GLADSTONE - The Gladstone Braves have been making good use of their deep bench lately and with good results. The Braves' second five played a key role and then hung on for a 68-61 non-conference victory over Mid Peninsula Tuesday evening.
In a high octane first quarter, Brett Branstrom kicked things up a notch when he delivered an emphatic dunk minutes into the game. Not long afterward however, Gladstone's Dave Dykowski put a monster block on Branstrom the next time he tried driving inside. Mid Peninsula's star center initially took exception. The two players battled throughout the quarter with explosive results.
"We had some words for each other," admitted Dykowski. "But it's all good competition. It was pretty much, play good defense and defend the press well. We knew (Branstrom) would be a good scorer and we tried to stop him."
Keith Shelton |?Daily Press
Mid Peninsula center Brett Branstrom powers his way to the basket as Gladstone’s Justin?Pederson defends Tuesday night at Gladstone. Branstrom had a game-high 22 points.
Keith Shelton |?Daily Press
Gladstone’s Joey Godfrey (14)?goes up for a layup as Mid Peninsula’s Brett Branstrom defends during their game Tuesday night in Gladstone.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Gladstone's Michael Cretens jumps for a layup as Mid Peninsula's Brett Branstrom defends during the first quarter of their game Tuesday.
Branstrom had seven points before the block, but didn't score again until under a minute remained in the second quarter.
Dykowski also contributed on the offensive end, getting four first-half points while grabbing a few rebounds, as he got some good looks under the net. Also coming off the bench in the first quarter was Joey Godfrey, who sunk a key triple and scored five points.
"I thought the first half especially, we moved the ball really good on offense. I thought we were working well together and got some good screens, some good rolls and some good buckets," said Gladstone coach Phil Griebel. "I thought what was key in the first half, was when I put the second five in there, with Dykowski and Godfrey, they brought a lot of energy. It kind of changed the momentum when Dykowski got the block."
Mid Peninsula 17 6 19 19 - 61
Gladstone 16 21 16 15 - 68
Mid Peninsula - Winkelbauer 10, T. Branstrom 8, B. Branstrom 24, C. Branstrom 4, Lehtikangas 15. FT: 9-11; F: 14; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Winkelbauer 2.
Gladstone - R. Ballard 4, Kleiman 4, Pederson 2, Godfrey 5, Cretens 17, B. Ballard 12, Hunter 11, Vuksan 10, Dykowski 4. FT: 12-19; F: 14; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Godfrey, Cretens 3.
Gladstone erased a seven-point deficit but trailed 17-16 entering the second quarter. The Braves then took the lead right away on a putback by Jared Hunter. Gladstone then added back-to-back buckets by Jared Vuksan and then consecutive field goals from Blake Ballard to take a 26-19 lead.
"A couple things happened," said Wolverines coach Mark Branstrom. "When they came back and went up by three, and then up five, it was like the kids were just standing around.
"It was hard for me to accept because it was the first time I've seen them do that."
Defensive breakdowns continued for Mid Pen and the Braves took advantage, breaking the game open and took a 37-23 lead into halftime.
"Gladstone had some personnel changes where they were switching in a lot of people on us, but our core group of six people that are pretty used to playing the whole game," said Branstrom. "We looked to be a little bit in awe of them and then at halftime I told them, you're more than capable of playing with this team."
The Wolverines lived up to that statement. By the end of the third quarter, the closed Gladstone's lead to 53-42. Then Brett Branstrom sparked the rally attempt in the fourth quarter. Branstrom and Ryan Lehtikangas powered the Wolverines to within three points. Mid Pen got a flurry of points off the fast break and caught the Braves snoozing on a lot of easy buckets.
"You don't ever see Ryan Lehtikangas out there," said Branstrom. "You don't notice him until his little arms come sneaking out and he grabs a rebound in the middle of all those giants."
Lehtikhangas scored a season-high 15 points and Brett Branstrom scored 24 points with 17 rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks. Chad Branstrom secured six rebounds.
With Gladstone clinging to a 62-59 lead and just over one minute remaining, the Braves locked down. Gladstone got some advantageous looks on their fast break and Ballard sunk four consecutive free throws. Michael Cretens then went 2-for-4 in his two trips to the charity stripe. Mid Pen was held scoreless over the final minute until Branstrom got one last dunk in before the buzzer.
The Braves received excellent balanced scoring, getting four in double figures for the second consecutive game. Cretens had a team-leading 17 points followed by Ballard (12), Hunter (11) and Vuksan (10). Hunter had six rebounds.
"They're a very good, well-coached team," said coach Branstrom. "The four they have - Vuksan, Hunter, Cretens and Ballard, don't miss, and if they go to the free throw line, that's a problem. We normally shoot a lot of free throws and tonight it was just the opposite."
Griebel was concerned about nearly blowing a big lead.
"In the second half, as the score got more and more close, we got more tentative on the offensive end," he said. I don't know why. I don't know if we were tired or what. We were sleeping on the fast break though. We're going to fix that."
Gladstone (3-1), which also won the jayvee game 42-30, travels to Westwood on Thursday, while Mid Peninsula (3-1) hosts Rapid River on Dec. 28.