By Jon Young
For The Daily News
HERMANSVILLE - There are signs of spring in the air, and none is more evident than the start of the 76th annual Gold Medal Classic basketball tournament.
Burt Angeli/The Daily News Photo
The 76th annual Gold Medal Classic is under way at the Community Club gym in Hermansville. Referee Bob Maule, working his 40th Gold Medal, tosses the opening jump ball between Nick Pearman of Norway Ebeling’s Supermarket and Jeremy Heim of the Bark River Broncos. The basketball tourney runs through April 13.
Nearly 80 teams will take to the Community Club gym over the next 11 days to determine winners in 10 different classes.
"The weather is probably going to be just about right for us," said tournament manager Ray Bray. "It's good for the people to get out because they must have been locked in their house now for about four months with this weather; so we anticipate a lot of people coming out. We've got a good show."
Bray said there aren't any noticeable changes to the tournament this year but did note that long time teams such as the Stephenson Strollers and Crystal Falls McNeil's Oilers will be returning. The Strollers, who have four teams entered, have played in 76 straight Gold Medal tournaments. The Oilers are playing in their 51st straight Gold Medal tournament.
Also making a return after a year hiatus is the 2012 Class A champion Hermansville BKP Logging, featuring a lineup comprised of former UW-Green Bay players. The 2013 Class A champion, Green Bay Dickey's Barbecue is also returning.
The Class A division has four teams as of now, but Bray noted that there could be an addition before play on the weekend of April 11-12.
Also playing during the final weekend is the men's Class B division and the women's division, which each feature six teams. Miss Basketball, Michigan State recruit, and Forest Park senior Lexi Gussert is a possibility for the McNeil's Oilers squad. Her availability will be known by Sunday.
The final weekend is also going to have an influx of youth basketball sprinkled into the mix as five junior high teams from around the area will play in-between the Class A and B games. Teams compromised of 7th and 8th graders from Carney-Nadeau, Bark River-Harris, Norway, North Central and Stephenson will take the court for double elimination play. The rest of the tournament will be single elimination play. There is also a junior high girls division that will play during the week.
Former Carney-Nadeau graduates Jason Boucher, Jake Polfus and Jared Benson are also teaming up for a run at the Class A title. Boucher currently plays professionally in Germany.
"We're looking forward to and anticipating a good 11 days of basketball," Bray said. "It's kind of a showcase for Hermansville. It's the little community club that they play in, it's not very big but everything you shoot goes in because the rims are loose and all the bounces go down. It's got lots of character."
If Thursday's opener is any indication, the tournament will be another dandy.
Norway Ebeling's Supermarket outlasted Bark River Broncos 72-68 in double overtime. Brett Bray scored 27 points and Jon Belaire had 24 in the Class EE contest.
In another Class EE game, the Swanson brothers totaled 52 points as Niagara Bob's Country Bar tipped Stephenson Wangerin Logging 84-83. John Swanson scored 32 points and Joey Swanson had 20.
In Class D, Joe Pontbriand popped in 26 points and Hermansville Moonlight Graphics downed Wallace Jim's Plumbing 68-58.
Powers LaBelle's, behind 20 points apiece from Kyle Bellefeuil and Mike Bellmore, tripped Hannahville Money Ball 71-64 in Class E.