By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The first month of the season features nonleague tilts between top teams from all over the state – see our “Week in Review” presented by MI Student Aid for some of last week’s best – and keep an eye out for more as we move into the final week of December before that second phase – the heating up of league competition.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Flint Beecher 59, Detroit U-D Jesuit 57 (OT) – Beecher, the reigning champion in Class C, has played arguably the toughest schedule in the state so far but came back from an early-week loss to reigning Class B champion Detroit Henry Ford by downing the reigning Class A champion Cubs during Super Saturday at Southfield.
2. East Lansing 59, Lansing Everett 53 – As noted in last week’s report, Everett handed the Trojans their first and only loss last season on the way to the Class A Semifinals; East Lansing and star Brandon Johns again are expected to be title contenders.
3. Wayland 77, Detroit Henry Ford 54 – The Wildcats, 17-3 a year ago, handed the reigning Class B champion its first loss during the Battle for I-96 showcase after Ford had downed Beecher just days before.
4. Freeland 54, Alma 48 – The undefeated Falcons trailed late before coming back to beat their Tri-Valley Conference Central rival; last season, Alma won the league with a sweep of second-place Freeland (which won 19 games) and then beat Freeland again during the Regional.
5. Detroit East English 79, Macomb Dakota 63 – Also Saturday at Southfield, East English added to an earlier win this season over Beecher by ending Dakota’s 41-game regular-season winning streak.
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each class making sparks:
Kalamazoo Central (4-0) – The Maroon Giants are always in the championship mix, so this start is nothing new. But it’s included four double-digit wins including 67-55 over Battle Creek Central in the opener and 62-45 over Detroit Western.
Dearborn Heights Crestwood (4-0) – After finishing 10-12 and last in the Western Wayne Athletic Conference Blue last season, Crestwood has matched reigning co-champ Belleville with a 4-0 start. A big test comes Tuesday against the other 2015-16 co-champ, Romulus.
Bridgeport (4-0) – The Bearcats have finished third, sixth and fifth in the TVC East the last three seasons, respectively, but moved into prime position early with last week’s 69-59 win over reigning co-champion Frankenmuth. They’ll meet again Feb. 10.
Detroit Mumford (4-0) – The Mustangs won six and seven games, respectively, over the last two seasons, and are approaching those totals with four more games to go this month. They’ve pulled off a pair of close calls, by five over Gibraltar Carlson and four over Detroit Southeastern.
Iron River West Iron County (3-0) – After winning four games last season and two the season before that, West Iron is close to surpassing both by the end of the first week of January. The highlight so far probably was last Monday’s 61-43 win over Crystal Falls Forest Park, a 22-game winner last winter.
Marlette (4-0) – The Red Raiders are coming off back-to-back 15-7 finishes and after starting 2-2 a year ago. They could turn into a heavy favorite to claim the Greater Thumb Conference East title outright after sharing last winter; after two weeks, Marlette is the only team in the league with a winning overall record.
Baldwin (4-0) – After squeezing past Scottville Mason County Central by three in its opener, Baldwin has won its last three games by an average of 32 points. The Panthers won their District and fell in the Regional Semifinal last season.
Lansing Christian (4-0) – Since making the Class D Semifinals in 2013, the Pilgrims have fallen as low as five wins and built back with 10 two seasons ago and 14 last winter. They play in the Greater Lansing Activities Conference with all bigger schools, so they will see only a few opponents their size the rest of the way.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Monday – Powers North Central (3-0) at Menominee (0-1) – The Class B Maroons might be the last tall obstacle to stand in the reigning Class D champion's way as it pursues the MHSAA record for longest winning streak (see last week’s report); Menominee fell only 64-60 in the teams’ second meeting last season.
Tuesday – Detroit U-D Jesuit (2-1) at Macomb Dakota (3-1) – This is a rematch of last season’s Class A Semifinal, won by Jesuit 72-51, as the Cubs went on to win the MHSAA championship.
Tuesday – Ann Arbor Pioneer (3-2) at Ann Arbor Skyline (2-2) – Skyline lost to Pioneer three times and Ann Arbor Huron twice in finishing 13-8 last season; Skyline is coming off a 95-92 triple-overtime win over Huron and will now try to avenge against this local rival as well.
Tuesday – Traverse City St. Francis (2-2) at Frankfort (2-0) – Frankfort won the Northwest Conference title last winter, but one of its two regular-season losses came to St. Francis, 69-68, as the Gladiators went on to finish second in the Lake Michigan Conference.
Tuesday – Boyne City (2-0) at McBain (3-0) – This should help in some early sorting out of the top Class C teams in the northern Lower Peninsula; McBain made the MHSAA Semifinals last season and Boyne City made the Semifinals the season before.
PHOTO: A pair of Spring Lake defenders wall off a driving Grand Haven player during Friday’s 53-52 overtime win by the Buccaneers. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)