Breslin Bound: Boys Quarterfinal Preview

March 23, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

At the end of the week, four teams will finish the 2014-15 MHSAA boys basketball seasons with championship victories. 

And of 32 left in the tournament, 23 have a chance to end on a title-clinching win for the first time. 

That's just something to keep in mind as Quarterfinals are played Tuesday all over the state. In addition, the reigning MHSAA boys basketball champions in Class A and Class B are alive for repeats, three more 2013-14 semifinalists have a chance to book return trips to Finals weekend, and all three Mr. Basketball finalists will play, two literally against each other.

See below for a glance at all 16 Quarterfinals. All tip off at 7 p.m. unless noted, with winners advancing to Thursday and Friday's Semifinals at Michigan State University. 

Class A

Lansing Everett (23-2) vs. Muskegon (23-1) at Lansing Eastern's Don Johnson Fieldhouse

This looks like a battle of the state’s elite post players and Mr. Basketball candidates; reigning Class A champion Muskegon with 6-foot-10 Michigan State recruit and Mr. Basketball Deyonta Davis (18.6 points, 15.4 rebounds, 6.7 blocks per game) and Everett with 6-9 Oregon recruit Trevor Manuel (23.5 ppg, 11 rpg, 6.0 bpg). But with those two battling, the other eight on the floor could decide which team moves on – watch for Muskegon 6-5 senior forward Joeviair Kennedy and 6-3 Everett junior guard Jamyrin Jackson.    

Walled Lake Central (20-5) vs. Saginaw Arthur Hill (22-3) at Grand Blanc

Guard Eric Davis, headed to Texas next season, finished runner-up for Mr. Basketball and leads an Arthur Hill team on a 10-game winning streak since falling to Detroit U-D Jesuit on Feb. 7. The Lumberjacks have played three teams still alive so they won't be surprised by much this week, and they've won all of their postseason games by double digits. Walled Lake Central is playing its first Quarterfinal since 1993 after emerging from one of Class A’s strongest Districts. Junior guard Walter Kelser leads, scoring 18 points per game.

Detroit U-D Jesuit (21-3) vs. Clarkston (24-0) at University of Detroit Mercy, 5:30 p.m.

U-D Jesuit is seeking a return to the Semifinals after advancing for the first time ever last season, and is led again by talented junior guard Cassius Winston (22.4 points, 5.7 assists per game). Clarkston is seeking its first Semifinal appearance since 2009, playing in its first Quarterfinal since that same season. The Wolves also are keyed by a standout guard – freshman Foster Loyer, who scored 30 and 35 points, respectively, during last week’s Regional.

Ypsilanti Community (19-4) vs. Detroit Western International (23-0), 7 p.m.

This is Community’s first Quarterfinal as a new school, although coach Steve Brooks led the former Ypsilanti High to the final week in 2013 as well. The Grizzlies won the Southeastern Conference White and advanced by defeating another league champion, Romulus, in the Regional Final. Western is playing in its first Quarterfinal since 1974 and has had only two games in single digits this winter – with wins over U-D Jesuit and Arthur Hill among their most impressive. Junior guard Brailen Neely scores 15.9 points per game to lead three averaging double digits. 

Class B

Otsego (22-3) vs. Milan (23-2) at Marshall, 6:30 p.m.

Milan returns three starters from last season’s Class B championship game, including leading scorers Latin Davis (19.9 ppg) at guard and Nick Perkins (16.8) at center. Its only losses this winter were to Class A U-D Jesuit and Romulus, and it has won 16 straight. Otsego has won more than 20 games for the third time in four seasons under coach Josh Holmes and will play in its first Quarterfinal since 1984. Senior 7-foot center Seth Dugan (19 ppg, 13 rpg) might be one of the most daunting matchups left in the tournament.  

Wyoming Godwin Heights (23-1) vs. Spring Lake (18-7) at Rockford

Godwin Heights is back in a Quarterfinal for the third straight season and 12th time dating to its first appearance in 1929. The Wolverines have beaten three teams still playing this week – including Otsego – and their only loss was to Class C quarterfinalist NorthPointe Christian. Senior 6-5 guard Delaney Blaylock leads with 16.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Spring Lake won its third straight District title earlier this month and now will play in the Quarterfinals for the first time in its history. Junior 6-3 center Keegan George leads the Lakers in scoring at 14.4 ppg.

