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Wednesday April 25, 2018
Third Time's The Charm For The Gladstone Braves

KINGSFORD----The Gladstone Braves boys basketball players will not be turning in their uniforms on Tuesday.

Nope, instead, the boys will be on the Gladstone High School court for an important practice. That's because the Braves put together 32 minutes of inspired basketball Monday night and showed just how "mad" the month of March can be.

Gladstone's Jared Hunter (34) defends Kingsford's Caleb Harrington (22).
The Braves upset the Kingsford Flivvers, 56-53, in the Class B District Semifinals. They beat a team that had beaten them twice during the regular season, including once by 30 points.

The Gladstone boys never forgot that embarassment, and used it as motivation.

"It feels good to get a win, for all of the hard work we've put in this year," Gladstone Coach Phil Griebel said. "It was just a gutsy effort. We wanted it. When you have that determination and that drive, you know, good things happen."

"Coach said that we could not come out flat," Braves senior Blake Ballard said. "That night when they beat us by 30, no one was ready. But we were ready today. We just came at them with defense, and that helped us on the offensive end."

Gladstone earned this victory through the play of its seniors, who finally played to their potential in enemy territory.

Gladstone's Blake Ballard makes it 53-52.
Blake Ballard carried the team with 16 points and strong defense. Jared Vuksan, saddled with three first half fouls, came through with seven of his 13 points during crunch time.

"I had to be careful with my fouls. I couldn't get anymore, otherwise, I'd be sitting the bench for a while," Vuksan said. "I just had to calm down. I couldn't get down on myself every time I missed a shot. I had to get over it, and just move on past it."

Jared Vuksan (50) goes inside on two Flivvers during Monday night's game.
Gladstone trailed, 13-10, after the first quarter as Aiden Wienke scored three baskets and Allen Dalton hit two long jumpers.

The Flivvers saw their lead grow to 21-17 in the second quarter before the Braves scored the final five points of the half to go up, 22-21.

A Michael Cretens three in the third quarter saw the Braves take a 29-24 lead, but the Flivvers scored the next seven points to regain the advantage.

Caleb Harrington nailed a three after Dan Harrington made an athletic play in the air to save a high pass.

The Kingsford 7-0 run was answered by a Gladstone 7-0 run, with Cretens beating the third quarter buzzer with a three-pointer from NBA land. It was a 36-31 Gladstone Braves lead.

Gladstone's Jared Hunter makes it 51-50.
Sophomore Justin Jurek, called up from the junior varsity team, made a big impact in the fourth quarter.

His passing was spot-on, except for one football pass that went too far and nearly hit a police officer in the head under the basket.

Jurek found Vuksan three times in the fourth quarter. One of them was an "old-fashioned" three-point play that gave Gladstone a 41-34 lead, with 5:15 left. Moments later, Max Mahoney got a pass on the baseline and scored. Gladstone led, 45-37.

Gladstone's Justin Jurek drives on Kingsford's Aiden Wienke Monday night.
But Kingsford, with a 15-5 regular season record and two wins over the Braves, did not fold. The Flivvers went on a 13-4 run, capped off by a basket by Wienke with 1:51 left.

That gave Kingsford a 50-49 lead. Sixteen seconds later, Jared Hunter answered with a long jumper to put the Braves back in front, 51-50. And that set up a wild finish.

Harrington scored on a runner in the lane to put Kingsford back in front, but Ballard answered that with a long jumper with 44 seconds left.

It was put on the scoreboard as a three-pointer, but was later ruled a "two". So, Gladstone's lead was 53-52.

At that point, it was up to the Braves defense, and they came through with a defensive stop as Dan Harrington's three misfired. Ballard came down with 19.9 seconds to play and made one of two free throws. That made it 54-52, and Kingsford called time-out.

Gladstone Braves celebrate the victory!
The Flivvers ran a play into the left corner and Lucas Jennings hoisted up a three. It was not close, the Braves got the rebound, and Ballard was fouled with 7.3 seconds left. He stepped to the free throw line with a chance to ice the game for his team.

