ST. IGNACE - The goal of every U.P. high school basketball player is to make it below the Mackinac Bridge.
As part of this weekend's U.P. All-Star Classic, all of them will do so - sort of. This year's festivities are in the shadow of the Straits of Mackinac, as six local players are in St. Ignace today for the 27th annual meeting of the U.P.'s best.
"I might be a little rusty, but it'll still be fun. I want to win," said Houghton's Joey Carroll. She and teammate Taylor Dillinger will play on the North team, as will Ontonagon's Olivia Soumis.
Joey Carroll of Houghton contests a shot from Marquette’s Allyssa Lindberg during a game this February. Both will play for the North team in the U.P. All-Star Classic today in St. Ignace. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
The players are being treated to a boat tour of the straits, which includes a trip under the Mighty Mac and a visit to Mackinac Island, where Dillinger has never been and where Carroll said she hasn't been for many years.
Once the sightseeing is concluded, today's game will be one last chance for the pair to wear the Orange and Black of Houghton High.
"It's really sad, actually. I spent four years playing and I'm sad it's my last one," Dillinger said.
Dillinger's not done with basketball, however, going through shooting workouts and weightlifting in preparation for her joining the women's basketball team at Minnesota-Duluth in the fall.
"Definitely, the closer I get, I definitely get more excited," she said.
Carroll's future plans include the pre-veterinary program at Michigan State. Soumis will be enrolling at Central Michigan.
North dominated last year's festivities at Norway, winning 88-58 in the biggest rout in the game's history, and has won the last three games in a row.
Joining Dillinger, Carroll and Soumis will be fellow Dream Teamer Jaclyn Waara of West Iron County and teammate Shannon Koski. The team will be coached by Superior Central's Greg Trowbridge.
The South girls will feature Class ABC co-players of the year Jammie Botruff of Gladstone and Olivia Nash of Escanaba, splitting the four participating Dream Teamers equally. (The fifth, Forest Park's Lexi Gussert, still has two years of eligibility remaining.)
In the boys' game, Calumet's Andy Steber, Chassell's Garrett Warren and Ewen-Trout Creek's Jordan LaPlant will be trying to help the North end a two-game losing streak.
"I guess I'm a little nervous to see where I am with the rest of the players," Steber said. "I'll have fun, though."
It should be a freewheeling affair, as South won 94-87 last year in Norway, fighting off a late comeback.
LaPlant will suit up with two fellow members of the All-U.P. Dream Team, including Class D Player of the Year Kenya Oas of Munising and Class ABC Player of the Year Steve Angeli of Sault Ste. Marie.
The North will be coached by Class D Coach of the Year Ben Waterman of Munising.
A fourth member of the Dream Team, Kingsford's Jeff Gregory, is playing for the South boys. Gregory will be walking on to the men's basketball team at Michigan Tech in the fall.