EagleHerald/Brian Bell
(Left) Menominee’s Keagan Monroe hangs on the rim after throwing down a two-handed jam in a game this season, while Aidan Bellisle (right) drives past an Escanaba defender. Monroe was named to the All-U.P. second team while Bellisle earned a spot on the honorable mention.
EagleHerald/Brian Bell

(Left) Menominee’s Keagan Monroe hangs on the rim after throwing down a two-handed jam in a game this season, while Aidan Bellisle (right) drives past an Escanaba defender. Monroe was named to the All-U.P. second team while Bellisle earned a spot on the honorable mention.

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MENOMINEE — Before the Menominee boys basketball season was cut short due to the MHSAA postponing the remainder of the year due to the COVID-19 outbreak, two players led the charge as the Maroons won six in a row and 10 of their last 11 games heading into a district final matchup with Escanaba that Menominee would have hosted.

Those two players were senior Keagan Monroe and sophomore Aidan Bellisle, and the pair were rewarded for their efforts in the All-U.P. voting done by the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association on Thursday. The voting was done via email because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Monroe — who was arguably the second best player in the best conference in the Upper Peninsula — should have been a lock for the first team but was forced to settle for a second team selection while Bellisle earned his second-straight honorable mention.

“Keagan and Aidan are both very deserving of recognition. They were the two guys we really relied on for consistent offensive output and they were crucial to our success this year,” Menominee coach Sam Larson said. “I’m actually quite surprised Keagan wasn’t placed on first team, but that’s the way those things go sometimes.”

Monroe, a 6-4 forward, was electric for the Maroons (12-9 overall, 5-2 Great Northern Conference) on both ends of the floor this season, averaging team highs in points (17.5), rebounds (8.8), steals (2.8) and blocks (1.2).

Arguably one of — if not the — best athletes in the entire Upper Peninsula, rocking gyms with high-flying dunks on offense and rising up to block shots off the backboard or into the stands was as normal as seeing a layup at Menominee games this season. Monroe had a knack for playing the passing lanes and would jump in front for a steal, and once he got out on the break everyone in the gym prepared themselves to see what he would do next, and he never disappointed as he averaged over two dunks per game.

“Obviously the first thing people notice when they walk in the gym is his athleticism, but he did so much for us on the floor this year,” Larson said. “He was our leading scorer, rebounder and when he got out on the break he was virtually unstoppable.”

His athletic ability is what captured the attention of everyone in the stands, but one of the most impressive things about him is his willingness to get on the floor for loose balls and put his body on the line each and every game.

“His game certainly has come flare to it, and I’m sure everybody remembers the dunks, but I also remember how he was usually the first one on the floor for a loose ball,” Larson said. “I was very impressed with how he matured into a leadership role this year as well. He is just a great athlete, great student and outstanding human being.”

He scored a season-high 30 points against North Central in a 62-59 win, had 17 points and 12 rebounds in an upset win over Escanaba and recorded 10 more double-doubles including a 21-point, 10-assist game against Kingsford.

Bellisle was the floor general for the second straight year as he controlled the flow of the Maroons’ offense with a confidence that grew game-by-game. He averaged 10.9 points, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game, but the stat where he impressed the most was rebounding as he pulled down 5.2/game as a 5-foot-10 point guard.

“Aidan’s biggest improvement from last year were his rebounding and his ability to attack the basket,” Larson said. “When your point guard is grabbing over five rebounds per game, that’s pretty good.”

Against North Central, Bellisle recorded his first triple-double of his career with 11 points, 11 assists and 15 rebounds, but his two biggest games came right when Menominee needed them most.

The first was an early February game against Escanaba — the same where Monroe had 17 & 12 — where he scored 22 points, pulled down six rebounds and dished out four assists to lead the Maroons to what was to that point the upset of the season in the U.P.

The next came against Gladstone in the district semifinals where he scored a career-high 28 points and added seven assists, five rebounds and five steals in a 74-64 victory to advance to the district finals.

“He really broke through for us after the New Year. His poise and control made it difficult for teams to press us this year. He became more aggressive offensively as the year went on and had huge games for us up at Escanaba and against Gladstone in the district final,” Larson said. “If he puts in the work this summer I think he can really be special for us in the upcoming years.”

Menominee, like many teams this year, didn’t get a proper end to its season so the six seniors (Monroe, Brock Barrette, Dante Sartorelli, Caden Bigger, Jayson Edington and Johnathon Boucher) on the team will never know what could’ve been, but what they can always hold with them is how they were the juice the Menominee boys basketball program needed to start the rebuilding process.

“Those seniors, along with our entire team, are as classy as they come and it was truly a pleasure to coach them this year,” Larson said. “This senior group has played a vital role in breathing new energy and life into Menominee basketball. We’re really going to miss our guys, but we have a lot of bright spots coming back next year.”

Iron Mountain junior Foster Wonders was named Mr. U.P. Basketball, Division 1-3 Player of the Year and Dream Team for the second straight season. He was joined on the Dream Team by senior teammate Marcus Johnson, Ashton Janke of Dollar Bay, Brad Simonsen of Houghton, Jason Waterman of Negaunee and Kam Karp of Marquette.