Another trip south: Dollar Bay headed for state quarterfinals with Breslin in sights

Corey Kelly/Mining Journal (Marquette) Dollar Bay’s A.J. Datto tries to block Forest Park’s Max Nylund during the MHSAA Division 4 regional finals at Lakeview Elementary School in Negaunee Thrusday evening.

NEGAUNEE — Sophomore Connor LeClaire scored 27 points to lead Dollar Bay to its second consecutive boys basketball regional championship on Thursday.

The Blue Bolts topped Forest Park 64-48 in their MHSAA Division 4 finale held at Lakeview Memorial Gym in Negaunee on Thursday night.

Dollar Bay (20-4) moves on to face Pellston (23-2) in the state quarterfinal round in Escanaba at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Dollar Bay head coach Jesse Kentala said he was proud of his team’s performance, one where the Blue Bolts led wire to wire.

“We knew what we had and we knew that we were good,” he said. “We were confident in ourselves and we saw a lot of great things in practice just like last year.

“We knew there was talent here. What kind of talent? Were we expecting this? I don’t know. We’re happy to be here, we’re blessed, and it’s been a lot of fun.”

Kentala added that a quick 11-0 run to start the game was a major key in setting the tone of the game.

“We got out quick and obviously that’s the game plan,” he said. “Our guys stuck to the game plan, they had one day to prepare before today.

“I thought we got on them early to hit shots. We did good things. Things that we do in Dollar Bay. All the credit goes to the players. They’re special kids and to do what they did was a lot of fun this year.”

LeClaire said he has no doubt he and his teammates have the talent to go the distance this year after being stopped in the Class D semifinals by Southfield Christian 71-32 a year ago.

“Everyone did their job, everyone played deep, it was a great night and I couldn’t ask for it to be any better,” he said. “At the start of the season, we knew that we had a chance to make it to the (semifinals at Michigan State’s) Breslin (Center), but all the goals stay the same.

“Nothing ever changed and I’m just glad we made it this far. Nothing is stopping us from going any farther. It’s all about ourselves and we need to play well.”

Forest Park head coach Chris Nocerini said shots just didn’t fall for his Trojans team, with the Blue Bolts limiting senior Riley Hendrickson to just four points.

“We’ve had three games in a row where we were on the good end of that and knocking shots down all over the floor,” he said. “(Tonight) we couldn’t. When Riley scores four, it’s going to be a long evening for us.

“The kids kept battling hard and give credit where credit’s due. Our opponent was just a little quicker and shot much better than us.”

Despite the tournament exit, Nocerini said that this has been his most satisfying season yet.

“This is my fifth regionals I’ve been to, and of all of them I’ve been to, this has been the most rewarding,” he said. “This has been a group that just kept working and working and working.

“We came out of a tough district with North Central, we had a great end-of-the-year win against Carney-Nadeau, it was a very rewarding year for me as a coach and for the players.”

After falling behind 11-0, Forest Park was able to muster nine first-quarter points from sophomore Keall Emmers on a trio of 3-pointers. The Blue Bolts led 21-9 after one quarter and 32-19 at halftime.

The Trojans cut the deficit to a dozen points four times in the third quarter, but were unable to get any closer than that.

Dollar Bay was 25 of 49 from the field for 51 percent while Forest Park was 20 of 47 for 42.5 percent. Senior Brendan LeClaire finished with six of Dollar Bay’s 22 rebounds while Forest Park sophomore Tommy Showers picked up eight of 26.

Score by quarters:

Forest Park 9 10 12 17 — 48

Dollar Bay 21 11 17 15 — 64

FG shooting: Forest Park 20 of 47 (42.5 percent); Dollar Bay 25 of 49 (51.0 percent); FT shooting: unavailable; Rebounding: Forest Park 26 (Tommy Showers 8); Dollar Bay 22 (Brendan LeClaire 6).