by BRYAN EVERSON
On a night where other factors were in play determining their fate, the Eagles managed to take care of the only business they could control.
Eisenhower overcame a rocky start and picked up a 57-49 victory at Lake Orion in a non-league matchup Monday night.
“We had three points after one quarter, that’s crazy,” Ike coach Dave Schwesinger said. “It wasn’t our prettiest game, but I’d rather win that way than lose pretty.”
Lake Orion was methodical working the ball in early on, compiling a 13-3 lead as Eisenhower (9-7) simply couldn’t get its shots to fall, but despite the misses, the opportunities were good, and Ike’s physicality indicated that a turnaround on the scoreboard was coming eventually.
“We started off 1-for-19 at best, but we just told them to keep shooting,” Schwesinger said. “It’s not like we were forcing 3’s, they were wide open looks, and we usually shoot them pretty good.”
Junior Dante Candela went to the free-throw line at the 7:04 mark in the second quarter to split a pair of attempts and give the Eagles’ their first points in roughly a full eight minutes of play, but they wouldn’t recoup and rev up offensively until late in the quarter. A triple from Billy Krempa in the corner was the start of a string of buckets that amounted to 11 points in the final 1:25 before halftime that cut the Dragons’ advantage to just 19-18.
“What really sparked us was our defense,” Schwesinger said. “In the last four minutes of the half we forced a lot of turnovers. I think we ended up forcing 19, so we got some easy run-outs and easy buckets that way, and then we started hitting some 3’s in that second half.”
Brandon Munn came out and knocked down a 3-pointer less than a minute after the break that gave Eisenhower the lead back, and Matt Donahue (12 points) connected on one of his own to take it again after Lake Orion took over briefly within the third quarter. Munn and Donahue would each connect on 3-pointers again late in the quarter, Donahue’s coming with 39 seconds left that capped off a 14-2 run to put the Eagles up 38-29.
Munn (12 points) splashed a 3- pointer off John Cukaj’s drive-and-dish assist and Candela hit a trey after breaking Lake Orion’s 2-2-1 press that gave the Eagles a 14-point lead with 5:11 left in the quarter, and Ike managed to continue and break down the Dragon’s pressure too frequently to put the lead in real jeopardy down the stretch.
Ike was led by 15 points from Candela in the win, while Casey Stironeck topped Lake Orion’s three scorers in double figures with 12.
In simultaneous action elsewhere, L’anse Creuse North defeated Stevenson to improve to 4-6 in MAC Red play, but despite having the same league record, a two-game sweep of the Eagles meant North picked up the fourth and final spot in the winner’s bracket of the MAC Tournament, which begins on the boys’ side Feb. 16.
North was leading by a sizable margin by the time of the conclusion o the Eagles-Dragon game, so Schwesinger had a reasonable expectation that his team would be missing out, but said that Ike would look to continue and make strides as district play approaches.
“It’s disappointing, but we put ourselves in that situation,” he said. “We didn’t play good either time really [against North], but it is what it is. We just want to try and improve toward the playoffs.”
Dakota opens the tourney as the No. 1 overall seed after finishing an undefeated 10-0 campaign in the Red, while Ford’s tiebreaker over Grosse Pointe North put them tops in the White on the other side of the eight team bracket. The finalists will meet in the title game on Feb. 25 at Anchor Bay.