Essexville Garber (21-4) vs. Cadillac (17-8) at Mount Pleasant

Garber emerged from third in the Tri-Valley Conference East to reach its first Quarterfinal after beating 22-win Goodrich in the Regional Final. Senior 6-4 forward C.J. Glaza leads three scoring in double digits, averaging 16.1 points while grabbing 10.4 rebounds per game. Cadillac got off to a 5-6 start on the way to its fifth straight Quarterfinal, although seven of its losses this season were to Class A teams. The Vikings have advanced to the Semifinals the last two years. Guard Andrew Emington (12.8 ppg) leads a balanced offense and is one of eight seniors.

Detroit Henry Ford (19-5) vs. New Haven (25-0) at Marysville

Henry Ford has gone from 10 to 11 to 19 wins over the last three seasons and has a pair of potent scorers in senior small forward Joshua Davis (17 ppg) and junior point guard James Towns (16.5 ppg). The Trojans will be playing in their first Quarterfinal since 1984. New Haven made the Quarterfinals in 2012 but in two trips has never advanced to the final weekend of the season. Senior 6-6 forward Joshua Harris averages 20.5 points per game and has been key during the perfect run, which included a 22-point win over 21-win Yale in the Regional Semifinal.

Class C

McBain (22-2) vs. Boyne City (20-5) at Gaylord

McBain is back in the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2011 but fourth time in seven seasons. Sophomore 6-6 center Craig Sterk leads four scoring in double digits, averaging 16.5 points per game while grabbing 8.8 rebounds per. Boyne City is headed to the Quarterfinals for the first time since 1990 and after winning a competitive Lake Michigan Conference. Senior forward Corey Redman is the leading scorer at 16.4 ppg.

Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (19-5) vs. Shelby (23-1) at Zeeland East

NorthPointe Christian rebounded from three losses over its final four regular-season games and will play its second Quarterfinal and first since 2007. Senior guard Preston Huckaby scores 15 points per game to lead four averaging in double digits for the only team to beat Class B contender Godwin Heights this winter. Shelby suffered only one loss, by three to Muskegon Heights in the regular-season finale. But the Tigers beat eventual Class B quarterfinalist Spring Lake by 22 the week before, and eliminated 21-win Laingsburg in the Regional Final.

Hanover-Horton (23-1) vs. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (22-3) at Ann Arbor Huron

Hanover-Horton has won 20 or more games 10 times and made five Quarterfinals under 17-season coach Chad Mortimer, and is seeking its first Semifinal berth since 2003. Senior guard Stefan Young averages 13.2 ppg as the lead scorer. St. Mary joins Class B’s Milan from the Huron League and will play in its third Quarterfinal in five seasons, hoping for its second Semifinal berth and led by a pair of standout scorers – senior guard Bryce Windham averages 20.4 ppg and junior forward Stephan Umfress adds 18.6.

Millington (19-5) vs. Flint Beecher (23-1) at Burton Bendle

Millington finished second in the TVC East that produced Class B quarterfinalist Essexville Garber, and the Cardinals are seeking their first Semifinal berth. They’re led by a talented backcourt of junior point guard Shawn Pardee (25.6 ppg) and senior shooting guard Austin LeVan (20.9). Beecher, meanwhile, is playing in its eighth straight Quarterfinal and seeking to return to the Semifinals after missing last season for the first time since 2009. Senior guard Cedric Moten leads three averaging double-digit points at 15.1 ppg. 

Class D

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (14-10) vs. Morenci (22-2) at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix

Tri-unity Christian has navigated a tough schedule to return to the Quarterfinals for the third time in five years. Three players average nine points or more per game, led by senior 6-8 center Chris Osantowski at 11 ppg. Morenci has played only one Quarterfinal – in 1954 in Class C – but improved steadily from eight to 13 to 22 wins over the last three seasons and has won its last seven games by 12 or more points. Senior guard Austin Sandusky runs the show, averaging 14.1 points and four assists per game.  

