BESSEMER - Forest Park turned back a fourth-quarter threat and defeated Ewen-Trout Creek 63-57 to capture the Class D District 127 boys basketball championship Friday.
Coach Chris Nocerini's Trojans (14-8) and Chassell (11-9) will clash Monday night at Negaunee in a Class D Region 32 tournament opener. Chassell, behind Evan Huhta's 18 points, advanced with a 51-49 victory Friday over Lake Linden.
"I knew we were the underdogs in the tournament," Forest Park coach Chris Nocerini said. "But I felt good coming in even though I knew E-TC wouldn't surrender the crown easily. We come out of a tough conference (Skyline) and we've played games like this in a hostile environment all season.
Pat Krause/The Daily Globe Photo
LJ Burns (4) and his Forest Park teammates hoist the Class D District 127 championship trophy Friday after defeating Ewen-Trout Creek.
"We brought a ton of energy and we came out like we weren't losing tonight. To win the tournament is a great feeling."
Forest Park, leading by 14 points in the third quarter and by 13 with six minutes in the final period, saw the margin dwindle to 50-47 with three minutes to go.
The Trojans responded with eight unanswered points from Derek Aberly, Raymond Tomasik, Jeff Johnson and Austin Snell. A triple from ETC's Cole Besonen ended the Forest Park spree.
Aberly and Snell each scored 15 points and Lee Graff added 12 for the Trojans. Tomasik chipped in eight.
Mike Borseth's 23 points paced the Panthers (17-5), who played without leading scorer Dillon Gordon (ankle).
"I thought we could sneak one out tonight," E-TC coach Brad Besonen said. "Our guys laid it out tonight and we can't ask any more of them. The hard thing to swallow was seeing the rest of the guys out there switching roles and Dillon (Gordon) on the bench. And it happened to a great kid who has always busted his butt. If there was a silver lining, the guys learned that by digging down deep and bucking up, they almost won it."
The fans had barely sat down from singing the national anthem, before Crystal Falls Forest Park was out running. After snaring a rebound, Forest Park's Austin Snell went down for a layup and was fouled. He made a 3 the old-fashioned way and gave the Trojans a 3-0 lead at the 7:48 mark.
After baskets by E-TC's Borseth and Cole Besonen, CFFP reeled off eight straight points and took a 13-7 first quarter advantage.
"When we jump out like that, we usually stay ahead," Nocerini said. "Our confidence builds."
At the 7:28 mark of the second quarter, Borseth splashed a triple from the left wing, but Snell answered with a top-of-the-key 3. Forest Park junior Ray Tomasik got a start and responded with a whale of a game. His putback ignited a run in which CFFP went on a 9-2 surge and took a 25-12 lead.
With 1:56 remaining, Borseth was fouled beyond the arc and sank three consecutive free throws. But the Panthers were down 29-22 at the half and Besonen said the culprit was turnovers and steals and Borseth was even more blunt about it.
"We could have won this game if we didn't throw the ball away so much,"Besonen said. "They got lots of layups. We had it if we picked it up from the get-go."
"Our goal was to finish .500 and win the district," Nocerini said. "Now, we want to keep rolling."
Pat Krause of the Ironwood Daily Globe contributed to this story.
CFFP 13 29 41 63
E-TC 7 22 31 57
Crystal Falls Forest Park - Austin Snell 15, L.J. Burns 2, Jeff Johnson 9, Raymond Tomasik 8, Lee Graff 12, Chris Hilberg 2, Derek Aberly 15.. FTs: 10-19, Fouls: 18, Fouled out: none, 3-pointers:Graff 2, Snell 1.
E-TC - Logan Maki 7, Mike Borseth 23, Cole Besonen 11, Nick Hearns 2, Keith Kauss 10, Lane Brown 4.. FTs: 9-14, Fouls: 18, Fouled out: Brown, 3-pointers: Logan Maki 2, Borseth 1, Besonen 1.
...Elsewhere Friday in Michigan tournament basketball, Ryan LaBerge scored 22 points and Houghton downed Ironwood 56-48 in the Class C District 96 final at L'Anse.
The Gremlins drilled six triples in the first half. A foot injury sidelined Ironwood's Adam Mackey, Indianhead Conference East Division Player of the Year.
Norway and Houghton will collide Monday night in a Class C Region 24 opener at Escanaba.