FP boys put it together to win district title
The Forest Park Trojans captured the District 99 championship trophy with a 59-54 victory over North Central on March 1 at Eddie Chambers Gymnasium. The Trojans advanced to the regional round where they will face Bessemer on Tuesday.
CRYSTAL FALLS—The Forest Park Trojans had an admittedly herky-jerky regular season. One win here, one loss there. Two wins here, two losses there. No, the Trojans never really got any serious traction going during their pretournament season, except as it turns out, in their final game - a double overtime victory over Carney-Nadeau.
But in high school basketball, the regular season is really just a training ground in many ways. No matter what a team’s record, every squad gets a chance to win one of the coveted prizes, a district championship.
And boy did the Trojans take advantage of their “chance.” Coach Chris Nocerini’s team began the District 99 tournament with a 70-42 rout of North Dickinson at Eddie Chambers Gymnasium on Feb 26 and the Trojans followed that with a 59-54 triumph over visiting North Central on March 1 to capture their first district title in three years.
“It was a great week of basketball,” Nocerini said. “The Carney game bled into the North Dickinson game and the North Dickinson game bled into the North Central game. We got on a streak at the perfect time.”
Tommy Showers dominated in the paint with 15 points and 10 rebounds while Riley Hendrickson also scored 15 points, including a title-clinching 9 of 10 free throws in the final minute and a half as the Trojans (11-11) advanced to the regional, where they will face Bessemer (16-4) on Tuesday in Negaunee.
As Hendrickson dropped one free throw after another, the realization of their accomplishment began to hit Nocerini and senior Max Nylund, whose 10 points in the opening quarter got his team off and running to a 17-8 advantage.
“Max looked at me with a smile on his face from ear-to-ear,” Nocerini said “He was, like, ‘We’re going to get it.’”
And they did, with a combination of a blazing start, some resilience in the middle and a flourish at the end.
Nylund sank a jumper and Hendrickson buried a 3-pointer as the Trojans jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead. Later in the quarter, Nylund delivered two three-point plays as Forest Park grabbed a lead it would never relinquish against a North Central team which was playing without its tallest player, injured senior Brady Eichmeier.
Without the 6-foot-5 Eichmeier, the Jets (14-8) went with essentially a five-guard lineup and the Trojans took advantage on the interior. But North Central’s smallish lineup was athletic and quick, and those factors helped bring the Jets back into the fray as they cut a 24-13 deficit to five at halftime with Noah Gorzinski scoring eight of his game-high 19 points.
FP extended its lead to 48-38 midway through the final quarter, prompting Nocerini to begin anticipating a championship.
“When we were up 10 points, I started thinking we were going to win,” he said. “But then I thought, this is not over.”