North Stars: Ojala earns MVP in leading North to All-Stars victory

Dennis Grall/Daily Press (Escanaba) Eddy Polakowski of Ontonagon brushes a shot away by Iron Mountain’s Jaden Vicenzi Saturday in the 34th annual U.P. All-Star Classic in Newberry. Polakowski’s North team won 107-93. The North girls also won.

e a pair of back stories to most valuable player winners Matt Ojala of Calumet and Sydney Kivi of Marquette here Saturday (June 15, 2019) at the 34th annual U.P. All-Star Classic.

Ojala joined his mother and father as All-Star Classic MVP picks while Kivi won despite missing Friday’s practice.

Ojala just missed a triple double as he helped North to a 107-93 victory over the South boys. In the girls opener, Kivi collected 23 points as the North girls posted a 72-48 victory.

Ojala’s father, Mike, of Ewen-Trout Creek, was the boys’ MVP in 1991 as he helped South win 91-78. His mother, the former Shana DeCremer of Ewen-Trout Creek, helped North win 75-62 in 1993. His mother was inducted into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

The game is sponsored by the UPSHF to help provide for the UPSHF’s scholarship fund. Luke Terrian of Kingsford, who played for the South boys Saturday, was one of this year’s four recipients of a scholarship that will contribute $500 annually for his college education.

Matt Ojala of Calumet led all scorers Saturday with 33 points while also gathering 18 rebounds and distributing nine assists. He wasn’t even aware his parents had been All-Star MVPs until he received his trophy after the game.

“It’s pretty cool, pretty special,” he said. “Playing with great players makes it easy. I pushed the ball and wanted to be a good playmaker. I wanted to stay aggressive, no matter what.”

That was demonstrated late in the game when he was trapped in the corner by two South defenders. He spun out of the corral and dribbled up past both benches before cutting to the basket for an impressive layup to help put the game out of reach.

The North boys held a 62-61 halftime lead of a very entertaining contest. North broke the game open in the third quarter with a 36-25 burst, starting the period with a 15-0 run.

“We kept the pressure on them,” said Ojala, who had 14 points in that decisive stretch.

Matt Ojala will play basketball at Michigan Tech. Twin brother Travis will play football at Tech.

George Butvilas of Houghton supported Ojala with 26 points and Nathan Beckman of Westwood added 12. For South, Reece Castor of Gladstone had 18 points, Kingsford teammates Luke Terrian and Tyler Beauchamp added 16 and 15, respectively, and Andrew Blanchard of Engadine hit 10 points.

Kivi missed Friday’s 75-minute practice at Newberry so she could perform her life guard duties in Marquette. Despite that absence, she scored a team-best 23 points Saturday, with 14 points coming in the second quarter as North took a 31-28 lead at the break.

She downplayed her Friday absence, indicating “I’ve played basketball my whole life. Anyone who has played basketball, I can play with. Missing one practice won’t kill you. it was not like it felt weird.”

She said the adrenalin of the game kicked in after the break, when a 19-4 North burst helped decide the contest.

“We started connecting well. We were getting the hang of things,” she said.

North hit a dozen 3-point baskets, with coach Kurt Corcoran of Westwood noting “in the third quarter everybody stepped up. It was fun to watch the whole process evolve.”

Corcoran said his plan A came together.

“That was a good thing because I didn’t have a plan B,” he said. The plan was “to get the ball up the floor as quick as possible. Get the ball up the floor and find your shooters.”

Emily Coveyou of St. Ignace, despite playing with a leg injury that required surgery before spring track, led South with 24 points. Cassidi Stannard of Bark River-Harris added 12 points.

Lexi Chaillier of Escanaba missed the game because she was in East Lansing Saturday helping the Eskymos win a second straight Division 2 state softball championship.

Jenna Pietala of Chassell won the pre-game free throw contest, Emily Coveyou of St. Ignace took the 3-point shooting event, Andrew Blanchard of Engadine took the slam dunk and Marcus Harris of Brimley was the 3-point shoot winner.

The summaries:

North girls 9 22 19 22 – 72

South girls 12 16 4 16 – 48

North – Ashyton Bell 6, Mackenzie Karki 3, Madison Pruett 6, Michaela Werner 11, Cierra Molina 5, Jenna Pietila 11, Sydney Kivi 23.

South – Emily Coveyou 24, Hailee Demers 4, Cassidi Stannard 12, Layla Blahnik-Thoune 4, Autumn Rasner 0, Chloe Wells 2, Adrian Depew 2.

North boys 20 31 36 20 – 107

South boys 16 35 25 17 – 93

North – Matt Ojala 33, Nathan Beckman 12, Bryce Brazeau 9, George Butvilas 26, Eddy Polakowski 3, Brendon LeClaire 0, Griffen Revoyr 6, Tucker Taylor 3, Marcus Harris 8, Tristan Lyons 7.

South – Reece Castor 18, Caden Pellizzer 9, Tyler Beauchamp 15, Luke Terrian 16, Jaden Vicenzi 6, Joey Starzynski 3, Griffen Johnson 8, Matthew Bruette 2, Andrew Blanchard 10, Max Nylund 4.