Hunter, Wells lead balanced Braves past Wolverines

PERKINS – The Gladstone boys made a bit of uptempo basketball work to their advantage Monday night as they rolled to a 71-44 triumph over the Mid Peninsula Wolverines.

Gladstone, which won for the first time this season, led 20-9 after the first quarter of the non-conference contest.

“I’m happy for the guys,” said Braves’ coach Dale Hongisto. “I thought our intensity was sky high. We attacked the rim and did a lot of other good stuff. I’m their biggest fan. I just want the kids to get some wins.”

Mid Pen was within 13-9 with one minute, 58 seconds left in the opening frame when junior center Alden Pellinen converted on an offensive rebound.

Gladstone (1-3) then finished with first stanza with a 7-0 run, gaining a 20-9 advantage on junior Christian Groleau’s buzzer-beating 23-foot jump shot from the right wing.

“The run at the end of the first quarter was key for them,” said Mid Pen coach Mark Branstrom. “That gave them quite a bit of momentum. This was not our pace, which was good coaching on Dale’s part. We also played pretty lackadaiscal defense. They had the sense of urgency we didn’t have. It’s a shame we couldn’t have given them a better game. We’re a better ball club than we showed tonight.”

Mid Pen trimmed its deficit to 20-12 early in the second quarter on junior forward Trey Branstrom’s 20-foot jumper from the right wing.

Gladstone, however, didn’t allow the Wolverines to get any closer.

“We kind of started in a half-court zone trap (defense), but we weren’t getting what we wanted out of it,” said Hongisto. “We knew they didn’t have many guys (seven) and wanted to push the ball up the floor. We switched to a man-to-man full-court press and I think that wore them down.”

The Braves continued to lengthen their lead in the third stanza, gaining a 50-26 advantage on a layup by senior Dave Dykowski with 3:22 remaining.

Mid Pen then closed the period with a 9-4 run, but still trailed 54-35 heading into the final eight minutes.

Junior guard Tyler Wells and senior forward led the Braves (1-3) with 13 points each. Groleau added 11 in a reserve role. Hunter also had four assists and senior center Max Mahoney led in rebounding with eight.

“Tyler Wells is a bulldog,” said Hongisto. “He’s a coach’s dream. He really works on his game. We have a lot of juniors who play a lot of minutes.”

Junior guard Evan Winkelbauer led Mid Pen (1-3) with 16 points. Pellinen finished with 10 points and eight boards and senior guard Chad Branstrom had nine points and 10 rebounds.

“Alden did a good job tonight,” said coach Branstrom. “We’re the type of team that has to stop people from scoring and right now we’re not doing it. I knew they were coming after us and the kids knew it, too. But you have to prepare for that.”

Gladstone held a 43-27 rebounding advantage, hit 28-of-69 field goals and committed 15 turnovers. Mid Pen was 17-of-62 from the field and had 19 miscues.

“The one thing we didn’t do well is finish shots,” said Hongisto. “We left some points out there.”

Gladstone hosts three games next week, including Ishpeming on Monday. The Braves then face Mid Pen (Jan. 2) and St. Ignace (Jan. 4).

In the preliminary game, the Gladstone freshmen beat the Mid Pen jayvees 65-31.