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Work ethic always wins out

Local rankings

Jason Juno/Daily Globe (Ironwood) Ewen-Trout Creek's Noah Nordine shoots as Dollar Bay's Brendan LeClaire defends Tuesday in Ewen.

I’m not sure where it started, or whose idea it was.

But if you go to enough high school sporting events, it’s almost a guarantee you’ll hear the familiar complaint that “seniors deserve to play the most.” And that way of thinking intensifies when a talented underclassman is brought to varsity and is placed ahead of older players in the rotation.

Usually when a deserving young talent is on varsity, people have enough common sense to use their eyes and understand they belong at that level — but that’s not always the case.

It’s not by some random chance underclassmen get good at their sport and surpass their elders. No, it’s the hours they spend in the gym, repeating rep after rep in the offseason and working on their bodies by getting stronger and increasing their athleticism; that’s not a groundbreaking revelation. Sure, some kids might have a natural feel for the game, but instincts only go so far. The best players are always some of the hardest workers, regardless of their age.

So no, just because you’re a senior, that doesn’t mean you can eat Cheetos and play video games all summer and expect playing time because of your age or status.

Sports are an extracurricular, like every other school function. But does the high school band automatically award first chair to a senior? Do seniors get judged more favorably in art competitions? Does the lead in a play automatically go to a senior?

So why should sports be any different?

A basketball head coach told me the hoop doesn’t care how old you are. Maybe everyone else should start thinking the same way.

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Local rankings

Girls

1. Houghton 16-0 (1)

Monday at Calumet and Feb. 16 at Marquette are the biggest hurdles the Gremlins face on their way to a 20-0 season.

When they’re locked in defensively with their size and length — like they were in the second half of the 46-40 win over Marquette on Monday — man, they’re tough to beat.

Marquette received votes in Class A of the AP State Poll. You’d think Houghton would get some love one of these days in Class B.

Houghton can clinch the West-PAC with a win on Monday.

2. Calumet 10-4 (2)

The Calumet Copper Kings have won five in a row and seven of their last eight with the only loss a 56-40 defeat to Houghton on Jan. 17.

I think Monday’s rematch at Calumet will be closer than the first matchup. Calumet’s younger players seem to be settling in, and having already faced Houghton and playing in the comforts of their own home, nerves shouldn’t be as much of a factor.

Hailey Wickstrom had 35 points and 15 rebounds against Negaunee on Tuesday, but it was something else that caught my eye in the box score sent over from Marquette. It had the 6-foot-3 center down as making a 3. After having never seen Wickstrom shoot anything outside the paint, I had to text head coach Jeff Twardzik to see if it was true. It was.

3. Baraga 13-2 (3)

The 47-42 win over Jeffers on Feb. 2 earns them the third spot. A trip to the Ewen-Trout Creek Panthers on Monday will serve as the final test for the Baraga Vikings in the conference championship chase.

4. Jeffers 10-5 (3)

The two teams chasing Baraga — the Jeffers Jets and Chassell Panthers, both a game back — face off on Monday. Chassell won the first matchup 44-37 on Jan. 17.

5. Ewen-Trout Creek 10-2 (5)

They’re up to 10 wins in a row. After home games against the Watersmeet Nimrods tonight and the L’Anse Purple Hornets on Friday, E-TC gets tested with Baraga at home on Monday before going to Jeffers on Thursday.

Eighth-grader Elise Besonen is shooting 49 percent from 3 so far on the season.

Boys

1. Dollar Bay 10-2 (1)

They showed up to Ewen 15 minutes before the game started; looked out of synch to start with because of the scheduling with no JV game and rushing to the locker room to warm up, but they still managed to overcome all that and win 59-56 at E-TC.

If it wasn’t for the Wing Ding game on Friday, I’d go to Ontonagon to watch Dollar Bay face the top team in the standings of the Porcupine Mountain division.

2. Jeffers 11-3 (2)

Winners of five in a row, if they shoot the ball halfway of what they’re capable of, they can beat anybody in the area.

3. Calumet 10-4 (3)

Friday’s matchup at West Iron County could go a long way in deciding the West-PAC title. Calumet is 3-1, while West Iron County is 4-1. Just behind them is Hancock at 2-2.

4. Ontonagon 7-6 (4)

They’ve won three in row. Friday’s matchup with Dollar Bay is the start of a difficult stretch that includes a trip to Chassell on Valentine’s Day and a game at Hancock on Feb. 17.

5. Hancock 8-5 (NR)

Following the Bulldogs’ 4-0 start, they went 2-5 in a tough portion of their schedule. But now they’ve won two straight over the Bessemer Speedboys (57-49) and L’Anse Purple Hornets (65-48).

As for Chassell, they’re 1-4 in their last five, and E-TC is on a three-game skid.

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