Eagles Edge Out Patriots
Each year, "March Madness" brings a new group of candidates for "greatest" game ever. It would be impossible to select only one as better than any other, but some have a significance that reaches far beyond the game itself. Such was the case of the 1981 Class C Regional between Stephenson and Ishpeming Westwood.
Both teams entered the game 21-1, and were the #1 & #2 ranked teams in the U.P. Stephenson was led by Class C All-State senior center Mark Simon, and Westwood by a Class C All-State (1st team) senior point guard Troy Mattson. The matchup was highly anticipated after both teams won their regional semifinals and fans from across the U.P. who attended the game would not be disappointed.
The two teams traded baskets and the lead throughout the game. Mattson and Simon were at the center of this scoring barrage for both teams. With only 12 seconds left, down by two points, Westwood grabbed a rebound on a missed free throw and quickly moved down court, where Mattson hit a 17-footer to send the game into overtime. In overtime, the intensity continued to build until finally Stephenson pulled away to win the game, 68-66. Troy Mattson says of the loss, "It was hard to take. We had a great team but in a game like that, it's always sad that a team has to lose. We knew we had a State Championship caliber team."
After the game, Mattson and Simon met and talked for the first time. Troy asked Mark where he was planning on playing in college and he said, "Northern." Mattson said he planning to go to Northern as well and that they should be roommates. So the next season the two rivals joined forces for the Wildcats and were roommates through their college careers. Both went on to have stellar careers at NMU and Mattson is now the head coach of NMU's women's basketball team.