Big Reds Come Up Big Time in 4th Quarter

March 21, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – One quarter – 8 minutes – remained in Friday’s last Class B Semifinal at the Breslin Center. Time appeared to be running out for Milan as it trailed Detroit Douglass by eight points.

And this was the scenario – almost – that the Big Reds wanted. 

Sure, they would’ve liked to be trailing by less. And they probably didn’t want the ball in a freshman’s hands for the program’s most pressure-packed free throw of the last half century. 

But aside from that …

“We were down eight and we had eight minutes to win this game,” senior guard Donovan Verges said. “We’re yelling at each other, ‘We’ve gotta come back,’ that we’re not losing today. We want to play in that championship game. So we went out there and fought as hard as we could.”

And they eventually edged Douglass, 51-50, in the most exciting Semifinal of this weekend.

Verges nailed a 3-pointer with 3:38 to play to tie the score for the first time since the start of the third quarter. It remained tied 50-50 with 22 seconds to play as the ball passed through four sets of hands near midcourt before falling into those of Milan freshman Garrett Gardette – who was fouled and made the go-ahead free throw with five seconds to play.

He missed the second free-throw attempt. But Douglass’ outlet pass off the rebound landed comfortably back in Verges’ hands with everyone else on the court then too stunned to do anything more before time expired.

Just like that, Milan (24-3) will be facing Benton Harbor on Saturday with a chance to win its first MHSAA title since claiming Class C in 1948.

“All year we said we wanted to make history here at Milan,” Big Reds senior Latin Davis said. “We wanted to leave a legacy. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The 5-foot-9 guard scored 17 points (on 6 of 10 shooting from the floor) with six assists, and 6-7 junior Nick Perkins added 16 points and nine rebounds.

Davis had only three points during the fourth-quarter comeback, but also had two assists. And he played the starring role as Milan’s defense allowed only 12 points in the third quarter and eight during the final period.

“Latin Davis has been underrated for three years. He’s a winner,” Milan coach Josh Tropea said “He’s 64-8 in the last three years, and he’s won more trophies than I care to count. And there’s no question we’re playing (Saturday) because of his leadership and his ability at point guard.”

Douglass coach Nkwane Young said after that his team had had difficulties all season against zone defenses. Milan switched to a stifling 1-2-2 zone for the fourth quarter after using a 2-3 earlier and watching as the Hurricanes found openings when the Big Reds tried switching to man-to-man.

Douglass senior guard Darrell Davis, a Mr. Basketball candidate, ended up spending most of the game stuck on the perimeter and got off only 11 shots in scoring just nine points, 16 below his average.

Senior point guard Terrell Hales did add 11 points, seven rebounds and five steals, with senior forward Deshawn Sanders leading with 15 points and senior forward Daavi Bradley coming off the bench to also score 11 for the Hurricanes (17-10).

Even then, Douglass’ final undoing fell partially on missing 5 of 9 free-throw attempts during the fourth quarter and making only 10 of 21 for the game.

“I thought the third quarter, we had control of it. And in the fourth quarter, I thought we were still in control,” Young said. “Like I told my team, one play doesn’t (lose) the game. There are some things we could’ve done differently, made some free throws. But otherwise, I’m proud of my team.”

The Semifinal run was the first for Douglass, which previously had reached a Quarterfinal in 2010. Davis was part of teams that finished 68-31 and won four District titles over his four seasons despite playing as a Class B in the Class A-heavy Detroit Public School League. Young called his standout the face of his program, and Davis will go on to play next season at the University of Dayton.

“The first year we took it to the Regional (Semifinal), and I wanted to take it farther than that, to the state championship,” Davis said. “My legacy is a good legacy at Fred D. I hope somebody comes in to replace it. I’ve just got to work harder in college, a stepping stone toward life.

“A lot of people doubted us, didn’t think we’d be making it this far. We came up a little short, but it’s OK. We just wanted to win, that’s all.”

Click for a full box score and video from the press conference.

PHOTOS: Milan freshman Garrett Gardette tries to get past Douglass’ Daavi Bradley during Friday’s Class B Semifinal. (Middle) The Hurricanes’ Darrell Davis works to get to the basket. 

HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Detroit Douglass ended the first half on an 11-4 run, including this bucket by Darrell Davis on a break with 3 seconds to go. (2) Nick Perkins had a pair of baskets for Milan in the closing moments of its 51-50 Class B Semifinal win. This putback gave the Big Reds the 50-49 lead at the time.

Hart Teammates Reunite After 80 Years Now as WWII Vets, Great-Grandfathers

By Tom Kendra
Special for

June 7, 2023

Walter “Stretch” Hansen and Harold Tate were good friends and high school basketball and baseball teammates at Hart High School, graduating in 1943.

