All U.P. Girls: LaFave follows in footsteps of Eskymo greats

MARQUETTE – Michelle LaFave throughout her first three years as a varsity player on the Escanaba Eskymos basketball team, has done her best to live up to the standard that players like Olivia Nash and Kristin Vogel before her have set.

Mission accomplished.

Putting together a dominant season, LaFave was recognized, Wednesday at the 39th Annual All-U.P. Girls Basketball Meeting of the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association at Northern Michigan University, being named to the Class A-B-C First Team.

Gladstone’s Jess Beaudry was named to the Class A-B-C Second Team.

LaFave this season compiled the fifth best season ever by an Escanaba girls basketball player. She averaged 19.5 points, 12.8 rebounds and also led the team with 45 assists and 42 steals. LaFave had back-to-back 30 point games this season against Ishpeming and Gladstone and had a four-game stretch where she scored at least 25 points in each game. She was an intimidating presence in the paint and nearly an automatic double-double candidate every night. She was the leading vote-getter for the first team, garnering 23 votes from the 24-member panel.

Opposing coaches raved about LaFave during the season. Ishpeming head coach Tom Graves said “Michelle LaFave is a heck of a basketball player. She scored 30 against us and she dominated inside, outside and made all her free throws. She’s a presence defensively inside, and we didn’t have an answer for her.”

Gladstone head coach Karl Dollhopf said, “How good is Michelle LaFave? We held her to nine points the first time, but she had a great game the second meeting (30 points). It wasn’t because we weren’t trying to stop her. Our girls kept after her. It just shows you how good she is.”

Other members of the A-B-C First Team included Jessica Spencer of Ishpeming, Abbey Ostman of St. Ignace, Lexie Rowe of Calumet and Lizzy Dauphinais-Van Buren of Westwood.

Spencer, the Mid-Peninsula Conference Player of the Year, averaged 15.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and two steals for the Hematites this season. Ostman was a 12 points per game and eight rebounds per game player for the Saints and Rowe put up an average of 15.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists for Calumet. Dauphinais-Van Buren averaged 13 points, six rebounds and three steals for the Patriots and scored at least 10 points in 16 games this season. She will continue her education at UW-Marinette this fall.

Beaudry, a 5-11 senior forward, overcame recurring back issues this season to put up a solid season for the Braves, helping them down the stretch to finish the season on a seven-game win steak.

Beaudry averaged 10.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.1 assists to lead Gladstone this season. She was a 42-percent shooter from the field, and though she missed four games, she was still second on the team in assists. Beaudry’s high game this season came against Sault Ste. Marie, where she scored 18 points. She also put up 17 points against Menominee in a district semifinal game that was won by the Maroons. She was one of the leading vote-getters for the Second Team with 22 votes.

“Jess Beaudry is a solid team player and a great leader on a winning team,” said Dollhopf last week.

Other Second Team players included Amber Larson of Kingsford, Maddie Anderla of Menominee, Taylor Bryant of Newberry, Kelsey Ross and Valerie Rajala of L’Anse, Ann Diepenhorst of Sault Ste. Marie, Emily Hinsman of St. Ignace, Aleda Johnson of Negaunee and Kelsie Richards of Houghton.

Larson was a unanimous selection to the Second Team. She was the Great Northern Conference Defensive Player of the Year and a key contributor to the Flivvers’ victory over Marquette this season.

Ross stands out as the leading scorer among Second Team athletes. She averaged 14.5 points with 2.5 steals and 2.9 rebounds. Two freshmen were among the 10 players on the Second Team in Johnson and Bryant. Johnson, in particular was the leading guard for the Miners. She averaged 7.3 points, five rebounds and five steals while playing very poised on defense. Six of the 10 players were seniors, making the All-U.P. team their last time up. Other than Beaudry, Rajala was the closet to being a double-double player. She averaged 9.5 points and 10 rebounds with 5.4 steals. She just missed the cut for First Team honors, getting 10 votes, but received 21 votes for the Second Team, as did her teammate Ross.

Among the special mention selections is Escanaba guard Lynsey Collins. Collins recieved nine votes from the panel. The speedy guard averaged 13.1 points, 4.1 rebound and had 41 assists and 41 steals for the Eskymos, while improving tremendously from the previous season.