CRYSTAL FALLS—Who knows how long it’s been since Forest Park last played a boys basketball game on Saturday afternoon?
Judging by how things went Feb. 22, it could be a long time before we see another one.
After the Trojans defeated Niagara 69-34 on Feb. 20, their Feb. 21 game at Carney-Nadeau was moved back to Saturday afternoon when a snowstorm canceled school for the day.
It was a close game between Skyline Conference powers, decided when Carney’s Keenan Lampinen hit a basket with four seconds left. The Trojans couldn’t reply and lost just their second game of the season, 53-51.
“We’re late in February and it’s our second loss of the year,” Coach Chris Nocerini said the next day. “It was just a hard one to swallow.”
With one game left before the district tournament—against unbeaten North Central at home on Feb. 25—the Trojans are 16-2 overall and 11-2 in the Skyline Conference.
At Niagara, the Trojans broke away 21-5 in the first quarter and led 36-15 by halftime.
“The kids ran the floor phenomenally,” said the coach. “That was basically a layup drill going on.” Forest Park had 14 steals (three each by Austin Snell and Jeff Johnson), and the Badgers committed 25 turnovers.
Forest Park had a 47-33 edge in rebounds (led by Daniel Nocerini’s 10), had 76 shots from the floor to Niagara’s 46 and made 39% of its shots. “I don’t think they were ready for our speed.”
Lee Graff scored 20 points to lead the team, Austin Carlson had 11, Austin Snell added eight, and Nocerini had seven. Snell led with five assists, and Kam Krajewski had three more.
Trojans 21 15 19 14 -- 69
Badgers 5 10 10 9 -- 34
At Carney, the game went back and forth before Lampinen hit the winning shot, breaking a 51-51 tie. “They drove the floor, and the kid made a nice play.” The Trojans immediately called a time-out but couldn’t get a shot off before the horn.
“Both teams played very hard defensively,” Coach Nocerini said. “It came down basically to who had the ball last.
“One of those games where you had to be there to really appreciate it. One hell of a ball game.”
Carney had a good start and led the Trojans 17-9 after one, but Forest Park’s shooters counter-attacked in the second quarter, led by Graff and Snell, who put the Trojans ahead 30-25 at halftime.
“A well-fought basketball game. Unfortunately, we came out on the other end of it.” The loss hurt, but the coach said his team’s effort was “phenomenal” in holding Carney to 53 points in its own gym. “By far, it’s the hardest place we go play.”
Graff (10 of 13 from the floor) and Snell (three 3-pointers) powered the Trojans’ offense with 20 points each, but the rest of the team scored just 11. Carney was led by Lampinen’s 22 points and Jason DuPont’s 14, which included four triples.
Forest Park had a big edge in rebounding, 45-33, with Graff getting nine boards, Tomasik getting eight and Nocerini added six more. Graff also had five assists. Team-wise, FP made 38% of its field goals tries, Carney, 34%.
“I’m hoping I can get another crack at them,” the coach said, “because I think they could beat North Central in the district. Carney’s got a tough defense.”
Trojans 9 21 10 11 -- 51
Wolves 17 8 12 16 -- 53
• The season-ending home game against North Central Feb. 25 is important for both teams, but it won’t decide the Skyline title—the Jets became Skyline champs with Carney’s win last Saturday.
After that, FP’s full focus will be on the District 127 tournament at Ewen-Trout Creek. It starts at 6 p.m. Eastern Time (5 Central) on Monday, March 3, when the Trojans take on Bessemer. In the second game, Wakefield-Marenisco plays Republic-Michigamme.
A Trojans win on March 3 means they would play Watersmeet in the semifinals March 5.