West MichiganNo one could have guessed that less than two months after graduation (on July 2, 1943), the two friends would head to Fort Custer in Battle Creek, the first stop on their way overseas to fight for their country in World War II.

No one could have imagined how many twists and turns their lives would take over the next 80 years – from the battlefields in the South Pacific, then back to West Michigan where they both were married with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and now Harold even has a great-great-grandchild.

And, certainly, no one would have believed that the two young boys from Hart – who forged a friendship through high school sports long before the days of computers, microwave ovens and cell phones – would still be alive at the age of 98 for an emotional reunion last month, on May 22, seeing each other for the first time in 80 years and, to cap it off, the reunion took place in their hometown of Hart.

“It was such a great day,” Hansen said about the meeting, which was set up by Muskegon-area World War II historian Richard Mullally.

“We picked right up, talking about sports and the service and everything else.”

The conversation came easy for the two old friends, who played for Hart during a “golden era” at the school – particularly in basketball, as the Pirates won 11 West Michigan Conference basketball titles between 1940 and 1954.

Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. Perhaps the best team during that time period was Hansen and Tate’s as seniors in 1943. That team lost only once, to rival Scottville (31-25), but more than made up for it with an 80-10 trouncing of the Spartans in the final regular-season game.

Hart then crushed Scottville and Newaygo to win the District championship, only to have Michigan’s prep basketball season stopped abruptly at that point because of World War II.

That 1943 team featured four starters over 6-0, led by the duo of Hansen and Stan Kapulak (both 6-6), Joe Mack (6-2), Lyle Burmeister (6-1) and Stanley Riley (the lone starter under 6-foot at 5-11).

“The newspapers called us ‘The Hart Skyscrapers,’” said Hansen, who will be 99 on Nov. 6. “We were taller than most college teams at that time.”

Hansen and Tate’s friendship continued to blossom on the baseball field, only to have their lives turned upside down shortly after graduation 80 years ago, when all Hart senior boys who had been drafted headed to Battle Creek as a brief staging area on their way to the battlefields of Europe and the South Pacific.

Hansen served in the Army Specialized Training Program and was part of the 52nd Signal Battalion and the 4025th Signal Battalion in the Pacific Theater.

“I had an all-expense paid tour of the South Pacific,” Hansen said with a chuckle. “The Philippines, New Guinea, Okinawa, Hawaii, all over the place.”

Tate did his service in the 24th Infantry Division and the 19th Infantry Regiment, and was stationed in Japan.

During their visit last month, Harold showed off the Japanese Samurai sword and Arisaka rifle which he had sent back from Japan to Hart. The week after their visit, both took part in Memorial Day parades – Hansen in the Lakeside parade in Muskegon and Tate in his 77th Memorial Day service in Hart.

Hansen, who still has a home on a small lake in Holton and lives at a senior care facility in Muskegon, played many years of semi-pro basketball and did some coaching. He worked at GTE and has five children and 10 grandchildren.

Hansen served from 1943 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tate served from 1945 to 1946 as a Platoon Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II.“I have been so blessed,” Hansen said, sorting through one of his many scrapbooks. “All five of my kids are great and I have grandkids that are just amazing, everything they are doing. I don’t even know all of their names, but it’s sure been fun watching them.”

Tate returned to Hart after his military service and has been there ever since, at first working as a carpenter with his father and then becoming a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, retiring 26 years ago at the age of 72. He has lived in the same home for 75 years and has three children, six grandchildren, seven great-grandkids and now one great-great-grandchild.

Tate laments the demise of his beloved American Legion post in Hart, a town with just over 2,000 residents, as the number of members has steadily declined.

One topic that brings a smile to both of their faces is the recent resurgence of the Hart High School athletic program, which drew media attention not too many years ago for all the wrong reasons – notably a football program which went 24 years without a winning record.

That string was snapped with a 6-3 mark and the school’s first earned playoff appearance last fall.

But that was just the start.

This winter, Hart’s boys basketball team finished the regular season 22-0, the girls basketball team made it to the Division 3 Semifinals at the Breslin Center, wrestling qualified for the Team Finals for the fourth-straight year and competitive cheer placed fourth in Division 4. This spring, the Hart girls track & field team won its second-straight Division 3 Finals team title, and the boys placed fourth.

“It’s a great place to call home, a great place to live, always has been,” said Hansen of his hometown, which got its name from its central position in the “heart” of Oceana County.

And who would have imagined that these two high school teammates could still come home again for a reunion at the age of 98?

Tom KendraTom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Members of the 1943 Hart High School varsity baseball team gather together, preparing for a team photo. Among those are Harold Gayle Tate (far left) and Walter "Stretch" Hansen, at 6-6 the tallest player in the back row. (Middle) Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. (Below) Hansen served from 1943 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tate served from 1945 to 1946 as a Platoon Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. (Top photo courtesy of Stretch Hansen. Middle and below photos courtesy of Richard Mullally.)