NEGAUNEE - Fresh legs can do wonders for a basketball team.
Just ask the Jandron's Custom Home Builders' team at the Negaunee Invitational Tournament on Friday evening.
An all-star team of high school boys who recently completed their prep careers was formed under the banner of the Negaunee business for this weekend's Class B play.
Jandron Custom Homes Builders' Eric Lori, left, drives down the lane past Slab's Diciples' Brian Dawson during a Class B game of the Charter Negaunee Invitational Basketball Tournament Friday at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
These 17- and 18-year-olds looked forward to their chance to play together.
"Some of these guys I've played with in AAU in the summer," ex-Negaunee point guard Eric Lori said before their game against Slab's Diciples from the downstate Thumb area.
"This is going to be fun, playing with the U.P.'s best. I think we all like to play the same type of game."
The nine teens showed their cards early, displaying an uptempo offense, in-your-face defense and taking a plethora of 3-point shots.
Lori needed all of four seconds to take - and swish - a triple, while former Miners teammate Tyler Jandron knocked down his own 3 exactly 20 seconds later.
The team raced to a 10-2 lead and held a 47-20 advantage at the half, sinking a half-dozen 3s in the process.
Their opponents, listed as Kingston High School products, weren't old geezers by any stretch. But neither did they look like a bunch of high school seniors about halfway between the end of the basketball season and their coming graduation day.
Lori said he was most looking forward to playing with Adam Mackey of Ironwood, an all-Upper Peninsula player who almost nobody in the central U.P. got to see play except at the Class C regional held in Marquette in mid-March.
"Yeah, you could say that," Mackey replied when asked if joining this group was similar to being the new kid in school.
"I played a lot of 'point forward' with my team, but I don't think I have to worry about handling the ball a lot with this team."
Not with Jandron and Lori, who were joined by Negaunee teammate Zane Radloff, Marquette's Larry Burnette, Ishpeming's Alex Briones, Gwinn's Justin Nyquist, Escanaba's Brandon Robinette and Carney-Nadeau's Dionte Blahnik.
One observer was heard to say "Are there enough balls for all of them?" but that seemed to be the point of putting an all-star crew like this together - no one was under pressure to carry the load.
"Finally, I don't have to hate you anymore," Jandron said to Burnette, adding right after that, "You know I'm just kidding" and giving him a good-natured tap on the knee.
Radloff, at times the only player on the court who didn't average 15 to 25 points per game last season, finished off the play of the game late in the first half.
Robinette quickly brought the ball up court off a missed shot, then saw Jandron streaking down the other side and whipped the ball to him.
Jandron's momentum brought him almost to the baseline and he dumped the ball to a flying Radloff as he ran through the lane for an alley-oop.
But a defender knocked Radloff off balance as he was going up and while nearly horizontal, Radloff scooped the ball straight up and it bounced off the rim and fell through as the foul was whistled.
That's just the kind of team this is.