WestPAC trio lands in U.P. poll

HOUGHTON – The first U.P. girls’ basketball poll of the season is out, and some early opinions appear clearer than others.

The only Copper Country teams to be ranked are all in the same classification: Class ABC girls, where the five-member panel had to make a tough choice between three teams with interrelated losses.

All of them are behind a two-loss team, Marquette, which was No. 1 on four of five ballots. Though the Redettes have two losses, they’re both against Class A teams from downstate in Brighton (in overtime) and Petoskey.

The panel picked Houghton first from the WestPAC triumvirate, giving the Gremlins a first-place vote and 14 poll points at No. 2. Calumet is just a point behind in a tie for No. 3, but the tie is not with L’Anse, who the Copper Kings beat Thursday, but a Negaunee team the Purple Hornets beat 55-46 in December.

Calumet and Houghton will meet for the first time this season a week from tonight in Houghton, while L’Anse and Negaunee will have a return bout at Lakeview Gym the same night. All four teams are 6-1 overall.

L’Anse comes in at No. 5 with 10 poll points.

Sault Ste. Marie (4-4) also received a vote.

Though no team in the larger classification remains undefeated, there is a logjam of staggering quality in Class D, which has three undefeated teams and four in the first Associated Press statewide poll of the season.

St. Ignace, which dropped down to Class D this year after making it to the Breslin Center three years in a row in Class C, leads both polls. The Saints, whose 7-0 record includes wins over four Class A teams, were a unanimous selection in the U.P. poll.

Forest Park (9-0) is No. 2 on all ballots, followed by another unbeaten, Superior Central (8-0). The three teams, who are ranked 1, 2 and 4 statewide by the AP panel, don’t meet in the regular season.

Bark River-Harris, which is ranked 10th in the AP poll, is No. 4 with 7 poll points. The Broncos (6-2) lost to Forest Park in December and were upset at Carney-Nadeau Friday night.

There’s a tie for fifth between DeTour (6-0) and North Central (7-1). The Jets’ only loss came to Forest Park in the season opener.

Ontonagon (5-0) received two votes.

On the boys’ side, the first No. 1 of the season in Class ABC is also Marquette, which also happens to be the only unbeaten left in the classification. Marquette (6-0) thumped Iron Mountain, the only remaining unbeaten, by 20 Monday night in a game played after the poll had been taken.

Negaunee (6-1), which also lost to Marquette in December, is No. 2 on all ballots, with IM (now 6-1) No. 3.

Fourth is a tie between Gwinn (4-2) and Ironwood, both of which have four points. The Modeltowners’ only losses thus far are to teams above them (IM and Negaunee), while Ironwood’s lone blemish when the poll was taken was an upset loss at Bessemer. The Red Devils (4-2) lost again Monday night at Washburn, Wis.

Several other teams received votes, including West Iron County (three), Houghton (two), Kingsford and Gladstone (one apiece).

In Class D, 2012 state semifinalist Carney-Nadeau leads the way after a 6-0 start. The Wolves received four first-place votes and 22 poll points. The remaining first-place vote and the second position belongs to 5-1 Cedarville, whose only loss came at a highly touted Frankfort team over the Christmas break. The Trojans have 20 poll points.

Mid Peninsula is third with 12 points. Led by Class D Player of the Year candidate Brett Branstrom, the 4-1 Wolverines’ only loss was at Class B Gladstone in December, a team they came back to beat in a return match-up last Thursday. Mid Pen hosts C-N Thursday night.

Bessemer, off to a 7-0 start, is the No. 4 team. Brimley, at 6-1 with its only loss to Cedarville in the first week of the season, is No. 5, edging out Lake Linden-Hubbell (three votes), North Central and Ewen-Trout Creek (two apiece).

The first AP boys’ poll of the season will be released next week.