Forest Park players crash in on a loose ball that Carney-Nadeau’s Dionte Blahnik tries to keep for himself. Surrounding him are Mitch Bal, Jeff Johnson (behind Bal), Lee Graff and Austin Snell on the right.
CRYSTAL FALLS—You want intensity? Forest Park’s boys team got all the intensity it could handle last week, but the Trojans and their fans have to be pleased how it all turned out.
The Red and Black survived a fourth quarter rally against North Dickinson on Jan. 21, winning 71-67, and then turned away Carney-Nadeau 54-50 on Jan. 24.
That makes them 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the Skyline Conference, with a showdown against fellow unbeaten North Central coming up this Friday, Jan. 31.
“The past two games,” said Coach Chris Nocerini after the Carney game, “have been district atmosphere, and they’ve ended like district games.
“It’s a journey to March. We didn’t make the mistakes tonight that we made in Iron River [in their overtime win a week earlier]. In the last seconds of the game, we took care of the ball. We realized we didn’t need to score.”
Against the Nordics, the Trojans seemed to have things in control, leading 55-40 after three quarters. But before it was over, they had to fight off a furious Nordic rally.
It came on sharp shooting—ND made 8 of 19 shots in the fourth quarter, including five 3-pointers. For the night, ND made nine triples. The Trojans only had one.
The Nordics also had a 16-10 edge at the free throw line. FP made 10 of 22 freebies overall but just 2 of 6 in the final 40 seconds, keeping ND’s hopes alive.
ND’s Justin Clark exploded with 13 of his team’s 15 points in the first quarter, including a trio of threes, boosting the Nordics to a 15-12 lead after one. A late 8-0 Forest Park rally put the home team in front 33-31 at halftime.
The Trojans seemed to take control in the third quarter, outscoring ND 22-9 for a 55-40 lead after three, getting eight from Daniel Nocerini, seven from Raymond Tomasik and five by Lee Graff. But the Nordics struck back in the fourth frame, on 10 points from Reggie Johnson. A 3-pointer by Colin Roell got them within five with three minutes left.
It got scary after that, but Nocerini’s rebound hoop restored a seven-point lead with 1 ½ minutes to play, and the Trojans were able to hold on.
Tomasik led FP’s scoring with 15 points, Nocerini scored 14, Austin Carlson had 11 and Graff had nine. Nocerini led with 13 rebounds, Snell and Nocerini had five assists each, and Graff had four assists plus five steals. Carlson recorded two blocks.
Clark led ND with 31 points (four triples), Johnson finished with 14 and Logan O’Neil added 12.
Nordics 15 16 9 27 -- 67
Trojans 12 21 22 16 -- 71
Three nights later, Carney and Forest Park traded the lead seven times. The last lead change came with 4:40 left when Graff scored from just left of the basket, part of a 9-2 Forest Park run.
A two and a three by Carney’s Manuel Duran tied it 45-45 with 2:20 left, but Nocerini’s basket off Graff’s pass and then Graff’s steal and layup put the Trojans ahead for keeps.
Nocerini (7) and Jeff Johnson (6) led the fourth quarter scoring for FP. Johnson led the team with 15 points (12 in the second half), Nocerini scored 11 and Graff and Austin Carlson each scored 10.
Carlson eventually fouled out for FP, but his play was key after Carney built a 19-11 lead in the second quarter. The big junior scored three straight baskets on short passes or putbacks, part of a 10-1 Trojan rally. A pair of Johnson free throws put the Trojans ahead 21-20 at halftime.
“There was no answer when Carlson was on the floor,” his coach said later. Carney had its best success driving to the basket, but Carlson “altered their shots and altered the game.”
Meanwhile, Graff and Nocerini switched on Dionte Blahnik all night, limiting him to seven points.
“The defense was the key to the night. If you can hold a team like that to 50, I’m a very happy coach.”
The Wolves’ aggressive style seemed to bite them in the rear: Four players (two starters) fouled out during the fourth quarter. Carney was called for 24 fouls to FP’s 15 for the night, and the Trojans had a big 18-6 edge in free throws made—nothing to sneeze at in a four-point win.
Keenan Lampinen scored a game-high 17 points for Carney, Duran scored 10 and Jason DuPont had nine. Lampinen (on a charging call) and Blahnik both fouled out midway through the fourth quarter.
Wolves 9 11 16 14 -- 50
Trojans 7 14 13 20 -- 54
• It’s a busy week for the Trojans, who were scheduled to make up their postponed Kingsford game on Jan. 27 and will host Mid Peninsula Jan. 28—until the subzero weather returned.
On Jan. 31, they challenge top-ranked North Central for the first time this year on the Jets’ floor. It’s their first meeting since the Jets defeated FP 59-50 in last spring’s regional title game on their way to the state semifinals.
The Trojans visit North Dickinson on Feb. 4 and Rapid River on Feb. 7.