Nebel gets hot, Munising locks down Cardinal Mooney in Division 4 semifinal win

David Goricki
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Munising used a suffocating defense to set the tempo, then used the hot hand of Kane Nebel during the second half to defeat Marine City Cardinal Mooney 55-44 in a Division 4 state semifinal game Thursday night at the Breslin Center.

Cardinal Mooney (16-12) failed to finish at the basket in the early minutes and then Munising wouldn’t even give them a chance by using their quickness to either strip them of the ball inside or tie up players on penetration drives or get steals on entry passes.

Munising (26-1) made the most of its 6-hour bus trip from the U.P. by opening the semifinal on a 7-0 run and then taking a 15-8 lead by knocking down three 3-pointers, two from Carson Kienitz.

Munising which was playing its first state semifinal game after winning its first regional title since 1954, the year construction started on the Mackinac Bridge, led 27-13 at halftime.

It was in the second quarter when Munising frustrated Cardinal Mooney with its interior defense, including a strip by Nebel on Cardinal Mooney 6-foot-5 senior center Dominic Cattivera which led to a 3-pointer by Trevor Nolan at the other end for an 18-11 lead.

Then, Nolan made a steal on an entry pass, leading to Nebel’s short jumper for a 20-11 cushion.

“We found out what a physical game is all about and you can kind of prepare for that and we can try to prepare for the loudness, but it’s hard to replicate and we had to fight through it, kind of learn on the fly today on how to play with all that physicality disrupting all of our sets, that was one thing that we had to work on and I thought we did,” said Munising coach Terry Kienitz.

“It’s a good team that we just played, and I think our defense played great. It’s hard to play a team that has so many outside shooters, but they can drive so well too, so keeping the guy in front of you and running them off the 3-point line was part of our success.”

Yes, Nebel was trying to make his grandfather Chuck Nebel proud since Chuck was a member of that Munising 1954 regional championship team. Chuck Nebel was handed the regional title trophy last week by the team and was in attendance to watch his grandson at the Breslin.

No doubt, Nebel made the huge Munising fan base proud, making sure his team would be playing in Saturday’s 10 a.m. state title game against the Frankfort-Wyoming Tri-Unity Christian winner.

After Cardinal Mooney cut the deficit to 33-31 late in the third quarter, Nebel scored off a putback just before time expired.

Then, Nebel opened the final quarter with an inside basket, going on to make consecutive 3-pointers to open up a 43-31 cushion with 5:50 remaining.

In fact, Nebel scored 12 consecutive Munising points for a 45-35 lead. He finished with 21 points (7-of-13 shooting, 2-of-4 3-pointers, 5-of-6 free throws), scoring 17 of his points during the second half. Kienitz had 12 points and Nolan scored 11 for Munising which shot 48.5 percent from the field and made 7-of-18 3s.

“I think it was kind of a flow thing,” said Nebel of his big fourth quarter. “We preach our sets and everything, but sometimes sets aren’t working and you just have to go get a bucket and that’s what happened in the fourth quarter especially.”

And, on his grandfather attending the game, Nebel said: “It’s just incredible. I’ve had great family support ever since I was a kid and them all being here and the whole town behind us is just amazing.”

Cardinal Mooney couldn’t have suffered a tougher first half, making just 5-of-17 shots and turning the ball over 10 times.

Oh, and to make matters worse for Cardinal Mooney, senior guard Trent Rice picked up his third foul during the final minute of the second quarter. Rice had scored eight of his team’s 13 first-half points.

Cardinal Mooney 25th year coach Mike McAndrews had to be pleased with how his team came back, scoring the first seven points of the third quarter with Quentin Hillaker making a 3-pointer, then making a layup off a pass cutting to the basket to pull his team within 27-20.

Hillaker made 2-of-3 free throws after being fouled on a deep shot to start an 11-6 run to cut the gap to two (33-31), but Nebel made sure Munising would be playing its biggest game in program history before making the long trip back home.

Rice scored 19 for Cardinal Mooney which shot 39.5 percent and made 3-of-13 3s. Hillaker scored nine.

“They had a really good game plan, and they shot the ball a lot better than we did tonight,” McAndrews said. “We unfortunately picked a bad night to not shoot the ball very well. Apparently, midnight struck on Cinderella.

“I’m proud of our group, certainly proud of what we’ve accomplished at 11-and-11 coming into the playoffs, so a heck of an accomplishment. I’m certainly proud of these kids. The thing that I’ll probably take most from this season, when you get a group of guys that love one another and you love them, you can work through differences and work yourself through some adversity throughout the season.

“These guys will never understand what they did for me this season, losing my father right before the season started and for two hours a day, they motivated me to be better and helped me through my own grieving process. I’m a lucky man.”