The Trojans’ Derek Aberly goes up for a shot during Forest Park’s Jan. 14 game with Bark River-Harris, as the Broncos’ Kyle Kleiman defends.
CRYSTAL FALLS—Forest Park’s boys basketball team made a whole bunch of demons disappear last week.
After edging past Skyline Conference rival Bark River-Harris 67-64 on Jan. 14, the Trojans crushed West Iron 83-52 on Jan. 17. Coach Chris Nocerini said it was the Trojans’ first win over both teams in over five years.
“This is a big step for our program,” he added. “That’s why we’re so excited here. It’s been a long drought.”
The two home wins improve the Trojans’ record to 5-3 overall and 2-1 in the Skyline Conference. All but one of their remaining 12 games are against Skyline foes.
Vs. WIC: Everything came together for Forest Park when the Wykons visited. Their 83 point total is 14 more than they had scored all year. How come?
--They had Lee Graff back, in his first game. Graff, a sophomore, was the JV team’s main scoring force before injuring a knee last winter. He missed all of football season and the first half of basketball. When he returned last week, he scored 17 points.
--White-hot shooting. The Trojans made 53% of their shots from the floor—over 50% in each half.
--Nothing motivates the Trojans better than seeing “Wykons” on the other team’s shirts, and their intensity was ratcheted up to “11” all night. West Iron didn’t look ready for it—especially late in a five-game road trip. The Wykons also had a conference game in L’Anse 24 hours later.
--Forest Park’s student section was jammed and vocal and serenaded the Wykons all night. “Our student section is the best in the U.P.,” Nocerini said. “They bring the atmosphere, and the players play harder.”
Breakaway: When the teams met at West Iron back on Dec. 11, the Wykons won by four, 56-52. “We felt we could clean some stuff up, bring some more energy,” the Trojans’ coach said. “That’s exactly what they did tonight—and they shot out of their minds!” Like 53%. “That’s unbelievable for us.”
West Iron could only keep up for a couple minutes. FP’s first breakout was led by Jeff Johnson and Derek Aberly, boosting their team to a 15-7 lead. They were up 20-11 after one quarter.
With Aberly scoring eight, the Trojans built up a 14-point lead in the second quarter, and led 38-26 at halftime. A quick 6-0 Wykon burst to start the second half cut the margin down to six—Austin Waara hit two baskets and passed to Alex Ralston for a third.
Reignited: But Johnson reignited the Trojan attack with a triple, starting an 18-6 breakaway that put Forest Park up 58-40 after three. Austin Snell had nine points in the third, and Graff added nine in the fourth frame.
With the L’Anse game maybe on their minds, the Wykons substituted often during the second half, and 10 different Wykons scored. The visitors shot well on two-pointers—39%--but not so on threes (1 for 12).
Anyway, nobody was going to match Forest Park’s intensity this night. The Trojans dominated the boards, taking 49 rebounds to West Iron’s 34. FP’s Raymond Tomasik led both teams with 13.
The suddenly potent Trojan attack was led by Aberly (20), Snell (19) and Graff (17). All three shot over 50%--Graff was 8 of 10 from the field, and Snell was 8 of 13. “What a night for Lee to come back!” his coach said. “With Lee coming back, everybody stepped their game up.
“These kids were ready tonight. They wanted this win, they wanted this streak to end, and that’s what happened.
“Very proud of our kids tonight.”
Numbers: FP team: 32-60 (53%) 2’s; 2-6 (33%) 3’s; 13-23 (57%) FT; 49 rebs, 12 steals. WIC team: 20-51 (39%) 2’s, 1-12 (8%) 3’s; 9-19 (47%) FT; 34 rebs; 6 stls.
FP scoring: Derek Aberly, 20 points, 6 rebounds; Austin Snell, 19 pts, 7 assists, 3 stls; Lee Graff, 17 pts, 5 rebs, 4 stls; Jeff Johnson, 10 pts; Chris Hilberg, 9 pts, 9 rebs; Raymond Tomasik, 5 pts, 13 rebs. WIC scoring: Alex Ralston, 11 pts; Austin Waara, 10 pts; Adam Newby, 9 pts; Tyler Stafford, 2 pts, 9 rebs.
Wykons 11 15 14 12 -- 52
Trojans 20 18 20 25 -- 83
Vs. BRH: Forest Park’s Jan. 14 win over Bark River was also a sweet one—but it sure wasn’t easy.
It was close from start to finish, with eight lead changes (four in the last 80 seconds) and nine ties. Neither team led by more than seven.
Bark River led for most of the first half—until a 12-4 Trojan run to close out the first half, including six points from Austin Carlson. Forest Park led 33-29 at halftime and stayed in front for most of the second half.
At the line: At the end, the Trojans put it away at the free throw line, making 6 of 9 at the stripe in the fourth quarter; Bark River was 4 of 11, including five straight misses when they trailed by two in the final three minutes.
After BRH finally made a freebie, Kyle Kleiman scored from the left; Broncos, 61-60. FP’s Aberly from the left; Trojans, 62-61. BRH’s John Norman put in a rebound; Broncos, 63-62. Snell drove the lane; Trojans, 64-63. Time-out with 39 seconds left.
At the end: It was all free throws after that. Kleiman made one of two. Tied, 64-64, 34 seconds left. Carlson made one of two; Trojans, 65-64, 24 seconds to go. FP’s Johnson missed a front end with nine seconds left, but Snell got fouled with six seconds left and made both; FP led 67-64. BRH’s desperation three missed, and it was all over.
Snell led the Trojans with 17 points, Carlson added 11, and Johnson and Aberly both scored 10.
After the game, the coach complimented Carlson, a junior, for his hard work against a big player in the paint. “He handled himself well.”
The Trojans could have played better, especially on defense. “But it was a helter-skelter game,” said their coach, “and sometimes that’s what happens.”
Numbers: FP team: 23-60 (38%) 2’s; 1-8 (13%) 3’s; 18-25 (72%) FT; 42 rebs; 22 fouls. BRH team: 19-37 (51%) 2’s, 3-17 (18%) 3’s; 17-29 (59%) FT; 37 rebs; 18 fouls.
FP stats: Austin Snell, 17 pts, 4 asts, 3 stls; Austin Carlson, 11 pts, 13 rebs (8 OR); Jeff Johnson, 10 pts, 3 asts, 3 stls; Derek Aberly, 10 pts, Raymond Tomasik, 9 pts, 7 rebs. BRH ststs: Cody Welch, 15 pts, 3x3, John Norman, 15 pts, 14 rebs, 3 asts; Kyle Kleiman, 14 pts; Cody Van Brocklin, 9 pts.
Broncos 16 13 16 19 -- 64
Trojans 13 20 14 20 -- 67
Coming up: Can the Trojans take their new-found momentum on the road? They visit North Dickinson on Jan. 22, Carney-Nadeau on Jan. 25 and Mid Peninsula on Jan. 29. Next home game: Feb. 1 vs. North Central.