End of their era

North Central stars, other players end high school careers in style at U.P. All-Star Classic

The North’s Dre Tuominen of Negaunee, top center, floats into the lane for a running layup during the Upper Peninsula All-Star Classic boys basketball game played at Marquette Senior High School on Saturday afternoon. (Journal photo by Rachel Oakley)

We had the best players in the U.P. playing each other,

so it was a really great game.

— dawson bilski, former North Central player,

South boys team member in U.P. All-Star Classic

MARQUETTE — North Central’s Dawson Bilski earned another basketball award for his trophy case Saturday afternoon after being named the most valuable player of the boys Upper Peninsula All Star Classic in Marquette.

Bilski helped the South down the North. 126-116, putting in 34 points to lead all scorers.

“We came out here to have fun,” Bilski said. “We had the best players in the U.P. playing each other, so it was a really great game.

“It was a great feeling to get MVP, and once I started hitting 3s early on I knew it was going to be a good time. Everyone was distributing well so our shots were wide open.”

North Central had four players on the South squad after their team won their third straight Class D state championship at the end of the winter.

Jets head coach Adam Mercier, who was South head coach, said the all-star game was a success.

“The kids played hard today,” Mercier said. “We had great defense and rebounded well, and it made it fun for the fans to watch. Everyone came out healthy and we put on a fun show.”

The teams traded scores in the first quarter and the North held a slim 32-31 lead at the end of the frame. Then the South went to work, opening up the score with a strong second quarter, netting 41 points to take a 72-61 lead into the half.

The North responded to pull within seven in the third, but the South ended the frame with a 22-13 run to make it a 16-point game and nearly put it out of reach heading into the final period.

Marquette head coach Brad Nelson served as the North coach and said his team was challenged by a potent South lineup.

“We weren’t moving the ball well in the first half,” he said. “There were a lot of isolations, and you’re not going to break guys down on the dribble at this level.

“We stressed swinging the ball, moving laterally on defense and getting to the rim. We did a better job in the second half, but it was a little short.”

Bilski’s future Michigan Tech teammate this fall, Negaunee’s Trent Bell, led the North in scoring with 28 points.

The game marked the end of their high school careers for every player, and Bilski said the years of championships with the Jets are hard to let go.

“Deep down it sucks because we’ve grown up and played together,” Bilski said. “We know we’ll always be together no matter what, and I’m looking forward to moving on to Tech.”

Nelson the game was memorable for players who won’t put on their high school jerseys again.

“It was fun to get these kids in the gym one last time,” Nelson said. “It was all about having fun.

“As a coach, sometimes you see things you don’t like, but we just wanted to keep it competitive and fun. It’s a great way to cap off a lot of great careers for some of these guys.”

Ray Bressette can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 243. His email address is rbressette@miningjournal.net.