It's March, its MHSAA Tournament time, and generally that's enough to explain the excitement and urgency as we begin the annual championship portion of a four-month journey that will end again in East Lansing.
District tournaments tip off all over the state tonight. Check out “Tracking the Tournament” on MHSAA.com for every matchup from all of them, and see below for some of last week’s most eye-catching scores and three Districts in each division that could make the biggest impacts this week on the overall postseason pictures.
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Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 50, Detroit Martin Luther King 49 St. Mary’s (16-4) edged King (18-2) in the annual Operation Friendship game between the champions of the Detroit Catholic League and Public School League Tournaments.
2. Grand Blanc 68, Flint Beecher 57 The reigning Division 1 champion Bobcats (15-5) finished the regular season defeating last year’s Division 3 champion Beecher (17-2).
3. Kalamazoo Central 51, Muskegon 46 The Maroon Giants (12-7) have had some massive wins and tough losses this season, but this certainly files under the former as the Big Reds (18-2) are Division 1 title contenders.
4. Hartland 42, Canton 39 The Eagles (16-4) had finished second to Canton (15-5) in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West, but with this victory claimed the league tournament title.
5. Carson City-Crystal 32, Blanchard Montabella 29 The Eagles (17-3) earned a share of the Mid-State Activities Conference title by adding a second three-point win over the Mustangs this season (17-3).
Districts at a Glance
These could be among our most competitive brackets. Host sites are in bold:
1. Detroit Martin Luther King (18-2), 2. Detroit Cass Tech (17-3), River Rouge (17-3), Detroit Western (15-4), Melvindale (10-9).
This power-packed bracket includes the champions from the Detroit Public School League Blue (King) and Gold (Western), the runner-up from the Blue (Cass Tech) and the runner-up from the Michigan Metro Athletic Conference Black (Rouge). King, No. 3 overall in Division 1 MPR, defeated Cass by five in league play and Western in the PSL Tournament championship game, in addition to impressive wins over Flint Beecher (17-2), Grand Blanc (15-5), Ann Arbor Huron (17-3), Kalamazoo Central (12-7) and others. Its one-point loss to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s last week was its first since the season opener. Cass Tech’s losses were by a combined 12 points and it has a win over Flint Carman-Ainsworth (14-6); the Technicians could open with Western in a semifinal after falling to the Cowboys 57-53 on Feb. 17. Western opens with River Rouge, which lost its final two games but against Hamtramck (17-3) and Grand Blanc.
1. Muskegon (18-2), 2. Grand Haven (17-3), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (13-7), Coopersville (13-7), Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills (13-7), Grand Rapids Union (8-11), Muskegon Mona Shores (9-11).
The Big Reds are coming off an undefeated run through the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green, which includes Reeths-Puffer and Mona Shores, but also are coming off a loss to Kalamazoo Central in the regular-season finale. Muskegon’s only other defeat was to Ferndale, and an 84-79 win over 2021 Division 1 champion Grand Blanc on Feb. 19 is what people should recall first when thinking of the team’s prospects this month. Grand Haven saw its O-K Red title chance slip away with a pair of losses in its final two league games, but similarly a win over league champ Rockford (18-2) showed what the Buccaneers are capable of presenting. Coopersville had a win this season over Grand Rapids West Catholic (15-5), and Kenowa Hills defeated Coopersville in overtime at the start of February.
1. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (16-4), 2. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (14-6), Bloomfield Hills (16-4), Birmingham Groves (12-7), Birmingham Seaholm (8-11), West Bloomfield (4-15).
The Detroit Catholic League Central’s five teams all finished among the top six in overall Division 1 MPR, and this is the only District with multiple. St. Mary’s, No. 2 overall, lost to Brother Rice 45-43 on Jan. 14 and 62-50 on Feb. 1, and didn’t see the Warriors on the way to winning the Catholic League Bishop Tournament. The win over King last week was just one of many impressive ones for the Eaglets, who have five victories over teams that finished 15-5 or better including Grand Blanc and Ferndale as well. Brother Rice, No. 5 overall, also has wins over Grand Blanc and Carman-Ainsworth and won’t have to face Bloomfield Hills, which opens on St. Mary’s side of the bracket. The Black Hawks shared the Oakland Activities Association White championship and closed on a five-game winning streak.
Grand Rapids West Catholic
1. Hudsonville Unity Christian (20-0), 2. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (19-1), Grand Rapids West Catholic (15-5), Ada Forest Hills Eastern (15-5), Allendale (6-14), Wyoming Lee (5-15).
This District features the two most recent Division 2 champs, last year’s winner Grand Rapids Catholic Central and 2019 champ Unity Christian (with 2020 canceled because of COVID-19). Unity Christian won the O-K Blue, handing West Catholic two of its defeats along the way, while GRCC won the O-K Gold and defeated Forest Hills Eastern twice during league play. Third rounds of both are part of this bracket if West Catholic and FHE win their openers. GRCC defeated Unity Christian 71-52 in last season’s District Final on the way to its undefeated finish.
1. Marshall (18-2), 2. Olivet (19-1), Battle Creek Pennfield (14-6), Battle Creek Harper Creek (14-6), Eaton Rapids (10-10), Charlotte (8-12).
