answers for Conrad (in the first half), and they made adjustments (in the second half) to double him and leave a person open. But Conrad was really a force to be reckoned with and they didn’t have anyone who could guard him. We had our chances. We make a couple 3-pointers and its a different feel.
“As a team, we didn’t shoot the ball very well. We shoot the ball better than that. It was disappointing on a big night, but we just move on from that.”
The Snowbirds still held a slender 24-21 lead midway through the third quarter, but Cardinals guard Carlos Gascho drained a 3-pointer with under a minute left in the third to tie the game, 24-24.
Snowbirds guard Brody Jeffers made sure his team would still have momentum entering the fourth quarter by hitting a step-back jumper just before the buzzer to give St. Mary a 26-24 lead.
After a low-scoring first three quarters, with the style of play sometimes more accurately resembling a football game, the fourth quarter was played at a frenetic pace.
The Cardinals scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, with six different players finding the score sheet. Gascho hit another 3-pointer, while Marlatt scored five of his team-high 15 points in the final quarter. Hayden Claeys also scored two big buckets in the fourth.
St. Mary tried to keep pace. Jeffers scored six of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, leading the offense and aggressively attacking the rim. But it just wasn’t enough as the Cardinals put it all together in the final quarter.
“Brody has gotten more and more comfortable, and he is shooting the ball really well,” Jacob said. “He draws everyone’s scouting report and he has to expect that for the next two years. But it was a good game. We had the lead at halftime. It just sort of dwindled away and hats off to J-L.”
Neither team shot particularly well from the free-throw line down the stretch, with the Snowbirds missing two late free throws, and the Cardinals missing five from the stripe in the fourth, but J-L did enough to gut out another impressive road victory.
“We knew it was going to be intense,” Cardinals head coach Troy Huff said. “St. Mary always comes to play. We’ve been dealt a set of cards we didn’t think we’d have at the start of the year with COVID and everything else. It is what it is.
“We’ve beaten the two best teams in the Ski Valley, and unfortunately we don’t have a trophy to take home, but everyone knows we are a good team. We showed a lot of effort, non stop, for the entire 32 minutes of the game.”
Cardinals three-sport star Sheldon Huff returned to action for the first time all season Wednesday against Pellston. He came off the bench that night, but started against St. Mary. He finished the game with 10 points and a number of impressive assists.
“Having Sheldon; he’s strong, he can run the baseline and he’s a great passer and good shooter,” Huff said. “It’s nice having him back on the floor. This was only his second game back and we got a lot of good minutes out of him.”
St. Mary and Mancelona tied for the Ski Valley Conference title this season. Due to the shortened season, only the first meeting between teams counted towards the conference standings. St. Mary had already defeated J-L, so this game did not impact the conference standings. But it gave both teams another test to learn from before districts.
Cardinals earn conference victory over Pellston
PELLSTON — It’s nice to have the band back together.
The Johannesburg-Lewiston Cardinals finally re-formed a healthy roster Wednesday night, with Sheldon Huff returning to the lineup despite a couple knee injuries.
With a full lineup back in place, the Cardinals (5-4) defeated Pellston (3-8) 43-22 for their third straight victory.
Pellston started the game in an extended 2-3 zone on defense. The Cardinals looked a bit hesitant to attack, as both teams got off to a slow start, offensively.
However, the Cardinals started to knock down some outside shots, grabbing a 10-2 lead midway through the first quarter.
Despite the early lead, the Cardinals didn’t seem to be playing with the same urgency and intensity as the upset victory over Mancelona last week. J-L led 15-7 after the first buzzer.
“I think we need to find our rhythm a little bit,” J-L head coach Troy Huff said. “Overall, I knew they were going to come out and show a zone (defense). I really wanted us to run more in transition. Sheldon is a huge contributor in that, so it was nice to get him back on the floor.
Throughout the game, the Cardinals just looked a bit tentative, offensively. Preston Marlatt tied a team-high 10 points, but he had the opportunity to really stamp his name on the game.
