Top 10 boys basketball games of the year
No. 8: Wolverines get defensive to upset Wolves
ST. NICHOLAS — It was a clash of two teams going in the opposite direction as Mid Peninsula hosted Carney-Nadeau on Feb. 7.
Mid Pen had just come off a 64-63 overtime loss to Superior Central, while the Wolves were riding a three-game winning streak after taking down North Central 53-52 in overtime.
None of that matter in this one, however, as the Wolverines got over the hump and pulled their biggest upset of the season with a 51-47 win.
“It was big. This was one of the bigger (wins) with this group,” Mid Pen coach Mark Branstrom said after the game.
The game showed what Mid Pen could be at its best — a tough defensive team that could lock down some really impressive shooters.
“This group is full of legitimate workers who just work, work, work,” Branstrom said. “We got fortunate enough and worked hard enough to influence their shooting. Between (Brett) LaFord, (Max) Baumler and (Beau) Koffman, I don’t know if you’re going to find a better threesome than those three. They got some open looks early, but after that they had to fight for any open look they got.”
Despite the differing situations, it was also a match-up of two players who would hit 1,000 career points later in the season in LaFord and Mid Pen’s Zach Englund. To further cement the relationship, both players finished with 18 points apiece.
It was a fourth-quarter showdown as the teams entered the final frame tied 34-34.
The Wolverines used pinpoint shooting, going 5 for 6 in the final eight minutes, to pull ahead of the Wolves.
Michael Englund and Joe McNally each knocked down a big 3-pointer before Dylan Trudell sealed the game with a pair of free throws in the final seconds.
“We’ve had so many close games this year and we could never close it out,” Branstrom said. “Tonight, we finally did it. We’ve been needing to shoot well and tonight we did. Dylan Trudell hit two of the biggest free throws he’s ever going to hit in his life.”
Zach Englund finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Michael Englund followed with 15 points.
Koffman also chipped in 13 points for the Wolves.
The final statistics showed just how good Mid Pen’s defense was.
Mid Pen held a 36-25 rebounding advantage, shot 17 of 40 from the field and committed 15 turnovers. Carney was 19 of 59 and had nine miscues.
“Zach Englund played tremendous defense on Brett LaFord,” Branstrom said.
“LaFord is an All-U.P. player and one of the hardest guys to guard in our area, and Zach just did a hell of a job on him.”
The Wolverines were also able to overcome six more turnovers and fewer shots put up thanks to a dominant performance on the glass.
Branstrom noted that Ben Lehtikangas and Sam O’Neil were unsung heroes rebounding.