EWEN - Too strong. Too physical. Too athletic. And just too darn good.
That described Crystal Falls Forest Park as it captured the MHSAA Class D District 127 Tournament championship game with a 65-50 victory on Friday night.
"I was very happy with our defense," said Trojan coach Chris Nocerini. "That has been our strength all season. We wanted to shut down No. 10 (Kevin Lane) and No. 32 (Colin Gagnon). Lee Graff and Jeff Johnson did the job. We put our big guy (Austin Carlson) in the paint and it was hard for them to drive the middle. It's an advantage to have a 6-7 guy. He asserted himself. He hadn't started for six-seven games, but he did a great job against Watersmeet and tonight.
"Austin Snell and Johnson are seniors playing like seniors. I love coaching those kids. They stepped up tonight. And sophomore Kameron Krajewski played great. We still haven't played our best ball yet."
Wakefield-Marenisco coach Terry Fetters said the game was won in the first half and it was won with defense.
"In the first half, we had a hard time scoring," Fetter said. "They put their big guy in the middle and we couldn't get a shot off. They are big, physical and athletic. But I'm proud of the guys-they played hard right to the end. And I'm proud to be in the championship game. We won two games in the tournament and that's an accomplishment right there.
"Hopefully, we'll get back here next year and take the trophy home. We're still a young team with two freshmen, two sophomores, one junior and one senior. In the last part of the season, we won four of five games and started coming around."
Early on, Forest Park showed why they came into the game as the No. 5 ranked Class D team in the U.P. poll and No. 10 in Michigan.
With the Cardinals in a 2-3 zone, the Trojans' Johnson and Snell buried triples to give Forest Park a 6-0 advantage with 5:49 left in the first quarter.
W-M's Nick Orlich answered with corner shot, but freshman Dan Nocerini knocked down a 10-foot shot and Carlson rolled in a shot as Forest Park went up 10-2.
W-M was having trouble with getting off good shots or having them blocked and Forest Park's Lee Graf finished the quarter with a reverse lay-up off a fast break.
The Trojans led 15-4 after one quarter.
Krajewski splashed a 3 from the-top-of-the-key and Carlson began to assert himself in the second quarter with a left-handed hook and then put up a shot that took two bounces on the rim and went in.
W-M's freshman Robert Demerath picked up a loose ball from a steal and made breakaway lay-up with 18.1 seconds left in the half.
Forest Park out-scored the Cardinals 19-12 in the quarter and took a 34-16 half-time lead into the locker-room.
In the second half, Fetters said W-M changed up its offensive strategy.
"We started using ball screens and there was always one guy left over and we started to get open looks," Fetters said. "Then their big guy went out and we were able to penetrate and get to the basket."
Forest Park started the third quarter with a sharp high-low pass to Carlson who scored easily.
Gagnon buried a 3-ball off an in-bounds pass and after Snell drained a deep 3, Gagnon returned with a drive to the basket in which he shifted the ball to his left hand while in the air and scored.
The Trojans took a 50-31 third quarter lead and both teams played to a draw in the final quarter.
"I saw us do some good things, but then they'd come back and score 4-6 points," Fetters said. "
Nocerini had to be pleased when he looked at the stat sheet. Four Trojans made it into double figures with Snell leading the way with 14-points.
Pat Krause/Daily Globe
HANDS ARE everywhere as Wakefield Marenisco's Tyler Cole (24), drives the lane against Crystal Falls-Forest Park on Friday night in Ewen. Also pictured from CF-FP are Daniel Nocerini, left, and the arm of Austin Carlson. The Trojans defeated the Cardinals 65-50 to advance to the MHSAA Regional Semi-final against Lake Linden-Hubbell.
Carlson garnered 12-points and Graff and Raymond Tomasik chipped in with 11.
The Cardinals also had four players reach double-digit scoring. Freshman Shane Cole was W-M's top gun with 13-points, while senior Tyler Cole notched 11-points. Lane and Gagnon added 10-points.
Wakefield-Marenisco finished the 2013-14 season with a 10-12 record.
The Trojans will take on a tough Lake Linden team in Escanaba on Monday.
We're two familiar foes," Nocerini said.
CFFP - Austin Snell 14, Cameron Davis 1, Ray Tomaski 11, Kameron Krajewski 7, Daniel Nocerini 4, Jeff Johnson 5, Lee Graff 11, Austin Carlson 12 . FTs: 18-25. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: none. 3-pointers: Snell 3, Krajewski 1, Tomaski 1.
W-M - Kevin Lane 10, Shane Cole 13, Tyler Cole 11, Colin Gagnon 10, Nick Orlich 2. FTs: 7-12. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: none. 3-pointers: S. Cole 2, Gagnon 2, T.Cole.
CFFP 15 34 50 65
W-M 4 16 31 50