Poma, Rockets get first win

RAPID RIVER – Taking care of the basketball helped the Rapid River boys take care of the lead for the most part Saturday night in a 56-48 triumph over the Mid Peninsula Wolverines.

Rapid River committed just six turnovers in the dual Central U.P./Skyline Conference match-up, all of which took place in the first half, while presenting coach Richard Poma with his first victory.

“It felt pretty good to finally win one,” said Poma. “There was also a big sense of relief among our guys. I think our guards gained some confidence. They made real smart passes and good decisions.”

Mid Pen finished with 10 miscues, including none in the fourth quarter.

“We made some mistakes early in the game and couldn’t make up the difference,” said Mid Pen coach Mark Branstrom. “We didn’t box out on free throws, although it wasn’t for lack of effort. Eliminating the mental errors and boxing out are things that can be taught. We’re proud of the way we played in the second half.”

Rapid River (1-4 overall and Skyline, 1-3 CUP) took a 24-18 advantage into the halftime locker room on a buzzer-beating 21-foot jump shot from top of the key by senior forward Hayden Hardwick.

The Wolverines (1-4 overall, 1-3 Skyline, 0-2 CUP), however, rallied to take a 31-28 lead on a jumper from the lane by junior center Alden Pellinen with three minutes, three seconds left in the third stanza.

“At halftime, we told the guys to come out with a lot of intensity,” said Poma. “I was a little concerned when they took the lead. Mid Pen never lays down and dies for anybody. They’re disciplined. You have to be ready. It’s always a good game when we play them. Playing this well against a good coach makes you feel good, too. Mark does a great job with his guys.”

Hardwick tied the count at 31 on a 22-foot set shot from the left wing 13 seconds later and put the Rockets ahead to stay (33-31) by converting on an offensive rebound with 1:40 left in the third.

The Rockets led 37-33 after the third frame and extended their cushion to 41-33 on a pair of free throws by Hardwick early in the fourth.

“Hayden stepped up and played his best game,” said Poma. “He was under control all the time.”

Mid Pen, however, climbed within 43-39 on a 12-foot jumper by Pellinen with 5:15 remaining.

Rapid River responded with a 7-1 run, gaining a 50-40 advantage on a 10-foot jumper by senior center Jake Pearson with 2:40 left to play.

Pearson finished with 23 points and Hardwick had 18 for the Rockets, who hit 20-of-58 field goals and 12-of-25 free throws.

“Both of their big guys had good games,” said Branstrom. “In order to contain them, you have to deny them the ball and eliminate their penetration. Those two guys are tough. Our shot selection early in the game was not good, but that got better as the game progressed. I think the intensity was there both ways. This was a good, clean game by both teams.”

Senior guard Evan Winkelbauer paced the Wolverines with 23 points. Senior forward Chad Branstrom added 12.

Mid Pen finished 16-of-46 from the field and 11-of-18 from the line.

“I was very impressed with Winkelbauer and (Chad) Branstrom,” said Poma. “I was a little disappointed in our free throw shooting, but we made some adjustments and big improvement overall.”

Mid Pen had just six available players. Junior guard Trey Branstrom was out with an ankle injury and sophomore Damian Richmond continues to nurse an injury.

“That’s the way it goes,” said coach Branstrom. “You play the cards you’re dealt.”

Rapid River, which also won the jayvee game 46-28, is idle until Jan. 9 when its Munising. Mid Pen visits Gladstone Thursday.

Mid Peni 12 6 15 11 – 48

Rapid River 13 11 13 19 – 56

Mid Peninsula – C. Branstrom 12, WInkelbauer 24, Stone 3, Pellinen 4, Barron 5. FT: 11-18; F: 18; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: WInkelbauer 4, C. Branstrom.

Rapid River – Bero 2, Evans 7, Hardwick 18, Parrett 3, Pearson 23, Boyer 3. FT: 12-25; F: 15; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Hardwick 2, Evans, Parrett.