We're midway through another basketball season – which means not only increased focus on league title races but also many more people watching the daily movement of the MHSAA's Michigan Power Ratings used to seed the top two teams in each District and place them on opposite sides of the bracket.
An explanation of how MPR is calculated and full lists for all four divisions can be found clicking here. We also reference MPR much more below and will continue to do so moving forward over the next six weeks, as every game added into the equation makes MPR a more accurate representation of what teams are accomplishing this winter.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Benton Harbor 64, Flint Beecher 62 Benton Harbor (9-2) opened a big week by handing Watervliet its first loss and closed it by handing Beecher (9-2) its second in this nail-biter at the GottaGetIt Hoops Classic at East Kentwood.
2. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 67, Kalamazoo Central 50 Also at the GottaGetIt Hoops Classic, Rice (11-1) continued its run through top competition by handing Kalamazoo Central (9-1) its lone defeat.
3. Detroit Cass Tech 57, Detroit Martin Luther King 55 The Technicians edged their rivals to move to 12-0, a win that’s more key than what’s on paper as King’s 2-5 record includes losses to several of the state’s best.
4. Saline 62, Chelsea 60 Another two-point game saw the Hornets (8-3) hand Chelsea (10-1) its first defeat this season.
5. Grand Rapids Christian 63, Warren De La Salle Collegiate 58 Another strong matchup at East Kentwood saw the Eagles improve to 7-2 with a close win over the reigning Division 1 champion Pilots (7-5).
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Muskegon (10-0) The Big Reds have put it all together so far to build on last season’s 20-3 finish, even avenging one of those few losses by downing Ferndale 62-51 at its Muskegon Basketball Showcase two weeks ago. Also among impressive wins was an 81-79 overtime thriller against 2022 Division 2 runner-up Grand Rapids Catholic Central and a 50-45 victory over Warren Lincoln, both also at showcase events. A matchup with North Farmington (see below) is coming up Feb. 4.
North Farmington (8-1) A one-point loss to Warren Lincoln at the Dec. 17 Northville Showcase is all that separates North Farmington from a perfect record, and the Raiders have moved into the top spot in Division 1 MPR this week. The schedule has been loaded, with wins also over Benton Harbor, Grand Blanc, Hamtramck, Detroit King and Detroit Edison among others.
Onsted (9-2) Coming off a 22-1 finish that saw its only loss in a Regional Semifinal to eventual Division 2 champion Williamston, Onsted is impressing again with its only in-state defeat to still-unbeaten Olivet in the Dec. 29 Shot Clock Classic at Spring Arbor. (The other defeat was last week to Ohio contender Rossford at the MLK Day Classic in Toledo.) Onsted also has handed Clinton one of its two losses and has a two-game lead on the field in the Lenawee County Athletic Association.
Standish-Sterling (10-0) The Panthers also have built a quick two-game lead in their league, the Tri-Valley Conference 10-1, after tying with Carrollton for a TVC division title last season. Standish-Sterling opened this winter with a 44-32 victory over the Cavaliers, and is riding a solid string this calendar year starting with a win over Tawas and lately including victories over Reed City in overtime and by 17 over league opponent Millington.
Iron Mountain (9-0) Seven of nine opponents Iron Mountain has faced so far are .500 or better, and the Mountaineers have downed 60 percent of the Great Northern Conference defeating larger Kingsford, Escanaba and Gladstone over the last three weeks. Iron Mountain also has a win over Ishpeming Westwood, which like Kingsford handed the Mountaineers two defeats last season. More tests are on the way including Negaunee on Tuesday and undefeated Powers North Central on Jan. 30.
Michigan Center (7-4) Even with four losses, Michigan Center is up to No. 4 in Division 3 MPR, with those defeats to Onsted (see above), undefeateds Olivet and Napoleon, and eight-win Division 2 Croswell-Lexington. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are just a game behind Napoleon in the Cascades Conference standings with strong nonleague wins over Concord, Leslie and Reading. They see Napoleon again Feb. 16.
Painesdale Jeffers (10-0) A 74-71 win over Escanaba on Friday put an exclamation point on a great start as Painesdale Jeffers has played only two single-digit games despite five opponents that remain .500 or better and a sixth that’s south of .500 because of a loss from the Jets. Jeffers also won last week over Ewen-Trout Creek, which with Escanaba were two of four teams to hand the Jets defeats as they finished 18-4 a year ago.
Traverse City Christian (8-2) Two losses by a combined four points are all that’s kept Traverse City Christian from a perfect start, and those defeats were to Onekama (6-3) and Gaylord St. Mary (10-1) – two of six opponents that remain .500 or better. A pair of wins over Marion and others over Ellsworth and Harbor Light Christian are notable, as was a 66-63 win over Buckley that avenged a pair of defeats from last season.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (11-1) at Detroit U-D Jesuit (10-1) – These two join Orchard Lake St. Mary’s atop the Detroit Catholic League Central with one loss apiece, and Jesuit hosts the Eaglets on Friday.
