Foul-line blues for Braves

GLADSTONE – Missed free throws will catch up to a team and Friday night, Gladstone was a victim of their own performance from the line as they were defeated 54-52 by Menominee in a Great Northern Conference matchup.

“If you look at the book we’re 6-of-15 from the line and it probably cost us,” said Braves head coach Dale Hongisto. “I told them it was fools gold the other night, we went to Gwinn and went 9-for-25 and won, we need to convert on the line against good teams and tonight it got us.”

Menominee didn’t shoot the lights out from the line (12-20) but they made the big ones down the stretch including a pair by Adam Nolde with 6.6 seconds remaining that gave the Maroons a 54-50 lead.

Head coach Pete Pericolosi was confident in his sophomore as he stepped to the line for a 1-and-1.

“We were going to foul if he missed one so they couldn’t shoot the three and I told him he was going to make it,” Pericolosi said. “He hasn’t missed all year. He’s 10-for-10 from the line. We wanted him to have the ball the time before that and he got rid of it but that’s a learning experience, he should have kept it there and got fouled because he’s money from the line.”

The game was a back-and-forth battle all night as neither team never held more than a seven point advantage. The Maroons built the biggest lead of the game when Nolde hit a 3-pointer out of a timeout with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter that put them up 48-41.

The Braves responded on the next play with a 3-pointer from Jared Hunter. Tyler Wells sunk a bank shot on the next possession to pull Gladstone within two, 48-46.

“We were down five and it felt like we were down 20 and then we stuck with it and got some big shots,” Hongisto said. “We got really good performances again tonight, Jared Hunter and Tyler Wells were excellent again.”

Hunter scored a game high 23 points, including connecting on 4-of-8 3-pointers. Trailing 51-48 with 20 seconds left, Hunter got a look at a 3-pointer in the far left corner that came up just short.

“He (Hunter) played a great game tonight,” Hongisto said. “We had a great look there but it comes down to making shots and we missed a couple there in the last couple of minutes that were good looks they just didn’t go in. Tonight the better team won, Pericolosi is an excellent coach and he’s certainty not going to give you a game, that’s for sure.”

Devon Barley, in his first game back from an injury, grabbed the rebound off the miss and was fouled. He split a pair from the line to put the Maroons ahead 52-48.

The following play Tyler Wells hit a jumper with 7.7 seconds left from the top of the key to pull the Braves back within two points but Nolde’s free throws sealed the win for the Maroons. Pericolosi said he was impressed with his team’s defense, including a second half press.

“The win on the road is huge anytime you can do that,” Pericolosi said. “Gladstone was a hot team I think they had three in a row so it was a huge win for us. It was kind of a grinder, slow paced. I thought when we picked up the tempo we played a little bit better with the press.”

The Maroons also switched to a two-three zone in the fourth quarter as Gladstone struggled to find open looks down the stretch, including a possession in the final two minutes that took nearly 45 seconds off the clock.

“It’s the first time we stayed in zone that long, usually we switch up but they didn’t look very comfortable with it so we just stayed with it and when we pressed we go back into zone,” Pericolosi said.

David Dykowski paced the Braves with eight rebounds. Ty Clausen led the Maroons with eight boards. Harris paced Menominee with seven assists.

Gladstone drops to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the GNC. Menominee improves to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the GNC. Gladstone is back in action next Thursday as they travel to Ishpeming.