Dream Teamers lead Michigan to victory

Jason Juno/Daily Globe (Ironwood) Ewen-Trout Creek’s Austin Berglund goes for a block.

IRONWOOD — The Border Bash started with the entire All-U.P. Dream Team on the court together for the Northern Michigan All-Stars.

And the night eventually turned into a nightmare for Northern Wisconsin.

Four of the five Dream Teamers scored 19 points or more as Northern Michigan won 139-125 Wednesday night. 

North Central’s Jason Whitens, 33 points, and Negaunee’s Trent Bell, 31 points, were named co-MVPs. Iron Mountain’s Carson Wonders scored 26 and North Central’s Dawson Bilski had 19.

The crowd ooh’ed and aah’ed several times as the super athletic players from both teams made play after play. Among them are two future Division I college players, two Michigan Tech recruits and one Northern Michigan recruit.

“I thought it was pretty unique to have that many talented kids who have done so well to have no egos and just get along with each other,” said Northern Michigan coach Brad Besonen of Ewen-Trout Creek. “They only had a half an hour together (before the game). They’re such good players and such good kids, it just flowed really nice playing out on the court.”

Northern Wisconsin actually played better early with the Ripon duo of Bennett Vander Plas, a 6-8 Division I Ohio University recruit, and Eddie Muench, along with Medford’s Osy Ekwueme leading the way. Wisconsin built the lead as big as nine points, 38-29.

“It was not sitting well with the guys,” Besonen said. 

Northern Michigan came alive late in the half and took a 67-58 lead into halftime. Then Whitens won two trophies, the 3-point contest and the slam dunk competition.

Whitens was one of four players with a dozen first-half points. Nobody else had 21 points in the second half like he did, though, as Northern Michigan pulled away.

Sure it was only an all-star game after Whitens helped North Central to three straight state championships. But he didn’t just come to Ironwood to have fun either. 

And maybe that’s part of the reason North Central, which won a state record 83 straight games, was so special.

“We were about to tip off the thing, he said, ‘We are not losing and he was very serious about it,'” Besonen said. “It’s just the way he approaches every competition, the 3-point contest, the dunk contest, whatever it is. He’d probably try to rip your arm off in a game of tiddlywinks to beat you. There’s some kids like that that are just special and are just winners.”

Northern Michigan’s Max Samardich of Bessemer was impressed with the North Central players’ teamwork.

“The teamwork they have is incredible,” he said. “You can tell why they’re state champions They’re leaders on the court and they’re a great group of guys.”

The two Division I players guarded each at other at times Wednesday night and they may see each other in the future with Whitens committed to Western Michigan and Vander Plas to Ohio University.

“He’s a great talent,” Whitens said. “He’s big, physical, can shoot it, he’s athletic and it was great. He was a good guy. I hope he has a good career at Ohio. MAC on MAC right there.”

Bell, a Michigan Tech recruit, had a special first half, scoring 19 points for Northern Michigan.

It was also a special night for Mercer’s Tarrin St. Germaine, who had 17 points for Northern Wisconsin, which was led by Muench’s 23-point effort. St. Germaine scored 14 in the second half.

“It was fun,” St. Germaine said. “They’re all shooters, they can all dunk, they can all rebound. They know the game just as well as I do.”

Northern Wisconsin coach Adam Miller, also St. Germaine’s coach at Mercer, was pretty proud of his performance amongst such an impressive group of players.

“We had five all-state guys on our team and Tarrin played right with them,” Miller said. “I think if Tarrin played at a bigger school, more people would watch him and he’d get more accolades. He’s a heck of a player. It was really, really fun coaching him again. I was very fortunate to take him off the floor with a couple seconds left and hug him for the second goodbye. So it was awesome.”

Ekwueme scored 22 points for Northern Wisconsin, Darryl Williams of Chetek 18 and Vander Plas 16.

Northern Wisconsin had some fantastic talent on the floor, from the towering Vander Plas to the super athletic Ekwueme, but they went up against talent from one of the best years of basketball in the Upper Peninsula.

“It not about wins or losses, it’s just the experience of this,” Miller said.

Ewen-Trout Creek’s Austin Berglund enjoyed the experience.

“That was a blast,” he said. 

Ontonagon’s Mitchell Borseth, Bessemer’s Max Samardich and Berglund all got on the scoreboard for Northern Michigan.

Coaching Berglund again was another highlight for Besonen.

“I was very happy to see he fit in well with the guys,” Besonen said. “He was a little nervous on his first couple shots, but I thought he looked like he belonged out there. He looked quick, got by his guy a couple times and did what he always does and defended well, had a couple steals and some boards. That was really fun to be able to do that with him one more time.”

Samardich went to the bucket with about four minutes left, got one to fall despite being fouled, bringing the local crowd to life.

“I went to my left for once, drew the contact and got the and-1,” Samardich said. 

Besonen said, “I thought his last five minutes were really big, he got us two extra possessions (with offensive boards) and then got that finish, too.”

Northern Michigan – A.J. Weisnicht 12, Max Samardich 2, Dawson Bilski 19, Dre Tuominen 5, Bobby Kleiman 7, Mitchell Borseth 2, Austin Berglund 2, Jason Whitens 33, Trent Bell 31, Carson Wonders 26. 

Northern Wisconsin – Osy Ekwueme 22, Tarrin St. Germaine 17, Bennett Vander Plas 16, Darryl Williams 18, Eddie Muench 23, Davin Stricker 8, Alex Tecker 2, Ryley Demmith 12, Justin Jarvensivu 7.