Branstrom, Mid Pen shut down Braves

PERKINS – After just one quarter, it was evident that Thursday’s rematch between the Mid Peninsula Wolverines and the Gladstone Braves was going to be a fight back and forth to the bitter end, and it was exactly that.

The Braves held a six-point lead with four minutes remaining, but the Wolverines took over the game and seized the 67-61 win.

“It was close, but they deserved to win,” said Braves coach Phil Griebel. “It was a hard-fought game, and our kids battled. But they started getting momentum playing in front of their home crowd, and I think we self-destructed in the fourth quarter.”

Gladstone (4-2) was able to get some easy penetration into the lane in the opening quarter, and also played well in transition. They traded blows with the Wolverines from the start, as neither team had much difficulty finding baskets. And as the final seconds ticked away in the first, Brett Branstrom put up a 25 footer that sank as the buzzer sounded to tie the game 20-20.

The speed increased even more in the second quarter, but it led to a few more turnovers this time around. Mid Pen took control early on, but Gladstone’s Jared Hunter silenced the crowd with a big three-pointer. Then Blake Ballard scored four very quick points, and Gladstone earned a 29-22 lead.

However, after a couple of Branstrom free throws and back-to-back triples from Chad Branstrom, that five point lead had rapidly become a three-point deficit.

The Wolverines (5-1) held a 34-30 advantage at halftime. Both teams traded baskets for the duration of the third quarter, and some strong play in the paint from Gladstone’s Jared Vuksan brought the Braves right on the doorstep, only trailing 51-50 heading into the fourth.

Just when these players should have started to get worn down, the speed somehow picked up even more. Max Mahoney of the Braves gave his team the lead with the first bucket of the quarter, and his team’s press forced a handful of Wolverine turnovers.

Quick transition buckets by Hunter and Michael Cretens took the crowd out of the game, and it looked like the Braves had the game in hand when they led 59-53.

But from there, the Wolverines ended the game on a 14-2 run led by Brett Branstrom and Evan Winkelbauer. Mid Pen hit shot after shot in the lane to take away Gladstone’s lead, and then Winkelbauer hit a huge three-pointer to tie the game and the crowd went insane. They had regained the control of the game, and their fans were loving it.

Trey Branstrom was fouled, and headed to the line. He missed both free throws, but Brett was there to tip the ball back in on the rebound, and they reclaimed the lead with 49 seconds left.

The Braves were forced to foul and couldn’t knock down the shots they needed as Mid Pen came away with the 67-61 victory.

“It felt really good to play four good quarters, and come out and finally beat them,” said Brett Branstrom, who finished with 22 rebounds.

Wolverines coach Mark Branstrom said that at times, their turnovers resembled the first game against Gladstone. But after a couple of timeouts, he was able to settle his guys down and focus.

“We came out and started executing a lot better,” he said. “I tell them, as long as we’re there at the end of the game, we have a great chance to win. And in the fourth quarter, we picked up the intensity.”

Gladstone, whose freshmen beat Mid Pen’s jayvees, 57-50, resumes Monday at Westwood. Mid Pen resumes Jan. 10, hosting Carney-Nadeau.