Fulton vs. Saginaw Nouvel – – MHSAA Division 4 Regional Final – – The Bleacher Denizen – – March 16, 2022 – – by Chuck Krafft

As March Madness – High School Style finishes it’s boys’ regional round, tonight your Bleacher Denizen’s journey takes him to Mt. Pleasant, where Sacred Heart Academy is hosting a Regional Final between the Panthers of Saginaw Nouvel and the Pirates of Fulton. (Alas, I really do need to research what would be necessary to start referring to my mundane journey into an inspiring “odyssey.” Do you need a special advanced degree or just to take some classes? I really don’t know – – Thus, I guess we have to stick with “journey” for now.)

Nouvel enters the game with a 15-8 record, which is good, but also a bit misleading as they are the only Division 4 team in a conference that has a mix of Division 2 and Division 3 teams. Coach Michael Kessler was generous and gave me some time and information about his Panther players.

Jonathon Tunney is a skilled post player who can score down low, defend well, and rebound well. He’s really difficult to stop with an impressive array of clever post moves. Donald Yeager is a sophomore guard who can play the point guard or the shooting guard position. He and his twin brother, M.J. Yeager, (who also plays both positions) are excellent three point shooters who also have strong ball handling skills. Matthew Garcia is an athletic post player who rebounds and finishes well in the post.

Maxwell Hammis is a versatile player on offense and defense. He defends well either on the perimeter or in the post. He also scores well on the perimeter or near the basket. Ryan Schwartzly defends well in the post or on the perimeter as well.

Fulton enters this game with a 13-11 record. Again, there record is also misleading because they play in the rugged CMAC. Six of the nine teams are in Division 3 and two of them, Bath and Pewamo-Westphalia just won their regionals tonight as well. (I will go through the charade of not knowing who won until I’m done typing, because – – I guess – – – that’s what I do!)

Joe Iung is an excellent athlete who is tall enough to compete on offense and defense near the hoop, but can also play extremely well on the perimeter. He is an excellent, clever ball handler who frequently sees things others don’t and takes advantage of them. He is a good three point shooter, a great driver to the basket who seldom seems to lose the ball no matter how many chances he takes and an aggressive defender all over the floor. He is also a good passer who can find teammates when he is double-teamed on a drive.

Bruce Thelen is a classic point guard who protects the ball well, defends the perimeter with gusto and has a good three point shot. He is also really good driving the ball to the basket to score or dish to an open Pirate teammate. He is capable of erupting for huge scoring nights when the Pirates need them. Zach Saller is another Pirate who is tall enough to score and defend in the lane, but quick enough to defend the perimeter well. He frequently turns catches in the lane into Pirate layups and has a good three point shot as well.

Xander Ramsey is a guard who defends the perimeter really well, thinks through the game when he is out there and has a three point shot that has to be respected. He had 11 points including to big three pointers early in the fourth quarter when Fulton finally put Vestaburg away in the Regional Semifinal. Renn Spaulding and Walker Eyer defend and rebound really well in the post. Walker Eyer also has a knack for anticipating drives and drawing charging fouls. (Your Bleacher Denizen’s aging bones cringe a bit with every one of them!)

Jadon Podolak is a dependable ball handler and perimeter defender who is frequently asked to inbound the ball when he is in the game. Dezmond Blair provides Fulton with another player who plays hard on offense and defense in the post.

It is now time for us to review the events of this game through the eager if dull eyes of an aging Bleacher Denizen who was never able to escape church league when he attempted to hoop in the days of yore. He was a decent scorer in the old days, but his game really suffered when a rule change took the basket off the floor and moved it ten feet into the air.

Nouvel appears to win the opening tap, but Bruce Thelen steps up and steals the ball before Nouvel can grab it after the tap. M.J. Yeager knocks the ball out of bounds, but Fulton retains possession. Walker Eyer knocks the ball off a Nouvel player to save Fulton’s possession. Fulton misses a jump shot from the side. Nouvel commits an over and back violation. Bruce Thelen passes to Xander Ramsey, who hits a three point shot from the wing to give Fulton a 3-0 lead.

