Trojans run past Broncs in front of ’56 champs
Forest Park’s Billy Ragio makes the most of a seam between two Norway defenders and goes in for a shot during their game Feb. 16.
CRYSTAL FALLS—With all kinds of motivation around, Forest Park’s boys team—and Connor Kezerle—came out firing during their game against Bark River-Harris here Feb. 19.
The Trojans scored 16 points in the first quarter, and the Broncos never recovered, falling 54-35 at the Eddie Chambers Gym.
Combined with a 47-35 nonconference win over Norway on Feb. 16, it boosts the team’s record to 15-1 overall and 9-1 in the Skyline Central Conference.
Just before the game, team members watched a touching ceremony honoring Crystal Falls’ 1956 state championship basketball team, its players and coach.
But instead of 60 years ago, this year’s team only had to think back one month for inspiration—a 45-44 escape at the Broncos’ corral on Jan. 18. Forest Park won but was far from its best.
“We had a bad taste in our mouth from the last game,” Kezerle explained after the game. “We just wanted to get revenge on them, start out strong, push the ball up the floor and get things going.
“We did a pretty good job doing that tonight.”
The Broncos won the opening tip and scored, but FP’s Adam Hilberg scored right away and Kam Krajewski converted a rebound in the lane for a 4-2 Trojans lead.
Then it was Kezerle’s turn. A three from high on the left—bang! A steal and a fast break bucket—boom! A drive down the lane for two more. Then he was fouled while shooting and made both free throws.
That made it 13-2, and Kezerle had scored nine in a row.
“I was just feeling it early tonight,” he shrugged. And yes, the 1956 team’s ceremony played a part.
“We were all pretty revved up to go. Coach got us all pretty fired up. He said, ‘Why don’t you guys go out there and start writing your own story?’”
The Broncos briefly cut the gap to nine as the first quarter ended, but FP led by 16 by halftime and by as much as 25 in the fourth quarter. Kezerle led FP’s scoring with 14 points, Ragio had 12, Daniel Nocerini added nine and Kyle Soderberg scored six. No Bronco player finished with more than six.
Since the first encounter, coach Chris Nocerini said, the team had studied film as they prepared for the rematch. When the Broncos used the same defense, “We were well prepared for it, and we did a good job. We were patient with our ball movement, we spread them out and moved the ball around nice.