By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
If new MHSAA champions are crowned in Class C and D this weekend at Michigan State's University's Breslin Center, there's a possibility they'll celebrate another accomplishment to go along with taking home the top trophy – beating last season's champion along the way.
Among eight teams taking the court Thursday are reigning Class C champion Flint Beecher and reigning Class D champion Southfield Christian.
Below is the schedule for all four Thursday Semifinals and four Saturday Finals, plus broadcast information and a look at all eight C and D Semifinalists.
Semifinals - Thursday
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (23-2) vs Flint Beecher (25-1), 1 p.m.
Laingsburg (23-2) vs Negaunee (24-1), 2:50 p.m.
Powers North Central (23-3) vs Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (24-2), 6 p.m.
Southfield Christian (21-4) vs Lansing Christian (22-3), 7:50 p.m.
Finals - Saturday
Class A - Noon
Class B - 6:30 pm
Class C - 4:30 pm
Class D - 10 am
Tickets cost $8 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session. All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv and available on a pay-per-view basis for $3.95 per day or $6.95 for the weekend. Saturday's first three Finals will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit, with the Class B game on Fox Sports Plus and then re-broadcast on Fox Sports Detroit at 10:30 p.m.. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.
And now, a look at the Semifinalists in Class C and D.
Record/rank: 25-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference Red
Coach: Mike Williams, ninth season (163-65)
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recently 2012), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 83-46 over No. 7 Harbor Beach (Regional Semifinal), 69-47 over No. 6 Mount Clemens (Regional Final), 46-44 over No. 9 Detroit Consortium (Quarterfinal).
Players to watch: Monte Morris, 6-3 sr. G (21.5 ppg, 9.5 apg, 5.3 rpg, 5.4 spg); Markell Lucas, 6-4 sr. F (8.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg).
Outlook: Williams has returned Beecher to powerhouse status, with a combined 77-4 record over the last three seasons. Obviously, Iowa State recruit Morris has had a lot to do with that; the four-year varsity player was named Mr. Basketball earlier this week. Lucas earned all-state honorable mention Tuesday and also started in last season’s Final, and junior guard Emmanuel Phifer (11.1 ppg) was a top option off the bench in 2012 and now is the team’s second-leading scorer. Its only loss was to Class A No. 1 Detroit Pershing, by seven.
Record/rank: 23-2, honorable mention
League finish: Tied for first in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Greg Mitchell, 24th season (350-191)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 40-37 and 44-33 (District Semifinal) over honorable mention Pewamo-Westphalia, 61-59 over honorable mention Muskegon Heights (Regional Final), 42-32 over honorable mention Beaverton (Quarterfinal).
Players to watch: Jake Zielinski, 6-2 sr. G/F (16 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.4 apg); Shaun McKinney, 6-3 sr. G/F (11.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.2 apg).
Outlook: This run has been a worthy reward for one of the Lansing area’s most consistent programs – the Wolfpack have posted 20 winning seasons under Mitchell, and only one losing season over the last 14. Laingsburg relies on veteran leadership and balance; four seniors start and six are part of the main rotation, and four more players in addition to the two above average between four and eight points per game.
MONROE ST. MARY CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank: 23-2, honorable mention
League finish: Second in Huron League
Coach: Randy Windham, fourth season (74-25)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 59-48 over honorable mention Hillsdale (Regional Semifinal), 71-62 over honorable mention Schoolcraft (Quarterfinal), 47-32 over Class D honorable mention Adrian Lenawee Christian.
Players to watch: Kevin Woodson, 6-2 sr. G (19 ppg, 53 3-pointers, 2.2 apg); Chinedu Nwosu, 6-3 sr. F (9.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg).
Outlook: Aside from a pair of losses to Class A honorable mention Milan, St. Mary cruised through the Huron League against mostly much larger opponents and won all of its tournament games by at least nine points. Woodson, an all-state honorable mention, is the leading scorer and top shooter of the bunch, but four others average between five and 10 points per game and two others have made at least 25 3-pointers. The 6-3 Nwosu starts alongside two 6-6 posts, senior Jeffery Albright and junior Bradley Sherman.
Record/rank: 24-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference
Coach: Michael O’Donnell, eighth season (156-45)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recently 2000), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 56-55 over honorable mention Maple City Glen Lake (Quarterfinal), 66-41 over Class D honorable mention Eben Junction Superior Central, 55-35 over Marquette.
Players to watch: Tyler Jandron, 6-1 jr. G (17.3 ppg, 4.3 spg, 4.0 apg); Tanner Uren, 6-3 sr. F (12.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.4 spg).
