By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
A total of 11 boys basketball teams head into the MHSAA Tournament today with perfect records.
But there are plenty of others expected to make strong pushes toward a trip to East Lansing in a little more than two weeks.
Below is a look at four teams from each class that look good to be in the hunt. Follow all of the scores and brackets in real time at MHSAA.com, and click for a glance at every team with three or fewer losses heading into the postseason.
Canton (20-0) – The Chiefs have improved from 15 to 16 to now 20 wins over the last three seasons, and after repeating as Kensington Lakes Activities Association South champions went on to win the league’s overall title with an overtime victory over Walled Lake Western. Canton also put up an incredible 35-point win in early January over Grosse Pointe South, which finished 17-3.
Detroit U-D Jesuit (20-0) – The Cubs might be the favorites after making the Class A Semifinals last season and losing to eventual champion Detroit Western International. Led by Mr. Basketball finalist guard Cassius Winston, U-D Jesuit has beaten an impressive slate including Class C contenders Flint Beecher and Detroit Allen Academy and last week Detroit East English by 16 points.
East Lansing (19-0) – A young Trojans team will have to be careful in a District featuring tough familiar opponents. But led by sophomore Brandon Johns, arguably the best in his class in the state, East Lansing hasn’t had a ton of trouble yet, with only five wins by fewer than 10 points (although that includes two in overtime).
Macomb Dakota (20-0) – The Cougars did go 21-3 before falling in the Regional Final last season, but haven’t been considered this strong of a contender arguably ever. They avenged that postseason loss on Dec. 15 by downing Clarkston by 11, and nonleague wins against Lansing Everett and Saginaw Arthur Hill also provided valuable experience against unfamiliar but solid opponents.
Lansing Catholic (18-1) – A game against East Lansing last week that would have been telling was canceled because of bad weather, but the Cougars have shown a great combination of post strength and perimeter play while facing most of the rest of the Lansing area’s best. The loss came to rival Williamston by three after Lansing Catholic won the first meeting in overtime by three.
New Haven (18-2) – Unlike last season, New Haven enters the tournament with losses – its first during 2014-15 didn't come until the Quarterfinal. But those defeats this time have come against Class A schools Utica Ford and contender East English (16-4), and the Rockets built their record against a Class A-heavy schedule.
Onsted (19-0) – Mr. Basketball candidate and sizable center Austin Davis gets most of the attention, and with great reason. But he’s also got plenty of help, especially in a veteran backcourt, and it’s paid off in a league with three teams that have won at least 14 games; Hillsdale’s only losses were twice to the Wildcats.
Wyoming Godwin Heights (17-3) – The reigning Class B champion has two more losses heading into the tournament this season than a year ago. But the three defeats came to Class A teams that have won 15, 14 and 19 games, respectively. Tonight’s opponent, Wayland (17-2) provides another tough challenge out of the gate.
Detroit Allen Academy (18-2) – Allen has taken a big jump from 11-11 last year playing a schedule that hardly resembles the typical for a Class C team. The Wildcats’ best wins were arguably against Class B River Rouge (17-3) by 11, Class A Saginaw Arthur Hill (14-5) by 20 and Class A Detroit Renaissance (16-4) by four.
Flint Beecher (17-2) – The Class C champion three of the last four seasons prepares by facing a number of larger power programs, and this winter was no different; Beecher beat East English by three but also played and lost to reigning Class A champion Detroit Western International and likely Class A favorite Detroit U-D Jesuit.
Kalamazoo Hackett (20-0) – Hackett earns the mention among four undefeated Class C teams because it saw the toughest competition; four of six other teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley won at least 10 games, and Kalamazoo Christian’s only losses were twice to the Fighting Irish. All of that said, only Christian once and Schoolcraft twice got within 10 points of Hackett this winter.
Southfield Christian (18-2) – The Eagles are regulars in later rounds of the tournament and fell to Beecher in a Regional Semifinal last season. They’ve again prepped for a long run by facing bigger opponents, with a win over Class A Belleville (16-4) and Southfield and that only loss by a point in overtime in December to Class A West Bloomfield.
Bellaire (19-1) – Aside from a loss to Class C East Jordan in December, Bellaire has dominated winning a Ski Valley Conference featuring five teams with at least 10 wins including Class C Johannesburg-Lewiston (18-2) and Class D Onaway (16-4). The Eagles won their four games against those two opponents all by double figures.
Frankfort (18-2) – The Panthers have made it to at least the Quarterfinals the last three seasons and the Semifinals in 2014, and there’s little reason not to anticipate a similar run. The losses this winter were in overtime to undefeated Class C contender McBain and also-Class C Traverse City St. Francis, and Frankfort has beaten its share of larger schools too.
Hillman (20-0) – The Tigers have made the Regional Finals three straight seasons and played in a Quarterfinal last year, losing to eventual champion Powers North Central. They opened this winter with a 17-point win against Cedarville and have allowed only one opponent to come closer than 11.
Powers North Central (20-0) – The Jets have won 47 straight games and 72 of their last 73 with junior Jason Whitens again leading a group that includes more teammates from their MHSAA 8-player football champion. North Central handed Crystal Falls Forest Park its only two losses and beat Class B Menominee (16-4); no other opponents came close.
PHOTO: Macomb Dakota defenders surround a Saginaw Arthur Hill player working to get to the hoop during a game earlier this season. (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.)