Calumet senior Jack Hyrkas found his shooting touch at the right time. After scoring a total of 25 points in Calumet’s last four games, Hyrkas eclipsed that mark for one of his finest performances in his career, scoring a season-high 27 points to lead the Calumet Copper Kings to a 51-36 win over the Hancock Bulldogs in a Class C District 96 semifinal on Monday in Hancock. The Copper Kings (12-8) will host the L’Anse Purple Hornets (1-20) in the district title game on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
“I was so happy for Jack,” Calumet head coach Mike Ojala said. “He’s struggled a little bit with his scoring at times – it’s just his shooting – and as a senior, he had his best night in our biggest game of the season, thus far.”
It did not take long for Hyrkas to find a rhythm. On Calumet’s first offensive possession of the game, he slashed to the lane and converted a layup while being fouled. He would make the free throw for the the 3-point play. Two minutes later, same thing: layup, foul, free throw.
“After that, I was feeling it,” Hyrkas said about the two 3-point plays. “I got more confident and just started to settle in.”
And so did Calumet’s defense. After Hancock sophomore Travis Pietila scored a putback off his own miss to give Hancock (5-16) a 12-10 lead with over five minutes left in the second quarter, the Bulldogs were held scoreless until the third quarter as Calumet’s man-to-man defense stifled Hancock; the Bulldogs didn’t score until 6:40 left in the third when senior Chase Anderson finished off a putback, stopping Calumet’s 8-0 run as the Copper Kings led 18-14.
The Bulldogs shot 13 of 44 for the game.
“Tonight, I thought our effort, defensively, was good as a group; that’s been a challenge all year for us.”
Added Hancock head coach Matt Walter: “Calumet did a great job of taking away the back-side help when we tried to lob it into our big men. We tried to take advantage of our size, and they did a great job of taking that away.”
Fueled by its defense, Calumet opened the second half on a 14-4 run to take a 30-16 lead; Hyrkas scored 10 of Calumet’s 14 points during the rally, including two 3s to get him to 18 points.
“We knew (Hancock) would be on Matt (Ojala),” Hyrkas said. “Matt has been successful against Hancock, so I knew I had to step up because they were going to be rough on him.”
In the three previous meetings between the two rivals, Matt Ojala led Calumet in scoring in each contest, totaling 47 points in the three games. But on Monday, with Pietila playing tight man-to-man defense, Hancock’s defense was not going to let Matt Ojala beat them a fourth time and limited the freshman guard to just two points.
With Calumet leading 37-25 heading into the fourth quarter, Hancock went to a half-court trapping defense out of a 3-2 zone that caused Calumet fits. The Copper Kings turned it over on six of its first nine possessions of the fourth quarter.
“We had some just some horrible, horrible possessions and decisions against that,” Mike Ojala said of Hancock’s pressure.
Hancock took advantage of Calumet’s miscues, capping a 10-2 run with a layup from junior Hans Stimac to trim Calumet’s lead to 39-35 with 2:41 left in the fourth quarter. But from there, Hancock missed three front ends of one-and-ones. For the game, Hancock was 9 of 18 from the line, while Calumet was 20 of 25, with Hyrkas going 11 of 12 – including 7 of 8 in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve shot the ball pretty well at the free-throw line and I was really surprised we didn’t shoot better,” Walter said. “It’s a young team in a big game and we struggled a little bit.”
The Copper Kings would close the game on a 12-1 run over the final 2:41, setting up a third matchup with L’Anse. In the previous meeting between L’Anse and Calumet, Calumet came away with a 53-42 win on Feb. 16.
“If you look at L’Anse’s season and look at the number of games and opportunites they had to win, they’re close to winning a half dozen games or more,” Mike Ojala said. “They’re young, they’re skilled and they have some kids who can play.
“Our last game with them down there, they pushed us to the fourth quarter. We have to worry about playing a good, tough game at home.”
For the game, Calumet shot 14 of 43 and held a 38-30 rebounding advantage with Hyrkas grabbing a team-high nine rebounds. The Copper Kings finished with 14 turnovers.
Hancock shot 13 of 44 and had 14 turnovers. Junior Chad Raasio led the Bulldogs with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Calumet 8 8 21 14 – 51
Hancock 8 4 13 17 – 36
Calumet: Anderson 3, Matt Ojala 2, Loukus 2, Sturos 1, Travis Ojala 1, Kaipio 6, Hyrkas 27, Helminen 9. F: 17; Fouled out: None; FT: 20-25; 3-point field goals: Hyrkas 2, Anderson.
Hancock: Stimac 5, Chase Anderson 5, Pietila 7, Raasio 11, Reece Anderson 5, McParlan 3. F: 21; Fouled out: Raasio; FT: 9-18; 3-point field goals: Pietila.