Outlook: Negaunee cruised through the regular season and into the Quarterfinals with only a pair of wins over Gwinn closer than 10 points. The Miners’ lone loss was to Class A Marquette, but they avenged that as well. The rotation is only six players, but they bring a variety of skills; senior Brock Weaver is a 6-7 body in the middle, and junior guard Eric Lori is the second-leading scorer at 12.7 points per game and had 37 3-pointers entering the week.
Record/rank: 22-3, honorable mention
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Steve Ernst, first season (22-3).
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 67-54 over honorable mention Adrian Lenawee Christian, 67-32 over Peck (Regional Final), 57-48 over Hanover-Horton.
Players to watch: Skylar Ross, 6-2 sr. F (18.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 60 3-pointers); Jordan Terry, 5-9 jr. G (15.6 ppg, 31 3-pointers, 4.3 apg, 3.1 spg).
Outlook: The Pilgrims made the best of not playing in a league by loading their schedule with much larger opponents; they beat Class A, B and C teams and their losses were twice to Class B Stockbridge and once to a strong St. Johns Homeschoolers program. Ross made the all-state team and Terry earned an honorable mention Tuesday, and they’re joined by two others scoring in double figures: 6-4 senior center Jeff Whitney (14.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and 6-0 senior forward Jay Noyola (10.7 ppg, 3.8 spg).
POWERS NORTH CENTRAL
Record/rank: 23-3, No. 10
League finish: First in Skyline Conference and Central UP Conference
Coach: Adam Mercier, seventh season (80-76)
Championship history: 1984 Class D champion.
Best wins: 65-60 and 64-61 (Regional Semifinal) over honorable mention Eben Junction Superior Central, 52-49 and 65-54 (District Semifinal) over honorable mention Carney-Nadeau, 71-57 over No. 2 Cedarville (Quarterfinal).
Players to watch: Travis Vincent, 6-2 jr. F (15.7 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 4.2 bpg); Trevor Ekberg, 6-5 jr. C (11.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 3.8 bpg).
Outlook: North Central won its first Regional title in 29 years on the way here, after also winning its first District title in 17 season in 2011 under former all-league player Mercier. And the Jets have made this run with no seniors on the roster. Vincent and Ekberg provide the team with two strong rebounders as the team, on average, is grabbing five more boards than its opponents. Junior forward Rob Granquist adds 12.6 points and three assists per game.
Record/rank: 21-4, No. 3
League finish: First in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue
Coach: Josh Baker, second season (46-6)
Championship history: MHSAA champion 2012.
Best wins: 51-49 over No. 4 Climax-Scotts (Quarterfinal), 47-46 and 68-61 (Regional Final), over No. 7 Allen Park Inter-City Baptist, 60-58 over Detroit Community
Players to watch: Bakari Evelyn, 6-1 soph. G (20.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.7 apg); Lindsey Hunter IV, 5-10 jr. G (14.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg).
Outlook: Hunter is the only returning starter from last season’s championship team, and he earned an all-state special mention Tuesday. But Evelyn has emerged from the top sub into an all-state selection and keys a team that also beat larger Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and Southfield, among others. Freshman 6-3 guard Eugene Brown provides another big boost – he’s averaging 9.5 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.
WYOMING TRI-UNITY CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 24-2, No. 1
League finish: First in River Valley Conference
Coach: Mark Keeler, 26th season (498-141)
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recently 2011), three runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 49-48 over Class A honorable mention Zeeland East, 53-52 over Hudsonville, 55-51 over Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central.
Players to watch: Joey Blauwkamp, 6-1 sr. G/F (14.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 4.2 apg); Daniel Cole, 5-10 sr. G (15 ppg, 2.0 spg).
Outlook: Tri-unity Christian’s template for success is well-established: load the regular-season schedule with larger schools, shine against them, and then do the same on the way to the Breslin Center. The team’s losses were to Class C Grandville Calvin Christian and Class B No. 6 Wyoming Godwin Heights. Blauwkamp was named Class D Player of the Year by The Associated Press on Tuesday, and Cole earned an all-state honorable mention.
PHOTO: Laingsburg's Sam Edwards (5) works to get around a Grandville Calvin Christian player during the Wolfpack's Regional Semifinal victory. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
We've got a long way to go before the stories of this season conclude with four MHSAA boys basketball champions crowned March 15 at Michigan State University's Breslin Center.
But the first week of the 2023-24 regular season gave us plenty to fill our first installment of “Breslin Bound” – our official tip-off to following more than 700 boys basketball teams through those final buzzers in East Lansing.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 46, Flint Beecher 44 This was their first meeting since January 2022 and it provided a memorable start as the Cavaliers downed the reigning Division 3 champion.
2. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 75, Ferndale 66 These two both have several new contributors, but big things will be expected again as well as Brother Rice regularly contends in Division 1 and Ferndale is the reigning Division 2 champion.