“I want more out of Preston,” Huff said. “He has the ability, he’s athletic. I told him he had the opportunity to dribble-drive and he chose not to. I want to see him attack the basket and dump to a (post player) or finish strong. He does that well.
”He’s just settling a little bit. We only shot two free throws all night. The tells you we’re not attacking the basket.”
Cardinals forward Jordan Crane scored all six of his points in the first half, showcasing a nice hook shot and finishing touch around the basket.
J-L also drained three 3-pointers in the first half, proving their ability and versatility to score outside or in the paint.
“We shoot a pretty high percentage from the 3-point line, and once we find that rhythm with (Sheldon), he’s another threat. We also have Jordan in the middle. He’s a big body who finishes well around the basket. We also have Jason (Richter) who comes in and he’s athletic as well.”
But Pellston made the run in the second quarter, as the Cardinals’ offense mostly stalled. The Hornets cut the Cardinals’ lead down to 21-15 at the halftime break.
“We obviously knew J-L was going to be good,” Pellston head coach Larry Cassidy said. “In fact, I still said from the beginning of the season that they would be one of the best teams in the conference and (all their players) were back tonight. They maybe haven’t completely gelled, but I’m super proud of my team for holding them within six points at halftime.
”Our kids played their tails off. That’s what I’m challenging my team to do: play defensively, and you can’t really control if you’re going to make shots or not, but you can certainly control on the defensive end. I thought they did a whale of a job in the first half.”
The Cardinals sent a jolt of energy through the gym to start the second half, extending their lead out to 39-15 after the third quarter. Pellston struggled against J-L’s pressure defense, failing to score a point in the quarter.
Pellston scored its first points of the second half a couple minutes into the fourth quarter, and started to re-settle into the game after that. But the Cardinals had built an insurmountable advantage.
”I give credit to the players tonight. We didn’t bring this level of effort Monday night, and that’s the only thing you can control. Tonight they brought it against a great team. We were glad to slow them down and then we hit a bit of a dry (shooting) streak in the third quarter.”
Huff was pleased to see his team respond in the second half.
“We played sloppy at times, but we got it down,” he said. “We needed to come out with a little more intensity in the second half. We were playing a little lackluster in the first two quarters.”
Carlos Gascho ran the offense and scored 10 points for the Cardinals. Shawn Ziobron added five points, while Huff scored four points in his return.
Sage LaLonde led Pellston with 11 points. Chase Zink added six points.
The Cardinals next play Gaylord St. Mary on Friday. Pellston travels on Onaway the same night.
Cardinals upset Ski Valley conference leaders Mancelona
Hold the phone; the Ski Valley Conference for boys basketball hasn't been decided, yet.
The Johannesburg-Lewiston Cardinals marched into Mancelona Thursday night and handed the Ironmen their first conference loss of the season. The Cardinals won 61-52, withstanding a late Mancelona charge.
Coming out firing, the Cardinals jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead. Mancelona star Jayden Alfred looked to silence them with an emphatic slam on an and-1. But he missed the free throw, and J-L never slowed down.
The Cardinals led 13-7 midway through the first quarter, draining shots from beyond the arc to grab the early momentum.
J-L center Jordan Crane made his presence felt with a couple of early blocks. Crane scored 10 points on the night, proving to be a big presence on both ends of the court. Jason Richter also had a solid game in the paint, scoring 15 points off the bench.
“Jordan hasn’t played for the last few years due to injuries. To have him back, I think he played his best game tonight," said J-L assistant coach Frank Claeys, who was filling in as head coach for Troy Huff. "Jason played his best game tonight, too. They had to just get accustomed to playing with each other.”
The Cardinals' hot shooting helped them jump out to a 28-13 lead after the first quarter. J-L had little trouble handling Mancelona's athletic full-court press.
"We hadn’t had anyone press us yet this year, so that was a bit of an adjustment," Claeys said. "But once (we) made the adjustment, we were able to make some easy buckets.”
Guards Preston Marlatt and Carlos Gascho were tasked with breaking down Mancelona's press, and they passed their first test. They continued passing their tests throughout the night with Marlatt pouring in 15 points, and Gascho adding 12 points.