Waterford Our Lady (24-0) vs. Genesee Christian (17-6) at West Bloomfield

Our Lady will play in its first Quarterfinal since 1993. The team is a combined 41-6 in two seasons under coach Paul Robak and led by a pair for sharp-shooting 6-4 guards – senior Nick Robak averages 23.6 points per game and has made 63 3-pointers, and junior Andrew Kline averages 13.2 points and 6.6 assists per game and has 42 treys. Genesee Christian has played in one other Quarterfinal, in 2006. The Soldiers should be ready for another tough opponent after facing a number of larger schools this season playing as an independent. Seniors Travis Rose and Logan Mowry key a productive frontcourt; Rose averages 14.9 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.9 steals per game, with Mowry at 14.8 points and 7.2 rpg.    

Fulton (20-4) vs. Frankfort (22-2) at Cadillac

Fulton is back in the Quarterfinals for the first time since finishing Class D runner-up in 2011, and similar to that season can cause damage from behind the 3-point arc. The Pirates have made 209 3-pointers, with junior guard Colton Antes drilling 74 and senior Gregg Jones, the team’s leading scorer (16.9 ppg), connecting on another 54. Frankfort is playing in its third straight Quarterfinal and is led by the standout from last season’s Semifinal run. Senior 6-3 center David Loney sets the pace at 18.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game for the Northwest Conference champ.

Hillman (23-1) vs. Powers North Central (24-0) at Sault Ste. Marie

Hillman has won at least 21 games the last two seasons and three of the last seven, but will play in its first Quarterfinal having lost this season only to Cedarville in the opener Dec. 9. Three players combine to average 50 points per game, led by senior guard Mason VanPamel at 25 ppg. Powers North Central will play in its third straight Quarterfinal and again is a high-powered scoring force – the Jets have put up at least 80 points seven times and more than 70 in 15 games. Sophomore guard Jason Whitens leads four averaging 9.9 ppg or more with 16.4.

PHOTO: Detroit Henry Ford guard James Towns, here against Detroit East English earlier this season, has played a big part in his team’s first Quarterfinal run since 1984. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public School League.)

E-TC's Witt Bulldozing Path from Small Town to Football's Biggest Stage

By Jason Juno
Special for

June 28, 2024

Ewen-Trout Creek graduate Jake Witt is playing for a spot on the Indianapolis Colts’ 53-man roster. The memories of high school sports, and the impact they’ve had on his journey to the NFL, have stuck with him through his college days and even now as a professional.

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosThe 300-plus receiving yards he went for in a game against the eventual 8-player state champion back in 2017. 

The regular-season basketball game where 3,276 fans turned out to watch his Panthers play just a few months later.

The teamwork prep sports taught him. The family atmosphere he got to be a part of on the high school football team.

“Football was definitely the sport I felt the most family-type feeling with it,” Witt said earlier this week after fishing on Erickson Lake while back in the Upper Peninsula before training camp begins next month. “That’s what drew me back to wanting to play football in college, was my opportunity in high school to play and getting that feeling with the guys and that family-oriented feel.”

Witt played two years of high school football. He lined up exclusively at wide receiver for Ewen-Trout Creek as a junior and then was more of a blocking tight end when E-TC and Ontonagon joined forces as a co-op program when he was a senior.

He ultimately decided to play basketball first in college, at Michigan Tech. But two of his three finalists were football opportunities.

“Obviously playing basketball from second grade on, people would probably assume that I would want to play basketball in college,” Witt said. “I think that just goes to show that football in those two years had a big impact and obviously it led me to where I am when I played at Northern and where I am today.”

Witt played only one year of basketball at Tech. He transferred to Northern Michigan University to attend as a student only before being talked into playing football. 

He was initially a tight end there before moving to tackle because of injuries during a game against Ferris State. He dominated, not allowing a sack or even a quarterback pressure against what was considered the best Division II defensive line in the country. 

He stayed at tackle for what was left of that season and then all of his final year at Northern. Despite his limited time at the position, he had the attention of NFL scouts and entered the draft. The attention reached a fever pitch during his pro day at Central Michigan when he wowed with his athleticism. His 9.92 Relative Athletic Score, a way to measure players’ athletic testing while accounting for their size, was one of the best for an offensive tackle prospect since it began being used in 1987.