Nouvel gets whistled for a traveling violation in the lane. Fulton misses a ten foot shot off the dribble in the lane. Nouvel misses a three pointer from the side. Matthew Garcia pulls down the offensive rebound for the Panthers. Zach Saller and Joe Iung team up to steal the ball from Nouvel. Joe Iung passes to Zach Saller, who hits a layup for the Pirates to give his team a 5-0 lead.

Jonathon Tunney hits a layup to give Nouvel its first two points. Fulton misses a three point shot from the side. Ryan Schwartzly drives and dishes the ball to Matthew Garcia, who hits a layup for Nouvel. Donald Yeager knocks the ball out of bounds; Fulton is able to retain possession. Fulton misses a threeball from the side and fouls on the rebound. Xander Ramsey steals the ball and hits a fast break layup to give his Pirates a 7-4 lead.

M.J. Yeager is fouled on a three pointer off the dribble from the side. He makes two of is three free throws to close the Fulton lead to 7-6 with 3:19 to play in the first quarter.

Joe Iung drains a two point jumper for the Pirates. Nouvel misses a three point shot from the side. Jonathon Tunney gets the offensive rebound for the Panthers. Walker Eyer draws a charging foul from Nouvel. (The Bleacher Denizen gets a sympathy pain in every one of his back muscles.) Fulton misses a jump shot and fouls on the rebound. Nouvel misses a three point shot from the side. Fulton misses a driving six foot shot from the side; Nouvel fouls on the rebound.

Fulton misses a sixteen foot shot from the wing. Renn Spaulding competes hard for the rebound, but it eventually goes out of bounds and Nouvel gets the ball. Nouvel misses a three point shot from the corner; the rebound goes out of bounds and the Panthers get another opportunity. Nouvel misses a fourteen foot shot in the lane. Fulton makes a spin move, but travels. Griffin Copus passes to Matthew Garcia, who hits a layup to trim the Fulton lead to 9-8.

Fulton misses a three point shot from the wing. Xander Ramsey pulls down the offensive rebound for the Pirates. Donald Yeager steals the ball for Nouvel. The Panthers miss a three point shot from the wing at the buzzer.

After one quarter, Fulton’s Pirates have a 9-8 lead.

Nouvel inbounds the ball to start out the second quarter. The Panthers miss a three point shot from the side. Matthew Garcia steals the ball for the Panthers. Nouvel misses a driving layup. Donald Yeager knocks the ball away from Fulton and Maxwell Hammis picks it up for Nouvel. Nouvel misfires on a triple try from the wing.

Fulton misses an eight footer off the dribble from the baseline. Walker Eyer grabs the offensive rebound for the Pirates and is fouled in the process. Fulton misses a layup. Xander Ramsey gets the offensive rebound for Fulton. The Pirates miss a fourteen foot shot in the lane. The rebound goes out of bounds and Fulton gets it back. Joe Iung drives and dishes the ball to Walker Eyer, who hits a layup to boost the Fulton lead to 11-8.

Xander Ramsey steals the ball and hits a fast break layup for the Pirates. He is fouled on the play and hits his free throw to give Fulton a 14-8 lead with 5:11 left on the first half clock.

Nouvel misses a threeball from the side. Joe Iung gets into the lane and hits a layup to extend the Fulton lead to eight points. Ryan Schwartzly passes to Preston Otter, who hits a three point shot from the wing for Nouvel. On the other end, Preston Otter blocks a Fulton three pointer from the corner. Fulton gets the ball back, so Preston Otter blocks a Fulton reverse layup. Walker Eyer grabs the loose ball for the Pirates. Fulton is fouled on a layup, but misses two free throws. With 3:56 remaining in the half, the Fulton lead remains at 16-11.

Nouvel misses a three point shot from the side. Nouvel gets the offensive rebound. Joe Iung draws a charging foul to negate a Nouvel layup. M.J. Yeager draws a charging foul from the Pirates. Nouvel misses a six foot shot from the baseline. Fulton misses a three point shot from the side. Bruce Thelen is fouled on a putback and hits two free throws to push the Fulton lead to 18-11 with 2:51 to play in the half.

