Negaunee Miners’ Trent Bell co-MVP in Northern Michigan boys’ Border Bash win
IRONWOOD — The Border Bash boys basketball game started with the entire All-Upper Peninsula Dream Team on the court together for the Northern Michigan All-Stars.
And the night eventually turned into a nightmare for Northern Wisconsin.
Four of the five Dream Teamers scored 19 points or more as Northern Michigan won 139-125 Wednesday night.
North Central’s Jason Whitens, who scored 33 points, and Negaunee’s Trent Bell, who had 31, were named co-MVPs. Iron Mountain’s Carson Wonders added 26 and NC’s Dawson Bilski had 19.
The crowd oohed and aahed several times as the ultra-athletic players from both teams made play after play. Among them are two future NCAA Division I college players, two Michigan Tech recruits and one Northern Michigan University recruit.
“I thought it was pretty unique to have that many talented kids who have done so well to have no egos and just get along with each other,” said Northern Michigan coach Brad Besonen of Ewen-Trout Creek. “They only had a half an hour together (before the game). They’re such good players and such good kids, it just flowed really nice playing out on the court.”
Northern Wisconsin actually played better early with the Ripon duo of Bennett Vander Plas, a 6-foot-8 Division I Ohio University recruit, Eddie Muench and Osy Ekwueme leading the way. Wisconsin built the lead as big as nine points, 38-29.
“It was not sitting well with the guys,” Besonen said.
Northern Michigan came alive late in the half and took a 67-58 lead into the break. That’s when Whitens won two trophies, the 3-point contest and the slam dunk competition.
Whitens was one of four players with at least a dozen first-half points. Nobody else had 21 points in the second half like he did, though, as Northern Michigan pulled away.
Sure it was only an all-star game after Whitens helped North Central to three straight Michigan championships. But he didn’t just come to Ironwood to have fun either.
And maybe that’s part of the reason North Central, which has won a state-record 83 straight games, was so special.
“We were about to tip off the thing, he said, ‘We are not losing’ and he was very serious about it,” Besonen said. “It’s just the way he approaches every competition, the 3-point contest, the dunk contest, whatever it is. He’d probably try to rip your arm off in a game of tiddlywinks to beat you. There’s some kids like that that are just special and are just winners.”
The two Division I players guarded each at other at times Wednesday night and they may see each other in the future with Whitens committed to Western Michigan and Vander Plas to Ohio U.
“He’s a great talent,” Whitens said. “He’s big, physical, can shoot it, he’s athletic and it was great. He was a good guy. I hope he has a good career at Ohio. MAC on MAC right there.”
Bell, a Michigan Tech recruit, had a special first half, scoring 19 points for Northern Michigan.
Ekwueme scored 22 points for Northern Wisconsin, Darryl Williams of Chetek 18 and Vander Plas 16.
Northern Wisconsin had some fantastic talent on the floor, from the towering Vander Plas to the athletic Ekwueme, but they went up against talent from one of the best years of basketball in the Upper Peninsula.