Tuesday – Traverse City St. Francis (8-1) at Boyne City (10-1) – These are the only two left without a Lake Michigan Conference defeat as Boyne attempts to dethrone the reigning champion Gladiators.
Thursday – Clarkston (10-3) at North Farmington (8-1) – North Farmington swept last season’s two meetings and may have to again to stay atop a loaded Oakland Activities Association Red.
Friday – Grand Rapids Christian (7-2) at Grand Rapids Northview (10-1) – Northview has a one-game lead on Christian in the Ottawa-Kent Conference White standings after the pair split last season’s meetings on the way to Northview winning the title.
Sunday – Flint Beecher (9-2) at Detroit Cass Tech (12-0) – The Technicians host the Bucs as part of their Downtown Throw Down, with this 7:45 p.m. game capping the event.
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PHOTOS (Top) New Lothrop's Jaden Curry (44) looks for an open teammate while Frankenmuth defends during the Eagles' 75-45 win. (Middle) Otsego and Paw Paw met last week as Otsego went on to a 71-42 victory. (Photos by Terry Lyons and Gary Shook, respectively.)
Aaron Fernald isn’t going to complain about his Cass City boys basketball team’s 13-1 start.
He’s happy that his players are finding ways to win games against solid competition.
But, with six of those wins having been decided during the final seconds, he wouldn’t mind if his team didn’t make it so stressful.
“I think the kids get more confident as you win those games, but as a coach, I don’t know if I get more confident,” Fernald said with a laugh. “We do practice situations, we get the clock out, and we’ve been doing that almost every week since the beginning of the season. But I really don’t have a great answer on all of it.”
There may not be an answer to why it’s happening, but the results are eye-opening.
It started Dec. 13, when junior Carter Patrick hit a 3-pointer with just under four seconds to play, giving the Red Hawks a 45-42 win against Millington.
Late 3s to win games are fun, and when they happen in December are typically a footnote to a season, and not the start of a trend. This, however, was the latter.
On Dec. 20, Patrick again scored the go-ahead points with a pair of free throws in the final seconds of a 55-54 win against Saginaw Nouvel.
Patrick struck again Jan. 4, hitting a go-ahead basket with five seconds to play in a 51-50 win against Saginaw Valley Lutheran.
On Jan. 18, Mike Ferland hit a buzzer-beater after a save under the basket by Tyler Cumper in a 47-45 win against Caro.
Trent Patrick had the most dramatic one nine days later, on Jan. 27, when he hit a 3-pointer from just inside halfcourt to defeat Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 44-43.
Then Feb. 1, Carter Patrick again hit a game-winner, this time on a backdoor cut in the final seconds of a 46-45 victory against Bad Axe.
“I like to think it’s really good, because we’re figuring out how to win in key moments,” Carter Patrick said. “But we need to start getting a lead so we don’t have this pressure in games. I do think it’s preparing us for (the postseason) a lot, actually. If we get the ball at the end of a game, any game, I think the other team might get nervous themselves knowing that we’ve done this.”
Whether or not that’s the case, it’s pretty clear that Cass City won’t be nervous.
“The first couple, I was really nervous down the stretch,” Michael Ferland said. “A lot of other teammates were, too. But I think we’ve all got a lot more comfortable in those situations.”
Having three players who have scored game-winning baskets is a luxury for Cass City. But it goes well beyond that.
“We’ve got a team that kind of keeps hanging around and making a play,” Aaron Ferland said. “To get a buzzer-beater, we’ve had other guys not mentioned much that made plays to get us to that point. It’s kind of been a team effort that’s come from a lot of different people.”
Coming into the season, Aaron Ferland admitted he didn’t think this team could get to this point. He did think there would be improvement from recent years, however, as there were some key players back including Carter Patrick and Michael Ferland, who were each entering their third year on the varsity team.
Both of them, however, did think special things were on the horizon.
“This summer, I did,” Patrick said. “We were at team camp, and I thought this would be a better year for us. We had a really good chemistry, and we got along. We have a lot more fun together.”
That chemistry has been built over the course of several years, as many of the Red Hawks’ players have been playing together since they were kids.
The trust built through that, Patrick said, has helped in those clutch moments.
“We’ve all been friends for a really long time,” he said. “We’ve played a lot with each other, and I think we’ve gained a lot of trust. And if we miss the shot, nobody is going to get mad at each other.”
That group of friends has created some incredible memories already this season, the type that get talked about in town for years. But they’re looking for more – the type of memories that get put up on banners.
“It’s been special, but we haven’t really accomplished anything yet,” Michael Ferland said. “It would make it way more special if we can win some accolades along with it.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at email@example.com with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Cass City’s Carter Patrick, right, looks for an open teammate during a matchup with Laker. (Middle) Michael Ferland brings the ball up court. (Below) Laker fans watch as Trent Patrick sends up his game-winning shot Jan. 27. (Photos by Tom Greene/Huron Daily Tribune.)