Nouvel misses a threeball from the corner. Matthew Garcia gets the offensive rebound for the Panthers. Nouvel misses a layup.. Fulton reciprocates and misses a layup. Nouvel misses an eight foot shot in the lane. Fulton misses a three point shot from the side. Joe Iung steals the ball and hits a fast break layup to push the Pirate lead to 20-11.

Matthew Garcia hits a layup for Nouvel. Joe Iung hits a seventeen foot shot off the dribble from the wing for Fulton. Nouvel misses a driving six foot shot in the lane. The rebound goes out of bounds and Fulton gets the ball. Fulton misses a sixteen foot shot from the wing. Jonathan Tunney is fouled on the rebound and sinks two free throws in a one and one opportunity to trim the Fulton lead to 22-15 with 48.2 seconds remaining in the half.

Donald Yeager steals the ball for Nouvel. Nouvel misses a three point attempt from the corner. Matthew Garcia gets the offensive rebound for the Panthers. Nouvel misses a layup. Fulton misses a three pointer from the top of the key. Walker Eyer gets the offensive rebound for the Pirates. Fulton misses a layup at the buzzer.

Fulton takes a 22-15 lead into the locker room at halftime. If normal basketball procedures are observed, Fulton will continue to have a 22-15 lead when the third quarter starts.

Matthew Garcia leads the Nouvel scoring with 6 points and Jonathon Tunney has 4 points.

Joe Iung and Xander Ramsey each have 8 points to lead the Fulton scoring at halftime.

As there is no halftime entertainment, I guess we will use this video of an original song from my “Chuck Krafft” You Tube Channel!! I hope you enjoy it!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5–h6fXMRnw

The Bleacher Denizen peers at the scoreboard at the beginning of the third quarter and apparently, Fulton’s 22-15 lead remains intact. It’s amazing how the powers that be manage to transfer halftime leads to the start of the third quarter with so few failures!

Fulton inbounds the ball to open the third quarter. Fulton misses a threeball from the corner. Nouvel misses a fast break layup. Maxwell Hammis gets the offensive rebound for the Panthers. Nouvel misses a layup. Joe Iung hits an eight foot shot in the lane for Fulton. Nouvel misses a layup. Jonathon Tunney is fouled on a putback and hits one of his two free throws to shave the Fulton lead to 24-16 with 7:04 to play in the third quarter.

Xander Ramsey passes to Bruce Thelen, who throws in a threeball from the corner for Fulton. Joe Iung blocks a Panther layup. Nouvel recovers the loose ball; M.J. Yeager passes to Jonathon Tunney, who hits a layup, is fouled and hits his free throw. With 6:29 to play in the third quarter, Fulton has a 27-19 lead.

Fulton is assessed with a traveling violation. Joe Iung blocks a Panther layup. Joe Iung hits a three pointer off the dribble from the wing for Fulton. Maxwell Hammis passes to Jonathon Tunney, who hits a layup for Nouvel. Fulton misses a twelve foot banked shot from the side. Dezmond Blair ties up the offensive rebound. The Possession Arrow was posting on Tik Tok and missed the play; the ball is awarded to Nouvel. Ryan Schwartzly passes to Jonathon Tunney, who hits a layup to trim the Fulton lead to 30-23.

Joe Iung does one of his amazing dribble moves to open a path and drives in for a Fulton layup. Nouvel is assessed with a traveling violation. Fulton misses a jumper from the free throw line. Zach Saller gets the offensive rebound for Fulton. Fulton misses a layup. The rebound goes out of bounds and Nouvel takes possession. Jonathon Tunney passes to Matthew Garcia, who hits a layup to cut the Fulton lead to 32-25.

Fulton misses a three point shot from the side. Joe Iung gets the offensive rebound for the Pirates. Fulton misses a layup. Dezmond Blair hits a putback for the Pirates. Jonathon Tunney is fouled on a ten foot shot in the lane and hits two free throws for Nouvel. With 1:57 to go in the third quarter, Fulton has a 34-27 lead.

Fulton misses a ten foot shot in the lane. The Yeager Connection makes itself known as D.J. Yeager passes to Donald Yeager, who hits a three point shot from the side for Nouvel. Griffin Copus knocks the ball out of bounds; Fulton retains possession. Bruce Thelen passes to Walker Eyer, who hits a layup for the Pirates. Nouvel misses a three point shot from the side. Zach Saller blocks a Panther putback. Fulton misses a threeball from the wing just before the third quarter buzzer makes its presence known.

