TRAVERSE CITY — It may have taken about six years, but Marcus Johnson finally got Danny Passinault back.
Passinault's Little League baseball team mercied Johnson's in the state championship in Ishpeming. Passinault even hit a home run in the 11-1 victory.
"They beat us back then," Johnson said, "so I had to get him back."
Did he ever.
Johnson's Iron Mountain basketball team stopped Traverse City St. Francis' run in the Division 3 regional finals with a 66-52 setback at Sault Ste. Marie
Gladiator starters Artie Dutmers and Keaton Peck were on that Little League team as well.
"It was all about battling," Johnson said. "Before the game, they said they wanted to throw the first punch, but we did."
Johnson scored 31 in the victory, including 19 in the second half.
Johnson, already Iron Mountain's career scoring leader at over 1,500 points as a junior, hit contested shot after contested shot to almost single-handedly propel the Mountaineers (25-0) to the win and a date against Sanford Meridian in Tuesday's quarterfinal at Petoskey.
Foster Wonders added 12, Jaden Vicenzi nine, Charlie Gerhard eight and Tony Feira six.
"It was a great team effort," Iron Mountain head coach Bucky Johnson said. "Marcus, he was hot tonight. ... Traverse City is a tough team. They play physical, hard, lots of effort. They came as advertised."
Brendan Chouinard led the Gladiators (18-4) with 11 points, while Keaton Peck added 10 points, four rebounds and three steals, Patrick Mackey chipped in eight points and seven rebounds, Wade Gerberding scored eight points and Artie Dutmers had five.
"I'm extremely proud of our kids," St. Francis head coach Sean Finnegan said. "We had a heck of a year. They're very coachable and they ran through walls for us."
Johnson scored 12 in the first half, as the Mountaineers clung to a 30-27 intermission lead. The Glads pulled within two midway through the third quarter on a Peck layup, but that's as close as it would get the rest of the way.
Johnson led an 8-0 run with two buckets, including a step-back 3-pointer for a 42-32 lead and the first time the teams were separated by double digits. In between, he dished to Vicenzi for a 3-pointer.
Wonders and Johnson came into the game thought of as two of the best players in the entire Upper Peninsula, and didn't do much to dispel that. Wonders, who already has a Division 1 offer, took a backseat to Johnson's big night that ended three points shy of his season high.
"Marcus hit shots where you just scratch your head," Finnegan said. "We knew they'd take bad shots and make bad shots and we'd have to live with that."
Iron Mountain went into the second quarter up by only one, and Dutmers' layup 16 seconds in put the Glads up 17-16. The Mountaineers responded with a 9-0 that included a Johnson 3-pointer and an off-balance Wonders shot in the lane to lead 25-17.
St. Francis clawed back thanks to a pair of Chouinard buckets and a Dutmers putback in the last minute to pull within three by halftime.
"We came with the same game plan as we did with Glen Lake," Finnegan said. "We tried to take (Johnson and Wonders) away, and 42 (Vicenzi). That's a heckuva three ... We executed it perfectly against Glen Lake. (Iron Mountain) hit some shots you just can't plan for."