CRYSTAL FALLS—Finishing the year on a positive note? Check. Hitting the outside shots? Check. Playing more confident basketball? Check. Hitting your free throws? Um, well, nobody’s perfect.
Regardless, Forest Park’s boys closed out the first part of the season on a positive note Dec. 19, outgunning Florence 64-22 before the home fans. The Trojans take a 3-2 overall record (2-1 in the Skyline Conference) into a two-week holiday break.
“I like how we ran the floor,” Coach Chris Nocerini said. “We’re starting to push the ball—you started seeing a little bit of it tonight.”
Forest Park was pushing against Florence right from the get-go. Michael Smithson’s three from the top and baskets by Jake Divine and Tyler Lovato opened up an early 8-2 lead. Derek Aberly and Lovato scored to make it a 12-3 lead before Dan DeCamera hit a three for the Bobcats, making it 12-6 after one.
DeCamera hit another trey in the second quarter—but aside from that, it was all Trojans. Austin Snell on a fast break. Smithson with a jumper. Lovato for three. Divine off Lovato’s pass. Aberly. Lovato off L.J. Burns’ assist.
Late in the half, a nifty three-way pass play from Butns to Lovato to Kody Thrasher. Burns wrapped up the 19-6 quarter by driving the baseline to score just at the horn. The Trojans led 31-12 at the break.
The third quarter … well, let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. FP scored 13 points, including a pair of triples by Burns. Aside from that, though, there were plenty of missed shots, plenty of fouls and plenty of turnovers.
The refs called seven team fouls on the Trojans in just the last couple of minutes. But it didn’t hurt them—the Bobcats were 1 of 8 at the line. “My assistant coach, [Jason] Price, said, ‘We’re loaded with guys, and we’ve got fouls to give!’”
Ahead 44-17 after three, the Trojans’ lead ballooned early in the final quarter on threes by Lovato and Snell, twos by Lovato and Snell, Ben Painter’s bucket off Smithson’s pass and then another Painter hoop. When Chris Hilberg scored with four minutes left, the Trojans led 60-20, putting the clock into overdrive.
The ugly free throw shooting persisted, however. Florence certainly got its chances but was only 4 of 20 at the line all night—and the Trojans weren’t much better, at 3 of 10. Combined: 23% at the line.
But from the floor, the Trojans had a good night. They shot 40% overall and made seven triples—two each by Lovato and Burns. Lovato led scoring with 14, and Burns had 11, followed by Snell (9), Aberly (8), Smithson and Hilberg (six each).
Outside shot success? “That’s rare for Forest Park,” Nocerini conceded. “We’re working hard at practice, shooting threes.”
DeCamera led Florence with seven points. The Bobcats made just 16% of their field goal attempts.
Divine led FP with nine rebounds, and Aberly had seven. Divine also had six steals and three blocks, and Lovato was credited with six assists.
“We’re tough on the glass. Just keep pounding away at the little fundamental things.”
The Trojans have big guys on the floor, and when they break out, best get out of the way. “They’re great straight up and down. When they get rolling, they’re hard to stop.” The defense is sparking the offense, he added. “The defense generates everything.”
• The Trojans are generating some good momentum going into the holiday break. It’s only going to be a short break. Their decision, said the coach.
“I was going to give them extra days, and they didn’t want them. They want to come back earlier.”
Practices resume Dec. 27. “We’re going to bring in some alumni and mix it up with them.”
The schedule resumes Jan. 5 at Watersmeet, and the Trojans are back home Jan. 10 to face Kingsford. Later in January: Bark River and West Iron.
Bobcats 6 6 5 5 -- 22
Trojans 12 19 13 20 -- 64