Dollar Bay Blue Bolts understand their massive challenge against undefeated North Central in Class D boys basketball regionals

North Central’s Jason Whitens goes up for a shot against Forest Park in a regular-season game on Feb. 28 in Powers. (Escanaba Daily Press photo)

NEGAUNEE — The Dollar Bay Blue Bolts understand the reality of the situation. 

They understand that describing them as “massive underdogs” may actually be an understatement. They understand they’re facing a team who some oldtimers consider “the best they’ve ever seen.”

And they understand they might be the only ones who believe they can pull off what might not only be the biggest upset in the state — but even the country. 

They’re perfectly fine with all of that. 

Tonight at 8 p.m. at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee, the Blue Bolts (19-4) face the North Central Jets (23-0) — the two-time defending Class D state champions and owners of the nation’s longest current winning streak (77 games) — in a Class D regional semifinal.

“Our guys are confident and they believe in themselves and their abilities,” Dollar Bay head coach Jesse Kentala said.

One thing Dollar Bay has going for themselves is its dynamic backcourt of juniors Devin Schmitz (21.6 points per game) and Jaden Janke (18.7). Both players have eclipsed the 30-point mark in a game this season. However, usually when one goes off, the other has a so-so scoring game, typically in the teens. Kentala is waiting for both of his guards to go off on the same night, and if the Blue Bolts want to stay with the No. 1 team in the state, both will likely have to score in bunches.

“They’re definitely capable scorers,” North Central head coach Adam Mercier said of Janke and Schmitz.

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Ewen-Trout Creek vs. Rapid River

In today’s early game at 6 p.m. at Lakeview gym is the time to introduce Ewen-Trout Creek’s Jake Witt to the rest of the Upper Peninsula. 

Witt — the 6-foot-7 junior center who was named the Copper Mountain Conference Player of the Year — and his teammates will play in front of the biggest crowd in their careers when the Panthers take on Rapid River. 

Witt averaged 24.2 points, 17 rebounds and 5.1 blocks per game while shooting 60 percent overall and 52 percent on 3-pointers, and he’s coming off a performance where he recorded 32 points, 18 rebounds and six blocks in the 62-60 district final win over the Bessemer Speedboys at Republic-Michigamme High School on Friday. 

Rapid River has a talented big of its own in 6-foot-4 junior Logan Hardwick, who was a consensus Skyline Central Conference First Team selection. Hardwick averaged 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Rockets (10-12) and had an impressive showing of his own in his team’s 60-50 district final victory over the Mid Peninsula Wolverines, scoring 27 points.