Thunderbolts ready to make run as boys basketball districts begin tonight
News Sports Editor
Dennis Kann knows what it takes to be successful this time of year.
As a player in 1989, Kann helped the Mio boys basketball team defeat Beal City to win the Class C state title. In 1998, he was an assistant coach on a Mio squad that lost to Southgate Aquinas in the final.
Now as the head coach of the Thunderbolts, he’s hoping another Mio squad can make a deep playoff run as boys district play begins tonight. Mio is hosting a Class D district and will face tonight’s Hale/Fairview winner on Wednesday.
“For these kids to experience something like that, you have to be good and you have to have talent,” Kann said. “It would be nice for them to experience that because you never forget it.”
Mio (18-1) nearly ran through the regular season untouched until Standish got the better of the Thunderbolts on Thursday, 57-56. Before that however, the Thunderbolts won 18 straight games, had a perfect 14-0 slate in North Star League play and have spent most of the season in the top 10 of the Class D AP poll.
For Mio, this year’s success has been a few seasons in the making. Last season the Thunderbolts lost five games by eight points or fewer and were a young team with four sophomore starters. With a year to develop chemistry and a few veterans leading the way, Mio had the depth and experience hit the ground running from the get-go.
“We’re playing great as a team and sharing the ball well. Every team looks at their schedule and says there’s not a game we can’t win,” Micah Thomey said. “We looked at our schedule and said there’s not a team we can’t beat.”
As a senior, Thomey has established himself as Mio’s floor general and has got better with each year he’s played. He’s averaging 16.6 points a game and has scored 20 points or more in several games this year, but he also averages 4.5 assists, sets up his teammates and draws attention away from them so they’re able to score.
“Micah draws so much attention. He does a good job getting in the paint and dishing the ball out,” Kann said.
The other standout for the Thunderbolts has been freshman Ben Lubitz, who has already established himself in the paint with 16 blocked shots on the year to go along with nearly 13 points a game.
While Lubitz and Thomey have been two of the key pieces for Mio this season, other players like Seth Thomey, Aaron Georgieff, Bryson Devers, Dennis Kann III and Bryce Degrammont have been among those players that have stepped up at various points this season.
“We have a well-balanced group of kids. We don’t lose much when we substitute because the guys that come on play really well for us,” Lubitz said.
With only two seniors on this year’s team, Kann has reason to be very hopeful about the future and believes the Thunderbolts are set up to be successful for the next several seasons. In the meantime though, he’s eager to see what this year’s squad is able to do against the state’s best.
“The guys have put in the time, really put in the time and it’s nice to see them being recognized,” Kann said. “If we come out and take care of ourselves, I don’t really see an issue.”
Several other local teams will open district play tonight as well.
Alpena will play at Gaylord tonight at 7 p.m. The winner will host Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday. On the other part of the bracket, Marquette hosts Petoskey tonight at 6 p.m. and Traverse City West hosts Traverse City Central at7 p.m.
Alcona will host Mancelona tonight at 7 p.m. and the winner will face Oscoda on Wednesday. On the other side of the bracket, Johannesburg-Lewiston will host Tawas with the winner advancing to play Whittemore-Prescott on Wednesday.
At Rogers City, the host Hurons play Onaway tonight at 7 p.m. and the winner plays Posen on Wednesday at 6 p.m.