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Trojans corral Panthers' offense in district final

 

Jason Juno/Daily Globe

Ewen-Trout Creek's Jake Witt goes to the basket during Friday night's Class D District 127 championship game at Nimrod Nation in Watersmeet.

WATERSMEET - Much of the talk surrounding Friday night's Class D District 127 final was how to defend Crystal Falls Forest Park after a 2-3 zone nearly eliminated them from the tournament earlier in the week.

Ewen-Trout Creek went man and found success there anyway.

It just didn't find any offense itself.

The Trojans won their fourth straight district title with a 46-42 victory over the Panthers in front of a full house at Nimrod Nation.

"We couldn't score the ball tonight, that was the biggest thing," E-TC coach Brad Besonen said. "We held them to 46 defensively. They were able to make enough plays offensively. I thought we took most everything away from them offensively, all their strengths that they like."

Forest Park (21-2) plays Mid-Peninsula Monday night at Negaunee in a regional semifinal. The Trojans, who finished the regular season ranked second in the U.P. in Class D, survived excellent battles from Wakefield-Marenisco Monday and E-TC Friday.

"Very hard-earned district title. Hat's off to the teams that played over here," Forest Park coach Christopher Nocerini said.

The Panthers led most of the first half, but fell behind late in the half when Forest Park was able to drive all the way to the basket. Nocerini had six points in the second quarter - he scored just nine against E-TC's tough D while expending a lot of energy on defense himself- and Kameron Krajewski had nine of his game-high 13 points.

"Kam Krajewski just took control of the game for us," Nocerini said.

It was 23-20 Trojans at halftime.

Besonen said Austin Berglund did a fantastic job on Nocerini; those second-quarter points came without him in there.

"We should have switched Jake (Witt) off of that. We failed to do that and Nocerini hurt us in that little stretch there," he said. "We helped OK on him, but the kid is so springy and he's got so much power in his hips and lower legs that he can drive through that if there's any contact. Good player. I thought his defense was good, too."

Forest Park built the lead as big as seven in the third quarter, but despite getting beat on the boards, E-TC was able to pull within one, 32-31, after three quarters.

"There were a couple that were missed assignments, but five or six of the offensive ones they got, our guys was giving it all they could give," Besonen said. "They were just longer and stronger at the guard position and that just hurt us on the glass. Our bigs really held their own on the glass."

Jake Witt started E-TC's 6-0 run to end the third and Jack Boro finished it with a 3 and a free throw off a putback attempt.

The Trojans scored the first seven of the fourth period.

After E-TC missed two free throws, Adam Hilberg got a transition layup, Forest Park kicked out for a 3 by Billy Ragio and he scored again on a baseline drive to make it 39-31.

E-TC got it down to four once again, 41-37, as Boro got to the basket. But Forest Park kept the ball and made E-TC start using its five fouls to give. That cost a lot of the time E-TC may have been able to come back with.

"It was a little bit too long," Besonen said. "I felt if we could have put them on the line earlier, about 1:10 when we were down six, we could have stretched that game and made the game longer at the end."

Nocerini said, "Senior leadership down the stretch. The kids knew what to do with the ball, to hold it."

He said the Trojans also did a good job controlling Witt (6-6), E-TC's leading scorer, inside.

"Daniel and (Kyle) Soderberg did a great job on the young guy," Nocerini said. "Jacob, he's going to be an excellent player."

Besonen said he saw the 2-3 zone work for Wakefield-Marenisco in its near upset of the Trojans and the same D worked for Lake Linden-Hubbell in its regional win over Forest Park last year.

"I wasn't real comfortable with giving up perimeter shots and hoping they were missing them," Besonen said. "We went with what we know. The guys had the ultimate say in it anyway and they wanted to play man. Even three times within that game, we talked during timeouts, should we switch to it? They didn't want to have anything to do with playing zone. They take pride in their D and I was happy they gloved it up like they did."

Nocerini expected E-TC to play zone, but he also said the Trojans are usually better against a zone than they were Monday night. The Panthers' man defense was solid; it created 16 turnovers.

"They plant the big kid in the middle," he said of Witt. "He's 6-6, he takes away a lot of driving ability. That's a great job by their coach. In the end, we found ways to score."

Had the E-TC offense been closer to its normal self, - or made more than 4 of 11 at the line - the Panthers would have been in a great position as a result of that defense.

"They did a good job of keeping people in front of them and I didn't think we got the ball inside enough in the first half, especially Jake didn't have enough touches," Besonen said. "They were pretty physical on the backside of that and they were allowed to play physical by playing behind, which made it a little bit tougher for Jake. Just feeling that guy in his back discouraged him from even trying to score sometimes. Also, he went to the rim five or six times I felt he probably could have got to the line, we made the seal, we made the great pass over the top, he went up strong and there were bodies around, but he missed and he didn't get any attempts at the line either from those."

E-TC finished at 18-5. Besonen said he'll remember his team's grit the most.

"They never backed down from anybody," he said. "They were just gritty, hard-nosed kids."

Boro, a senior, led E-TC with 11 points and Witt and Landon Maki, a senior, scored 10 each.

"I thought Jack played an outstanding game tonight," Besonen said. "He was a man. It's sad to see him finish his career with a loss, but he can definitely be proud of the game he played tonight. I thought Alan (Goll) had his best defensive game of the season, especially rotation wise. Landon, for being outsized and outphysicaled like that, he played great tonight and all season really."

E-TC - Eli Nordine 1, Alan Goll 3, Landon Maki 10, Austin Berglund 7, Jake Witt 10, Jack Boro 11. FTs: 4-11. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: Goll 1, Boro 1.

Forest Park - Connor Kezerle 2, Kameron Krajewski 13, Daniel Nocerini 9, Billy Ragio 7, Adam Hilberg 5, Kyle Soderberg 10. FTs: 4-6. Fouls: 12. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: Soderberg 2, Ragio 1.

E-TC 9 20 31 42

Forest Park 6 23 32 46

 
 

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