2017-06-22 / Sports

EUP Athletes Play in All Star Basketball Game

By Stephen King

The All Star Classic basketball game took place at the high school gymnasium in Marquette Saturday, June 22. There, the best just-graduated seniors from around the Upper Peninsula took part in the annual game. Hosted by the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame, this game is an annual tradition that has been carried on for more than 30 years.

This year saw a good contingent of players from the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Jordan Belleville of St. Ignace, one of the key players on this year’s championship team, played for the South Team.

For the North, there were Pickford’s Kayla Rambo, DeTour’s Madison Wilke, Newberry’s Taylor Bryant, and Engadine’s Olivia Vaughn.

For the boys, also from Pickford was Derrick Edington, from Sault Ste. Marie, Ryley Alaspa, and from Manistique, Darien Nichols. One of the most talked about factors in this year’s boys game was the fact that four members of the State Champion North Central Jets were playing. Jason Whitens, co-All State Player of the Year, and teammates Dawson Bilski, Marcus Krachinski, and Bobby Kleiman got together one last time to the delight of basketball fans. In addition, Jets Coach Adam Mercier was coaching the South Team this year.

Just about every sports fan in the U.P. would have given odds that the South had to be the favored team, and they would not have been disappointed. Due in large part of the effort by the Jets players, the South got the win.

In this game, it was more about fun and putting on a show than who won or lost. The defense for the boys was nominal, with play being fast and furious, but there was not a lot of contact. Everyone wanted to make sure that nobody got hurt, as most these players are looking at moving on to the college level this coming year.

While this game did not have the drama and intensity of a championship game, it was one heck of a show. For the boys, as expected, it was the Jets players who stood out early and often. The North also did not lack for talent, they had Derrick Edington, the big man from Pickford, who also picked up a lot of accolades this season. At the end of the first quarter, it was the North with a slim 32-31 lead.

But by the half, the South was up 72-61. Then, in the next half, they managed to retain the lead. The North also had a wealth of talent, keeping pace with the south. When the final buzzer sounded, the South took the win 126-116.

For the South, Jets Dawson Bilke was named Player of the Game, with 34 points. He said, “We came here to have fun. We had the best players in the U.P. playing each other, so it was a great game.

One of those other players was Pickford’s Derrick Edington. Derrick put up 13 points. Earlier in the morning, Derrick used his height, leaping ability, and athleticism to win the slam dunk contest.

“Dunking is one of my favorite parts of the game of basketball,” he said. “To win this was fantastic. I’m just thrilled. I was honored just to be here, and winning the slam dunk contest made it even better.”

The girls had a much more intense game. Where the boys were just putting on a show, somebody forgot to tell the ladies to take it easy. Most of them were playing like a state championship was on the line.

With Newberry’s Taylor Bryant leading the way, the North got the early lead and were able to keep it for most of the game. At the end of the first quarter, it was the North up 11-7, with both teams still both working out some jitters and the novelty of playing with girls they were not used to playing with. Then the North girls started to mesh. Coach Roger French decided to use the players who knew each other best, doing an east/west line up. He knew that Olivia Vaughn and Taylor Bryan knew each other well, as did Kayla Rambo and Madison Wilke. These four were all familiar with each other and had seen each other play. Same thing with the girls from the west.

At the end of the half, the North was up 29-19, but at the start of the third, the South, led by Marissa Immell and Frankie Mattson of Munising, were starting to click. At the starting buzzer, they took off on a run that left them a point up. It was looking as if the tables had turned.

Coach French steadied his team and they started to put some more points on the board. By the end of the quarter, they were back in the lead, up 43-35. This time, they would keep the lead, getting the win 63-50.

“This was really great to get the win,” the coach said, “but I really didn’t have to say that much to them. With this level of talent, they all knew what they had to do. It was a real honor to be able to coach layers of this caliber.”

About the third-quarter comeback, Coach French said, “They had a lot of talent. We knew we couldn’t let them back in the game. At the start of the third, we weren’t getting the match-ups that we wanted. Then, we changed a few things and were able to regain the momentum and get the win.”

Pickford’s Kayla Rambo notched 11 points in the game and played one of her best games ever.

She said, “This was such an honor. It’s been a while since anyone from Pickford has been here, and for me and Derrick to both make it made it even better. We’ve been friends for quite a while and that just made it more special. It was a real honor to represent my school and our area. And, it felt really great to get the win.”

Jordan Belleville of the Saints said, “This was just so much fun. It would have been a lot nicer if we could have won, but the experience is so incredible. Just to be able to play with girls of this caliber. I just had so much fun.”

For the girls, Taylor Bryant was named Player of the Game.

“I never could have done it without my team,” she said. “This was a real great bunch of girls. I am a huge competitor, and I like to win. These girls brought that same attitude. We all played hard and we got the win today.”

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