JOHNSONBURG – A strong first 10 minutes helped build a lead the Johnsonburg boys basketball team would never relinquish in a 58-48 victory over DuBois Monday night at Johnsonburg Area High School.
"It's a good win against a quality team," Johnsonburg coach Bill Shuey said.
The Rams held a 24-9 lead with 5:38 left in the second quarter after Mitchell Holmberg buried a corner 3-pointer.
Johnsonburg opened the game strong, scoring the first six points of the game. Cole Peterson started the game with a layup and Cameron Grumley added a layup in transition for the Rams. Grumley led all scorers with 20 points and Peterson finished with 17.
Michael Shuey then added a steal and a layup for a 6-0 lead, prompting a DuBois timeout.
Nate Liddle put DuBois on the board with a trey, the first of five on the night for the DuBois senior. Peterson added a layup and Quinn Luhr hit a free throw for a 9-3 lead. Nate Avery of DuBois sunk a pair of free throws and Grumley did the same for the Rams before Shuey converted on the boards with second-chance points and a 13-7 lead. Mark Felix of DuBois and Frank Kocjancic of Johnsonburg alternated field goals as the Rams led 15-7 at the end of the first quarter.
"It was just a matter of them giving more effort than we did," DuBois coach Scott Creighton said. "We allowed them to set the level of intensity early on and we weren't able to get up to that level at least early on in the first quarter."
The Rams then began to stretch the lead early in the second quarter. After Alec Shaffer Doan hit a basket, Johnsonburg would score the next nine points. Grumley would add a basket, then set up Holmberg with a nifty pass for a basket and a 19-9 lead. A Peterson hoop was followed by the corner trey from Holmberg and a 24-9 lead.
DuBois began to steady the ship in the rest of the second quarter as the Beavers' outside shooting became more effective. Avery hit a 3-pointer to break DuBois' scoring drought but Luhr and Grumley answered for Johnsonburg to give the Rams its biggest lead of the half at 28-12. Tanner Gooden converted a 2-pointer and Liddle did the same from beyond the arc to cut the lead to 11. After a Kocjancic basket, Liddle buried another 3-pointer and DuBois was within 10 at 30-20 entering the half. Coach Shuey said he knew DuBois would have a good shooting stretch at some point in the game.
"Then they started shooting like I knew they could," coach Shuey said. "They hit some threes and cut it to 10 at half."
DuBois continued to cut into the lead as the third quarter started. Peterson opened the third quarter with a field goal but Liddle answered with a 3-point play. Liddle then hit a highly contested 3-pointer from beyond the arc and the Beavers were down just 32-26, prompting a timeout from Johnsonburg. A Gooden hoop after the timeout would get DuBois within four at 32-28. Creighton said he felt good about DuBois' chances as the third quarter was progressing.
"I was pretty excited with our effort, we were taking the ball, things were going our way," Creighton said. "I don't know if they (Johnsonburg) did anything different. We went cold and they hit a couple buckets and that swung the momentum."
The teams alternated field goals to 36-32, which would be as close as DuBois would get. Kyle Sheldon hit a free throw and a Grumley basket upped the lead to seven. Avery would add a layup, Shuey and Hunter Lydick of DuBois would then alternate field goals to make the margin 41-36.
"One thing that I was really impressed was when it got to four, they didn't really rattle, they kept their composure and got the buckets when they needed to," coach Shuey said.
A Peterson basket was part of a 4-0 run down the stretch as Johnsonburg led by nine, 45-36 after three quarters.
"We were able to cause a couple turnovers and get some easy buckets on breaks," coach Shuey said. "I think there was one break at the end of the third quarter that changed the whole tone of things."
DuBois would continue to hang around in the fourth quarter and a Lydick layup put the Beavers within seven at 47-40 with four minutes left. Grumley and Peterson hit back-to-back shots for the Rams, then two Grumley free throws with just over two minutes remaining had the lead to 53-40. Liddle and Avery would hit 3-pointers down the stretch but it would ultimately not be enough as the Rams secured the 10-point win. Creighton credited Johnsonburg and the guard play demonstrated on Monday night.
"You got to give them a lot of credit. Their guards are very quick," Creighton said. "I think we did outrebound them but at the same time I think we turned the ball over more than they did."
Michael Shuey and Bill Bliss were honored from the Rams as the two seniors on the team this season.
"Mike and Billy, I've been with them since fourth grade. It was good to see that on Senior Night they got a win," coach Shuey said. "I appreciate all their dedication. It's unfortunate that Mike had to sit out most of his junior year and Billy most of his senior year due to injury but they're real team players and they've been a joy to coach."
Johnsonburg (18-3) closes out the regular season at St. Marys on Wednesday.
In Monday's junior varsity game, DuBois won by a score of 54-35.