BY MIKE ECKERT
— GAYLORD — As the Glen Lake players emerged from the locker room on Tuesday, a large crowd of Laker supporters waited to greet them with a loud ovation.
The magical run for Glen Lake came to an abrupt end by a determined Negaunee squad. The Miners made their third time the charm in the Class C quarterfinals at Gaylord, beating the Lakers 56-55.
Negaunee, which had lost the previous two quarterfinal games to McBain and St. Francis, moves on to play Laingsburg on Thursday at Michigan State’s Breslin Center for the Class C state semifinal.
"These guys, walking off the floor last year, right away they wanted to get back,” Miners coach Mike O’Donnell said. “You don’t just walk back into a quarterfinal. They made a point all summer in everything they did to get back to this point and win this game.”
As they had in previous years, the Miners packed their bags to be gone the entire week. This year, their trip didn’t end early.
"We got on that charter bus and we said ‘this bus is going to Lansing,’” O’Donnell said. “The last two years we didn’t want to come back to the U.P. We wanted to head south. It’s a great feeling, but at the same time we have to realize this isn’t it.”
The trip did end early for the Lakers (23-3).
”It’s something I’ll remember forever,” Glen Lake senior Mike O’Brien said. “I’ll cherish it forever. I wish it didn’t end like this, but we gave it our all.”
Negaunee (24-1) was led by 36 points from junior guard Tyler Jandron.
"It was unreal,” O’Donnell said of Jandron. “I can’t say enough about what he did. He put us on his back and got us there.”
Jandron scored 15 of Negaunee’s 16 points in the fourth quarter. The only one he didn’t score was a free throw by Andrew Katona with 18.1 seconds left — which proved to be the gamewinner.
”That Jandron kid is tough,” Glen Lake coach Todd Hazelton said. “He’s a good player. And we made a couple of little mistakes in the fourth quarter.”
Katona’s free throw gave Negaunee a 56-53 lead. Glen Lake tried a 3-pointer, missed, and got an offensive rebound from O’Brien, who quickly dished to a cutting Carter Lee for a basket with two seconds to go in a 56-55 game.
Jandron was fouled on the in-bounds play and went to the free-throw line with 0.9 seconds left. After he missed the first free throw, he intentionally misfired on the second to try to run off the final second. However, O’Brien was able to get the rebound and call time-out before the clock expired.
The Lakers tried a last-ditch attempt to win at the horn, but the shot was off the mark.
Negaunee took a 28-26 lead into halftime and never trailed in the second half. But, Glen Lake never went away. The Miners made it 38-27 in the third quarter, but the Lakers closed out the quarter with a flurry to cut it to 40-39 going into the fourth.
"That’s when we weren’t making mistakes defensively,” Hazelton said. “We were forcing other guys to take other shots. And we were executing on offense. Carter had his little spurt where he got a couple of lay-ups.”
Lee finished with 22 points — including 10 in the fourth quarter. Also for Glen Lake, O’Brien had 21 points and Curtis Bunek scored 10 points.
O’Brien’s career came to a close with more than 1,500 career points and he was named to the Associated Press Class C first-team All-State today.
Just like the previous games of this year’s tournament run, the Lakers had a large and loud crowd on hand to cheer them on.
"It felt like we were three-quarters of the gym tonight,” Hazelton said. “It’s great for our community. It’s great for the young kids. My son is balling his eyes out, but he needs to know that this is part of it, and part of growing up. This is only going to make our program better. Our seniors put their stamp on it.”