PERKINS - The North Central Jets are heading into the district tournament exactly as they intended to - on a win streak.
They dropped the Mid Peninsula Wolverines Thursday night for the second time in six days, an ideal predicament, seeing as they will face each other once again Monday night in the district opener at Powers.
It was all North Central to open up the first quarter, as a solid team effort on the offensive end allowed them to run out to a 23-11 lead.
Justin Marietti | Daily Press
Brett Branstrom of Mid Peninsula puts up a shot as a slew of North Central defenders look on during the second half of their game Thursday, in Perkins. The Jets won 54-41.
"They hit us right from the start," said Wolverines coach Mark Branstrom. "My kids are pretty resilient and they've been through a lot, but for whatever reason we didn't answer the bell. They got that separation right away and we just couldn't overcome it."
The Jets (17-3) spread the ball around well, with four of five players scoring in the opening quarter.
Mid Pen (13-7) settled in and worked their way back into the game early in the second, going on a 7-2 run. As the quarter progressed, energy was running high, and then Brett Branstrom threw down an emphatic dunk. Afterward, he let out what a scream that would best be titled a war cry, and the Wolverines had taken back a little bit of the momentum.
North Central 23 10 11 10 - 54
Mid Peninsula 11 13 10 7 - 41
NORTH CENTRAL - Polfus 8, R. Granquist 9, J. Granquist 9, Vincent 9, Ekberg 19; FT: 1-6; F: 11; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Polfus 2, R. Granquist 1, J. Granquist 1, Ekberg 1.
MID PENINSULA - Richmond 8, B. Branstrom 24, C. Branstrom 2, Stone 2, Lehtikangas 5; FT: 2-5; F: 7; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: B. Branstrom 3.
"That was such a good dunk," said Jets coach Adam Mercier. "A 7-2 run could have easily turned into a 12-2 run. But we were able to play really good defense after that dunk."
He added that after getting that initial lead, getting some key stops down the stretch was the key to victory.
"We were able to protect the hoop more often in the second half," he said. "But we were hoping Brett wasn't going to go off, because he looked like he was going to."
After a Branstrom triple in the third quarter, the Wolverines were able to cut the lead to six. But that was as close as they were able to get. Tyler Polfus answered back with a three-pointer of his own, and the Jets were able to push the lead back up to 10 at the end of the third.
"In the fourth quarter, we were able to play some ball possession and keep the clock on our side," Mercier said. "Our guard play was also solid tonight, and our defensive effort was really good."
Coach Branstrom added that part of the problem was allowing North Central to get into an offensive rhythm.
"We gave up way too many good looks," he said. "We gave up 41 percent from the field."
In regards to Monday's district game, Branstrom said that he isn't worried about it, he's just going to focus on correcting the problem areas.
"These two teams playing each other, it should be neck and neck," he said. "We just gave them the opportunity to push ahead tonight."
Mercier said that his team has been playing very good basketball the past two weeks, and he hopes it can continue over into next week.
"There should be some momentum," he said. "We have the advantage of playing at home, and we've seen this team twice now so I'm hoping our kids are somewhat familiar with their game. Either way, it's going to be a battle. Mid Pen kids don't quit. We're going to come ready to play on Monday."
Branstrom led all scorers with 24 points, in addition to 17 rebounds and four assists. Trevor Ekberg paced the Jets with 19, while Rob Granquist, Josh Granquist, and Travis Vincent all had nine points.
North Central also took the jayvee game 50-36.