"Those two both have tons of varsity experience," Claeys said. "They’ve both been on varsity since their freshman years. They definitely took control."
With a commanding lead heading into the second quarter, J-L caught another break. Alfred left the game midway through the second with an apparent arm injury. His hand was already heavily taped, but he was now holding his upper arm. Alfred returned to the game shortly after leaving, but he continued to grimace in pain throughout the first half.
Through it all, the Cardinals cooled off a bit in the second quarter, but still held a 37-25 lead entering the break.
Marlatt got off to a quick start in the third quarter, scoring four early points and setting up another bucket to Crane in the paint. J-L led 45-32 midway through the third quarter.
The game got a bit scrappy in the second half. Mancelona was trying to force turnovers, and J-L was desperately trying to hold on to its lead. The game adopted a bit of a chaotic tune with both teams bouncing up and down the court at a rapid pace. As a result, J-L got an abundance of transition opportunities.
The Cardinals led 51-37 after the third quarter, setting up a huge final eight minutes in the Ski Valley Conference race.
J-L looked shaky early in the fourth quarter. Mancelona, at one point, scored five straight points to pull within eight (55-47). The Ironmen then hit a 3-pointer to cut the Cardinals' lead down to five points. J-L immediately turned the ball over back to Mancelona.
But, on the next possession, J-L forced an Ironmen turnover and rushed down the court for a layup and a seven-point lead. The Cardinals added a couple more fast-break buckets to leave with a nine-point win.
After playing through multiple injuries, and having players out due to COVID-19 regulations, Claeys just felt relieved to see his team put it all together.
“We felt like we had a really quality basketball team all year," he said. "With the adversity we’ve had, we’ve been waiting for that good team to show up. We got a late start on the season with the football team going (on a long run). We didn’t quite feel like we were in basketball mode those first couple games we played as a full team. But we knew they were capable as a group.
"We beat a really quality Mancelona team that was winning the conference. We knew it was possible, we just needed to see the guys all gel and come out with energy. They certainly did that tonight.”
The Cardinals' defense held Alfred to just eight points, as he struggled through a couple apparent injuries. Ben Palmer led Mancelona (7-2, 6-1 Ski Valley) with 14 points.
With momentum now on their side, the Cardinals (4-4, 4-3) can start to gear up for the postseason.
"We’re looking forward to our districts," Claeys said. "If we play like we are capable of playing, we are certainly going to be competitive in our district. I think this is the win we’ve been looking to get to build on. They are capable of playing like this every night. They just needed this jump start.”
J-L actually helped their rivals, Gaylord St. Mary, with the win. Both the Snowbirds and Mancelona now lead the conference with just one loss apiece.
Snowbirds peck away at short-handed Cardinals
By Alec Brzezinski - Petoskey News
JOHANNESBURG — The Gaylord St. Mary and Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball teams faced off in a rivalry matchup Tuesday night.
Both teams started off a bit hesitant offensively, with the first points put up on the board over four minutes into the game. Eventually, led by Conrad Korte, the Snowbirds cruised to a 55-23 victory over the short-handed Cardinals.
“We were short tonight," said Cardinals assistant coach Frank Claeys, who was filling in for head coach Troy Huff. "We had some kids playing in spots and roles they aren’t accustomed to. We were missing a couple kids to injury, a couple to (quarantine), so it is what it is.
"We are going to have to play a couple more games like this. We will build off this game and come back.”
St. Mary led 11-2 after the first quarter, with Korte dominating in the paint. Korte continued his momentum into the second quarter, leading the Snowbirds to a 29-8 halftime advantage. Korte had 18 points at the break.
The Snowbirds extended their lead out to 40-11 after the third quarter, and after getting some fresh legs in their for the fourth quarter, headed home with a 32-point win.
“What I’m most happy about is that we executed our game plan to rebound against a big J-L team and not foul," Snowbirds head coach Dale Jacob said. "We finished the game with three fouls, and that’s not by accident. We really emphasized that fouling is a penalty. We don’t want to put them on the line. That’s tough, and we did a great job. We are showing some discipline, and offensively we ran the floor well and got the ball where it needed to be.