Witt, right, umpires a baseball game last summer.He was drafted with the 236th pick, in the seventh round, by the Colts in 2023. 

His first training camp was cut short due to a hip injury, and he was then placed on season-ending injured reserve. But he’s back healthy and ready to go. He practiced at second-string left tackle during the offseason camp this spring and now hopes to earn a spot on the 53-man roster with training camp set to begin in a month.

“I want to go into training camp, play well and then play well enough to where they can’t release me off the 53,” Witt said. “The next goal is to play in a game. And I think that will start with special teams, that will start with field goal. And then from there, obviously, everybody is one week of great practice away from playing with the offense, one injury away from playing in a game with the offense.”

Those who watched him during his high school days in the U.P. likely wouldn’t be at all surprised to see that happen.

Witt is still the only receiver to go for 300 or more receiving yards in 8-player football in state history, according to the MHSAA record book. And he did it twice, a 325-yard game against Eben Junction Superior Central as a junior and the 305-yard performance against Crystal Falls Forest Park as a senior.

The Ontonagon co-op team had mostly stuck to running the ball that season, but looked for Witt through the air against the eventual state champion Trojans.

“I think it was 345 (yards), I think they sent in the wrong number,” Witt said. “That was one game where we switched things up with our offensive attack and threw the ball a lot more, and it ended up paying off for us very well. We were down big at halftime, and we pushed back and we were in a battle with them in the second half. It was a great game. We didn’t end up winning, but it was a lot of fun.”

He enjoyed both years of high school football – even while mostly blocking on the line as a senior despite having shown previously to be a more-than-capable receiver.

Witt warms up during the Indianapolis Colts’ rookie camp in May 2023.“A lot of the offense wasn’t focused on me anymore, which was great,” Witt said. “It made me a much more well-rounded football player. It made me a much better athlete, it gave me a better perception on things as a football player versus just being a receiver. I think both years were great for different reasons.”

Witt said every sport he played in high school was beneficial to him going forward. Basketball, for example, taught him teamwork and coordination. 

“And just relationship building is huge; for me, it helped me move on to the professional football level,” he said.

No high school game was quite as memorable for him as that regular-season basketball game at Michigan Tech on a chilly Wednesday night in Houghton.

Ewen-Trout Creek and Dollar Bay were tied atop the U.P. small-school poll. With that type of matchup, and the chance for fans in the Copper Country to see the 6-7 Witt and his above-the-rim play that’s pretty unique in the U.P., the game was moved from Dollar Bay’s tiny gym to Michigan Tech. (He wasn’t quite 300 pounds like he is now, but he was close – and he came into that game averaging 27 points and 16 rebounds per game with no one able to match his size and strength.)

They expected a crowd; they got 3,276. The latest arriving fans had to sit on the floor on the baseline.

“You don’t see that very much in Division 4 basketball even in the playoffs,” Witt said. “Just having that atmosphere, and especially having it between two of the best U.P. teams at the time, and having the storyline that was behind the game was great – and one of the most memorable events to this day still for me.”

Witt is looking forward to the challenge of training camp and achieving his goals in Indianapolis. But he’s not rushing away a U.P. summer. 

He helped out at last week’s U.P. Football All-Star game. He was happy to provide insight for any players headed off to play college ball, and they helped the Marquette County Habitat for Humanity with the finishing touches on one of their houses.

Over the next month, he’ll still be training, going over the playbook and doing position skill work. As happy as he was to help out last week, he’s happy to be on the lake again, too, fishing like a normal Yooper.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to do, that and train,” Witt said. “Just trying to destress before I get back into it.”

PHOTOS (Top) At left, Jake Witt played for Ewen-Trout Creek during a 2018 basketball game at Michigan Tech, and at right Witt takes a photo with area youth baseball players last summer. (Middle) Witt, right, umpires a baseball game last summer. (Below) Witt warms up during the Indianapolis Colts’ rookie camp in May 2023. (Photos by Jason Juno.)