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Jets smash state boys record with 47-point win over BR-Harris

By MIKE MATTSON

Escanaba Daily Press

POWERS — At long last they did it. Oh, how the North Central Jets did it.

They blasted Bark River-Harris 76-29 Friday night to set a boys high school basketball state record of 66 straight victories, snapping Chassell’s iconic 59-year-old mark.

They did it at home in front of a boisterous, capacity crowd of nearly 1,000 fans, including family, friends, fellow students and their neighboring archrivals eight miles down the road.

Let it be known that on Jan. 27, 2017, more history was made for Jason Whitens & Co. on their home floor.

“It feels great to do it with this group of guys,” said Whitens, who scored a game-high 23 points. “The community deserves this.

“We have a lot of sweat on this court and a lot of memories on this court. To share it with our community, it means a lot.”

“It means the world to us,” added senior Bobby Kleiman, who scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half. “We’ve been working hard our entire lives. We deserve this. It’s special to do it here. If we did it somewhere else, it wouldn’t have the same feeling.”

Senior Dawson Bilski also scored 21 points to surpass 1,000 points for his career. He needed 19 entering the game to reach the milestone.

Fans lined up at 3:30 p.m. Friday outside the school and came from places like Houghton to see history being made.

Unfortunately, the Broncos were history shortly after the opening jump.

How did the Jets do it?

North Central (11-0, 7-0 Skyline Central) scored the first 11 points and bolted to a 28-6 lead. The Jets made 11 of their first 16 shots and forced the tempo with their tenacious man-to-man defense. BR-H had to work for every contested shot all night.

“Their defense is underrated,” said Broncos’ coach jim VanEnkevort, whose team had 13 turnovers. “They held us to 14 points through three quarters.”

The Broncos (9-3, 5-1) made 3 of 24 shots in the first half and 8 of 40 for the game for 20 percent.

Ben Schultz and Matthew Richer led the Broncos with seven points apiece.

“I’ve been playing against North Central my whole life in basketball and football,” the Broncos’ Jace Briggs said. “They are smart, make crisp passes and they make shots. We couldn’t set up our offense because they deny the ball. It’s frustrating playing against them. They are a great team.”

North Central cruised to a 65-14 lead after three quarters in another game with a running clock.

“We just wanted to play our basketball and adjust to the game,” said Mercier, who’s led the Jets to 74 straight regular-season wins and a 91-1 record since 2013-14.

Mercier and his players did multiple interviews with the media after their record-breaking performance. He hopes the Jets savor the moment as they work toward making a run at a third straight Class D state championship.

“You want to appreciate the atmosphere,” said Mercier, who admitted his team got a little emotional in pre-game. “We had a great crowd. It’s one of the best crowds we’ve ever had.”