All-U.P. Boys: Jets take U.P. for a ride

MARQUETTE – Jet! with the wind in your hair of a thousand laces. Climb on the back and we’ll go for a ride in the sky. – Paul McCartney

The North Central Jets took just about everyone for a ride this season. One of the Upper Peninsula’s most talented and deep teams in years were a thrill to watch on the court with four players who averaged double figure scoring. All four of those players were selected to the All-U.P. Team at the 64th Annual UPSSA Boys Basketball Meeting, Wednesday at Northern Michigan University.

Junior guard/forward Rob Granquist was a Class D First Team selection and freshman guard/forward Jason Whitens and senior center Trevor Ekberg were each Second Team selections.

Granquist played an intelligent game on the court, commanding the offense while showing much of the same skills as he did, as the Jets’ All-U.P. quarterback last fall. He picked his shots carefully, averaging about nine per game and making 50 percent of them. He averaged 13.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.9 steals. He has 864 career points entering his senior year.

“Rob is a consistent leader who plays three different positions,” said head coach Adam Mercier earlier this month. “He closes the game for us with his ball-handling ability. He’s a pass first player and he spreads it around on a very balanced team.”

Also selected to the Class D First Team was Carney-Nadeau senior guard Keenan Lampinen. Lampinen became the 19th boys player from Carney-Nadeau to enter the 1,000 point club this season, ending his career with 1,069 points. This was the first season where Lampinen was looked to as the go-to guy, after playing behind All-U.P. guards Wade Schetter and Lucas Moreau the previous two seasons. He lived up to the task and helped guide the Wolves to a 19-4 record this season, including a 17-3 regular season.

The rest of the First Team included a trio of big men – 6-foot-5 senior Dan Stenback of Cedarville, 6-foot-6 junior Ben Stasewich of Munising, and 6-4 senior Shane Beaune of Brimley.

Stenback and Stasewich both left their mark on the North Central Jets. Stenback put up a beastly 34 points in the Class D state quarterfinal, helping the Trojans to victory. Stasewich had a big first half for the Mustangs in the Class D regional semifinal, finishing that game with 18 points.

Beaune put up a massive 25.2 points per game for Brimley while pulling down 12.9 rebounds. He ends his career with 1,026 points.

In addition to Ekberg and Whitens, local selections to the Class D Second Team included Jake Pearson of Rapid River, Cole Potvin of Big Bay de Noc and Dionte Blahnik of Carney-Nadeau.

Whitens, displayed stunning clutch ability this season for the Jets. He made two big free throws with a second on the clock to help NC escape Carney-Nadeau with a victory, and also hit a game-tying three pointer against Munising in the regional semifinal, to force overtime. The Jets went on to win that game. Whitens averaged 13.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.5 steals, while shooting 78 percent from the line. He led the Jets in scoring five times this season.

Ekberg, an imposing 6-foot-5 center displayed his dominance in the paint with a career-high 25 point effort against Forest Park in the Class D regional final this season. He also displayed his ability to hit shots from deep. His three-point basket in overtime of the same game, sealed the win for North Central. Ekberg, who appears on the All-U.P. Team for the first time, averaged 12.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks this season and was a 36% shooter from beyond the arc.

Pearson had a dominating year for Rapid River. Often having to create his own shot and taking it coast to coast quite often, Pearson racked up 20 points and 15 rebounds per game with three assists, 1.5 blocks and one steal per contest. Except for a game in which he only played five minutes against Munising, Pearson was not held under 10 points all season. One of the premier players in the Skyline and Central U.P. conferences, he finished his career with 917 points. In the fall, he will attend Northern Michigan University on a football scholarship.

Potvin, a senior guard, showed an ability to play at a high level, even through pain this season. Dealing with nagging injuries virtually all season, Potvin was fluid on the court with great vision to get the ball to his teammates. He averaged 18.9 points, 10.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists for the Black Bears, helping them to a 13-9 record which included an overtime victory over Gladstone. He was the second leading rebounder on the team. A versatile athlete, who wasn’t held under double-digit scoring once all season, Potvin finished his career with 845 points.

Blahnik, a senior forward became the big man Carney-Nadeau has been craving this season. Showing flashes of brilliance in the past, Blahnik put together a consistent season in which he averaged 16.2 points, 15.1 rebounds, 3.7 steals, 3.1 assists and two blocks per game. A relentless rebounder, Blahnik became the dominant second scoring option the Wolves needed this season and did his part defensively as well. He was named to the Central U.P. Conference All-Defensive Team and was a Second Team selection each conference.

Also getting named to the Second Team was Lee Graff of Forest Park, Brad Causley of Cedarville, Tyler Roose of Lake Linden-Hubbell, Ben Zielinski of Bessemer and Zack Steikar of Rudyard.

Zielinski averaged a double-double for the Speedboys this season, scoring 18.3 points and pulling down 10.1 rebounds per game.

Special Mention selections included Evan Winkelbauer of Mid Peninsula, who missed the cut by two votes. Winkelbauer adequately filled the void left by a graduating Brett Branstrom, for the Wolverines this season. An intense player, Winkelbauer averaged 18.9 points, 5.25 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.9 steals.

“He’s one heck of a ballplayer with the ball in his hands,” said his head coach Mark Branstrom. “He would have been a better two but we didn’t have a true point guard this season. He broke the press and was an MVP for us. He’s probably one of the better shooters I’ve had in a while. He worked his butt off.”

Kyle Kleiman of Bark River-Harris was an honorable mention after a season in which he averaged 16 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, two blocks and two steals. He was a First Team All-CUP selection and a Second Team selection on the All-Skyline Team.

“He was a hard matchup because he shot the ball well. A lot of his points didn’t just come in the post,” said Kleiman’s head coach Tom Lindquist. “He worked the floor on both ends and was one of our best defenders too.”