Jets solve Branstrom, rally past Wolverines

POWERS When it comes to big offensive plays, late is always better than never.

Great defense on both sides left Saturday night’s battle between the Mid Peninsula Wolverines and North Central Jets at a virtual standstill after three quarters, with the Jets holding just a 35-34 lead. But some big shots from the Granquist boys early in the fourth put the game in North Central’s hands for good, and they claimed the 57-47 Dual Skyline/Central U.P. Conference victory.

“We played pretty decent most of the game, and it was neck and neck,” said Wolverines coach Mark Branstrom. “We just lost (Rob Granquist) for a few seconds and he made us pay. The momentum changed, and the whole game changed after that.”

Travis Vincent hit a jumper to kick off the fourth quarter. On the ensuing Jets possession, Granquist found himself wide open for one of the first times in the contest, and he opened up for a three pointer. Just moments later, Granquist nailed another triple. And if those two shots weren’t enough, Josh Granquist followed it by driving inside, drawing contact, and draining a huge layup. He knocked down his free throw to complete a 13-2 run by North Central, and they had done enough damage in the opening minutes of the fourth to earn the win. The Jets’ defense allowed them to ride out the game with little hesitation.

“There’s no doubt that they played spectacular defense,” Branstrom said. “But we lost our cool. We didn’t play like we normally play. Once we had a lead on them in their building, we should have known what to do. However, as a team, they just have so many weapons.”

The Wolverines were up 34-28 in the third, but North Central closed the quarter on a 7-0 run to go ahead by one. They extended the run to open the fourth, essentially ending in a 20-2 surge. The Jets outscored Mid Pen 22-13 in the final frame.

Brett Branstrom paced the Wolverines with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Vincent and Rob Granquist led the Jets in scoring with 18 apiece.

“The difference was our defense from our guys off the bench on (Brett) Branstrom,” said Rob Granquist. “I struggled during the first half, but I felt good going into the end of the game.”

Jets coach Adam Mercier agreed with Granquist.

“Our defense did a nice job against him in the fourth quarter and caused those guys to take some tough shots,” Mercier said. “I knew that anyone who had an eight-point cushion was going to have a good chance at winning, because both defenses were playing really well.”

Saturday’s game was the first of three matchups between these teams over the course of nine days. Perhaps the most important is March 4, when they face off in the opening round of the district tournament.

“I think both teams are pretty comfortable with each other,” Mercier said. “We just need to win one game at a time. We’re not worried about who our opponent is, as long as we play our style of basketball going into districts.”

North Central (14-3), which took the jayvee game 69-40, resumes Tuesday, hosting Forest Park.

The Wolverines (11-6) resume tonight, hosting North Dickinson.