Braves rally, then fall to Maroons

GLADSTONE – In a battle between two of the streakier teams in the Upper Peninsula, it was a game that lived up to its billing. The enigmatic Menominee Maroons powered out to 15 point lead, nearly lost it and then won by 10 in a 65-55 Great Nothern Conference victory over Gladstone Friday night.

The Braves struggled defensively during the Maroons opening 10 minutes as Menominee’s superior athleticism showed. Bryan Hines was a force throughout, hitting four triples – all in the first half, and putting up a game-high 24 points. Defensively, he had his hands on any ball that near his vicinity, racking up nine steals.

The Maroons led 21-8 after an explosive first quarter.

“For whatever reason, we were completely sleepwalking in the first quarter, and then we decided to play with some energy and good things started to happen,” said Braves coach Phil Griebel.

Gladstone’s shooting troubles certainly didn’t last long.

As the second quarter began, Jared Vuksan began a nine-point run for the Braves with a contested layup. Michael Cretens followed with five consecutive points. The teams traded baskets back and forth up and down the court until Jared Hunter really got things rolling for Gladstone. The Braves’ junior forward hit six consecutive points, by virtue of a couple nice steals, rebounds and putbacks. The run put Gladstone within eight at the break.

Vuksan led the Braves with a 15-point effort and added 13 rebounds while Hunter scored 14-points with 11 boards.

The Braves kept the pressure on after halftime as Vuksan came out with a free throw, missed free throw, rebound and putback, followed by a Blake Ballard jumper. After a Menominee timeout, Ballard hit another shot and suddenly it was a one-point game at 34-33.

Then, the wheels fell off the Braves’ comeback wagon.

The Maroons switched to the press and Gladstone simply couldn’t handle it. Hines got rolling again and the Maroons went on an 8-0 run near the end of the quarter.

“We had a little meltdown in the third quarter against their press. It gave them separation and that was the difference in the game,” Griebel said. “That one was there for the taking. I give Menominee credit, but we have them a lot tonight for sure. We turned the ball over way too much.”

Gladstone never seriously threatened again and down the stretch, The Braves had at least 23 turnovers in the contest.

Menominee (8-7, 3-3 GNC) ensured the victory by going 10-for-10 from the line in the final minutes.

Jared Rivard had a double-double for the Maroons with 13 points and 10 rebounds and Jeremy Rivard added 10 points.

For Menominee coach Pete Pericolosi, it was a game plan that worked to near perfection.

“I thought Gladstone struggled the whole night with our press. It took them out of their rhythm,” he said. “We played real well at times. Against their 1-3-1 zone we struggled a bit and turned it over and rebounding we were terrible. But, it’s always nice to come on the road and get a win.”

Gladstone won the jayvee game 61-56 while Menominee took the freshman game 74-56.

Gladstone (6-10, 1-6 GNC) has a week layoff before hosting Escanaba Friday night.