“Conrad was big tonight. He’s playing good. He hit a 3-pointer. I don’t think we played our best game yet, but hopefully we do that Thursday.”
Korte led the Snowbirds with a near triple-double. He scored 25 points with 18 rebounds and seven steals. He also threw in three blocks for good measure.
Gavin Bebble came off the bench to score 12 points for the Snowbirds, while Brody Jeffers scored nine points.
“I’d love to have five guys in double figures," Jacob said. "It makes it harder to defend. I do think we have good options. On any given night, Conrad is a big presence. We have Brody who is versatile and Gavin, Daniel Smith, Dom Keister and Chris Koscielniak give us a lot of energy on the court.”
Carlos Gascho and Jordan Crane led the Cardinals with eight points apiece. J-L was without Preston Marlatt, Shawn Ziobron, Sheldon Huff, who is out for the season, Ethan Voss and Mason Myers Tuesday night.
Claeys is excited to see what the Cardinals can do once back to, or at least near, full strength.
“We play really good, unselfish ball together," Claeys said. "You can kind of take that for granted with some teams, but we really do play unselfish ball. We are on guys to even be a little more aggressive individually. But they are capable. If we can get the whole squad together, they are very capable.
"I want to be able to give St. Mary a better game than that. I know we would have been able to if we even had the rest of our squad without a couple injuries. If you give us a couple more guys, we are in a pretty good spot overall.”
The Snowbirds improved to 5-1 on the season and remain undefeated in Ski Valley play. They have a potential conference championship matchup Thursday night at Mancelona.
“It’s a big game, I’m not going to try and underscore that," Jacob said. "I think everyone has (Mancelona) as the favorites to win the league. Certainly coming into the season everyone believed that. I think we are playing well right now, and I like our chances to go down there and have a good game against a really athletic team and see what happens.
“I think the pressure is on them. We are looking forward to Thursday.”
The Cardinals next host Alcona on Thursday.
Cardinals three-sport star Preston Marlatt continues breakout season on basketball court
By Alec Brzezinski - Petoskey News
JOHANNESBURG — A quarterback often serves as the metronome of an offense, and Cardinals multi-sport star Preston Marlatt certainly helps his teams remain in rhythm.
The Cardinals’ boys basketball team got off to a 2-2 start this season, again battling some injuries, just like last season. But Marlatt has consistently been among the team leaders in scoring, rebounds and assists, continuing his athletic success established during the football season.
“Hopefully we can win out this year and still have a shot at conference (title),” Marlatt said, regarding basketball. “Our first practice we talked about how we wanted to win conference and districts. I would love to win districts. I like to win. I don’t like losing.
“We’re still working things out since we just started. It’s about getting the feel again after not having summer camps and the football season just ending.”
The football season was exciting for Johannesburg-Lewiston. The Cardinals went undefeated in the regular season, earning a third straight division title. They then earned a district title, making a postseason run all the way to the state semifinals.
Unfortunately for Cardinals fans, the season ended in the semifinals against Ubly. However, with Marlatt starting at quarterback, it was one of the best seasons in school history.
“It was very fun,” Marlatt said. “It didn’t end how we wanted it to. At the start of the season I would have never thought we’d make the semifinals, especially after thinking we wouldn’t have a season. I was happy just to play.
“I’ve been playing quarterback since fifth grade. I know the offense very well. This year I took a bigger step than what I took last year.”
Although football and basketball are two completely different sports, Marlatt did find some similarities, especially in his role for each sport.
“I find football and basketball similar in passing, reading the court like I read the field in football and being a little quicker,” Marlatt said. “The main similarity is reading the defense.”
But neither are necessarily his favorite sport.
“Baseball and football are pretty much tied as my favorite sports,” Marlatt said. “I like playing center field, diving for fly balls.
“I’m interested in playing sports in college. I haven’t really been putting myself out there. But over the summer I’m going to put myself out there more for baseball. I’d love to play any sport in college.”
