Building each year: Ishpeming hosts Last Chance Tournament for 2nd year

Marquette’s Vejas Grazulis, right, passes the ball over Munising defender Ben Stasewich during a high school boys basketball game played at Marquette Senior High School in January 2015. Both players are on rosters of teams in the second annual Last Chance Tournament to be played in Ishpeming this weekend. (Journal file photo)

ISHPEMING — High school and collegiate basketball seasons may be over in the Upper Peninsula for a few months, but for those who aren’t ready to give it up quite yet, they’ll have the chance to watch some high quality play tonight and Saturday.

For the second straight year, the Last Chance Tournament will be held with former area players and current high school students taking on each other for the chance to showcase their skills a little while longer in Marquette County.

“It’s great because we get a lot of the former college basketball players to come down and play,” Ishpeming varsity girls basketball coach Ryan Reichel said. “We have some big bodies like Brett Branstrom (from Northern Michigan University and Mid Peninsula High School) playing, Tanner Uren (Michigan Tech and Negaunee), Vejas Grazulis (NMU and Marquette) and some of these other college players.

“It just gives an opportunity for these guys to see high-level competition that they don’t normally get to see throughout the C-League seasons.

“We’ve got (Wisconsin-)Marinette, Tech, Lake (Superior) State, Finlandia, Bay College, Gogebic, Muskegon, Alma. We’ve got a big variety of people.

Michigan Tech's Tanner Uren, right, a former Negaunee High School star, defends Northern Michigan University's Isaiah Johnson during a GLIAC game played in Houghton on Jan. 28. Uren is on a roster for the second annual Last Chance Tournament to be played at Ishpeming High School this weekend. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by David Archambeau)

“Having this network of basketball people is pretty fun because it allows people to meet each other. If they get exposure, they might go down to those cities to play in a tournament someday.”

When asked how he managed to get such quality players to come play in his tournament, Reichel said that it was due to his social media skills.

“I just used my social media network and my basketball network from the years of playing in all these tournaments,” he said. “They get excited to come down and play against good competition. They’re all chomping at the bit to get down here this weekend.”

Reichel said last year’s tournament was fairly successful and that fans would stop by to see the action. He said it’s a great chance for locals to see some quality basketball.

“We had a good crowd coming through (in 2017),” Reichel said. “The weather was similar to what we’ll have this weekend, so people just popped in.

Munising's Kenya Oas, left, attempts to move the ball around Negaunee's Kyle Wills during a Class C district tournament game played in Munising in March 2010. Oas is among those on the rosters for the second annual Last Chance Tournament to be held at Ishpeming High School this weekend. (Journal file photo)

“We’re all at the very end of our basketball seasons and softball is starting to come forward. So everyone wants to get their last basketball fix in and to have an opportunity to see such good competition is kind of rare.

“It’s nice to put this all together for everybody.”

Reichel will participate as well, suiting up for the defending champion McNeil’s Oilers, whose roster includes Uren, Gogebic’s Bryce Bilski (former North Central player), Lakeland alum Ben Stasewich (formerly of Munising), Finlandia’s Jacob Polfus (former Carney-Nadeau) and Muskegon’s Kenya Oas (former Munising).

On the other side of the bracket, there’s a team that includes Branstrom, Grazulis and Ishpeming boys head coach Anthony Katona.

High school players will all be on one all-star team, which includes Ishpeming and NMU commit Hart Holmgren along with fellow Hematite Dondre Yohe, Munising’s Cade Contreras and Escanaba’s Ryan Robinette. The latter three will be playing ball at Bay College next year.

“I’m excited to watch them play,” Reichel said. “It’s always fun to see these high schoolers get together because they’ve been talked about in the media and now they got put on the same roster.

“I’ve been recruiting some of these kids for the past month or so, because some of them are battling prom and other basketball tournaments, but it looks like we’re going to have a nice quality team to show up (to)night.”

Reichel is hoping to eventually bring his tournament up to the level of the once-wildly popular Negaunee Invitational Tournament that ended in 2014.

“I’ve kind of been filling the void a little bit and this is my second year,” he said. “The NIT is what the Negaunee and Ishpeming area has been about for 50 years and it’s been gone for a good handful of years now.

“No one’s taken it yet, so I think I’m going to try to run it through Ishpeming and create a new name and market it.”

The tournament starts at 6 p.m. today at Ishpeming High School. Reichel said there will be four games this evening with the rest of the schedule starting at 9 a.m. Saturday.

The championship is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday. Proceeds go to the Hematites girls basketball team.

“What we like about it is that it’s just a quick, easy, kind-of barebones tournament,” Reichel said. “We don’t do a concession stand. We just do admissions and we’re done at 6 o’clock Saturday.

“So a lot of people get to go home on Saturday night and not have to play basketball Sunday so they don’t have to be all sore for work on Monday.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.


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