3. Lansing Waverly 58, Detroit Martin Luther King 57 Waverly took major strides last season doubling its win total from 2021-22 and could be on the verge of more coming off this impressive victory at the Detroit Douglass Tip-Off Classic.
4. Norway 49, Munising 48 After the Knights gave Munising a tough final regular-season test last season, the Mustangs went on to claim the Division 4 championship. Norway will attempt to build off back-to-back 15-7 seasons starting with this win.
5. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 64, Grandville Calvin Christian 44 These two combined to finish 46-9 a season ago, when Calvin defeated Tri-unity 63-42 in the regular-season finale (although the Defenders rebounded to finish Division 4 runners-up).
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Rochester Adams (2-0) The Highlanders provided one of the best late-breaking stories of last season, reaching the Division 1 Quarterfinals after finishing fourth of five teams in a strong Oakland Activities Association Red that also featured North Farmington and Ferndale. The momentum started rolling again with wins last week over Milford 52-48 and Macomb L’Anse Creuse North 74-59.
Utica (2-0) Last season’s co-champion in the Macomb Area Conference Blue defeated MAC White reigning champion Port Huron Northern 68-49 in their opener and then Utica Eisenhower 56-41 at the MAC Champions of Champions event at Center Line. Utica improved to 15-7 last season after finishing 7-14 in 2021-22.
Dundee (2-0) After holding its own last season in a strong Lenawee County Athletic Association and finishing 13-12 overall, Dundee is hoping to turn a fast start last week into a climb up the standings with league play starting Friday. The Vikings doubled up East Jackson 52-26 and downed Milan 67-37 to start things off.
Goodrich (1-0) A 22-5 finish last season included a shared championship in the Flint Metro League Stars and a run to the Division 2 Quarterfinals, where the Martians fell by only five to eventual champion Ferndale. The second-to-last of those five losses came to Flint Beecher, 70-55, but Goodrich avenged it Friday with a 58-55 win over the Bucs.
Hillsdale (2-0) The Hornets finished just 4-19 last season, their second sub-.500 in a row. But the turnaround may be starting. Hillsdale is halfway toward last year’s win total after defeating Union City 53-45 and Jonesville 50-40 – and after losing to Union City 52-36 and Jonesville 39-23 last season, with Jonesville going on to finish 19-6.
Royal Oak Shrine Catholic (2-0) This is another team well on its way to bettering last season’s success by Jan. 1. After going 3-19 last winter, Shrine defeated Bloomfield Hills Roeper 48-30 and Utica Ford 55-52 in overtime last week. Ford had defeated the Knights 63-50 last season, and the 55 points Shrine scored this time would have been their second-highest total of 2022-23.
Adrian Lenawee Christian (2-0) Lenawee Christian finished last season on an 11-5 run after a 2-7 start, and might be rolling that right into this season as well after opening with a 74-60 win over Blissfield and 73-58 overtime victory over Hanover-Horton. Blissfield was among teams to deal the Cougars a loss during last season’s tough early stretch. Lenawee Christian is playing in the Tri-County Conference this winter after playing previously as an independent.
Wakefield-Marenisco (2-0) The Cardinals were a solid 13-10 last season, with the final week including a third win over Bessemer as they faced off in a District Semifinal, followed by a third loss to Ironwood in the District championship game. This season’s first week saw the same schedule, but a better outcome – Wakefield-Marenisco edged Bessemer 60-57 and this time defeated Ironwood 48-30. Ironwood was first and W-M third last season in the Copper Mountain Conference Porcupine Mountain.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – River Rouge (1-0) at Ferndale (1-1) – As noted above, Ferndale was last season’s Division 2 champion, and defeated Rouge 72-60 in last winter’s meeting.
Friday – Kalamazoo Central (0-0) at Battle Creek Central (0-0) – These longtime rivals finished first and third, respectively, in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East last season.
Saturday – Detroit Cass Tech (0-0) at Holt (1-0) – The Rams host the reigning Division 1 champion Technicians in the 4:30 p.m. game of the Moneyball Classic.
Saturday – Grand Rapids South Christian (0-0) vs. Rockford (1-0) at Calvin University – This will be the 10 a.m. opener of The Invite at Calvin University, with the reigning Division 2 runner-up Sailors taking on a Rockford team coming off an 18-win season.
Saturday – Grand Rapids Catholic Central (0-0) vs. Grand Rapids Northview (1-0) at Calvin University – This will cap off The Invite tipping approximately 7:35 p.m. and pitting last season’s Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold co-champion and White outright champion, respectively.
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PHOTOS (Top) A Westland John Glenn player gets to the basket during U-D Jesuit's season-opening 83-48 win over the Rockets. (Middle) Bath defenders surround a Charyl Stockwell player during the Sentinels' 63-55 victory. (Top photo by Olivia B. Photography; middle photo by Click by Christine McCallister.)