As a Carney player leaps up, Forest Park’s Lee Graff bounces a cross-court pass on the run to a teammate during the Trojans’ game against the Wolves Feb. 22.
CRYSTAL FALLS—Forest Park lost by one point at home to Carney-Nadeau Feb. 22, but make no mistake about it: The loss shows how far the Trojans have come this season, nearly knocking off the Class D power for the second time this season.
FP’s 63-62 loss to the Wolves followed their 55-47 win at North Dickinson on Feb. 18. The team enters the final week of the regular season at 11-7 overall and 7-5 vs. Skyline Conference foes.
At Nordics: Chris Hilberg and Lee Graff revved up FP’s offense in the first quarter, getting all the points as FP got away to a 15-5 start.
The Trojans ran into foul trouble in the second quarter, taking bad shots and turning over the ball. At halftime, the team settled down and refocused. “The defensive end is what sparks our team,” Coach Chris Nocerini said. “If we don’t play defense, we’re in trouble.”
Down by five at halftime, the coach decided to go with his big guys—6-5 Hilberg and 6-7 sophomore Austin Carlson—in the second half.
“They controlled the glass. They are two big guys who are hard to board against.” Carlson, simply by his presence, often forces opponents to think twice when they want to go inside.
With 21 from Hilberg, 14 from Austin Snell and 11 from Graff, the Trojans had a strong night on offense, hitting 40% from the floor.
Numbers: FP team: 21-52 (40%) FG, 4-14 (29%) 3’s, 9-17 (53%) FT; 15 fouls. ND team: 19-50 (38%) FG, 1-10 (10%) 3’s, 8-15 (53%) FT, 14 fouls.
FP stats: Chris Hilberg, 21 pts, 2x3, 8 rebounds; Austin Snell, 14 pts; Lee Graff, 11 pts, 9 rebs; Jeff Johnson, 9 pts, 2x3, 6 rebs; Austin Carlson, 8 rebs. ND stats: Matt Schultz, 13 pts, 7 rebs; Cody Berg, 12 pts, 6 rebs; Logan O’Neil, 6 pts.
Trojans 15 4 17 19 -- 55
Nordics 5 19 7 16 -- 47
Vs. Carney: The game ended on a down note for the Trojans, who trailed most of the night but caught up in a 27-19 fourth quarter.
With a second or so left, down 63-60, FP inbounded the ball under its own basket. But instead of a three-point shot to tie it and force overtime, the pass went inside the arc. Carney was happy to concede a two-pointer, as the final horn sealed its one-point win.
Coach Nocerini wasn’t very talkative afterwards. “Our kids played hard,” he said. “You saw the game. Write it up.” OK, coach.
Carney’s main weapon is the three-point shot. They made 11 triples against the Trojans, six in the first half, as they broke out to a 15-point lead. Making matters worse, Hilberg left the game in the second quarter after a hard fall.
Battling back: But FP rallied 9-1 late in the half and only trailed 31-24 at halftime. Carlson had several baskets during that run, and Jeff Johnson hit a three just before the break.
Forest Park stayed close for most in the third quarter until consecutive threes near the end put Carney up by nine, 44-35, as the fourth quarter began. But after Hilberg returned to action, he and L.J. Burns fueled an 8-1 Trojan run that tied it briefly at 52 with 3:26 left.
To the finish: Graff’s free throws gave the Trojans their first lead with 1:34 left, and Burns’ lay-up made it 60-57 with 1:20 left. But Keenan Lampinen drove the lane for a key Carney bucket, then got fouled and made both free throws, putting the Wolves up 61-60 with 27 seconds remaining.
Lampinen added two more at the line with 11 seconds left; Wolves, 63-60. Snell’s three-point try was deflected out of bounds, setting up the final inbounds play.
With 22 points, 10 in the fourth quarter and 8 for 8 at the stripe, Lampinen saved Carney’s bacon. Jason DuPont and Wade Schetter both scored 15 for the Wolves.
Graff (eight), Burns (six) and Hilberg (six) combined for 20 of FP’s 27 fourth quarter points. For the game, Burns led with 15, Graff had 12, Carlson had 11 and Hilberg had eight.
Numbers: FP team: 20-42 (48%) 2’s, 4-16 (25%) 3’s, 10-12 (83%) FT; 38 rebounds, 11 turnovers. Carney team: 7-22 (32%) 2’s, 11-24 (46%) 3’s, 16-24 (67%) FT; 29 rebounds, 11 turnovers.
FP stats: Burns, 15 points, 3 asts; Graff, 12 pts, 8 rebs, 4 asts; Carlson, 11 pts, 4 rebs; Hilberg, 8 pts, 3 blocks; Snell, 7 pts, 5 rebs, 4 asts, 3 stls; Johnson, 6 pts, 2x3, 4 asts. Carney stats: Keenan Lampinen, 12 pts, 2x3; Wade Schetter, 15 pts, 3x3, 4 asts, 4 stls; Jason DuPont, 15 pts, 5x3.
Wolves 14 17 13 19 -- 63
Trojans 6 18 11 27 -- 62
Coming up: The Trojans visit North Central Feb. 26 and wrap up their season at home Feb. 28 against Republic-Michigamme.
The District 127 tournament at Bessemer starts March 4. The Trojans drew a first round bye and face the Wakefield-Marenisco/Watersmeet winner in the first semifinal at 5:30 p.m. March 6. The title game is March 8.
FP is the only team with a winning record in its half of the bracket. The two best win-loss records, Ewen-Trout Creek and Bessemer, are in the other half.