Target locked in! Lee Graff fires at the Nordics net as defenders Reggie Johnson and Hunter Mattson move in too late.
CRYSTAL FALLS—When North Dickinson visited Forest Park on Jan. 21, it ended with the Trojans’ narrowest win of the year, 71-67.
In the rematch Feb. 4, the Nordics roared back from far behind with a 23-14 fourth quarter, but Forest Park still wound up on the good side a 57-55 score. A win’s a win.
After a 57-41 victory at Rapid River Feb. 7, the Trojans enter this week with a 12-1 record, 9-1 in Skyline Conference play.
As the North Dickinson game neared, Coach Chris Nocerini said he was worried how his team would react to its first loss this season, a few days earlier at North Central. “New territory for us.”
Helped by a pair of threes, ND scored 12 straight to take an early 12-4 lead before Daniel Nocerini converted a three-point play and Jeff Johnson hit a three. Two more ND triples put them ahead 20-12 after one.
But after leading 22-12 early in the second quarter, the Nordics’ hot hands froze up quickly, and the Trojans got their potent offense rolling, outscoring ND 17-2 for a 29-24 halftime lead. Lee Graff scored eight during that run, and Raymond Tomasik chipped in with four.
Johnson’s triple early in the third and another early in the fourth put the Trojans ahead 46-34, but the Nordics started a new rally in the final quarter (Noah Berg’s two, Hunter Mattson’s three) that sliced the lead down to six, and it was a footrace from there. Two baskets each by Graff and Tomasik kept FP in front 56-49 with 1:33 left.
Then the foulfest started. ND had to foul three times to put the Trojans in the bonus, and Colin Roell’s three with 40 seconds left cut the lead to four, 56-52.
Next, three more Nordic fouls. FP missed all three front-ends on one-and-ones but limited the damage by grabbing most of the rebounds, and ND missed its only shot.
With 1.6 seconds left, Kam Krajewski made a free throw (57-52) and missed the second. Logan O’Neil 3-pointer hit the twine as the horn sounded, but FP still had a 57-55 win.
“Give them credit,” Nocerini said. “They hit some shots at the end of the game that were just crazy.”
Nocerini, Johnson and Graff scored 12 each for Forest Park, Tomasik scored 10, and Krajewski added seven. For ND, Justin Clark led with 17, O’Neil had 14 and Berg scored seven.
Tomasik pulled down 13 rebounds, Nocerini had nine and Graff had six. Snell had six assists and four steals. Graff had six steals.
Trojans 12 17 14 14 -- 57
Nordics 20 4 8 23 -- 55
The Trojans had their offense working well at Rapid River, jumping away to an 18-3 first quarter lead and making onlookers wonder which team had just come off a two-hour bus ride.
“I attribute that to the intensity we brought out on the defensive end of the floor,” Coach Nocerini said. “We did a nice job,”
Ahead 36-16 at halftime, the Trojans worked on their patience game in the third quarter, spreading the floor and luring the Rockets away from the net. Rapid River made a run, including a pair of threes, “but the defense buckled down again, and they took off.”
The coach’s main concern was Hayden Hardwick, who scored 34 at North Dickinson two nights earlier, as the Rockets buried 15 triples. Against FP, Hardwick was held to seven, and the Rockets made only four triples.
“We assigned Lee [Graff] and Daniel [Nocerini] to Jake Pearson and Hardwick. And you can see in the books, it worked.” The two Rocket Men combined for just 19 points, with two triples.
Guards Jeff Johnson and Austin Snell had strong games.
Johnson had five steals, and Snell was 7 of 8 on free throws.
Nocerini led FP with 19 points and nine rebounds. Graff had 14 points, six boards, and Tomasik had eight caroms. Snell and Krajewski both scored seven. The Trojans were 40% from the field and 60% from the line.
Trojans 18 18 6 15 -- 57
Rockets 3 13 16 9 -- 41
• The Trojans play three games this week, all at home: Feb. 10 vs. Florence, Feb. 11 vs. Republic-Michigamme and Feb. 14 vs. Bark River-Harris. Then they get a break before back-to-back games at Niagara (Feb. 20) and Carney-Nadeau Feb. 21).