Marlatt certainly seems to have the talent and skill to play sports at the next level. He’s also grown in height and added muscle since last season. But while some people value strength, others value skill. Marlatt has shown the ability to power through opponents or beat them with his athleticism and skill.
“You can be the strongest kid out there and not know what you are doing,” Marlatt said. “But you can also be super skillful and the smallest guy out on the court. Strength has a lot to do with sports, especially football, but you have to find what suits you best.”
One of Marlatt’s most obvious attributes has been his poise. Marlatt plays basketball, football and baseball seemingly unfaded by his competition, as if he was a 20-year veteran. In some ways he almost is, as he’s played sports most of his life.
“My parents helped me get into sports,” Marlatt said. “We have an athletic family, and I was raised around sports. I enjoyed that, and it’s basically all I did growing up.”
Marlatt has obvious physical gifts in multiple sports, but he’s also savvy mentally, always reading defenses and keeping his emotions in check.
“I’m able to keep mentally level,” Marlatt said. “I don’t get mad over things. I keep a solid mindset. My coaches help build us up physically and doing agility. We are always getting better that way.”
Like most high school athletes, Marlatt generates most of his inspiration from those closest to him on a daily basis.
“My teammates help pump me up before games,” he said. “We’ve been competing together a long time. I also enjoy the crowd atmosphere.”
With sports back up and running, Marlatt and his J-L teammates appear poised to compete for a Ski Valley Conference title in basketball and baseball this year. Marlatt could be a huge factor in both of those title races.
Cardinals earn decisive win
By Alec Brzezinski - Petoskey News
BELLAIRE — The Johannesburg-Lewiston Cardinals earned their first win of the season Friday with an emphatic 53-16 statement at Bellaire.
After losing their season opener, the Cardinals bounced back Friday night to improve to 1-1 this season.
J-L had a balanced scoring attack against Bellaire. Preston Marlatt and Shawn Ziobron led with 11 points apiece, both connecting from beyond the arc. Jordan Crane added nine points for the Cardinals, while Carlos Gascho and Jason Richter each scored eight points.
The Cardinals have multiple players capable of putting up solid scoring nights, but they will miss star guard Sheldon Huff for the season with a knee injury.
J-L will look to continue its momentum Tuesday at Inland Lakes.
Cardinals topple Inland Lakes
INLAND LAKES — The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team fought off a scrappy Inland Lakes squad Tuesday night to earn a 57-40 win.
J-L improved to 2-1 with the victory, utilizing their depth and athleticism to defeat Ski Valley Conference foes.
The Cardinals were without starting point guard Carlos Gascho Tuesday night due to COVID-19 protocols, but a myriad of players stepped up in his place.
Jordan Crane earned a start for J-L, and led the team with 13 points. Crane, at just over 6-foot-4, slammed home an impressive dunk, while offering the Cardinals a new look with his size and versatility.
Preston Marlatt continued his solid season with 11 points. Hayden Claeys impressed with nine points and some nice passing. The Cardinals also got solid contribution from Logan May (six points) off the bench.
After a tough opening-game loss, the Cardinals have quickly settled in and remain among the favorites for the Ski Valley Conference title
Cardinals boys lose after Forest Area’s second-half rally
JOHANNESBURG — The Cardinals’ boys basketball team was unable to get their season off to the same quick start as the girls, falling 47-40 against Forest Area.
J-L actually led 18-8 at halftime, using its athleticism and strength to stifle Forest Area’s offensive attack. But Forest Area caught fire from beyond the arc after the break, draining six 3-pointers during 24-11 second-half run.
“We missed a ton of easy buckets, like I’ve never seen before,” J-L head coach Troy Huff said. “I don’t know if it was first-game jitters, but we were 11 for 40 in the paint. It was a rough night shooting around the rim. They weren’t hard shots, they just rolled in and out. It’s just the way it was. Our players fought, but Forest Area got hot when they needed to.
“Those shots will fall. We are a good shooting team. They just weren’t falling tonight. Everyone has those nights. When we get in a rhythm with more shots on the court, they will go down.”
