NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WLUC) - Year after year, the Negaunee Nets host the Irontown Classic to raise money for the next year's squads. This year 44 girls teams participated.
"It's really great because we get teams from all over the place - teams that we don't see normally in different other tournaments - they come to see this tournament," says Cassandra Herman, a Negaunee Nets board member.
"We play against Baraga and a bunch of people from far away, and competing with them you don't know any of their plays, so it's kind of hard but then it's fun because you're meeting new people," explains Emma Wills, a Negaunee Nets sixth grader.
The tournament is for girls from third through eighth grade, and helps develop their skills against different competition.
"You start with your fundamentals but each year you can even tell with the reffing. The refs at the beginning they call some dribbling, some traveling, but you can see the progression through the years and that's really what the takeaway here is. You start them young and yea it's young but they're learning each year, getting better each year, growing each year," Herman says. "So you look at them at third grade and you're like, 'Oh my gosh these girls have improved so much and gotten so much bigger, taller, and so that's exciting for everyone."
Along with the girls, the tournament grows as well, with the addition of teams. One of the new ones this year was UP Hustle from Sault Ste. Marie.
"You kind of have to differ between different teams because some teams are at a higher level and some teams are on a lower level and you kind of get to see what their skills and what kind of level they play at," explains Emma Kitzmiller, a UP Hustle sixth grader.
The UP Hustle 6th graders beat the Negaunee Nets in the championship game, but the tournament is about more than just the competition.
"Youth sports and youth basketball it's a team building exercise and ultimately when these girls go to high school and then college they'll all be playing together, and so they're rooting each other on and just rooting for all of us Yooper girls in general as the season and the years go along," Herman says.