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Michigan high school boys basketball: Munising topples Tri-unity Christian for Division 4 title

EAST LANSING — A chorus of “U.P. Power” chants rang down on the Breslin Center floor following Saturday’s Division 4 championship final.

And it was only appropriate as Munising, making the six-hour drive from the Upper Peninsula, seized its first boys basketball title in school history by staving off defending champion Wyoming Tri-unity Christian, 39-37.

Cully Trzeciak hit a big 3-pointer with 2:05 to go to put Munising ahead to stay, 32-30, and the Mustangs (27-1) came up with three big steals — one each by Trzeciak, Kane Nebel and Jack Dusseault — during the final two minutes to secure the victory.

Trzeciak attempted only one 3-point attempt during the game, but it proved to be huge. He was coming off a 1-for-5 shooting performance, while missing all three 3-point attempts, in Thursday’s 55-44 semifinal win over Marine City Cardinal Mooney.

Munising players and coaches celebrate 39-37 win over Wyoming Tri-unity Christian at the MHSAA boys Division 4 final at Breslin Center in East Lansing on Saturday, March 25, 2023.
Munising players and coaches celebrate 39-37 win over Wyoming Tri-unity Christian at the MHSAA boys Division 4 final at Breslin Center in East Lansing on Saturday, March 25, 2023.

“Thursday I was kind of in a slump, I missed a lot and shooters shoot, you just keep shooting, and it felt good,” said the 5-foot-11 senior guard.

Trzeciak’s shot caught the Defenders off-guard.

“We weren’t ready for number 14 (Trzeciak) to knock down that 3, but it was a nice shot and he made it under pressure,” Tri-unity coach Mark Keeler said. “And number 0 (Nebel) did a great job of taking care of the ball.”

Nebel, a senior guard, finished with a team-high 14 points, while Dusseault added eight.

“The game was kind of fitting, a lot of our games went this way this year,” Munising seventh-year coach Terry Kienitz said. “We come out fighting and scrapping the whole game. Sometimes when we’d get a good lead and lose it, but we always keep fighting and the next guy makes a big shot. Any given day, any given player is going to step up for us. And that’s just kind of how this year went.”

Tri-unity (22-7) was seeking its sixth state title in school history, but couldn’t overcome 31.1% shooting from the field, including 4 of 19 from the 3-point line.

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian guard Jordan VanKlompenberg (3) makes a layup against Munising forward Carson Kienitz (2) during the second half of the MHSAA boys Division 4 final at Breslin Center in East Lansing on Saturday, March 25, 2023.
Wyoming Tri-unity Christian guard Jordan VanKlompenberg (3) makes a layup against Munising forward Carson Kienitz (2) during the second half of the MHSAA boys Division 4 final at Breslin Center in East Lansing on Saturday, March 25, 2023.

“I’m really proud of my guys and the defense they played,” said Keeler, who just completed his 36th season. “I’m disappointed in our offense. I thought we showed a lot of impatience and took a lot of bad shots. And it was frustrating, but I don’t want to take anything away from Munising. They had a great team and they played great defense. And we were nip and tuck.”

Jordan VanKlompenberg and Roy Fogg led Tri-unity with 15 and 11 points, respectively. The Defenders lost despite outrebounding Munising, 39-17.

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Meanwhile, Nebel showed his versatility in addition to his scoring with six rebounds, six assists and six steals.

Ranking No. 1 in his senior class at Munising with a 4.0-plus grade-point average, he is headed to Michigan to study business in the fall. Nebel was also the quarterback in eight-man football where he led the Mustangs to the D1 state semifinals. In the spring, he participates in track and tennis (where he’ll be a doubles partner with his basketball teammate Carson Kienitz).

“His basketball I.Q. is really high and he loves to get his teammates involved. He pretty much almost averages a quadruple-double,” Terry Kienitz said his senior leader. “And for as much ball-handling as he does to have one turnover ... that’s crazy, and he’s been doing that all year, especially at the end of the game when we know they’re fouling and they’re sending two guys.”

Munising guard Kane Nebel (0) celebrates with teammates after the 39-37 win over Wyoming Tri-unity Christian at the MHSAA boys Division 4 final at Breslin Center in East Lansing on Saturday, March 25, 2023.
Munising guard Kane Nebel (0) celebrates with teammates after the 39-37 win over Wyoming Tri-unity Christian at the MHSAA boys Division 4 final at Breslin Center in East Lansing on Saturday, March 25, 2023.

In the final 1:07, Munising had to make free throws earn the victory and connected on 5 of 9 as Tri-unity had seven fouls to give late in the fourth after falling behind.

After a long Munising possession in the fourth quarter, Fogg came up with a steal and a layup with 6:29 remaining to give the Defenders their first lead since the first quarter, 30-29.

The game stayed tight heading into the final quarter as VanKlompenberg hit a put-back just before the third quarter horn to pull Tri-unity to within 27-25 after Munising had gone up by six earlier in the period two free throws by Trzeciak.

With 3:18 remaining in the second quarter, Nebel connected on a pair of free throws to put Munising ahead, 18-12. But VanKlompenberg answered with a 3-pointer with 1:09 left to make it 18-15 at the half.

Tri-unity went 6 of 23 from the field during the first half (26.1%), including 3 of 12 from beyond the arc. Munising was 7 of 18 from the floor (39.8%) and was 2 of 6 on its 3-pointers.

Munising guard Kane Nebel (0) dribbles against  Wyoming Tri-unity Christian forward Akais Giplaye (20) during the second half of the MHSAA boys Division 4 final at Breslin Center in East Lansing on Saturday, March 25, 2023.
Munising guard Kane Nebel (0) dribbles against Wyoming Tri-unity Christian forward Akais Giplaye (20) during the second half of the MHSAA boys Division 4 final at Breslin Center in East Lansing on Saturday, March 25, 2023.

“It was not our night ... I don’t know,” Keeler said. “At halftime we talked about it, ‘We need to show more patience. Again, we kept shooting up 3s that we hadn’t been all year. We just did not show patience. When you get under that pressure, things happen."

It seemed the whole town of Munising — with a population of just under 2,000, turned out in force to support their Mustangs. And their fans will surely savor that long drive back to the U.P.

“We have a ton (of snow), I probably have 3 feet in my front yard right now,” Nebel said. “First time we ever made it to the Breslin and first time we won it. There’s a Facebook post that says, ‘Last one to leave turn the lights out,’ so I think everyone down was down here to see us make history.”

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: MHSAA basketball: Munising tops Tri-unity Christian in Division 4