EAST LANSING — Before Thursday’s Division 4 Semifinal, the Munising boys basketball team already had matched school history.
By the time the game was over, these Mustangs had made their own.
For the first time, Munising will play for a state championship in basketball following a 55-44 win over Marine City Cardinal Mooney.
Munising was making its first trip to the Semifinals since 1954, when the team was led by Chuck Nebel, the grandfather of this season’s Mustangs leading scorer – senior guard Kane Nebel.
Needless to say, it’s been a run that has the Munising community buzzing.
“I think somebody told the last person that left to turn off the lights,” Munising head coach Terry Kienitz joked about the amount of fans that made the trip to Breslin Center from the town of about 2,000 residents.
Nebel was the biggest reason why his squad will go a step farther than his grandfather’s.
He finished with a game-high 21 points, and more importantly, took charge at a time when Munising was staggering.
The Mustangs (26-1) held a 27-13 lead at halftime, but saw Cardinal Mooney come out inspired in the second half, cutting the lead to 33-31 with 1:29 left in the third.
That’s when Nebel took over.
Over the final 1:29 of the third and the first 4:30 of the fourth quarter, Nebel scored 12 consecutive points for his team, helping the Mustangs push their lead back to 45-35 with 3:30 remaining in the game.
Nebel had two runners in the lane, back-to-back 3-pointers and made a pair of three throws to comprise his run.
“That’s the goal, is to be a three-level scorer if you can,” Nebel said. “Getting to the bucket and getting down range is what makes people toughest to guard.”
Cardinal Mooney head coach Mike McAndrews acknowledged that seemed to be a turning point.
“We certainly thought the momentum in the basketball game had shifted to our favor,” McAndrews said. “We made a run, cut it to two, made some plays and we were digging in defensively. Credit to their kids. They made some really tough baskets in order to sustain our run. We could never get back to that two, three, four-point mark again.”
From there, Munising took care of the ball well enough and made free throws to prevent any sort of a rally down the stretch from Cardinal Mooney.
“It is so great to give back to the community and bring that home,” Kienitz said of the Semifinal win. “Now, we are in uncharted territory.”
Sophomore Carson Kienitz scored 12 points, and sophomore Trevor Nolan added 11 for Munising.
Senior Trent Rice scored 19 points to lead Cardinal Mooney (16-12), which made quite a run in the tournament after going 11-11 during the regular season.
“I’m certainly proud of my group of guys,” McAndrews said. “Apparently midnight struck on Cinderella.”
Munising held a 15-11 lead after the first quarter and controlled the second quarter, opening on a 10-0 run to take a 25-11 lead with 2:12 until halftime.
PHOTOS (Top) Munising’s Trevor Nolan (5) protects the ball while Cardinal Mooney’s Dominic Cattivera defends. (Middle) The Mustangs’ Cully Trzeciak (14) works to get up a shot over Ryan Trombley.
We've got a long way to go before the stories of this season conclude with four MHSAA boys basketball champions crowned March 15 at Michigan State University's Breslin Center.
But the first week of the 2023-24 regular season gave us plenty to fill our first installment of “Breslin Bound” – our official tip-off to following more than 700 boys basketball teams through those final buzzers in East Lansing.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 46, Flint Beecher 44 This was their first meeting since January 2022 and it provided a memorable start as the Cavaliers downed the reigning Division 3 champion.
2. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 75, Ferndale 66 These two both have several new contributors, but big things will be expected again as well as Brother Rice regularly contends in Division 1 and Ferndale is the reigning Division 2 champion.
3. Lansing Waverly 58, Detroit Martin Luther King 57 Waverly took major strides last season doubling its win total from 2021-22 and could be on the verge of more coming off this impressive victory at the Detroit Douglass Tip-Off Classic.
4. Norway 49, Munising 48 After the Knights gave Munising a tough final regular-season test last season, the Mustangs went on to claim the Division 4 championship. Norway will attempt to build off back-to-back 15-7 seasons starting with this win.
5. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 64, Grandville Calvin Christian 44 These two combined to finish 46-9 a season ago, when Calvin defeated Tri-unity 63-42 in the regular-season finale (although the Defenders rebounded to finish Division 4 runners-up).
