By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The reigning Class D champion is playing in Class C this season. Last year’s Class A and B champions have only three losses between them. And there are four undefeated teams in Class D – with next week’s Regional the earliest two can meet up.
We’ve got a chance to see some familiar faces for the MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals in three weeks, and likely a higher probability of seeing a few teams that have yet to lose this winter. But to determine who makes the trip, a ton of basketball must yet be played – beginning tonight.
To kick off Districts, this week's Breslin Bound report looks at five teams in each class that have made some of the biggest waves throughout this winter. Click to “track the tournament,” with results as we receive them and interactive brackets.
Clarkston (20-0) – The Wolves equaled last season’s win total by going undefeated during the regular season and now will be charged with surpassing last year’s Regional Final appearance. Clarkston won all but three games by double figures, including over Macomb Dakota (18-2) and Auburn Hills Avondale (17-3) during December and twice over North Farmington and Mr. Basketball candidate Jeron Rogers.
Detroit Western International (19-0) – The Cowboys posted big wins early, including 69-57 over Saginaw Arthur Hill (17-3), then rolled through the Detroit Public School League to win that championship for the first time since 1922. A 58-49 win over Detroit U-D Jesuit (17-3) in last week’s Operation Friendship game further cemented Western as a likely favorite.
East Kentwood (20-0) – The Falcons handed reigning Class A champion Muskegon its only loss, 58-57 on Dec. 30, and also beat a solid Birmingham Brother Rice team in December before storming through the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red to win that league title by three games. East Kentwood had finished second in the league and 13-8 overall a year ago.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (20-0) – The Rangers repeated as champions in the O-K White, this season by four games, and own a 59-55 win over O-K Bronze champion Grand Rapids Northview (17-3), which ended Forest Hill Central’s 2013-14 season in the District Final. The Rangers twice beat Grand Rapids Christian, led by Mr. Basketball candidate DeLeon Brown.
Muskegon (19-1) – The Big Reds have more than made up for their first loss (see East Kentwood above) since 2012-13. Muskegon edged Saginaw Arthur Hill by two in mid-December, then beat Romulus (14-5) by 10 in mid-January and River Rouge (15-5) in the regular-season finale – in addition to winning the O-K Black by three games. Center Deyonta Davis is a favorite, perhaps the favorite, for the Mr. Basketball Award.
Flint Northwestern (15-3) – The Wildcats had a few stumbles through the middle and end of February, but still won the Saginaw Valley Association South by three games, losing only to third-place Flint Powers Catholic, Class A power Arthur Hill and Class C contender Flint Beecher. Northwestern opened this winter with a 10-game winning streak after finishing 6-13 only a season ago.
Milan (18-2) – The reigning Class B champion is revved for another run with 11 straight wins and another Huron League title that included a pair of victories over second-place Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (17-3). Milan's losses were to Class A contenders Romulus and Detroit U-D Jesuit, and all 18 wins came by double-digit points.
New Haven (20-0) – The Rockets launched from 12-9 a year ago to return to a form more similar to their 19-4 team of 2012-13. They won the Macomb Area Conference Gold championship by three games, but the tournament will be an interesting test – New Haven moved up this school year from Class C. A 51-43 win over MAC Blue champion Mount Clemens on Feb. 27, however, is a good sign.
Wayland (17-3) – Although the Wildcats finished behind Class A Ottawa Hills in the O-K Gold standings, they lost only to Class A teams this season – twice to Ottawa Hills and once to Middleville Thornapple Kellogg – and posted a 17-point win on Otsego (17-3). Lacey James is a Mr. Basketball candidate and could carry Wayland far if it can get past Godwin Heights this week.
Wyoming Godwin Heights (19-1) – The Wolverines came back from a January loss to Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian to avenge two weeks later and finish as champion again in the O-K Silver. Godwin Heights is 44-2 over the last two seasons, having fallen in the 2014 Quarterfinals, and looks lined up for another run with February wins against North Farmington (17-3), Otsego and then Grand Rapids Christian on Tuesday.
Beaverton (20-0) – The Beavers have won at least 20 games three straight seasons and earned the Jack Pine Conference title. They won by fewer than double digits only three times – including twice over league-runner-up Clare (15-5). Beaverton also won a pair over Class D Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (14-5) and by 16 over Vestaburg (17-2).
Flint Beecher (18-1) – The Buccaneers should be back in championship contention after falling by a point in last year’s Quarterfinals. They again won the Genesee Area Conference Red, this time by two games over Class B Goodrich (18-2), and also posted impressive victories over Saginaw (14-6), Flint Northwestern, River Rouge and reigning Class C champion Detroit Consortium (12-5).
Jackson Lumen Christi (18-2) – The Titans should be scary in Class C after making the Regional Finals in Class B last season and then finishing atop an Interstate 8 Athletic Conference filled with larger schools. Lumen Christi won the league title by a game over Class B Battle Creek Harper Creek (18-2) and also owns impressive wins over Hanover-Horton (19-1) and Flint Powers Catholic (14-6).
Hillsdale (20-0) – The Hornets have won at least 20 games four straight seasons and are looking to improve on last year’s Quarterfinal run. Hillsdale capped the regular season with a 53-50 win last week over Vandercook Lake (15-5), opened with a win over Adrian Madison (15-5) and also twice beat Onsted (16-4) to win the Lenawee County Athletic Association championship.
Southfield Christian (17-3) – The back-to-back-to-back Class D champion is up a class and continued to play a number of larger opponents, losing to North Farmington and Detroit Pershing during the season’s first two weeks. The Eagles came back to win the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue with a pair of victories over rival Allen Park Inter-City Baptist (16-4).
Cedarville (20-0) – The Trojans haven’t slowed a bit since reaching last season’s Semifinals, cruising to another Eastern U.P. Athletic Conference championship while reaching 20 wins for the third straight season. Cedarville fit in a couple of downstate opponents in early January and beat Boyne City (15-5) last week, to go with domination of its local opponents including a 100-86 win in mid-February over Rudyard (15-5).
Hillman (19-1) – The Tigers just edged Lawrence as the only non-undefeated team on this list after winning the North Star League Big Dipper with a pair of wins over Mio (17-2). Hillman also put up a 10-point nonleague win early over Rudyard (15-5) and hasn’t lost since falling to Cedarville on opening night – after also losing to Cedarville in last season’s Regional Final.
Lake Linden-Hubbell (20-0) – The Lakes have climbed from three to 16 to 19 to 20 wins over the last four seasons. They won the Copper Country Conference title by two games over runner-up Republic-Michigamme (16-4). Lake Linden-Hubbell won all but one of its games by double digits.
Powers North Central (20-0) – The high-scoring Jets have shined again, putting up more than 90 points twice and more than 80 five more times. They dominated the Skyline Central Conference West with a pair of wins over Crystal Falls Forest Park (16-4) and earned another over SCC East champ Munising (18-1). North Central is 45-1 over the last two seasons, with the only loss to Cedarville in last year’s Quarterfinal.
Waterford Our Lady (20-0) – The Lakers also have made great strides, from 11 to 12 to 17 to 20 wins over the last four seasons. They won the Detroit Catholic League Intersectional #1 title by four games and added to an impressive run with wins over Southfield Bradford (14-6), Harbor Beach (15-4) and Burton St. Thomas More Academy (15-2).
PHOTO: Muskegon's Deyonta Davis (21) goes for a blocked shot during a January game against Saginaw Arthur Hill. (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.)