Panthers escape FP’s upset bid in overtime

EWEN—Whatever happens to Ewen-Trout Creek’s boys basketball team after this, the Panthers can thank their lucky stars their season didn’t end in the very first game of the playoffs.
    It very nearly happened. Forest Park surprised them early in their District 127 first round game March 5, putting them in a deep hole they just barely escaped. The Panthers never led the game until overtime but managed to come out on top 46-45.
    E-TC (now 22-1) had fewer problems against Bessemer (66-53) in the semifinals and Wakefield-Marenisco (49-21) in the finals to win the District 127 title and a spot in this week’s Class D regional tournament in Negaunee.
    As for Forest Park (11-10), it was a heartbreaking way for the Trojans to end their season, especially since they led by double digits most of the night. Right to the end of overtime, they battled gamely against a team desperately trying to avoid a huge upset.
    “They truly left everything they had on the floor,” FP coach Chris Nocerini said about his players later.
    But fate just wasn’t on their side. After largely avoiding injury all season, the Trojans suffered a major blow late in the regular season finale against North Central on Feb. 27.
    It happened in the fourth quarter when junior guard Max Nylund jammed his left hand against another player. It didn’t seem too bad at first—Nylund finished out the game—but the hand kept feeling worse, and he finally got it X-rayed.
    The bad news: a broken bone, ending his season. Nylund could only cheer his teammates against the powerful Panthers.
    “In his last four games, Max was really becoming that player that we’ve been waiting for him to turn into,” Nocerini said. “He’s a very intelligent player.
    “When you run a six- to seven-man rotation all season long and you lose one of those kids, it really throws a wrench into things.”

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