March Madness at its best
It’s often been said that March Madness brings out the best in teams and players.
That was certainly the case this season.
Take the Dollar Bay High boys basketball team. The Blue Bolts won the Copper Mountain Conference with a late-season win over Jeffers, then went through a tough district tournament.
Dollar Bay defeated very good teams in Ontonagon, Jeffers and Chassell to win their first district title since 2005.
The Blue Bolts almost spilled defending state champion North Central behind a brilliant effort by Devin Schmitz, who totaled 40 points.
The 75-73 final score was the closest any team has come in NC’s record-breaking streak of 79 games that broke Chassell’s long-standing record of 65 in a row.
Somewhere, former Dollar Bay head coach Jim Bronczyk was applauding the work of coach Jesse Kentala, a former player of his.
Then there was a stirring tourney run by the Calumet High hockey team that didn’t end until the Copper Kings were defeated in the state championship game by Warren DeLaSalle.
Perhaps the most impressive performance came Calumet goaltender Nick Voelker turned aside numerous scoring opportunities by Hancock in a regional semifinal 2-1 thriller.
The Bulldogs, who captured the state title in 2016, were just inches away from another run.
And there was the sterling work of Calumet High center Lenny Torola, who battled a talented Hancock front line in the Class C basketball district final.
Torola, also a talented football player for the Copper Kings, used his 6-foot-5, 250 pound frame to good use in scoring nine points and grabbing nine rebounds in a hard-fought win.
The good news for area local sports fans is that many of these outstanding players will return next season.
Schmitz and fellow gunner Jaden Janke will be back at Dollar Bay. The Chassell girls basketball team returns its entire roster from a 15-5 team. Hancock will have many excellent players back from its hockey team.
The return of school spirit was another welcome sight this winter.
The Baraga High girls team, under coach Keith Willis, sparked a revival by winning a conference title and being ranked high in the Upper Peninsula and state polls.
The Vikings fans showed up in large numbers to support their team in the tournaments, a sight not seen in many years.
The Dollar Bay faithful did the same in rooting their favorites to success. All that was missing was the familiar “We are DB” chant heard in the 1970s and 1980s when the Bays (their name back then) won more games than any team in the U.P.
Good stuff, indeed.