North is upset Central as Jets win title

HARRIS – They don’t get much closer or more intense than this one was, folks.

After a crushing start by the North Central Jets in the first half, the Bark River-Harris Broncos clawed their way back to make it a ball game. In the end, there just wasn’t enough time for one final shot, and the Jets won the Class D district championship 70-68 Friday night.

“This is a goal we set at the beginning of the year,” said Jets coach Nikki Laurila. “We didn’t talk about conferences or the season. We had a lot of work to do with this team, but we’re peaking at the right time. This is what we worked so hard for.”

The Jets started the game on a 14-0 run, and Darcy Rochon got the early push for North Central started. she put up 11 points in the first quarter to give her team a 21-10 advantage. They worked their way inside to get easy shots and draw contact. North Central was essentially getting everything they wanted in the first half.

BR-H fought back in the second, but the Jets were able to pad the lead again to close out the second, and they were up 39-24 at the half.

“They came out and everything was clicking for them,” said Broncos coach Joel Schultz. “We got caught up in the environment a little bit, and we got in a big, big hole.”

Rochon finished the first half with 21 points, already surpassing her career-high of 19 points set just Monday at North Dickinson.

The Broncos inched back in the third quarter, turning North Central’s game against them a bit and getting good looks inside. Sarah Madalinski put up a shot to beat the buzzer, and BR-H was only trailing 51-41 heading into the fourth.

The game became a free throw shooting contest, and players began fouling out to close out the contest. However, BR-H came up with some big three-pointers from Madalinski and Kylie VanBrocklin to keep the rally going. Jordyn Hardy added another triple from the corner with eight seconds left to bring the Broncos within two. But BR-H had to continue fouling, and Baylee Wells knocked down a pair of clutch free throws to put her team back up by four.

Madalinski was fouled on a three-point attempt, and headed to the line. She made two of three, making the score 70-68 with less than a second remaining.

The Broncos got their hands on the ball once more on the inbounds pass, but time expired as soon as hands touched the ball, and with that, the Jets crowd stormed the court.

Rochon ended the game with a scorching 32 point effort.

“It felt great, because I usually pick up the team and do my best to keep their spirits up,” she said. “Starting off that well, I knew it was going to be a good game.”

She added that there was no better time to put up a career high than in a game of this magnitude.

“I did it when it counted the most,” she said.

Her sister Dana said that she was so proud of her sister, and proud of her whole team.

“We have a family on this team, and it took a lot to get here,” she said. “It means a lot to us.”

The win not only brought the district trophy back to Powers for the first time since 2008, but it’s also the first time the Jets have defeated the Broncos since they met in the district opener the same year. It snapped a 10-game win streak for BR-H over North Central.

Coach Schultz expressed just how proud he was for what his team was able to do in this game and over the season.

“There’s a lot of teams that wouldn’t have been able to come back from that,” he said. “But when it’s all said and done, I’m as proud of this team as I’ve been of any team, and I wouldn’t trade my team for any other in the state right now. Nothing can be taken away from us or given to us.”

North Central (15-8) advances to play Superior Central (23-0) in the regional opener at Kingsford Tuesday.