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Speedboys break through Crystal Falls mystique for district semifinal win


March 9, 2017

Jason Juno/Daily Globe

Bessemer's Max Samardich, right, goes to the basket and is fouled by a Crystal Falls Forest Park defender during Wednesday night's MHSAA Class D District 127 semifinal at Republic-Michigamme school.

REPUBLIC - Everyone had seen this before.

Sure, Bessemer was up 11 at halftime, but here was dreaded Crystal Falls Forest Park - even with a sub-.500 9-11 record -with the lead in the fourth quarter, ready to upset the hottest Class D team in the Upper Peninsula outside of North Central.

But the Speedboys made the plays down the stretch, finally dismantling the Crystal Falls' mystique with a 42-38 victory Wednesday night in the MHSAA District 127 semifinal.

It's the first time since 2012 that Forest Park, use to winning in all sports, won't win this district.

"I'm sure every team that's in districts right now wanted Crystal Falls out of it because they have been the winner of it the last numerous years, so it was a big win for us," Bessemer senior Max Samardich said.

Bessemer (15-6) goes for its first district title since 2004 Friday night when it plays Ewen-Trout Creek Friday night in Republic at 6 p.m. CST.

"It means a lot to make it to us to make it to the finals of districts," Bessemer's Ben Bogaczyk said. "We've been hoping for this, us seniors, all of our high school careers. This means the world to us."

Looking clearly like the better team, Bessemer took a 35-24 lead into halftime.

Forest Park slowly worked back into the game and eventually took the lead in the fourth quarter. The Trojans set the tone for their comeback with the first six points of the second half after Bessemer turned it over with a chance to score first in the half following a Forest Park turnover.

"They got physical with us in that half court set," Bessemer coach Richard Matrella said.

Forest Park's Max Nylund splashed a 3 to give the Trojans a 38-36 lead, but Bessemer's Luke Zielinski responded on the next possession by getting to the hoop and converting on a tough basket to tie the game at 38-38 with 1:07 left.

"It was huge because if we don't score there it gives them some momentum and they have the lead and they don't have to play fast or anything," Zielinski said.

Matrella said, "For Luke to be able to get to the basket and get it up and in when you have (Dan) Nocerini and (Jonah Logan) defending him down there – who are both bigger than he is – and Luke gets it up there and it happens to go in for us, it was awesome."

Bogaczyk took a charge on the other end.

"I saw him coming over. I know you have to help on a good player like that," Bogaczyk said. "I just stood in with hands up and took it like you have to."

Matrella said it took a player willing to step in.

"It takes a lot of guts. (Nocerini) is not a small boy," Matrella said. "That was a huge play for us."

The Speedboys weren't able to take the lead when Cade Mazzon was fouled but missed a pair of free throws.

Forest Park didn't take timeout, it missed a shot, got the rebound and threw it away to Mazzon, who was immediately fouled. This time, the sophomore hit both and Bessemer was up 40-38 with 20.8 seconds on the clock.

Mazzon said he was excited for the second chance.

"I missed those first ones and I was very mad. I knew I had to knock them down to get the win," he said.

Coming back and hitting those free throws took a lot of "moxie," Matrella said.

"I think he was feeling it a little bit on the first two," he said. "He rushed through his free throws and when he rushes, he struggles at the free throw line. He pauses, you see the result."

Logan drove hard to the bucket with a chance to tie, but Samardich got a hand in there, forcing the turnover. They were forced to foul Bogaczyk with 8.8 seconds left, and he drained both to make it a two-possession game, 42-38.

"I hit the ball up out of his hands," Samardich said. "I knew they were going to try to foul and Ben was hot with free throws, so I passed it to him."

Matrella said Logan had an open lane to the basket.

"Not only did he knock it loose, but he was able to grab it and he got it to Ben," he said.

Bessemer may have let Forest Park slow the game down and take the lead in the fourth quarter, but the Speedboys came up big when it counted, surviving for their 11th straight win.

Bogaczyk led Bessemer with 14 points. Nocerini, Forest Park's All-U.P. Dream Team football player, also had 14.

Bessemer --- Cade Mazzon 5, Max Samardich 9, Keegan Bolen 2, Luke Zielinski 5, Ben Bogaczyk 14, Brayden Tomes 7. Fts: 14-20. Fouls: 13. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: Zielinski 1, Tomes 1.

Forest Park --- Max Nylund 8, Josh Logan 2, Dan Nocerini 14, Dodge Isaacson 4, Casey Steiro 3, Jacob Frisianco 2, Jonan Logan 5. Fts: 8-11. Fouls: 17. Fouled out: Nocerini. 3-pointers: Steriro 1, Nylund 1.

Bessemer 10 25 33 42

CFFP 8 14 27 38


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