CRYSTAL FALLS—Things are looking up for Forest Park’s boys basketball team.
After a shaky start against Florence, the Trojans got busy and notched a solid 67-49 win Dec. 17 at the Eddie Chambers Gym.
That evens FP’s season record at 2-2. The Trojans are 1-1 in Skyline Conference action.
Flat at first: It didn’t look that way at first. The Bobcats ruled the first eight minutes, hitting shots, making the most of second chances and emerging with a 16-8 lead. “We came out flat,” Coach Chris Nocerini said. “Couldn’t find our stride.”
Several lineup changes helped the Trojans step out and seize the momentum in the second quarter. “We went a little bit bigger,” the coach said, “and the bigger guys just started controlling the rebounds. That was it.”
Austin Snell’s 10 points helped the Trojans outscore Florence 22-9 in the second quarter. Improved rebounding, said the coach, “freed up a lot of fast break opportunities and open shots for Snell. “It’s nice to have kids who can shoot over the top of a zone.”
Keep it up: The Trojans led by five, 30-25, at halftime. “The halftime speech was, ‘Hey fellas: Let’s take this five-point lead and turn it into 10.’ And they did that—one series at a time, one stop at a time.”
At the heart of it was rebounding. Doing the hard work in the paint were Chris Hilberg and Austin Carlson. Hilberg had 11 rebounds and scored 12 points. Nocerini said it was his best varsity game.
“With his leaping ability, he has all the potential in the world to rebound at will, and he did. Put in Carlson at 6-6, and that’s two big kids in there, controlling the glass.”
Board action: With Derek Aberly getting eight boards and Carlson and Jeff Johnson snatching six each, the Trojans had a huge edge in rebounds—55 to Florence’s 30. That really pleased Nocerini, who has stressed hard work under the basket in recent weeks.
“We left the West Iron game saying, We have to become a better rebounding team to be competitive.” Since then, Forest Park has focused on fundamentals—boxing out, crisp passing, closing out on defense. More of that is in store during the holiday break.
The coach also credited Jeff Johnson for his playmaking skills. “He understands who has the hot hand. It was Austin [Snell], and he did a nice job finding him.” Johnson scored only two points himself but had six assists.
For the night, Forest Park shot 27 of 59 (46%) of its twos and was 3 of 10 (30%) on threes—Snell got all three of the treys on four attempts. “We’ve watched him in practice just light it up,” the coach noted, “and we’ve been waiting. I think he’s finding that groove.”
Key night? There’s plenty of season left, of course, but the Trojans’ game with Florence may wind up being a turning point in their season. It was a night when the team woke up after a slow start and showed they understand what they must do to be successful.
“I feel good about our work so far,” said the coach, “and about the team in general. Like I said, I think they are starting to figure out where they belong.”
Numbers: FP stats: 27-59 2’s (46%), 3-10 3’s (10%), 4-13 FTs 31%), 3x3, 11 fouls, 55 rebs. Flor stats: 19-48 2’s (40%), 1-14 3’s (8%), 8-14 FTs (57%), 14 fouls, 30 rebs.
FP players: Austin Snell, 28 pts (10 in 2Q, 11 in 3Q), 3x3, 5 stls; Chris Hilberg, 12 pts, 11 rebs; Raymond Tomasik, 11 pts; Derek Aberly, 4 pts, 8 rebs; Austin Carlson, 4 pts, 6 rebs; Jeff Johnson, 2 pts, 6 asts. Florence scoring: Kyle Trudell, 13 pts; Jimmy Schuirmann, 10 ptss; Austin Herman, 9 pts; Jonathan Ouradnik, 7 pts.
Bobcats 16 9 8 16 -- 49
Trojans 8 22 19 18 -- 69
Coming up: After the Florence game, the Trojans get 2½ weeks off before they host Watersmeet on Jan. 3.