Mid Pen holds back Forest Park, 52-49

By John Vrancic

For The Daily News

PERKINS – Mid Peninsula senior Brett Branstrom has turned in plenty of monster games for the Mid Peninsula boys this basketball season, including Wednesday night when he collected 21 points and a school-record 34 rebounds.

As it turned out, the Wolverines needed every one of those and then some to hang on for a 52-49 triumph over the Forest Park Trojans.

Branstrom, who opened the second half scoring with a tip-in for a seemingly comfortable 31-12 advantage, did all his damage despite often being double and triple-teamed by Trojan defenders down low.

“We’ve seen that all year, but Brett knows how to handle that,” said Mid Pen coach Mark Branstrom. “He did an unbelievable job on the boards, plus our scoring was somewhat balanced. This is a big win for us. We had to stop the bleeding (after falling to Bark River-Harris 53-45 Tuesday night). We have another big game Friday night (against Munising at home).”

Brett’s performance has also left quite an impression on Forest Park coach Chris Nocerini.

“I’ve been watching Brett for five years,” said Nocerini. “What he does is he takes away your inside game. No doubt, he’s a load.”

Mid Pen’s advantage reached 33-12 when senior forward Ryan Lehtikangas converted a layup early in the third stanza.

Forest Park then responded with an 8-0 run, pulling within 33-20 on a layup by junior guard Austin Snell midway through the period.

Mid Pen (8-5 overall, 6-3 Skyline) temporarily stopped the bleeding on a 10-foot jump shot by sophomore Alden Pellinen for a 35-20 advantage with 3:40 left in the third.

The Wolverines, however, failed to score through the remainder of the period, and Snell sank a pair of jumpers from the lane to pull the Trojans within 35-24 entering the final eight minutes.

Snell added four 3-point shots in the fourth frame, including a 21-foot jumper to pull Forest Park (7-5 overall, 4-3 league) within 49-46 with 33.8 seconds left to play.

Then, in the final 20 seconds Brett Branstrom drove through the boulevard for a layup and added a free throw to put the Wolverines up 52-46.

Snell, who finished with 26 points, added a 22-foot jumper at the final buzzer.

“It’s amazing what can happen when kids start believing in themselves,” said Nocerini. “I thought we came out of the gate very timid. We were afraid to challenge Brett. At halftime, we decided to go to a full-court game because we felt we had nothing to lose. We also decided to go to a half-court trap (defense) and it created some points for us.”

The Wolverines held a 51-42 rebounding advantage, hit 21-of-55 field goals and committed 17 turnovers, many of those against Forest Park’s half-court trap.

The Trojans finished 20-of-74 from the floor and had 12 miscues.

“We have good guards,” said Nocerini. “I thought we took good care of the ball. Only, our shots weren’t dropping. We tell the kids when that happens, we have to create somewhere else.”

Sophomore Lee Graff added 10 points for Forest Park.

Forest Park, which won the jayvee game 62-33, hosts Rapid River Friday.

Forest Park 6 6 12 25 – 49

Mid Pen 16 13 6 17 – 52

Forest Park – Snell 26, Burns 2, Johnson 7, Tomasik 2, Graff 10, Aberly 2. FT: 3-6; F: 21; Fouled out: Johnson; 3-point field goals: Snell 4, Graff 2.

Mid Peninsula – T. Branstrom 8, B. Branstrom 21, C. Branstrom 9, Lehtikangas 6, 8. FT: 8-21; F: 13; Fouled out: Richmond; 3-point field goals: B. Branstrom, C. Branstrom.