CRYSTAL FALLS—A 17-day break between games didn’t bother Forest Park’s boys team too much Jan. 3, as they returned to action with a 69-37 win over Watersmeet.
Sharp shooting from the floor (41%) complemented by plenty of tries (75 total) powered the Trojans to the victory. FP is now 3-2 overall, 1-1 in Skyline Conference action.
“Very nice way to start the year,” said Coach Chris Nocerini. “It’s been a long layoff, I was worried about the way we’d come out of the blocks.
“This is a good way to start.”
Right away: The Trojans took charge of the game right from the start, scoring the first 12 points and racing away to a 22-7 lead after one.
Chris Hilberg and Derek Aberly each had two baskets during FP’s early run—Aberly and Austin Snell both scored eight in the quarter.
Snell matched that with another eight in the second quarter, including a pair of threes. The first came midway through the quarter. Seconds later, Watersmeet’s Marcus Bain popped in a trey from the right. Then, the Trojans’ Jeff Johnson got open and bombed one in. That’s three triples on three attempts within seconds.
Johnson’s three put FP ahead by 20 (32-12), and FP led 37-16 at halftime.
Second shot: The Trojans opened the second half with a 9-0 sprint, via an Aberly jumper at the top, a follow by Raymond Tomasik, then a pass to Tomasik down low and an Aberly three. That widened the gap to 30, 46-16.
Led by Bain, Watersmeet tried to close the gap, but the Trojans led 55-24 after three and by as much as 38 in the fourth quarter. Jeff Willman took over the scoring lead in the fourth with eight of his 10 points while claiming seven rebounds.
“One of the hardest working kids on this team,” said his coach. “He keeps showing me why he should be on the floor more.”
The coach also liked how his guards, Snell and Johnson, ran the team. “The team overall played a nice defensive game.” He noted Chris Hilberg’s team-high 11 rebounds (six on offense) and seven points. “I just love it when the game started out and his first two points came from the block.”
Bench strength from Austin Carlson and Mitch Bal kept the team going.
Board policy: One first half weakness was rebounding—the teams were about even at the half, and the coach let his team know about it. “I don’t accept that. You have to get on the glass, or we’re going to find somebody who can.”
Lesson learned. The team finished with 55 boards, led by 11 (six on offense) from Hilberg and 10 (seven on offense) from Raymond Tomasik.
“I don’t wonder if teams I coach are going to rebound. I expect them to rebound. It’s something we just do.”
Good shots: All those offensive rebounds and solid shot selection made for an easy night. Nocerini has been preaching the virtues of passing up iffy shots and holding out for better ones. “If it’s not your shot, rotate the ball, and we’ll come back to you. Simple as that.”
A 41% success rate may indicate the message is sinking in. Snell led the team with 18 points, many on fast breaks, Aberly scored 12 and Willman had 10. Johnson, Hilberg, Tomasik and L.J. Burns all added between eight and six.
That means seven different Trojans with six or more points, despite seldom visiting the free throw line.
Numbers: FP stats: 27-66 2’s (41%), 4-9 3’s (44%), 3-6 FT, 55 rebs, 18 fouls. Nimrod stats: 11-41 2’s (27%), 3-15 3’s (20%), 6-16 FTs (38%), 6 fouls.
FP players: Austin Snell, 18 pts, 2x3, 6 rebs, 4 asts, 3 stls; Derek Aberly, 12 pts; Jeff Willman, 10 pts, 7 rebs; Jeff Johnson, 8 pts, 2x3; Chris Hilberg, 7 pts, 11 rebs (6 OR); Raymond Tomasik, 6 pts, 10 rebs (7 OR); L.J. Burns 6 pts. Nimrods stats: Marcus Bain, 12 pts, 2x3; Kevin Ivey, 7 pts.
Nimrods 7 9 8 13 -- 37
Trojans 22 15 18 14 -- 69
Coming up: “The teams get bigger and stronger from here on out,” said the coach. The Trojans visit Kingsford on Jan. 8, their only game this week.
Next week, they have home games against Bark River-Harris (Jan. 14) and West Iron (Jan. 17). Then, six straight conference games.