Bolt strike: Breslin Center goal on Blue Bolts’ minds

ESCANABA — The Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Blue Bolts boys basketball team (20-4) is gearing up to face the Pellston Hornets (23-2) in Escanaba on Tuesday in a Division 4 quarterfinal game after beating Crystal Falls Forest Park, 64-48, last Thursday.

Unsurprisingly, Blue Bolts coach Jesse Kentala and his team are mapping out a game plan for a defensive game.

“We’re going to matchup fine,” Kentala said.” They are a little longer (taller) but they don’t have a powerful post matchup for us. That sometimes can give us trouble.

“We think the LeClaires have an opportunity to guard their best two scorers, but if it ultimately comes down to who can make the least amount of mistakes, and who can stick to their jobs, both of our teams can score the ball. That’s for sure. Who can slow down the other’s offense; the defensive side of the ball will tell the tale.”

“We’re going to be prepared,” said Kentala. “We’ll be ready. We know that they pose challenges for us, but we match up well with them. We’re certainly not scared. We’re excited about the opportunity.”

Kentala is hoping the LeClaire brothers, Connor and Brendan, can match up against the Hornets the way he believes they can. This is not new territory for most of Blue Bolts. They saw much of the same success during the 2017-18 state tournament run and are looking to fill the shoes of those who graduated.

“What’s nice with these guys,” said Kentala. “Even though they weren’t starters last year, they understand what it took. They played in Escanaba in a quarterfinal. They played in East Lansing. It’s something that they know about and understand the height if the situation. They understand that it’s big.

“We played in Escanaba last year (and) we beat Centerville… to make our first East Lansing Breslin Center appearance (as a team). It’s kind of a crazy, but fun, thing to think about; being able to (be) one game away from playing were Michigan State plays. That’s incredible to think about.”

Two Upper Peninsula schools remain in the postseason for boys basketball: Dollar Bay and Iron Mountain. Kentala and his team are proud to represent the Upper Peninsula.

“It’s an opportunity what most Upper Peninsula teams don’t get a chance to do, especially on the boys side,” said Kentala. “I think it means a lot to the Upper Peninsula teams because there are really good teams and players up here that I don’t think they always get the recognition that teams from downstate get, just because of our area.

“To not only win in the Upper Peninsula, but to make an impact and compete against teams from the Lower Peninsula, we’ve gotten so much support from not only our community, but from the Upper Peninsula in general.”

The Dollar Bay community was hard hit this summer by the Father’s Day flood, but Kentala feels that helped strengthen the resolve and the support of the community for what the Blue Bolts accomplish.

“It’s a really coordinated effort and, of course, (we thank) the community for being there to support us,” Kentala said. “We have a fan bus going down. I think Dollar Bay will be well represented once again. I’m always so proud of being apart of this small little community. (We’re) small but powerful.”

“For a small school like Dollar Bay (with) such a small community, to play on this big of a stage, even in Escanaba, we’re blessed and we’re excited.”

The Breslin Student Events Center in East Lansing was the final destination for the Blue Bolts last season, Kentala is playing it one game at a time while getting his team motivated with the big picture in mind. He is excited to see how this year’s team will make their mark.

“We’re kind of in a weird spot right now because we know we have a really good Pellston team in front of us who we’re preparing for but, at the same time, we have to prepare as if we’re heading back to East Lansing as well,” he said. “We could potentially be going downstate or we could be heading back home. We know they’re good. Every team at this level now is going to be good if not great. (We’re) breaking down film and scouting them a little bit. We think they’ve got two really gifted scorers, guys that can put the ball in the hole. We’ve got a good a good team of defenders.

“We’re excited to compete. We think we can compete and Tuesday will tell the tale. (I’m) proud and love these guys and are thankful for everybody that’s helped us along the way.”