2016 U.P. All-Star Classic

By Dennis Grall

MARQUETTE - Excuse everyone if they tell you they were seeing double Saturday (June 18, 2016) at the 31st annual U.P. All-Star Classic basketball game. That is because they were seeing double.

Twin sisters Karley and Kelsey Johnson of Stephenson won the special event skills contests before the pair of basketball games. Then Morgan Cox of two-time Class D state boys basketball champion North Central won the slam dunk contest and most valuable player award in events at Marquette High School.

Morgan Cox
Morgan Cox

Cox scored 19 points and had a batch of rebounds and a couple of assists to help the South boys beat the North 110-103. Cox scored in every quarter as coach Mark Branstrom of Mid Peninsula High School rotated his players throughout the game.

"We just wanted to push the tempo and get the game going," he said. "We knew that they were getting tired in the first quarter, so we knew we just had to push the ball more and we did. It was so much fun. We have a lot of friends on the other team, so it was just a blast to play in this game.

"It's just nice to graduate knowing that I never lost a game. Not a lot of kids can say that. I'm so grateful for that."

Kyle Johnson of Iron Mountain, who was involved in a serious car accident a week earlier on U.S. 2 just east of Iron Mountain, shook off his injuries to contribute 18 points. James Casey of Big Bay de Noc had 14 points, Manuel Duran of Carney-Nadeau added 12 points and Noah Berg of North Dickinson scored 11 points.

Duran helped Cox, his neighboring high school rival, win the dunk contest. In the final round, Cox leaped over Duran to cram the ball through the hoop among a wide display of dunks.

Gage Kreski of St. Ignace, who became the Upper Peninsula's all-time boys basketball career scoring leader this season, had 30 points for North. Kreski finished his career with 2,178 points.

Gage Kreski
Gage Kreski (left) and Dominic Jacobetti

Kreski, who will play football at Central Michigan University, met with Dominic (Duke) Jacobetti before the game. Jacobetti, playing for now extinct Negaunee St. Paul, finished his career 51 years ago with 2,140 points. Kreski scored 18 points in the first half but North trailed 64-58. Kreski, like Cox, scored in every quarter.

Josh Hood of Newberry added 20 points for North while Mike Graves of Munising and Luke Gray of Westwood had 10 points apiece.

Tanner Huotari of Iron Mountain won the pre-game 3-point shooting contest.

In the girls game, North clipped South 72-49 in a game it controlled from the onset. North led 39-24 at halftime.

MVP Tori Lauren of Gwinn led North with 14 points, Taylor Pertile of Hancock hit 13 points and Abby Wardynski of Ontonagon added 11.

For the South girls, Tori Wangerin of Stephenson and Hannah Kanyuh of Rapid River scored 10 points apiece.

Karley Johnson of Stephenson won the free throw contest and her twin sister Kelsey took the 3-point shooting contest.

The game is sponsored by the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame. Proceeds from the game are used to help fund the UPSHF scholar-athlete award in which four U.P. senior student/athletes receive $500 over four years of college scholarships.

Kreski, Brenna James of Sault Ste. Marie and Abbey Ostman of St. Ignace played in the game after being among this year's scholarship recipients. Zane Sarafiny of West Iron County was the fourth recipient.

The 2017 All-Star Classic will also be played at Marquette High School.

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