Wisconsin wins both ends of the Border Bash
EAGLE RIVER, Wis. — Northern Wisconsin coach Ryan Clark of Rhinelander was a little uncomfortable calling it good defense when his team gave up 99 points in Wednesday’s Kiwanis Classic Border Bash.
And while the boys game later in the night featured little defense, he thought that was the difference in his team’s 108-99 win over Northern Michigan.
Wisconsin trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half and was down by four, 52-48, at the half, before turning the tables early in the second half and taking a double-digit lead.
To be fair, scoring is bound to be up with the games lasting 52 minutes compared to 32 (Michigan) to 36 (Wisconsin) in a normal high school game.
“At halftime, we just talked a little bit about I thought they were driving on us pretty aggressively,” Clark said. “So we wanted to get into help a little bit more, get in the gap. … The second half, I thought they played really good defense, even though I don’t usually say great defense when you leave a team to 99 points, but I thought (they) did a really nice job defensively.”
About 4.5 hours before the game, they were still learning each other’s names. Right before the game, Clark warned his team about his competitiveness and his desire to win the game even though it is just an all-star game.
“And at halftime, they were like, man, let’s go win this one,” he said. “Super talented young ladies.”
Waukesha Catholic Memorial’s Alyssa Nimz, a Northern Michigan University recruit, scored 29 points to lead all scorers and take home MVP honors back to southeastern Wisconsin.
“I think she could do just a little bit of everything,” Clark said. “She’s just super skilled. And she’s like a 6-foot position-less player. She plays inside, she can play outside, she can post up, shoot it, she hits her free throws and she can lead us on the break. But when we needed a basket, I felt like we could always go to her, and she’d find a way. So super talented player … she definitely earned the MVP.”
Edgar’s all-time leading scorer, Makenna Gruden (5-7), scored 24 points, Merrill’s Courtney Krueger (5-5) had 15 and Alexa Thomson (5-8) of West De Pere scored 15.
Michigan coach Jacky Besonen of Ewen-Trout Creek thought her team went cold in the second half.
“We did not shoot well,” she said. “We went on a run there where it seemed like we were making nothing. And they were hitting some good shots, too. So I think that was a big difference.”
Menominee’s Emma Anderson led Michigan with 17 points. She was an All-U.P. Dream Team selection the past two years, and she was Miss U.P. Basketball as a junior. Her teammate, Erin Barette, scored 13.
Clark said Anderson hurt them in the first half the way she shot the ball — she had 12 points in the half. He said Escanaba’s Nicole Kamin, this year’s Miss U.P. Basketball, was a tough guard — “she’s quick and aggressive, and she had a little length to her.”
“They finished well, and their guards are quick,” he said.
St. Ignace’s Hallie Marshall finished with 14 points. Maija Rice of L’Anse scored 12.
Both Ewen-Trout Creek players were in double figures, with Abbie LeGault scoring 13 and Elise Besonen getting 11.
Surrounded by scorers, Besonen, the U.P. Division 4 Player of the Year, was able to be a true point guard, and she did well setting up her teammates, including her longtime teammate LeGault.
“She wasn’t looking to score very much at all. She was distributing,” coach Besonen said of Elise. “I thought she played a goodgame as far as taking care of the ball and distributing.”
“(LeGault) played very well. She had some good rebounds.”
Besonen won the 3-point competition at halftime.
Coach Besonen said it was obvious the girls who were teammates in high school, like Besonen and LeGault, and the Menominee and St. Ignace girls, as there isn’t much time to get used to each otherwise during the one-day event.
She was impressed with the defense from the St. Ignace teammates of Emmalee Hart and Marshall.
Besonen said the game was fun to be a part of.
“It was fun to get them together and see them play one more time. I told them one last time in your high school uniform,” she said.
Clark was happy with the experience this game gave the athletes.
“I’m glad they do this. It’s fun for the kids,” he said. “To me, after the long year of COVID, it’s nice to have these opportunities back for kids to just enjoy playing a little bit.”
It was the second straight win for Wisconsin, which leads the matchups 4-3.
Michigan — Nicole Kamin (Escanaba) 9, Emmalee Hart (St. Ignace) 8, Erin Barette (Menominee) 13, Hallie Marshall (St. Ignace) 14, Maija Rice (L’Anse) 12, Abbie LeGault (Ewen-Trout Creek) 13, Elise Besonen (E-TC) 11, Emila Palomaki (Negaunee) 1, Emma Anderson (Menominee) 17, Ellie Miller (Westwood) 1. FTs: 17-26. Fouls: 18. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: Besonen 3, Anderson 2, Kamin 1, Barette 1, Rice 1.
Wisconsin — Makenna Gruden (Edgar) 24, Courtney Krueger (Merrill) 15, Kylie Higgins (Laona-Wabeno) 0, Brooke Widerman (Amherst) 7, Rebecca Lawrence (Rhinelander) 9, Kiandra Hartman (Prentice) 6, Amaya White (Lakeland) 3, Alyssa Nimz (Catholic Memorial) 29, Alexa Thompson (West De Pere) 15. FTs: 20-28. Fouls: 22. Fouled out: Widerman. 3-pointers: Gruden 3, Krueger 1, Widerman 1, White 1, Nimz 1, Thompson 1.
