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Splitting hairs: Negaunee Miners’ Ella Mason, Escanaba’s Keira Maki share Upper Peninsula All-Star Basketball girls MVP

Negaunee's Ella Mason, left, is guarded closely by Detroit Edison’s Nabrea Lane as Mason brings the ball down the court during their MHSAA Division 2 state semifinal girls basketball game played at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center in East Lansing on March 22. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

ST. IGNACE — For 37 years, picking a most valuable player at the U.P. all-star basketball games was relatively simple. One player always seemed to stand out.

However on Saturday, Ella Mason of Negaunee and Keira Maki of Escanaba both stood out in the annual girls game.

Therefore, for the first time, they shared most valuable player honors as they pooled their talents to help the East girls overcome a double-digit deficit in the second half as the East posted an 87-83 overtime victory in the opener of the 38th annual Upper Peninsula All-Star Classic at LaSalle High School in St. Ignace.

Maki, who will play at Wisconsin-Stevens Point this fall, scored 24 points and a pulled down a dozen rebounds, while Mason, who will be attending and playing at Michigan Tech, had 26 points. Maki had 17 points in the second half to help spark the rally.

In the nightcap, Jonny Ingalls, playing his final game in St. Ignace after a stellar high school career with the Saints, scored a career-best 46 points to earn MVP honors as the East boys won 110-103. Ingalls, voted Mr. Upper Peninsula Basketball in April by the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association, added 11 rebounds, eight assists and four steals, with 25 of his points coming after the intermission. He was also voted by the Michigan Associated Press as MHSAA Division 4 Player of the Year in the state.

Negaunee's Jenna Maki, top, is fouled by Negaunee's Keira Waterman while going up for a shot in the second quarter of their high school girls basketball game played at the Hematites’ gym on Feb. 9. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

Jenna Maki of MHSAA Division 4 state champion Ishpeming also received strong consideration for MVP honors in the girls game after scoring 26 points for the West.

She was coached by her high school coach, Ryan Reichel, who of course guided the Hematites to the state title not quite three months ago, while the East was coached by Negaunee’s Mike O’Donnell, who guided Mason and the Miners to the Division 2 state semifinals in East Lansing.

“We didn’t have anything to lose,” Mason said after the girls game. “We’ve been battling each other for years. It is cool to share (MVP).”

Maki said it was nice to have someone to share the load.

“Me and Ella knew we had to be leaders,” the Escanaba star said. “It felt good to play with her and not to have one leader.”

Westwood's Andrew Niemi, center left, has his jump shot contested by Marquette's Peter Closner in the first quarter of their high school boys basketball game played at the Barb Crill Gymnasium at Marquette Senior High School on Jan. 31. Looking on for the Redmen are Jan van den Ende, left, and Jaxon Jurmu. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

Ingalls, who will play basketball this winter at Northern Michigan University, where his father Doug also played, had a late basket and a 3-point field goal. He said the East “struggled a little bit” to start the game.

He added that landing MVP honors in his final game at home was “pretty special. We all just won together.”

Doug Ingalls, who was son Jonny’s coach at St. Ignace and also for Saturday’s game, pointed out he had been on the losing team his last four games.

“Everybody knows how competitive I am,” he said. “I didn’t want to lose four in a row.”

The elder Ingalls announced his retirement from the high school coaching ranks at the end of his past season.

Prior to the games, a skills contest was conducted. Andrew Niemi of Westwood, the only entrant in the slam dunk portion, won that event. Grace Kleikamp of North Central edged Maki 8-7 to win the girls 3-point shooting competition. Perry LeBlanc of Brimley won the free throw contest.

The last three all-star games have been held in St. Ignace and included a ferry boat ride around the Mackinac Bridge and Mackinac Island donated by Shepler’s.

The 2025 and 2026 games are tentatively scheduled to be held in Escanaba at Bay de Noc Community College.

Several other area players were also scheduled to participate in the game.

For the East girls, Negaunee’s Callie Rajala also broke into double figures with 11 points, while Manistique’s Danielle Lund had six and Munising’s Emersyn Crisp had two. Also listed on the initial roster list for the East was Marquette’s Kyley Elmblad and Newberry’s Lucia Rabachova.

For the West girls, Megan Marta of Westwood scored 12 points, McKenna Hendrickson of Baraga 10 and Jaycee Larson, also of Baraga, had six, while Kadie Kaukola of Ishpeming had one point.

For the East boys, Wyatt Demers of Manistique scored 14 points as Trent Rutter of Superior Central had four, and for the West boys, Niemi scored 15 while Gavin Saunders of Negaunee didn’t score.

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Here are the full point-scoring totals:

East girls — Callie Rajala 11, Ceara LeBlanc 2, Chloe May 3, Keira Maki 24, Lucie Rabachova 3, Emersyn Crisp 2, Danielle Lund 6, Ella Mason 26, Autumn Trombley 9, Allison Cece 4.

West girls — Jenna Maki 26, McKenna Hendrickson 10, Megan Marta 12, Kadie Kaukola 1, Anna Axtell 9, Brooke Stanislawski 3, Grace Kleikamp 3, Jaycee Larson 6, McKenzie Hoffmeyer 3, Danika Shamion 2, Adelyn Swain 0.

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East boys — Cam Peterson 8, Wyatt Demers 14, Jon Ingalls 46, Nate Koepp 7, Brad VanDamme 7, Nick Hallberg 0, Perry LeBlanc 0, Trent Rutter 4, Ethan McLean 11, Drake Johnson 10.

West boys — Dan Marcotte 5, Connor Coduti 2, Levi Frahm 0, Shane Wallin 25, Felix Quevedo 1, Matt Schutz 7, Gavin Saunders 0, Andrew Niemi 15, Gaven Rintala 11.

Dennis Grall is the executive secretary of the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame. He is also the retired sports editor of the Daily Press in Escanaba.

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