NIT hosts ‘Family Feud’
NEGAUNEE – Survey says!
Richard Dawson or any of a half-dozen other TV hosts, along with their catch phrases, were the only things missing from a version of “Family Feud” played at Negaunee’s Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium on Saturday.
The afternoon setting was a Class E basketball game during the 49th annual Negaunee Invitational Tournament.
On one side were Mary’s Kids, otherwise known as the Honkala family, led by father Calvin of Ely Township. On “Family Feud,” he would have introduced his teammates as “my son Paul, my son Carl, his wife Carla, my daughter Shannon, my son Jeff, my daughter Jill, my daughter Maria, my son Erik and my son Andy.”
The team’s namesake is Calvin’s wife, Mary Honkala, also listed on the roster, though the former high school player said she had no intention of getting on the floor.
On the other bench were Waara’s Warriors and Friends, who would’ve been introduced by team “manager” Darryl “Poncho” Waara of Palmer: “This is my son Johnny, my granddaughter Jaclyn, my son Bradley, my nephew Chris, my son Steven, my son Mark and their friend Dan Schive.”
Schive is the head coach of the West Iron County High School boys basketball team in Iron River, where John and his daughter Jaclyn live.
One player who couldn’t make the game was Mark’s daughter, Courtney, who like her cousin Jaclyn at WIC was a star high school player just a year ago in Negaunee. Courtney has played basketball the past two seasons at Alma College.
Mary’s Kids led 29-24 at halftime and won 64-54, though Waara’s Warriors made several comebacks to tie the score or take the lead after trailing by as many as 10 points.
Mary’s Kids had the younger legs, though the oldest player on the court was their dad Calvin, who looked fit as any of his children at age 55.
His kids, though, ranged in age from 18 to 28, with the most youthful, Andy, still a senior at Westwood High School.
“It was his idea to get the team back together,” Mary Honkala said about Andy. “He wanted to play with them now that he’s old enough like he saw them do when he was younger.”
The Honkalas entered the NIT once before in 2006 when twins Jeff and Jill were just finishing high school, and the core of that team included dad and the oldest five children.
Calvin and Mary have three other children for 11 total. The youngest, seventh-grader Russ, hopes the team can re-form once again when he’s a high school senior.
The Waara “boys” are all in their mid-30s to early 40s, while Jaclyn is only 18.
“Jaclyn was our only shooter, or maybe I should say, our best shooter,” said her 41-year-old father, John, still perspiring profusely after the game ended.
“We first put this team together 15 years ago, when I was 45,” Poncho Waara said. “I played that year, but that’s when I retired (from the NIT).”
The team continued playing with Poncho’s sons and nephews until just a few years ago.
“Then we decided to get the team back together when Jaclyn and Courtney graduated last year,” John Waara said, “just so we could play with our kids.
“We have fun. We lack any height, but we still like to play hard.”
Jeff Honkala led Saturday’s winners with 11 points, while Carla Honkala had nine on a trio of 3-pointers. Five others, including Calvin Honkala, had seven or eight points.
For WWAF, Jaclyn Waara scored 21 points, including three triples, while John Waara scored 12, Steve Waara 10 and Brad Waara nine.
Mary’s Kids earned the right to play another game at 12:30 p.m. today against Angry P.C. of Munising, also a Saturday winner.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org