North Central Jets fend off Mid Pen
By Justin Marietti
For The Daily News
POWERS – A great era in Mid Peninsula basketball drew to a close Monday night.
The North Central Jets dropped the Mid Peninsula Wolverines 87-65 in their district opener, and Brett Branstrom played his final game for the orange and white that has become a part of his extended family.
As the game drew to a close, Mid Pen (13-8) coach Mark Branstrom no longer had any time outs. So Jets coach Adam Mercier decided to take one so that Brett could receive the standing ovation he deserved.
“I think he deserves that,” he said. “I wanted to recognize him for the great player and great representative of this conference that he is. He deserved his dues and to be sent off that way.”
In his final game with the Wolverines, Branstrom had a monster performance, putting up a career-high 41 points, 17 rebounds, four blocks, and three assists.
“We knew Brett was going to come with it tonight,” Mercier said. “He didn’t want this to be his last game, and he played like it. I just can’t say enough about him. We had guys on him, he was just unconscious tonight.”
After the crowd erupted during Branstrom’s final bow, he walked to the sideline and took a seat right next to his dad. He simply couldn’t contain himself anymore. He grabbed a towel, put his head on his father’s shoulder, and let it all go.
“It was heartbreaking,” he said. “Five years of my life and everything comes to an end right there. I love the game so much and it just crushed me. I couldn’t keep my emotions in anymore. It was rough.”
He added that one of the hardest parts about leaving Mid Pen basketball behind was the camaraderie that this year’s roster provided.
“This team means more to me than anyone could ever know,” he said. “We’re so close. We had such a good year, and it’s just tough.”
Branstrom also said he appreciated what coach Mercier did for him at the end of the game.
“That was a great moment and he’s a great coach,” he said. “He’s always been good to me.”
As for Brett’s dad, Mark has endured this once before with his son Carl. However, he said it never gets any easier to adjust to.
“It hasn’t sank in yet,” he said. “It’s my son, you know? It’s not like anyone else really. This one is going to be a little harder to swallow, because he’s my youngest boy.”
He added that he wants to give all the respect to North Central for the way they dominated the game.
“We ran up against a major buzzsaw,” Branstrom said. “They all shot like you’d want to see a team in the tournament shoot. Good shooters with good shot selection and patience. We just didn’t have any answer for it.”
The Jets (18-3) will host the Carney-Nadeau Wolves (17-3) Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
Mid Pen 13 15 23 14 – 65
North Central 21 21 22 23 – 87
Mid Peninsula – Richmond 2, B. Branstrom 41, C. Branstrom 6, Stone 3, Lehtikangas 13; FT: 8-14; F: 20; Fouled out: Lehtikangas, Richmond; 3-point field goals: B. Branstrom 6, Lehtikangas.
North Central – Whitens 2, Polfus 18, R. Granquist 14, J. Granquist 16, Vincent 21, Martin 10, Ekberg 4, Ryan 2; FT: 19-26; F: 15; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Polfus 3, R. Granquist, J. Granquist, Vincent.