Michigan — 52 99
Wisconsin — 48 108
Wisconsin Rapids coach Dan Witter imagined what the margin of victory could have been if his Northern Wisconsin all-star boys basketball team played more defense Wednesday night.
But when you score 172 points, you don’t really need to worry about that part of the game.
The impressive group of athletes from the Badger state jumped on Northern Michigan early and won 172-114 in the Kiwanis Classic Border Bash all-star game.
The scoreboard at Northland Pines’ gym was only big enough to add a No. 1 when teams hit triple digits. Until the running clock started late in the game, it looked like Wisconsin might have needed a “2” there.
High school teams, of course, very rarely clear even 100 points in either Michigan’s 32-minute games or Wisconsin’s 36-minute contests. But the Border Bash lasts 52 minutes, and as mentioned, defense doesn’t come along all that often. Wisconsin had 86 at the half and 100 with 23 minutes, 14 seconds left in the game.
“It’d be nice to coach that kind of talent all the time,” Witter said. “Most coaches have maybe one of those guys. It was nice to have all of them. You have size, you have shooting, you have speed. If they wanted to play defense, they could have really won.”
Most of the Wisconsin guys knew each other, Witter said. And it seemed that way in how they played.
Guard Devon Powell (5-10) of Ashland led everyone with 33 points and was named MVP. Teams that played Ashland in recent years, like Hurley, know what a handful he is to stop, and that was certainly the case Wednesday night.
“He could be really good. He doesn’t right now understand some things, but he’s going to be really good,” Witter said. “He did a lot of things (Wednesday). He defended kids, he rebounded, he scored.”
At least three or four kids could have been MVP, he said.
Cade Farber of Abbotsford put on a show for the large crowd in attendance, slamming it down several times, including on a throwdown alley-oop, the highlight play of the night.
He had 25 points.
“He doesn’t do a whole lot of different ones, but he really dunks,” Witter said.
Hunter Ingels of Winneconne scored 29 points off seven 3s, and he impressed Witter with the way he shot the basketball. Michigan Tech commit Dawson Nordgaard of West De Pere scored 12.
The Northern Michigan team had some excellent players; it just couldn’t match the athletes Wisconsin had across the board.
Jeffers’ Christian Hocking led Northern Michigan with 29 points. He made three 3s and had an impressive slam of his own in the game and in the slam dunk competition, which he won after he jumped over Dollar Bay’s Davin Hill and dunked it in.
“It was just a good time for him, I think,” his coach at Jeffers and Wednesday night, John Schutz, said. “He hasn’t committed to anybody yet, so maybe he’ll decide after this.”
On Michigan’s team, Witter was most impressed with Hocking and All-U.P. Dream Teamer Kam Karp of Marquette, who scored 23 points.
Negaunee’s Eli Loukkala scored 19 points, Hill had 15. Ewen-Trout Creek’s Tommy Cousineau couldn’t get a couple late shot attempts to go down.
It was a good night for the Copper Mountain Conference as Dollar Bay’s Connor LeClaire, the fourth member of the conference in the game, scored nine points.
As lopsided as the score was, Schutz said it was still good to get the team out there.
“(Wisconsin) was a very good team, but it was fun getting the boys out here, get one last game for them all,” he said.
Wisconsin won for the third straight time and now leads 4-3 all-time in the annual Border Bash.
The Border Bash took on added significance this year as it’s the only local all-star game being held. The U.P. All-Star Classic was canceled due to organizers not being able to secure a site in the central U.P.
Masks were not required for players or fans at the Border Bash. Organizer Russ Maki was impressed with the crowd of around 500 people. About 400-500 people attend annually at the game’s typical site, Gogebic Community College in Ironwood.
Michigan — Kam Karp (Marquette) 23, Beau Koffman (Carney-Nadeau) 6, Connor LeClaire (Dollar Bay) 9, Davin Hill (Dollar Bay) 15, Carter Hudson (Escanaba) 7, Eli Luokkala (Negaunee) 19, Christian Hocking (Jeffers) 29, Reid Hill (Gwinn) 6, Tommy Cousineau (E-TC) 0. FTs: 6-9. Fouls: 15. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: Karp 1, Koffman 2, LeClaire 1, Hill 3, Hudson 1, Luokkala 3, Hocking 3.
Wisconsin — Ross Skeen (Rhinelander) 14, Cade Farber (Abbotsford) 25, Devon Powell (Ashland) 33, Peyton Kuhn (Medford) 8, Richie Murphy (Cameron) 10, Weston Peplinski (Pacelli) 16, Dylan Lisita (Wisconsin Rapids) 5, Hunter Ingels (Winneconne) 29, Dawson Nordgaard (West De Pere) 12, Travis Towne (Rhinelander) 17. FTs: 11-14. Fouls: 13. Fouled out: None. 3-pointers: Skeen 1, Farber 1, Powell 3, Kuhn 2, Peplinski 4, Lisita 1, Nordgaard 2, Ingels 7, Towne 3.
Michigan — 55 114
Wisconsin — 86 172