"It felt like I was gonna faint," Ballard said. "I was scared to death."

Blake Ballard made clutch free throws.
But Ballard made both free throws, giving the Braves a 56-52 lead.

"It was an unbelivable feeling," Ballard said with a huge grin.

The Flivvers came back up court, and for some reason, Ballard got too close to Caleb Harrington and fouled him as the three-point basket was missed.

There were still 1.9 seconds left to play. Harrington made the first free throw, but missed the second. That left the Flivvers down by three, and Harrington had to purposely miss the final foul shot and hope for a deflection to a three-point shooter.

It didn't happen for the Flivvers. The ball fell into Jurek's arms near the free throw line, and the Braves ended up celebrating their biggest victory of the season.

"They made a couple of runs at us," Griebel said. "They got the lead on us a couple of times. We could have wilted tonight, but we didn't."

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Blake Ballard hits a clutch late jumper.
"We finally played a full game," Vuksan said. "All four quarters."

Wienke led Kingsford with 22 points. Dalton added 13 points, and Caleb Harrington chipped in with 12 points.

Gladstone's Jared Hunter (34) defends Kingsford's Cole Michaud (35) Monday.
And so the Braves (9-11) get to play again, this time, at home, in Wednesday's district championship game against the Menominee Maroons (10-11). Menominee beat Escanaba in Monday night's second semifinal, 61-46.

"It feels good," Griebel said. "I just hope that it continues."

"I can't wait," Vuksan said.

Menominee beat Gladstone in both regular season meetings: 65-55 in Gladstone, and 70-63 in Menominee. But, this is a "new season".

The winner of Wednesday's game will advance to the Class B regionals in Grayling on March 11.

Wednesday night's game starts at 7:00. It will be broadcast live on WCHT-AM (600), and on-line at, starting at 6:45.

Click the thumbnails in the ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS box to see videos from Mike Dagenais, photos from Ron Jurek and Nate Bellville, and listen to audio highlights and interviews.

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Choose team:
Date Time Opponent Score Record
7:15 PM
Big Bay deNoc Black Bears
73 - 61 (W)
7:15 PM
Marquette Redmen
51 - 58 (L)
7:30 PM
at Escanaba Eskymos
78 - 66 (W)
7:15 PM
Mid Peninsula Wolverines
68 - 61 (W)
6:15 PM
at St. Ignace Saints
82 - 67 (W)
7:15 PM
at Mid Peninsula Wolverines
61 - 67 (L)
7:30 PM
at Westwood Patriots
66 - 56 (W)
7:15 PM
Kingsford Flivvers
34 - 64 (L)
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Gwinn Model Towners
60 - 55 (W)
8:00 PM
at Menominee Maroons
63 - 70 (L)
7:30 PM
at Ishpeming Hematites
62 - 76 (L)
3:00 PM
Sault Ste. Marie Blue Devils
66 - 67 (L)
7:20 PM
at Marquette Redmen
43 - 53 (L)
8:00 PM
at Kingsford Flivvers
57 - 62 (L)
7:15 PM
Negaunee Miners
46 - 79 (L)
7:15 PM
Menominee Maroons
55 - 65 (L)
7:30 PM
at Big Bay deNoc Black Bears
81 - 55 (W)
7:15 PM
Escanaba Eskymos
48 - 57 (L)
7:30 PM
at Manistique Emeralds
69 - 54 (W)
6:00 PM
at Kingsford Flivvers
56 - 53 (W)
7:00 PM
Menominee Maroons
64 - 61 (W)
8:00 PM
at Grayling Vikings
68 - 73 (L)

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Friday February 22, 2013
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Monday February 4, 2013
Gladstone's Losing Streak Continues In Menominee
Friday January 18, 2013
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Friday January 11, 2013
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Thursday January 3, 2013
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Friday December 14, 2012
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Tuesday December 11, 2012
Gladstone Overcomes Strong Big Bay deNoc Effort
Thursday December 6, 2012