EagleHerald/Brian Bell
Menominee’s Johnathan Boucher shoots a floater as Stephenson’s Trae Larson defends during the first quarter of Thursday’s game in Menominee.
EagleHerald/Brian Bell
Menominee’s Johnathan Boucher shoots a floater as Stephenson’s Trae Larson defends during the first quarter of Thursday’s game in Menominee.

MENOMINEE — Stephenson was able to hang around with the Menominee boys basketball team for one quarter on Thursday night but the Maroons’ length and athleticism started to overwhelm the Eagles and Menominee pulled away for a 63-43 victory in the season finale on Senior Night.

Menominee coach Sam Larson took Senior Night as the opportunity to give his six seniors — Brock Barrette, Johnathan Boucher, Caden Bigger, Jayson Edginton, Keagan Monroe and Dante Sartorelli — a chance to play together and used nearly the entire first quarter with just six players. They held their own, battling to an 8-8 tie before Stephenson’s Bryce Kuehnau knocked down a corner 3-pointer to take an 11-8 lead after the first.

The Maroons performed well enough on the offensive end against the Eagles’ zone defense in the first quarter but struggled to defend against the drives of Kuehnau and he made the right plays to put Stephenson in good position. He finished the quarter with seven of Stephenson’s 11 points and assisted on one other basket.

“I thought we did some good things offensively and moved the ball around against that zone, but defensively we got blown off the dribble a few too many times and (Stephenson) just ran some flare screens that we got hung up on and gave them a couple of open looks,” Larson said.

In the second quarter, Menominee played with its usual lineup and with Aidan Bellisle running the point and Keagan Monroe out on the wing, when the Maroons get out in transition they are a dangerous team and the difference it makes when those two are on the floor together showed in the second.

Bellisle scored four quick points on two free throws and a baseline drive and Monroe answered those with a steal and fastbreak dunk on back-to-back possessions to give Menominee a 19-11 lead with 5 minutes, 35 seconds until halftime.

“When you have Aidan running the break and Keagan running the wing we look really good,” Larson said.

Menominee started to control the glass on both ends of the floor, limiting Stephenson to just one shot and pulling down multiple offensive rebounds for plenty of second-chances at the rim that the Maroons’ eventually finished. On a possession shortly after Monroe rocked the gym with the back-to-back slams, Menominee had four offensive rebounds and the ball eventually fell into Cooper Conway’s hands and he put it in for a basket to give the Maroons a 10-point advantage (21-11).

Stephenson’s first bucket in the second quarter came when Kuehnau sliced into the lane for a layup around the 3:00 mark and he sank a free throw after to make it 24-14, but Menominee answered with an alley-oop from Brady Badker to Monroe off a set play and Badker fed Monroe perfectly as he hammered it home for his third dunk of the game.

“It’s no secret for us when we play solid defense, put some pressure on the ball and get turnovers and get out on the break we look really good,” Larson said. “When we don’t, not only does our defense look poor but our offense does because we can’t get out and run. Everything we do is predicated on getting stops on the defensive end so we can rebound the ball and go.”

Menominee went on a 9-5 run to take a 35-19 lead into halftime, and Monroe picked up right where he left in the first half when he tipped a pass into the hands of Edginton who dished in to Bellisle and Bellisle fed Monroe up ahead of the defense for a two-handed jam to kick the second half off.

Monroe got out in front again on the next possession but a Stephenson defender caught up and fouled him as he took off to attempt a one-handed flush and went to the line where he split a pair of free throws.

Menominee’s lead got up to as many as 21-points in the second half, but Kuehnau and the rest of the Eagles never gave up as Kuehnau finished with a game-high 23 points and a few assists to back it up.

“Bryce is a really good player and our offense goes as he goes,” Stephenson coach Eric Panske said. “He’s able to create his shot whenever he needs to, has a high basketball IQ and he understands the system we’re trying to run. I thought he played really well tonight not only getting his buckets but finding his teammates and just playing his heart out the whole game.”

It was the final regular-season game for the six seniors on Menominee, and this group holds a special place with Larson as this is his first graduating class since taking over as head coach. They have been through all of the highs and lows, and it was not always easy, but they stuck with it and Larson hopes their brightest days are still ahead of them.

“It was great for those guys to finally get to play together as a unit for a little bit tonight. This is my first graduating senior class that I’ve had and these guys have really meant a lot to me. A lot of them have been with me for two or three years and they’ve been through the lows with us and now to see us come through some of the highs is really a beautiful thing because it wasn’t always easy,” Larson said. “Sometimes it’s hard on me as a coach and it’s frustrating to lose, but it’s much harder to be out on the court performing and go through some of that stuff, but they have all really come around and it’s been a huge turnaround the last few years. The energy and enthusiasm they bring to our program has been tremendous.”

Monroe led Menominee with 17 points in the victory.

Menominee is currently on a three-game winning streak heading into Monday’s Division 2 district opener against Houghton and it’s high-powered offense that features Brad Simonsen who has a 63-point game and averages over 30 points per game on the season.

“We’re obviously going to miss our seniors, but we’re looking forward to continuing this run we’re on and Houghton is a tough matchup from the jump,” Larson said. “But, they have to come to our place and if we bring intensity and get stops we’re pretty tough to beat so anything can happen.”