Steady Gunnar Gustafson leads Milford to upset win over previously unbeaten Walled Lake Northern
MILFORD — Gunnar Gustafson is the epitome of steady, consistent, rock solid. In many ways, he’s a microcosm of the Milford Mavericks boys basketball team.
The active and aggressive 6-foot-7 senior center and Lawrence Tech-commit knocked down a pair of free throws in the final 10 seconds of play Tuesday to lock up his Mavericks’ 37-34 upset of previously-unbeaten Walled Lake Northern in action out of the Lakes Valley Conference.
Northern (14-1) secured a share of the league title last week. Milford moves to 11-3. The Mavericks could face Northern two more times this season (once in the LVC Tournament and once in districts).
Gustafson averages 14 points and 10 rebounds per night. On Tuesday in the cozy confines of his home gym, he tallied nine points, 11 boards and three blocked shots.
With Gustafson setting the tone, the Mavericks are a lunch-pail group, outworking and out-scrapping opponents to offset its lack of superior athleticism.
“We just play tough and find a way to win tough games,” he said. “There’s not a ton of athletes or big-college talent on our roster, but we grind and we get after it on defense. We’ve found an identity in that style.”
Senior point guard Nolan Rand recorded 15 points and five assists for Milford against Northern Tuesday. His 3-pointer from the left wing at the 3:37 mark of the fourth quarter gave the Mavericks their first lead of the second half at 29-28. Rand’s two free throws put Milford ahead, 35-31, with 36 seconds remaining.
Northern got nine points apiece from senior guard Troy Lattimore and senior forward Andre Price. Lattimore’s triple to tie and force overtime rimmed out at the buzzer.
Milford trailed 12-11 at the half and 26-24 after three quarters. The Mavericks feisty defensive effort held Northern to a frigid 26 percent shooting from the field.
“Our team hangs its hat on defense,” Milford head coach David Gilbert said. “Tonight, we did us. This is who we are. Gunnar is a major part of that attitude, that mindset. He knows how to finish games.”
Next year, he’ll be finishing them locally at Lawrence Tech. Joining a college program in its infancy while getting to study at a top engineering school were both enticing factors that played a part in his decision on where to play at the next level.
“Lawrence Tech is an up-and-coming program, I want to play a role in helping build a winning culture there,” he said. “I’m excited about the education I’m going to get and how by staying around town, my family and friends will be able to watch me compete in college.”