March 29, 2014 | Vol. 95, No. 75

Dream Player: Mackey named among UP's best

MARQUETTE — Ironwood’s career leading scorer is also its first Dream Team player since 2006.

Senior Adam Mackey was voted to the All-U.P. Dream Team during Wednesday’s 64th annual boys basketball meeting of the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

The last Dream Team player in Ironwood was Mike Pawlak, who is married to Adam’s sister, Caitlin.

Joining Mackey on the all-class team were: Negaunee senior Tyler Jandron, Cedarville junior Joey Duncan, North Central senior Travis Vincent and Escanaba senior Brandon Robinette.

Jandron repeated as Class ABC Player of the Year, while Duncan edged Vincent by a single vote for the Class D honor.

Making Dream Team is never an easy feat. Mackey overcame multiple challenges:

—Ironwood plays in the Indianhead Conference, of which nine of the 12 teams are in Wisconsin and nearly all of them would be Class D teams in Michigan. Media outside of the western U.P. rarely see the Devils play.

—There were multiple strong candidates who missed Dream Team. They included: Hancock senior Alex Almquist, a Michigan Tech recruit who is an inside-outside threat at 6-7, and St. Ignace sophomore Gage Kreski, the leading scorer in the peninsula at 26 points per game. Players like Ishpeming’s Alex Briones and Negaunee’s Eric Lori were First Team selections.

What helped set Mackey apart was his school-record 1,654 points while leading the Red Devils to two district titles, its first regional game win in 36 years and a 72-20 record in four years. His 17.5 points per game this year may not have matched Kreski, but voters looked past numbers, with Duncan’s 21 point per game average the only scoring average above 20 on the Dream Team.

“He had some pretty talented kids around him,” Calumet coach Mike Ojala said of Mackey. “The one thing I noticed, he was able to do what he had to do for that team, not always be the main guy to score 20 a game. There were games (Bryant) Rowe or (Jacob) DiGiorgio had a big game. He was unique. He could get those guys involved with his passing. And he knows the game. He knows how to play and that’s a unique thing.”

It’s not that Mackey didn’t score. Just ask Norway. He torched the nets for 30 points in the first half, leading Ironwood to its historic regional game win.

“The only thing we could have done was tackle him,” Norway coach Ben Leiker said after that game.

Mackey accomplished a rare feat by making the All-U.P. team four times, starting on the Class ABC Second Team as a freshman, moving up to First Team as a sophomore and junior and closing out as a Dream Teamer. His junior year ended on a sour note, with a broken foot in a district semifinal win. The Devils played well without him but lost to Houghton in the final.

“I think we could have won three,” Ironwood coach Pete Lewinski said of district titles. “We lost by eight to Houghton without him.”

As a senior, Mackey also averaged 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 53.8 percent from the field, including 34 percent from behind the arc.

“Just a great leader,” Lewinski said. “Can score from anywhere, from 3-point range, from inside, very smart basketball player.”

He and Pawlak were similar in that they were known for being smart basketball players.

“Both very good players. Mike was more the point guard. Adam’s bigger than Mike. But both were smart players,” Lewinski said. “Similar traits as far as intelligence and basketball IQ. Mike was a pass-first player from his point position. We need more scoring from Adam. We had other guys around Mike on that team. Mike could score. He was the quarterback. He was the true point guard. Adam runs point, but he plays other positions, too.”

Mackey didn’t really want to compare his play to Pawlak’s, but he couldn’t resist a little bit.

“He was a great player. He was U.P. Player of the Year; obviously he was a great player,” Mackey said. “I think I can take him offensively. I think I can take him down in the low post a few times.”

He watched Ironwood’s 2005-06 team, led by Pawlak, win the district and suffer a similar fate, falling to Negaunee in a regional semifinal at Marquette. This year’s team lost in the regional final to Negaunee.

“That was probably one of the best teams in Ironwood history,” Mackey said before the 2014 team started the postseason.

Mackey plans to play for his dad, Dennis, at Gogebic Community College next year.

Duncan, also a coach’s son (Cedarville coach Dave Duncan), averaged 21 points for state semifinalist Cedarville. He already has more than 1,000 points and was the only unanimous choice to the Dream Team. Jandron, Vincent and Mackey were the other highest vote-getters, all getting the vote of nearly everyone.

Jandron is drawing interest from Division II and III schools. Vincent was the best player on a North Central team that went unbeaten in the regular season and lost in the quarterfinal to Cedarville.

Robinette was the Great Northern Conference Player of the Year, averaging 17.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Look out for Kreski the next two years. Besides his scoring, he averaged 10 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists per game.

The Class ABC First Team included four solid seniors and Kreski.

Lori averaged 16.3 points per game and combined with Jandron to make the best backcourt in the U.P. Almquist averaged 19.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.4 rebounds. Teams game-planned around Almquist (6-7) for four years. Marquette’s Andrew Nyquist averaged 10.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.