GLADSTONE - There was no greater sight for the Gladstone boys basketball team on Tuesday than seeing Marquette Senior High School's Mark Pap on the bench.
As for the Redmen, there was little more promising than Pap seeing Pap on the Braves' home hardwood.
The Redmen's star forward found himself in foul trouble for much of the team's season opener. He came back, however, when he was needed the most to take control late and power Marquette to a 58-51 Great Northern Conference victory.
Marquette’s Andrew Nyquist (3) attempts a jump shot over Gladstone defenders Blake Ballard (24) and Kyle Kleiman on Tuesday night at Gladstone. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Keith Shelton)
Pap picked up his third foul with minutes to spare in the first quarter while guarding Gladstone's Jared Vuksan.
For nearly all of the next 20 minutes, Pap was stuck on the bench. When he did enter the game briefly in the third quarter, he promptly picked up his fourth foul and was exiled back to the bench.
It didn't end with Pap, though. MSHS guard Larry Burnette also got tagged for three first quarter fouls, leaving Marquette two key starters down for much of the game.
The Redmen hung around, though, never trailing by more than four points as A.J. Grazulis and sophomore Connor Brazeau stepped up. Grazulis scored a game-high 21 points, hauled in 11 rebounds and posted three blocks.
"With Mark and Burnett sitting for almost the entire first half, I'm proud of the way our kids stepped up," Marquette coach Brad Nelson said.
"Brazeau ... had a good showing and it was a good experience for him. The rest of the players know now that if this situation occurs again, they have to step up."
Marquette seemed to have trouble early with the speed of Gladstone (1-1 overall, 0-1 GNC), as the Braves got bunches of buckets in transition.
Kyle Kleiman knocked down consecutive triples midway through the first quarter and the Braves carried an 18-14 lead into the second.
The Redmen controlled the tempo for much of the second quarter, slowing the game down and throwing the Braves' offense off its rhythm.
Turnovers began to accumulate and the Braves' shooting went cold, but Gladstone still clung to a 26-24 lead at halftime.
Back-and-forth it went after the break. The 3-pointers that were dropping earlier for Gladstone now bounced off the rim and the Braves' inside game wasn't strong enough to carry them.
Vuksan was held to 13 points in the game and was defended well in the paint. Marquette eventually took a 36-35 lead at the end of the third quarter on a layup by Grazulis.
The next four minutes was all Grazulis and Vuksan.
After another Grazulis field goal to start the fourth quarter, Vuksan drove to the net and drew a foul for a three-point play to tie the game.
Grazulis answered with his own three-point play.
Back-to-back putbacks by Vuksan inched Gladstone back ahead 42-41. That was as close as the Braves got.
Andrew Nyquist hit both throws after getting fouled to put the Redmen ahead.
Then, Pap re-entered the game and was promptly fouled, hitting both his shots as well, en-route to a eight-point quarter.
He was noticeably off at first, but heated up quickly enough to put away the Braves, including hitting a big triple to give the Redmen a 47-44 lead with under two minutes to go.
"I knew Pap's first three shots were off as soon as he shot them. He'd been sitting for long, but he got it going," Nelson said. "Andy kicked the ball to him on that 3 and that was big.
"He and Vuksan battled it out down low and that was fun to watch."
The Redmen were 11-of-12 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, helping to stave off the Braves.
"I think Gladstone may have panicked more in the offensive end in the second half," Nelson said. "It was a game of energy and runs, and we made some nice runs at the right time."
A bigger factor may have been Gladstone's 21 turnovers.
"That's way too many. We have to do better," Braves coach Phil Griebe said. "There were a lot of mental lapses tonight which hurt us at crucial times.
"We hung around and battled though. I can't fault the effort, but we have to clean it up."
Marquette won the JV game, 43-36.