DiGiorgio named to All-UP First Team, Berwald to Second Team
MARQUETTE — Ironwood senior Jake DiGiorgio was always more worried about how the team did than how many points he scored or rebounds he acquired.
This season, the Devils usually won and DiGiorgio (6-5) was usually a big part of that.
His hard work paid off with a spot on the All-U.P. Class ABC First Team as selected at Wednesday's 65th annual meeting of the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
In as competitive a year as ever in Class D, Bessemer senior guard Lance Berwald landed a spot on the All-U.P. Second Team.
DiGiorgio averaged a double double with 18.4 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. He scored 423 points in his senior season and ended his three-year varsity career with 937. He made the All-U.P. Second Team as a junior.
"He just combined his natural talent with his great work ethic," Ironwood coach Pete Lewinski said. "Combining those two, you're going to have a great player. He has the physical makeup of a basketball player — 6-5, long, he's physically strong, he takes up a lot of space in the paint. Throw all that in with hard work and you're going to have a special player."
Marquette senior center Vejas Grazulis (6-10) was named Class ABC Player of the Year over DiGiorgio. Grazulis was the Great Northern Conference Player of the Year while DiGiorgio won the award in the Indianhead Conference East Division.
Grazulis averaged 15.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game for the Redmen, who finished 16-4.
Ironwood senior guard Denver Sharrow was named Special Mention in Class ABC. He averaged 14.8 points per game and shot 39.8 percent (66 for 166) from the behind the arc. He made three or more 3s in 13 of Ironwood's 23 games.
His outside shooting was a perfect complement to Ironwood's (19-4) very talented front court, led by DiGiorgio.
"He opened up the whole court with his 3-point shooting," Lewinski said. "I think Denver, on this end of the U.P., I think he's one of the best outside shooters in the area."
Joining DiGiorgio and Grazulis on the Class ABC First Team were Ishpeming junior forward Ozzy Corp (13.6 ppg), Sault Ste. Marie senior center Terrance Fuller (14.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg) and Iron Mountain sophomore forward Carson Wonders (14.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg).
Berwald averaged 16.3 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 1.5 steals per game to earn a Class D Second Team spot.
Berwald was earlier named the Porcupine Mountain Conference's Most Valuable Senior, winning the Ed Helakoski Award.
"Lance has matured a lot in the last few years, but he is still a real fierce competitor," Bessemer coach Jim Partanen said. "He's not big, strong or fast, but Lance uses all the abilities he has. He has that intensity and he's so mentally and physically tough. He's played the whole season with a broken thumb that he hurt in football. And he became a team leader when Jess Mazzon got hurt."
It's the sixth straight year a Speedboy has been named to the Second Team. Ben Zielinski made it in 2014, Taylor Smith in 2013, Jacob Ludtke in 2012, Jordy Chiapuzio in 2011 and Jake Chiapuzio in 2010.
Before the season even started, it looked like 2014-15 could well be the year of Class D boys basketball in the U.P.
When Munising beat Marquette in the regular season, that was a sign that the peninsula's best basketball really was in Class D. Marquette was ranked No. 1 in the Class ABC poll at the time.
All five of the all-class Dream Team selections went to Class D players.
Two of them, senior forward Rob Granquist and sophomore guard Jason Whitens, who was also named Class D Player of the Year, are from undefeated state champion North Central.
Cedarville senior guard Joey Duncan, St. Ignace junior guard Gage Kreski and Munising senior center Ben Stasewich easily joined the North Central duo on Dream Team.
Whitens averaged 17 points, 7.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 3.5 steals while leading the Jets to a remarkable state championship. Granquist averaged 14.8 points per game and played in 101 total games. North Central plans to retire his No. 15.
The Jets, named Team of the Year in Class D, won the state semifinal and final by a combined 45 points.
The Jets' biggest postseason challenges came from Munising in the regional semifinal in a packed Lakeview Gym in Negaunee and then from Hillman in the state quarterfinal. North Central beat Munising 48-44 and Hillman 63-51.
Duncan averaged 29 points, 5 assists, 4 steals and 3 rebounds per game. He finished his career with 1,755 points, passing 2009 graduate C.J. Paquin for the school record. The Trojans went to state in all four of Paquin's season, winning the state title in 2007, and beating Ewen-Trout Creek 74-70 in the 2008 quarterfinal at a jam packed Escanaba High School.
Duncan had a fantastic career also, leading the Trojans downstate last season when he was also named Player of the Year in the U.P.
He lost the Player of the Year vote this year to Whitens.
Kreski averaged 25.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game for the Saints, who pulled off the biggest upset in the U.P. this year, beating Cedarville in the regional semifinal.
Stasewich averaged 17.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game for the Mustangs, which gave North Central scares in the regular season and the regional semifinal.
A pair of Lake Linden-Hubbell players were named to the Class D First Team, Brett Poissant (18.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg) and Tyler Roose (16.4 ppg), who ended his career as the Lakes' all-time scoring leader with 1,349 points.
They were joined on the First Team by North Central sophomore guard Dawson Bilski (14.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Crystal Falls Forest Park senior guard Lee Graff (11.2 ppg, 4.5 apg) and Rudyard senior guard Zack Steikar (25.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg 5 apg).
Lake Linden-Hubbell's Jack Kumpula was named Coach of the Year in D. He led the Lakes to one of three 20-0 seasons in the U.P. this year with North Central and Cedarville being the others. Lake Linden won its district and then upset nemesis Crystal Falls Forest Park convincingly, 60-42, in the regional semifinal.
Iron Mountain was named Team of the Year in Class C and its coach, Bucky Johnson, Coach of the Year in ABC.
The Mountaineers advanced to the regional final where it lost on a 3-pointer in the final seconds to Boyne City. Iron Mountain defeated Ironwood in the regional semifinal.
The Mountaineers won a vote over Negaunee for the award. The teams split in the regular season with Negaunee winning the Mid-Peninsula Conference title. But Iron Mountain won its regional and went to the final, while the Miners were upset in the district final by Ishpeming.
Iron Mountain last won the award in 1994 when the Mountaineers advanced to the state semifinal.Iron Mountain also won the award in 1993, also making it to the semis.
Three Mountaineers made the All-U.P. team; Wonders on First Team and junior guard Tanner Huotari and senior center Jake Thomann on Second Team. Huotari's outside shooting helped the Mountaineers pull away from the Red Devils in the regional.
Marquette was named Team of the Year in Class AB for the third year in a row.