Junior Preston Marlatt led the Cardinals with 15 points. Jason Richter added nine points, and Shawn Ziobron scored five points.
Huff was also impressed with 6-foot-4 senior Jordan Crane, who scored two points off the bench.
“Jordan Crane is a big kid who is going to get better and better. I’m excited to see him develop this season,” Huff said.
The Cardinals will look to get in the winning column
J-L boys basketball preview: Cardinals bring depth, experience to SVC race
JOHANNESBURG — In the blink of an eye, the Cardinals’ incredible football run has turned into an entirely new season; basketball time has finally arrived.
The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team returns a deep, talented squad poised to make noise in the Ski Valley Conference title race. Now healthy, after suffering through multiple back-court injuries last winter, the Cardinals should be a formidable force.
“It’s going to be a different season because of how short it will be,” J-L head coach Troy Huff said. “The Ski Valley only has 11 games scheduled. There are a lot of different hurdles to cross for us.
“We are going to do a lot of drills in practice early on until we can have contact. I have a majority of my starters returning, so we have a good core coming back who are all basketball minded.”
With the current COVID-19 mandate restricting schools to only non-contact practices, Huff and the Cardinals get an opportunity to work on skills and conditioning.
“I always start my season with a lot of dribbling and shooting drills,” Huff said. “This plays right into what I like for the first week. It will be tough setting up our defense and seeing where our breakdowns are, though. Those are some things teams might struggle with early in the season.”
The Cardinals return a tremendous back-court trio in Preston Marlatt, Carlos Gascho and Sheldon Huff. Gascho missed most of last season with a knee injury, and Huff also missed a handful of games due to injury. Now back fully healthy, on the heels of a successful football season, momentum should be on their side.
“We have Carlos coming back from his knee injury. Sheldon and Preston are also returning as guards,” Huff said. “I’m really excited about how well we performed last year without some of our key players.
“We had several young players step up in a big way, so getting the continuity of Sheldon and Carlos back should be very exciting. We should have great team chemistry this season.”
The Cardinals also feature plenty of back-court depth with Shawn Ziobron, Logan May and Cordell Campbell all likely to earn heavy minutes.
“This is one of the most experienced teams I’ve had,” Huff said. “The guard play is so important. You have to be able to get the ball up the court. Sheldon and Carlos are proven at point guard, and Preston has experience there. Shawn also gave me good minutes last year. He’s solid defensively and can hit an open look. I don’t know if I’ve had a team with this much depth.
“Keeping fresh legs, running a lot of full-court man-to-man, we’ll utilize some of that,” Huff said. “I think teams will struggle with the depth that we do have, and the speed of the game.”
J-L also has some height in the front-court. Jason Richter (6-foot-5), Jordan Crane (6-foot-4) and Ethan Voss (6-foot-4) will all compete for starting spots and playing time, allowing the Cardinals to play with bigger or smaller lineups based on matchup. Huff seemed especially excited about the multitude of front-court options at his disposal this season.
“I think we’re going to be taller than we’ve ever been,” Huff said. “Ethan has been practicing all summer. At 6-foot-4 and developing speed, I expect big minutes. I’m excited all the way around.
“Crane is returning from injuries. This will be his first year back since his freshman year. Richter and Hayden Claeys will get more minutes this year, too.”
J-L will have to make a quick transition from football to basketball. The Cardinals just finished their football season last week with a state semifinals loss against Ubly. J-L now has to change its focus to basketball, quickly, as games will start flowing fast and furious once cleared to begin.
“We should be in decent shape coming in,” Huff said. “Most other schools probably haven’t practiced too much more than us. We are an athletic group who can go 10-12 players deep with lots of players able to contribute.
The Ski Valley title race is seemingly wide open this winter. St. Mary lost Brady Hunter and Pellston graduated Blake Cassidy. Mancelona returns athletic combo guard Jayden Alfred, and Onaway’s Jager Mix is tough to handle in the paint.
But, overall, it should be a tight race between numerous teams.
“I’m excited about the group of guys we have coming back. Mancelona has a good crop coming back, as does Onaway and St. Mary. It should be an interesting year."