After three quarters, Fulton holds a 36-30 lead.

Fulton inbounds the ball to get the fourth quarter underway. M.J. Yeager draws a charging foul from the Pirates. Nouvel misses a three point shot from the wing. Fulton misses a fifteen footer from the wing. Nouvel misses an eight foot shot in the lane. Fulton reciprocates and misses an eight foot shot in the lane. Joe Iung gets the offensive rebound and passes to Renn Spaulding, who hits a layup to give Fulton a 38-30 lead.

M.J. Yeager hits a three point shot from the wing for Nouvel. Ryan Schwartzly steals the ball for Nouvel. He passes to Jonathon Tunney, who hits a layup to cut the Fulton lead to three points. Bruce Thelen inbounds the ball to Zach Saller, who taps the ball right back to him near the basket. Bruce Thelen is fouled on a layup and hits one of his two free throws to give Fulton a 39-35 lead with 5:22 left on the clock.

Zach Saller blocks a Nouvel layup; the loose ball goes out of bounds and Nouvel gets it back. Jonathon Tunney passes a ball to a teammate who is fouled on a layup, but Nouvel misses both free throws. Fulton misses a six foot shot from the baseline. Nouvel misses a three point shot from the corner. Fulton is whistled for a traveling violation.

Nouvel loses a pass out of bounds. Fulton misses a three point shot from the corner. Nouvel is fouled on the rebound, but misses the first shot of a one and one free throw opportunity. With 2:03 remaining in the game, Fulton’s lead is still at 39-35 as neither team has scored in over three minutes.

M.J. Yeager steals the ball for the Panthers. Nouvel misses a three point shot from the top of the key. Ryan Schwartzly steals the ball and passes the ball to Jonathon Tunney, who hits a layup to give Nouvel the first two points after nearly four minutes of neither team scoring. Fulton’s lead is down to 39-37 with 1:28 left on the clock.

After a Fulton timeout, Joe Iung is fouled and hits both free throws in a pressure-packed one and one opportunity for Fulton. With 1:14 to play, Fulton has gotten a bit of breathing room and leads 41-37.

Nouvel misses a ten foot shot in the lane. The rebound goes out of bounds and Fulton takes possession. With everyone expecting Fulton to throw the ball around the perimeter to run time, Joe Iung spies an opportunity and bursts to the hoop for a Pirate layup. He is fouled on the play and hits his free throw to give Fulton a 44-37 lead with 40.7 seconds left in the game.

Nouvel misses a three point shot from the side. Jonathon Tunney is fouled on the rebound and hits both ends of a one and one opportunity for Nouvel. Joe Iung is fouled a couple seconds later and hits one of two free throws in a one and one opportunity for Fulton. With 24.5 seconds to go, Fulton’s lead is at 45-39.

M.J. Yeager passes to Griffin Copus, who hits a huge three point shot from the corner for Nouvel to chop the Fulton lead in half at 45-42. Fulton calls timeout with just 14.8 seconds left on the clock. Xander Ramsey spots an opportunity and sprints to the Fulton basket. Bruce Thelen spots him and tosses him a perfect nearly full court pass; Xander Ramsey is all alone under the basket and scores a layup for Fulton to give the Pirates a 47-42 lead and to put the game away.

Nouvel misses a three point shot at the buzzer.

Fulton wins the Regional Final 47-42 and will play Lake Leelanau St. Mary in the quarterfinal on Tuesday!!

Jonathon Tunney battled his way to sixteen second half points and led the Nouvel scoring with 20 for the game. Matthew Garcia added 8 points. M. J. Yeager tossed in 5 points. Donald Yeager, Griffin Copus and Preston Otter each scored 3 points.

Fulton’s Joe Iung led all scorers with 21 points. Xander Ramsey joined his teammate in double figures with 10 points. Bruce Thelen contributed 6 points. Walker Eyer put in 4 points. Zach Saller, Renn Spalding and Dezmond Blair each added 2 points.

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