Janke, LeClaire both earn All-UP honors

Justin St. Ours/Daily Press (Escanaba) Dollar Bay’s Ashton Janke (11) puts up a layup against Pellston’s Blake Cassidy (left) in the final seconds of the MHSAA Division 4 quarterfinal game at Escanaba.

DOLLAR BAY — Outside the gym of Dollar Bay-Tamarack City High School, there were more questions than answers about what exactly the Blue Bolts were going to have in their boys basketball team after losing four out of five starters from the 2017-18 team.

What they discovered over the course of the 2018-19 season was that they were still strong defensively, thanks in large part to the efforts of their senior leader, Brendan LeClaire. They also discovered their ability to score, especially once junior forward Ashton Janke began to build his confidence with the ball.

“Ashton just got better and better and better,” said coach Jesse Kentala. “He grew over the summer, which obviously helped. He just got more confident. He got settled in his role. I didn’t think he was forcing shots.

“Early on, I think he was kind of dribbling the air out of the ball.”

Janke, who was announced as a member of the All-State Second Team on Monday, earned Division 4 All-U.P. First Team honors this week as well.

The 6-foot-3 junior put up 16.4 points per game. He snagged 8.4 rebounds and also racked up 1.5 assists per contest.

“Ashton developed into our scorer,” Kentala said. “When we needed a bucket, Ashton was usually the guy that was going to go get it for us.

“I think Ashton kind of kept things under control from a scoring standpoint.”

Janke averaged 43.8 percent from beyond the arc and was 77.8 percent from the free throw line as well.

Kentala feels that Janke has not yet hit his potential.

“The other parts of his game are still developing,” Kentala said. “It’s scary to think, if he puts in a summer of work, in the weight room, getting more explosive. He just needs to get stronger. Once he does that, I think colleges are going to be knocking on his door.”

He was recognized by the Copper Mountain Conference as a member of the Elite Team as well as a First Team member for the Copper Country Division.

Kentala is very proud of everything LeClaire has achieved at Dollar Bay.

“You don’t want to say a player is irreplaceable, but Brendan is about as close as it can get,” said Kentala. “He is a guy that is going to be so hard to replace because of his leadership.

“He just does every little thing. It’s the guy who is the unsung hero. He is that guy for us. Any time that we needed a stop, Brendan guarded their best player. Any time we needed a bucket, like at Ewen-Trout Creek late, he got the winning bucket.”

Kentala describes LeClaire in much the same was Finlandia Lions hockey coach Joe Burcar talks about local hockey players.

“He is coachable,” said Kentala. “He keeps everybody accountable. At practice, he is the quintessential captain.”

LeClaire, who spent his sophomore and junior years as Blue Bolts’ top defender, entered the 2018-19 season as the lone returning starter. Unsure of exactly what his role would be during the early portion of the season, he bounced around a little, trying to figure out what he needed to do to help the team.

“I think he came into the season thinking he was going to be the main gunner,” Kentala said. “He certainly did everything he could to earn that.”

LeClaire, according to Kentala, made the decision on his own to drop back into more of a defensive role. Once he settled back in, things started to turn for the Blue Bolts. The 5-foot-9 defender earned Copper Mountain Conference Defensive Player of the Year for his efforts.

LeClaire was also good offensively, averaging 9.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. He shot 77.3 percent from the free throw line and 32.1 percent from beyond the arc.

“As a coach, you don’t come around kids like this very often,” said Kentala. “You just have to appreciate it when you do.”

Two other Blue Bolts were also given honorable mention nods: sophomores Connor LeClaire and Davin Hill.