Michael Smithson protects the ball from a pair of Republic-Michigamme defenders during action at the Eddie Chambers Gym Feb. 14. Smithson led his team with 15 points against the Hawks.
CRYSTAL FALLS—One weak quarter spoiled a solid effort by Forest Park’s boys team against Bark River-Harris here Feb. 17.
The Trojans scored only three points in the third quarter against the Broncos—but roared back with 20 in the fourth frame, cutting the Broncos’ 15-point lead down to three before losing 48-41.
“That three-point third quarter just couldn’t cut it,” Coach Chris Nocerini said later. “But I’m very proud of these kids: They never stopped playing D, and they kept battling.”
At Bark River in mid-January, the Broncos ran away 71-51—they led by 21 at halftime. “So it’s nice to see the team improving. These kids have worked on their defense.”
Forest Park had no trouble with Republic-Michigamme at home Feb. 14, earning a 61-26 win. The Trojans enter this week with a 6-11 overall record, 4-8 in the Skyline Conference.
The Broncos only led 11-8 early in the second quarter but then broke out of the corral with a 13-1 run that built up a 24-9 lead. Matt Dorman came off the bench to hit a pair of threes in that stretch.
The Trojans fought back with Tyler Lovato’s three and two baskets by Michael Smithson, cutting the Broncos’ lead to 28-18 at halftime. To get back into the game, they had to limit Bark River’s scoring in the third quarter and whittle down the lead.
They halfway succeeded, playing tough D that held the Broncos to eight points. But the Trojans only scored three themselves. Forest Park got good shots, but Bark River battled them hard, and nothing fell through the twine. Nothing. Unofficially, the Trojans shot 0 for 15 in the third quarter and trailed 36-21 after three.
Then FP’s luck turned. Jake Divine put in his own miss. Lovato scored from the baseline. Austin Snell went down the right side for two. With the lead down to 36-27, Bark River called time.
Action resumed, and so did FP’s rally. Ben Painter scored off a loose ball scramble. After a Bronco bucket, Smithson hit a three from the left corner. Two Snell free throws had the Trojans within four, 38-34, with 3:21 left.
Amazingly, the game was up for grabs, and Broncos fans were getting plenty worried. BRH’s Jacob Kleiman converted a three-point play. FP’s Lovato scored from the lane. The Broncos’ Dustin DeGrave for two. Smithson again for three. With 56 seconds left, it was a one-possession game, 44-41.
But Kleiman hit another clutch hoop, the Broncos made a stop, added free throws, and the Trojans’ late three-point tries went off the rim.
Smithson led the Trojans with 15 points (six in the fourth quarter), and Snell had 12 (seven in the fourth). Kleiman was top scorer for the Broncos with 11, and Austin Butryn scored nine.
Forest Park led in rebounds 51-41, with Divine getting 11 and Smithson grabbing 10. “If we rebound, we compete,” said the coach. “And 51 rebounds—I can’t ask for any more of a team.”
Against Republic, no problems at all. Lovato scored nine points to power the Trojans to a 14-0 lead in the early minutes.
The Hawks’ offense woke up after that and trailed 18-9 after one—but the Trojans stifled them totally in the second quarter and went into halftime with a 29-9 lead.
Smithson scored six straight points late in the half. “It was nice to see him take control of the ball and take it right to the hole. He played like he was 6-4 tonight.”
After RM started the second half with seven points, Forest Park shut the Hawks down with a 17-1 onslaught that continued into the fourth quarter. That made it 53-17, FP’s biggest lead of the night.
Three different Trojans scored in double figures: Smithson with 15, Lovato at 14 and Hilberg with 12. Hilberg delighted the home fans with a two-handed dunk late in the first half (When’s the last time a Trojan did that?) and combined with Derek Aberly on an alley-oop play in the final minutes.
“We’ve been waiting to get him a dunk all year,” said his coach, “and we finally got that under our belts.”
The Trojans finished with 60 rebounds—Nocerini had said if they ever did that, he’d buy them all pizza. Aberly led with 14 boards, Davine had eight, and Painter and Takala both had seven.
Despite getting overwhelmed, the Hawks played hard to the end and got 12 points from freshman Philip Koski.
• It’s close-out time for the Trojans this week: They visit Florence Feb. 21 and finish the regular season with home games against Carney-Nadeau Feb. 24 and North Central Feb. 28.
Forest Park hosts the District 127 tournament starting March 5.
Hawks 9 0 8 9 -- 26
Trojans 18 11 14 18 -- 61
Bronocs 10 18 8 12 -- 48
Trojans 7 11 3 20 -- 41