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Good memories of prep cage season

March 12, 2011
By Dennis Grall

ESCANABA - High school basketball is just about over for the season, but despite an early tournament dismissal for most area teams there are still some good memories.

One of the most enjoyable players to watch in the area was Willy Meek of Escanaba. It's too bad he is a senior because he just began to scratch the surface of his potential, and with another year's maturity and experience would have been a real treat to watch next season. Watch out City League.

Quick feet and quick hands allowed Meek to pull off some amazing plays, and when he played under control he was difficult to defend. He has serious springs in his legs and really skies on some drives to the hoop, with one Daily Press picture against Marquette particularly displaying that leaping ability.

Article Photos

Dennis Grall

The most improved player is probably Mitch Desy of Escanaba. A senior forward who was languishing deep on a thin bench early in the season became a major player for the Eskymos by making a big splash down the stretch.

After scoring 30 points in the opening 10 games, Desy averaged 13.7 over the final 11 games. It is great to see a young player suck it up, show in practice he can do the job, and then capitalize on the opportunity when he received playing time, which in turn earned more minutes.

The most brilliant exhibition I saw this season came from Wade Schetter of Carney-Nadeau.

The slender junior, who would probably be blown down the road by a strong wind, unloaded 44 points on Rapid River with 14-of-18 shooting from the floor. It was an uncanny display of marksmanship, often firing quickly rom 25-30 feet out and hitting nothing but net.

The performance energized the whole crowd, on both sides, and helped make the game perhaps the most entertaining I attended because other players were also caught up in the moment and had banner efforts as well.

Easily the most memorable game came from the junior varsity ranks, even though it was not a classic game by performance. Westwood's girls outlasted Gladstone 86-83 in a stunning eight overtimes, which may be the longest game in state prep cage history.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect was Gladstone played most of the final two overtimes with just three players and Westwood could only secure the win when the Braves were reduced to two players with 1:07 left.

Four nights later I saw something else I had never seen in more than 40 years of covering prep sports. Bark River-Harris vaulted to an incomprehensible 40-0 lead against Big Bay de Noc's girls, and the Broncos did not try to pile up the points. Despite the lopsided deficit, the Black Bears never gave up and did all they could to keep battling against one of the Upper Peninsula's top teams.

The season also saw an area team become No. 1 in the state poll. Superior Central achieved that unique berth in the final week, capping a year in which several Class D boys teams easily outplayed the larger U.P. schools.

It was also a year of high individual achievements, with six players joining the 1,000-point club. Derek Pistulka led that distinctive group by becoming Rapid River's all-time career scoring leader with 1,521 points to cap a fine four-year career.

Waldon "Punch" Johnson set the mark of 1,403 in a three-year career that ended in 1954. He had 603 points for a 27.4 average as a senior.

Gyms were much smaller in those days, the 3-point arc did not exist, and teams seldom played 20 games, which is now a full regular season slate.

Jordan Chartier of Superior Central, Christian Harris of Rapid River, Colin Harbenski of Big Bay de Noc, Jaime Madalinski of Bark River-Harris and Jammie Botruff of Gladstone also joined the 1,000-point club. Botruff and Madalinski are juniors.

Another stunning game was turned in by Mid Peninsula sophomore Brett Branstrom, who blocked an unbelievable 20 shots against Gladstone. He has an excellent reach, good size and instincts, and went against a team that prefers to pound the ball inside.

The number raised a lot of eyebrows, but coach Mark Branstrom said he confirmed the game report by counting each one on the game tape.



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