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Rochester Adams (2-0) The Highlanders provided one of the best late-breaking stories of last season, reaching the Division 1 Quarterfinals after finishing fourth of five teams in a strong Oakland Activities Association Red that also featured North Farmington and Ferndale. The momentum started rolling again with wins last week over Milford 52-48 and Macomb L’Anse Creuse North 74-59.
Utica (2-0) Last season’s co-champion in the Macomb Area Conference Blue defeated MAC White reigning champion Port Huron Northern 68-49 in their opener and then Utica Eisenhower 56-41 at the MAC Champions of Champions event at Center Line. Utica improved to 15-7 last season after finishing 7-14 in 2021-22.
Dundee (2-0) After holding its own last season in a strong Lenawee County Athletic Association and finishing 13-12 overall, Dundee is hoping to turn a fast start last week into a climb up the standings with league play starting Friday. The Vikings doubled up East Jackson 52-26 and downed Milan 67-37 to start things off.
Goodrich (1-0) A 22-5 finish last season included a shared championship in the Flint Metro League Stars and a run to the Division 2 Quarterfinals, where the Martians fell by only five to eventual champion Ferndale. The second-to-last of those five losses came to Flint Beecher, 70-55, but Goodrich avenged it Friday with a 58-55 win over the Bucs.
Hillsdale (2-0) The Hornets finished just 4-19 last season, their second sub-.500 in a row. But the turnaround may be starting. Hillsdale is halfway toward last year’s win total after defeating Union City 53-45 and Jonesville 50-40 – and after losing to Union City 52-36 and Jonesville 39-23 last season, with Jonesville going on to finish 19-6.
Royal Oak Shrine Catholic (2-0) This is another team well on its way to bettering last season’s success by Jan. 1. After going 3-19 last winter, Shrine defeated Bloomfield Hills Roeper 48-30 and Utica Ford 55-52 in overtime last week. Ford had defeated the Knights 63-50 last season, and the 55 points Shrine scored this time would have been their second-highest total of 2022-23.
Adrian Lenawee Christian (2-0) Lenawee Christian finished last season on an 11-5 run after a 2-7 start, and might be rolling that right into this season as well after opening with a 74-60 win over Blissfield and 73-58 overtime victory over Hanover-Horton. Blissfield was among teams to deal the Cougars a loss during last season’s tough early stretch. Lenawee Christian is playing in the Tri-County Conference this winter after playing previously as an independent.
Wakefield-Marenisco (2-0) The Cardinals were a solid 13-10 last season, with the final week including a third win over Bessemer as they faced off in a District Semifinal, followed by a third loss to Ironwood in the District championship game. This season’s first week saw the same schedule, but a better outcome – Wakefield-Marenisco edged Bessemer 60-57 and this time defeated Ironwood 48-30. Ironwood was first and W-M third last season in the Copper Mountain Conference Porcupine Mountain.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – River Rouge (1-0) at Ferndale (1-1) – As noted above, Ferndale was last season’s Division 2 champion, and defeated Rouge 72-60 in last winter’s meeting.
Friday – Kalamazoo Central (0-0) at Battle Creek Central (0-0) – These longtime rivals finished first and third, respectively, in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East last season.
Saturday – Detroit Cass Tech (0-0) at Holt (1-0) – The Rams host the reigning Division 1 champion Technicians in the 4:30 p.m. game of the Moneyball Classic.
Saturday – Grand Rapids South Christian (0-0) vs. Rockford (1-0) at Calvin University – This will be the 10 a.m. opener of The Invite at Calvin University, with the reigning Division 2 runner-up Sailors taking on a Rockford team coming off an 18-win season.
Saturday – Grand Rapids Catholic Central (0-0) vs. Grand Rapids Northview (1-0) at Calvin University – This will cap off The Invite tipping approximately 7:35 p.m. and pitting last season’s Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold co-champion and White outright champion, respectively.
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PHOTOS (Top) A Westland John Glenn player gets to the basket during U-D Jesuit's season-opening 83-48 win over the Rockets. (Middle) Bath defenders surround a Charyl Stockwell player during the Sentinels' 63-55 victory. (Top photo by Olivia B. Photography; middle photo by Click by Christine McCallister.)