BOYNE CITY — Typically, it’s the big dunks that’ll ignite a home fanbase and get a team going.
But, Jack Neer isn’t much of a dunker.
“No,” said Neer with a laugh, shaking his head. “Sadly no.”
The 5-foot-9 guard for the Boyne City boys’ basketball team has perfected another way to go about setting off the Rambler gym, which he put on full display during Boyne’s Lake Michigan Conference meeting with Grayling Thursday in Boyne City.
On multiple occasions against the Vikings, Neer gave the Rambler fanbase and bench something to cheer – or stand dumfounded – about, which helped build a hefty second half lead and eventually a 62-48 victory.
Neer put a pair of exclamation points on the win in the final minutes of play with back to back acrobatic layups through and around defenders, leaving anyone who saw them asking one thing: how?
Believe it or not, he actually practices them.
“I just sit below the rim and flick (the ball) sometimes, figure out the spin and what not,” he said.
And he loves when the ball kisses off the top of the glass and gently makes its decent through the net as much as the crowd.
“It feels great,” he added. “It feels great in my stomach, gets the butterflies going.”
Neer’s 16-point night for the Ramblers came as one of a few big performances for the Ramblers, with Jacob Johnson getting Boyne going with a big first half and Alex Calcaterra rallying the Ramblers out of the break.
For Boyne City coach Randy Calcaterra, it came down to just being smart with the ball. He knows that if the right passes are made, he’s got the shooters and athletes on the court to make good things happen.
“Poise against their pressure and then patience in our offense,” he said. “We’ve got weapons, it’s just if they’re patient and poised in what we run, they’re going to get something.”
The first display of poise out of Calcaterra’s lineup came off the hands of Neer when the first quarter closed, as the junior launched a half-court shot with the buzzer ringing that banked off the backboard and went in.
That shot gave Boyne a 10-8 lead after one, then a 3-pointer from Boyne’s Gavin Hewitt and drive by Alex Calcaterra in the second helped built a 19-12 lead midway through.
The Ramblers added to it throughout the second and kept things in a 10-point game at the half, leading 30-20.
Boyne later pushed its lead out to 39-22 early in the third quarter, as Calcaterra came out of break with a couple baskets, as did Johnson and then Neer found Aaron Bess for a corner three, leading to a Grayling timeout.
After a couple foul trips for the Vikings, the Ramblers pushed their lead out to 19 points on a three by Calcaterra, then a turnaround hook shot from Neer underneath.
“They like to go fast and try to make you turn it over so they can get the highlight dunks,” said Neer on Grayling. “We just tried to eliminate that, play our game and that’s what we did.”
Grayling fought back in late in the third and closed the quarter on a 9-0 run to make it 50-38 after three, then got as close as nine points in the fourth, before Boyne put its foot down for an 8-2 close, highlighted by Neer’s contortion work under the basket.
“His touch with the ball, his ability to finesse with the correct spin is incredible,” said Calcaterra. “You can’t teach that. He just has an inherent touch with the ball to get it in.”
Calcaterra finished the game with 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Neer had 16 points and seven rebounds and Johnson also added 16 points and six rebounds, while impressing Randy Calcaterra on the night.
“If he keeps it going like that, good things are going to happen for this team,” said Calcaterra on Johnson. “By far his best game. We’ve seen it in practice out of him, we expect it out of him. He’s doing nothing but trending upwards.”
Calcaterra also credited Hewitt and Bess with some strong defensive performances in the game.
For Grayling, Dylan Cragg led with 17 points Caleb Caul scored nine and Ethan Kucharek scored eight.
The win helps the Ramblers rebound from their first loss of the season earlier in the week, which came in a 65-64 loss to Elk Rapids, and moves them to 5-1 overall on the season and 2-1 within the Lake Michigan, still near the top with TC St. Francis and the Elks.
Next up for Boyne City will be a visit from Harbor Springs on Tuesday, Jan. 18, part of a six-game Lake Michigan Conference stretch for the Ramblers. They’ll also get in a Thursday, Jan. 20 trip to Kalkaska next week.
Contact Sports Editor Drew Kochanny at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @DrewKochanny, and Instagram, @drewkochanny
This article originally appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: Neer's acrobatics help Boyne City boys rebound in LMC, top Grayling