League title winners also line up on opposite sides of this bracket, with Interstate 8 Athletic Conference co-champ Marshall and the Great Lakes Activities Conference’s Olivet. The Eagles’ only loss this season was by two to league rival Leslie (11-9), and Olivet will open Wednesday against the winner of an I8AC matchup between Harper Creek and Pennfield – last season’s Division 2 runner-up. Harper Creek won its regular-season matchups with Pennfield by 18 and 12. Pennfield did deal Marshall a loss, by four, Jan. 11.
1. Grand Rapids Christian (16-4), 2. Grand Rapids South Christian (15-5), Wyoming Godwin Heights (9-8), Wyoming Kelloggsville (12-8), Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy (14-6), Kentwood Grand River Prep (6-8).
The Eagles enter the top seed as runners-up from the O-K White but with all three of their losses to Division 1 opponents and as the only team to defeat Grand Rapids Northview (19-1). South Christian tied for second in the O-K Gold, but all of its losses were to teams that finished 15-5 or better – including a season-opening defeat to Grand Rapids Christian, 66-58. Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville and WMAA all were upper-division teams in their respective leagues as well, with Kelloggsville and Godwin Heights meeting in an opener after splitting their regular-season series.
1. Niles Brandywine (13-5), 2. Watervliet (16-3), Bridgman (12-8), Cassopolis (16-4), Buchanan (12-8).
This District features five teams that all finished among the top 42 in overall Division 3 MPR, with Brandywine at No. 10 and Watervliet at No. 14. Brandywine lines up as the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference Red champ on one side of the bracket, facing league opponent Buchanan for the third time. Watervliet was the co-champ of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore and sits on the other side. Cassopolis was second in the Southwest 10 Conference and opens with a rematch against Bridgman, which tied for second in the BCS Red and defeated the Rangers by 16 on Dec. 28. The winner of that game sees Watervliet on Wednesday.
Maple City Glen Lake
1. Traverse City St. Francis (18-2), 2. Benzie Central (17-3), Elk Rapids (14-6), Maple City Glen Lake (15-5), Mancelona (14-6).
All five teams finished among the top 52 in overall Division 3 MPR, led by St. Francis (No. 4), Elk Rapids (13) and Benzie (19). St. Francis was first in the Lake Michigan Conference, with Elk Rapids second. Benzie won the Northwest Conference a game ahead of Glen Lake, while Mancelona was runner-up in the Ski Valley Conference. Benzie avenged its Jan. 25 eight-point loss to Glen Lake with a 13-point win Feb. 25 but lost both of its games last week against larger Big North Conference opponents. St. Francis’ only losses this season were to Division 1 teams.
1. Vandercook Lake (18-2), 2. Napoleon (18-2), Michigan Center (14-6), Grass Lake (6-13), Jackson Lumen Christian (3-17), East Jackson (5-15).
This lines up as concluding with a third game between Cascades Conference champ Vandercook Lake and runner-up Napoleon – and Vandercook Lake won the regular-season meetings by seven and six points. But surely the Jayhawks are keeping an eye on Michigan Center, which finished third in the Cascades and won the second meeting with Vandercook 68-66 on Feb. 4. They would meet again in a District Semifinal if Michigan Center defeats Lumen Christi in their opener. Grass Lake is an interesting upset prospect after losing to Vandercook Lake by only four and five points and to Michigan Center in overtime in their second meeting.
1. Powers North Central (16-4), 2. Hannahville Nah Tah Wahsh (18-2), Norway (14-6), Stephenson (13-6), Crystal Falls Forest Park (9-11), Carney-Nadeau (4-14), Felch North Dickinson (3-17).
The Jets went undefeated in winning the Skyline Central Conference small-school division, although they did lose a pair of games last week. North Central defeated Norway twice by double digits and would see the Knights again Wednesday if Norway gets by Forest Park for a third time. On the other side, the Soaring Eagles also are coming off a pair of losses last week, including by 26 to Stephenson – their opponent in tonight’s opener. Stephenson has won six straight.
1. Ubly (15-4), 2. Kinde North Huron (15-5), Deckerville (14-6), Carsonville-Port Sanilac (5-13), Caseville (1-12).
Ubly (12), North Huron (24) and Deckerville (27) were top-30 teams in the final overall Division 4 MPR. Ubly won the Greater Thumb Conference East, while North Huron was first in the North Central Thumb League Stars and Deckerville second. Deckerville did win their first matchup by five before North Huron won the rematch by six Feb. 18 as part of a 10-game winning streak. They could meet again in a Wednesday District Semifinal.
Three Oaks River Valley
1. New Buffalo (19-1), 2. Eau Claire (14-5), Three Oaks River Valley (15-5), Benton Harbor Countryside Academy (11-7), St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (7-11), St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran (6-13).
New Buffalo finished No. 1 in overall Division 4 MPR, with Eau Claire No. 15 and River Valley No. 20. All six of these teams are from the BCS White, with New Buffalo the champion, Eau Claire a co-runner-up, River Valley fourth and Countryside fifth. New Buffalo’s only loss this season came to Niles Brandywine, and it defeated Eau Claire by nine and 15 points and possible Wednesday opponent River Valley by 12 and 16. Eau Claire defeated Countryside by 12 and 25, and they could meet a third time as well Wednesday.
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PHOTO Orchard Lake St. Mary's downed Grand Blanc 65-62 on Jan. 8. Both are considered Division 1 championship contenders as District play begins. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)