Katona brothers find a way

NEGAUNEE – Many basketball coaches tell their players, “Practice the way you play.”

That wasn’t a problem for the Upper Peninsula Insurance Agency team at the Negaunee Invitational Tournament on Saturday afternoon.

The team, made up of eight Katona brothers and a soon-to-be brother-in-law, held its initial practice during the first half of their opening Class C game in the 49th annual edition of the tourney, sponsored by Charter Communications.

Several of the sons of John Katona of Negaunee, who range in age from 18 to 39, had to come from the Lower Peninsula and Wisconsin, necessitating a crash course on strategy and even what positions they would play just before facing Nylund Fisheries of Menominee.

The lack of preparation didn’t hurt, however, as U.P. Insurance grabbed a small halftime lead and extended it to a 78-62 victory.

The win advanced U.P. Insurance to the semifinals at noon today against Stonehouse Window & Door of Ishpeming, with a berth in the 5 p.m. championship game on the line.

The youngest of the Katonas, Andrew, just completed his high school basketball career a few weeks ago as a starter on the Negaunee High School team that made it to the state Class C semifinals.

He understood why his father was all smiles after the game.

“Dad, he was coaching us, subbing us in and out and encouraging us the whole game,” Andrew Katona, 18, said. “We were a little out of sync at first, but we were OK by the second half.

“I didn’t think we were going to play until my brother Dustin set it up. I was really excited to play today.”

At the other end of the spectrum was Rich Katona, 39, who traveled up from the metro Detroit area. He’s a 1992 NHS graduate.

“I had knee surgery about two years ago, and that worked out well for me playing now,” said the eldest brother.

The only “outsider” was Garrett Peck, a punter for Northern Michigan University football until 2011. He’ll officially join the family in July when he’s set to marry Jennette Katona.

Saturday, Jon Paul Katona led U.P. Insurance with 19 points, while Peck had 16. The other Katonas and their point totals were Anthony, 14; Alex, 9; Rich, 8; Ryan, 7; Dustin, 5; and Chris and Andrew, none.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is