Basketball preview: Predicting the Ski Valley boys season
GAYLORD — The 2020-21 Michigan high school basketball season might be on hold due to COVID-19, but winter sports are still scheduled to commence.
Last year’s Ski Valley Conference-title race came down to a fierce battle between Pellston and Gaylord St. Mary, which ended in a draw. Sharing the crown marked the Snowbirds’ first conference title in 18 years.
The Snowbirds then marched into the postseason hopeful of a long postseason run, but the tournament was cancelled during districts as COVID-19 devastated the globe.
Now, the start of the 2020-21 season hangs in the balance as a second COVID-19 wave has spiked across Michigan. But the hope of high school basketball remains. Should the players be allowed to take the court, expect another spirited competition for the Ski Valley title.
Here is a prediction of what to expect from the 2020-21 Ski Valley boys basketball season:
Every year, entering a new season, there are a shortlist of teams expected to contend for prominence. A plethora of factors make up these predictions — returning players, incoming freshmen, other teams losing key players and overall program success.
With that being said, here are a couple of teams seemingly at the forefront of the upcoming title race:
Mancelona — Heading into the season, Mancelona has to be considered not only a Ski Valley Conference contender, but also a squad capable of a potentially deep tournament run.
Led by 6-foot-3 senior Jayden Alfred, an athletic wing who excels at getting to the basket where he often finishes with an emphatic dunk and can also step out and hit 3-pointers, this team should be very deep. Alfred could emerge as one of the most explosive players in the state this season.
The Ironmen also return a capable supporting cast. Adam Ackler and Justin Ackler provide athleticism, while a host of senior guards should add stability to their offense. Mancelona might be able to physically bully its way to a conference title this season. But they are also highly skilled.
Johannesburg-Lewiston — Watch out for the Cardinals. After enjoying an unprecedented fall, where the football, volleyball and both cross-country teams won their respective conferences, the Cardinals proved this is obviously a school filled with talented athletes.
The front-court took a hit with the loss of Matthew Davidson, Joey Chrencik and Gavin Weaver, but Jason Richter and Hayden Claeys look poised to step up in their place. The Cardinals also had a number of athletic forwards on JV last season, hoping to find a place in the rotation.
J-L’s back-court endured an injury-riddled season last winter, as Carlos Gascho went down with a torn ACL, and Sheldon Huff also injured his knee. In their absence, Preston Marlatt stepped up as a premier outside-shooting threat while directing the offense.
The Gascho-Marlatt-Huff back-court trio should help propel the Cardinals into conference contention even if the front-court takes time to figure things out. Overall size, depth and talent makes this Cardinals team one to watch this winter.
Gaylord St. Mary — Despite suffering substantial loses from last year’s co-championship season, the Snowbirds should have enough athleticism and carry over to make some noise again this winter.
Steven Koscielniak, Drew Koenig, Brady Hunter, Alex Pudvan, Alex Powers and Colton Inglis have all graduated, but the Snowbirds have a host of exciting players ready to step up in their place.
Sophomore Brody Jeffers and seniors Conrad Korte and Dom Keister will likely step into the starting lineup, while JV standouts Gavin Bebble and Daniel Smith might join them.
Korte, a 6-foot-4 forward who can leap with almost anyone in the conference, displayed a nice mid-range jump shot last season. Keister and Jeffers offer athleticism and outside shooting on the wings, while Bebble and Smith could split point guard duties and can also hit from beyond the arc.
The Snowbirds might not have as much depth as last season, but this team has the athleticism to hang with almost anyone in the conference.
Inland Lakes — After a successful football season, Inland Lakes proved it has the athletes to also win some games on the basketball court. After hovering around .500 last season, Inland Lakes could make a big jump this winter.
Onaway — Speaking of big jumps, Onaway had a young squad last season that struggled against more physical opponents. But the Cardinals return some intriguing players who could make a big leap and help them vastly improve on last season’s 6-16 record.
Projected Ski Valley Conference finish:
3. Gaylord St. Mary
4. Inland Lakes
6. Central Lake
7. Forest Area
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