Here come the Broncos

BR-H gets super district tuneup, drill No. 1 Troy

Dennis Grall | Daily Press Kelsey Boucher of Bark River-Harris dribbles atop the key to get around Forest Park defender Abby Nylund Thursday at Harris. BR-H stunned the top-ranked Trojans 73-60.

HARRIS — Look out Class D. Here come the Bark River-Harris Broncos, and they are really at a strong gallop.

If you don’t believe it, check what they did here Thursday. The Broncos merely took down the Upper Peninsula’s top-ranked Class D team in no uncertain terms, racing to a 73-60 victory over Crystal Falls Forest Park to roll into next week’s district tournament in top form.

“This was great preparation,” BR-H coach Josh Eagle said of what could be considered a statement game. “This is a team (Forest Park) that is clearly one of the top teams in the U.P., if not the best team. It was a great test for us, a launching pad for the girls.”

The Broncos (13-7 overall, 11-3 Skyline Central Conference) were in charge from the get-go and never let up, baffling the Trojans (16-4, 11-3) with a 1-2-2 press that sent the hosts ahead 20-12 after the first period.

“I knew it was going to be tough,” said CFFP coach Jackie Guiliani. “I was very fearful of that. Sometimes ratings are not a good thing. I think I’d like to be the underdog.”

The Trojans won the first meeting 54-41 in game two and have topped the poll the past six weeks (it is seven weeks old). “We played a phenomenal game when we beat them and they played a phenomenal game tonight,” said Guiliani

The pressure defense played a major role as the Broncos took control early. “It looked like we were scared of it in the first half,” said Guiliani. “It rattled us. We made a couple of mistakes and it got into our heads.

“Things were going their way and we didn’t respond the right way.”

Sophomore Cassi Stannard had eight of her game-high and career-best 18 points in the first quarter and was also a key contributor to the defensive pressure, along with five-foot senior guard Kelsey Boucher.

“She was our safety,” Stannard said of Boucher, who dropped back in the middle and then jumped forward to tackle the oncoming Trojans with a particular emphasis on Abby Nylund, CFFP’s senior guard. “She had to watch the middle,” Stannard said. “It was a new defense we came up with. We knew they would play zone and we had to get the ball moving around to get nice open shots.

“Stannard is a madman. She was all over the place, tipping balls,” said Eagle.

Nylund, who had a difficult time finding space, was limited to 10 points, leaving her with 996 career points. Jenna Grabowski had 13 points for the Trojans.

Guiliani did not think the Trojans, or Nylund, were focused on the milestone point mark, noting Nylund is a very unselfish player who puts her team first.

“They know she is our main scorer and they did a good job on her,” said Guiliani.

The Broncos, playing with visible energy all night, doubled up on the Trojans in the second quarter at 28-14, 33-16 and 37-18 before CFFP had a 5-1 burst to end the half. Then the Trojans scored the opening seven points of the third quarter to draw within 40-33, sending some shockwaves through the BR-H bench and vocal fan base.

Stannard hit a basket and Boucher buried a triple to momentarily stem the rally and give the Broncos a little cushion at 47-36. Taylor Honkala hit a triple that cut the deficit to 49-43 but Stannard responded with her own triple 32 seconds later and the Broncos took a 54-45 lead into the final frame.

Eagle pointed out the Trojans made some adjustments and began handling the pressure better after the intermission, but he also noted how his deep bench kept everyone fresh. “We try to tire you out. We are 10-11 deep and I have trust and faith in every girl. Our bench is engaged,” he said.

The Trojans were never able to pull closer than nine points in the final frame, and they became a little chippy down the stretch. “We saw them getting angry and we had to take that under our control,” said Stannard.

Boucher added 13 points for the Broncos, Taylor Ray had 12 points and Megan Robinette had 11 points and was strong on the glass.

“This gives us a big boost,” said Stannard. “We let teams know we’re here to play.”

Eagle said “this game is a continuation of what we’ve been doing. It’s been a journey to get here.” Declining to say the Broncos made a statement for the upcoming district in which the Broncos are now the favorite, Eagle did say “it is game-to-game and if we do what we are supposed to do we will be in every game.”

Guiliani, noting the absence of Becky Kolenda (flu) was a factor in the loss, tried to find a positive in the setback. “This is a very good learning game going into the districts. Sometimes a loss is a good thing,” she said.

The Trojans won the jayvee game 57-47.

Forest Park 12 14 19 15 — 60

BR-Harris 20 20 14 19 — 73

Forest Park — Nylund 10, Scarlassara 4, Honkala 6, Showers 8, Grabowski 13, Logan 4, Cross 15. FT: 19-27; F: 21; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals – Honkala 2, Showers 2, Cross 1.

Bark River-Harris — Welch 7, Halfaday 1, Stannard 18, Demers 2, Greenfield 9, Ray 12, Robinette 11, Boucher 13. FT: 15-26; F: 20; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals – Stannard 2, Ray 1, Boucher 1.


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