No. 1 Dollar Bay to host No. 2 E-TC at Tech

Ewen-Trout Creek's Jake Witt, left, and Dollar Bay's Devin Schmitz will lead their teams into the Feb. 7 matchup at the Wood Gym. (jason Juno/Daily Globe)

HOUGHTON — It’s official.

Michigan Tech’s Wood Gym will be the site for a game between two of the top teams in the U.P. when the No. 1 Dollar Bay Blue Bolts (8-0) host the No. 2 Ewen-Trout Creek Panthers (10-0) on Feb. 7.

The game was originally set to take place on Feb. 6 at Dollar Bay, but due to the expected large crowd and the opportunity to showcase two of the area’s top teams in a premier venue, Dollar Bay coach Jesse Kentala agreed to move the game to Tech.

“This was not an easy decision,” Kentala said. “Part of me wants our fans and our community to have an awesome experience in a small school like a crackers box and pack everyone in and have people talk about it for years to come.

“On the other hand, the opportunity to play at Tech is something that I felt like our kids are going to remember for the rest of their lives.”

The state rankings give the game an even greater sense of importance. In the latest Associated Press poll, E-TC is ranked No. 2 in the state, right behind Southfield Christian. Dollar Bay sits in the sixth spot.

“I still feel like we don’t get the respect in the Copper Country Conference and Porcupine Conference that we deserve,” Kentala said. “I think this is a good opportunity to showcase two really good teams that are not only really good in our local area, but also the state … Hope to hype it and fill this place and show the state that Copper Country basketball is alive and well.”

The game will feature three reigning All-U.P. selections, with E-TC senior Jake Witt (Class D First Team) and Dollar Bay seniors Devin Schmitz (Class D First Team) and Jaden Janke (Class D Second Team). It will be Witt’s first game at the Wood Gym before he starts his college career at Tech, while Schmitz and Janke have yet to commit anywhere. Kentala is hoping this stage will showcase his two senior leading scorers.

“Devin and Jaden are under the radar as far as recruiting goes, and hopefully this will give a lot of people the opportunity to see their skill set and be able to play at the next level,” Kentala said.

One of the main things weighing on Kentala’s mind when making this decision was the basketball logistics. Besides giving up home-court advantage, Dollar Bay would be playing on a floor that is 10 feet longer than the court at its own school. E-TC’s home floor is a college-length court (94 feet). The width of each court is the same.

“It’s more space for our guards to operate with the length of the floor,” Kentala said. “That’s good for our guys. We push, press, run; that’s our style.

“Another factor was do we give Jake Witt more space to operate? But it just comes down to being a good basketball team and making good basketball plays.”

The players and coaches had a vote, and while it wasn’t unanimous to go to Tech, the decision to move the game won out. Kentala has worked with Dave Nordstrom, Tech’s Associate AD for Facilities and Operations, in making the arrangements to host the game at the Wood Gym.

“Tech’s been great about this, understanding that we’re a small school with a small budget,” Kentala said. “This is a big opportunity for us.”

Before the teams can meet as unbeatens, they each will face tests in the coming weeks. Dollar Bay hosts Bessemer on Jan. 29. The Speedboys led for much of the first meeting before Dollar Bay prevailed 65-58.

E-TC heads to rival Ontonagon on Jan. 30 before facing a Jeffers squad on Feb. 2 that has won five games in a row after starting 0-4.

“Like Ewen, we’re not overlooking anybody,” Kentala said.

The JV game at Tech will start at 5:45 p.m. with the varsity set to tip at 7:15 p.m. Admission will cost $5.

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Class ABC

1. St. Ignace (4) 10-0 32 1

2. Negaunee (3) 11-0 31 2

3. Ishpeming 10-1 18 4

4. West Iron County 8-2 9 –

5. Westwood 8-3 8 5

Others receiving votes: Marquette (9-3) 7.

Class D

1. Munising (5) 9-1 33 1

2. Chassell (2) 10-1 29 2

3. Cedarville 11-1 20 4

4. Bark River-Harris 8-3 14 3

5. Ewen-Trout Creek 7-3 6 5

Others receiving votes: Pickford (9-3) 3.


Class ABC

1. Marquette (5) 6-3 31 1

2. Iron Mountain (2) 9-0 27 T2

3. Escanaba 9-1 26 T2

4. Gladstone 7-3 12 4

5. Kingsford 5-3 4 –

Others receiving votes: Norway (7-2) 2, Ishpeming (5-3) 2, West Iron County (5-4) 1.

Class D

1. Dollar Bay (3) 7-0 26 3

2. Ewen-Trout Creek (2) 9-0 25 2

3. Rapid River (1) 7-1 24 1

4. North Central 7-1 17 4

5. Cedarville (1) 9-2 9 5

Others receiving votes: Munising (6-1) 3, Bark River-Harris (5-4) 1.