Breslin Bound: Boys Report Post-Break
January 7, 2020
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
With the new calendar year underway, boys basketball season is revved to begin three uninterrupted months capping with an annual trip to Breslin Center – and with a much-anticipated change to the tournament sure to draw some added attention on the way there.
Remembering that this season will see the top two teams in each District seeded for the first time, we’d like to take this week to introduce the Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) on MHSAA.com. Teams are searchable and comparable both by division and District number, and every Monday during the regular season we’ll also pull a top 20 in each division and post them on our Second Half rankings page.
There’s a full explanation of how MPR is calculated, and for the rankings teams were considered this week that had played at least four games against opponents that also are eligible for the MHSAA Tournament, since MPR includes only those opponents in its calculation.
Below is a look at some of what you may have missed in holiday hoops during the break. “Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at MHSAA.com. Send corrections or missing scores to [email protected].
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Flint Beecher 76, Benton Harbor 62 – The Division 3 Bucs have won four straight since falling in their season opener, and followed up a win over Division 1 Flint Carman-Ainsworth by dealing the Division 2-contending Tigers their only loss.
2. Clarkston 65, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 56 – The Wolves also earned a noteworthy win over Carman-Ainsworth that should affect Division 1 state rankings.
3. Orchard Lake St. Mary's 69, Grand Blanc 66 – The Eaglets moved to 5-0 with their only close win so far, handing Grand Blanc its first loss in another matchup of Division 1 powers.
4. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 54, Detroit Cass Tech 53 – The Cavaliers are mentioned a lot in this short list, but they also arguably played the toughest holiday schedule of any team in any division.
5. Detroit Cass Tech 72, Saginaw 62 – Although the Technicians went on to take their first loss three days later (see above), a 10-point win over Saginaw always is noteworthy.
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Holland West Ottawa (5-0) The Panthers went from Division 1 runners-up in 2017-18 to 10-11 last season, but the bounce-back is on with this perfect start. West Ottawa won a pair of showcase games during the last days of December, over Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills and then Muskegon Mona Shores. The Panthers will carry that fast start into an Ottawa-Kent Conference Red that also has Grand Haven and Hudsonville at 5-0.
North Farmington (6-0) An eight-point win over rival Farmington on Friday extended a perfect start that most impressively included a 47-46 win over Detroit Communication Media Arts on Dec. 21 – still CMA’s only defeat. North Farmington tied for second in the Oakland Activities Association Red last season behind champion Clarkston, and looks to be in the mix again.
Macomb Lutheran North (5-0) The Mustangs are on a roll coming off two straight sub-.500 seasons. They opened with three wins over Blue Water Area Conference opponents and followed with Metro Conference Holiday Reunion Tournament victories over Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood. They’ve won twice by six points or fewer – experience which may come in handy in a Detroit Catholic League AA that features also-unbeaten Detroit Loyola and one-loss Dearborn Divine Child.
Sparta (5-0) The Spartans are coming off six straight sub.-500 seasons, but they’re already more than halfway to equaling last winter’s nine wins. They’ve held on in some close matchups, including a 67-66 victory over Gibraltar Carlson on Dec. 26. Sparta’s O-K Blue produced four teams (of seven total) with winning records last winter, and the Spartans begin league play Friday with hopes of joining that group this time.
Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (5-1) A 40-39 overtime win Friday over Grandville Calvin Christian avenged last year’s two-point loss to the Squires and ran Covenant’s winning streak to five. After starting 2-6 a season ago and finishing 8-14, the Chargers also have avenged losses to Wyoming Godwin Heights and Zeeland West.
Negaunee (5-0) The Miners finished a solid 15-8 a season ago but with two losses to Division 1 Marquette and a third to Escanaba. Those two teams are the only two Negaunee hasn’t beaten by double digits so far this winter; the Miners opened with a 52-43 avenging against the Eskymos and handed Marquette its lone loss Friday, 79-73 in overtime.
Dollar Bay (5-0) A Division 4 semifinalist the last two seasons, Dollar Bay actually is off to a better start this winter thanks to a 69-45 win over past early-season nemesis Bessemer. The Blue Bolts have won four games by at least 24 points and the fifth by nine, and their 81 points against Chassell on Dec. 27 would’ve been their third most last season.
Fulton (5-0) The Pirates have finished a game or two over .500 the last three seasons after their most recent trip to the MHSAA Semifinals in 2016. But this 5-0 start is the team’s best since 2011-12, the difference in large part being holiday break wins over Division 3 Ithaca and Carson City-Crystal. Fulton also owns a pair of early league victories over Saranac and rival Fowler.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – Detroit U-D Jesuit (2-2) at Grand Blanc (4-1) – Last season’s Division 1 runner-up Cubs have a pair of losses to tough Division 3 opponents and can make a strong statement to open 2020 by downing another Division 1 contender in the Bobcats.
Tuesday – Holland West Ottawa (5-0) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (3-1) – This is a great nonleague test for both, as West Ottawa (mentioned above) goes into a competitive O-K Red and reigning Division 2 champion Unity begins play Friday in the O-K Green.
Tuesday – Adrian Lenawee Christian (4-0) at Southfield Christian (2-2) – These are regulars among the state’s small-school elite, and this winter they have aspirations in Divisions 3 and 4, respectively.
Thursday – Dollar Bay (5-0) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (4-0) – These two are early co-leaders in the Copper Mountain Conference Copper Country division after they finished second and fourth, respectively, last season.
Friday – Freeland (4-1) at Bridgeport (5-0) – Champions (Freeland sharing) in separate divisions of the Tri-Valley Conference last season, they’re early contenders in the new-look TVC East this winter.
Second Half’s weekly “Breslin Bound” reports are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTO: Orchard Lake St. Mary’s edged Grand Blanc 69-66 in one of last weekend’s most intriguing games. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)
Hart Teammates Reunite After 80 Years Now as WWII Vets, Great-Grandfathers
By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com
June 7, 2023
Walter “Stretch” Hansen and Harold Tate were good friends and high school basketball and baseball teammates at Hart High School, graduating in 1943.
No one could have guessed that less than two months after graduation (on July 2, 1943), the two friends would head to Fort Custer in Battle Creek, the first stop on their way overseas to fight for their country in World War II.
No one could have imagined how many twists and turns their lives would take over the next 80 years – from the battlefields in the South Pacific, then back to West Michigan where they both were married with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and now Harold even has a great-great-grandchild.
And, certainly, no one would have believed that the two young boys from Hart – who forged a friendship through high school sports long before the days of computers, microwave ovens and cell phones – would still be alive at the age of 98 for an emotional reunion last month, on May 22, seeing each other for the first time in 80 years and, to cap it off, the reunion took place in their hometown of Hart.
“It was such a great day,” Hansen said about the meeting, which was set up by Muskegon-area World War II historian Richard Mullally.
“We picked right up, talking about sports and the service and everything else.”
The conversation came easy for the two old friends, who played for Hart during a “golden era” at the school – particularly in basketball, as the Pirates won 11 West Michigan Conference basketball titles between 1940 and 1954.
Perhaps the best team during that time period was Hansen and Tate’s as seniors in 1943. That team lost only once, to rival Scottville (31-25), but more than made up for it with an 80-10 trouncing of the Spartans in the final regular-season game.
Hart then crushed Scottville and Newaygo to win the District championship, only to have Michigan’s prep basketball season stopped abruptly at that point because of World War II.
That 1943 team featured four starters over 6-0, led by the duo of Hansen and Stan Kapulak (both 6-6), Joe Mack (6-2), Lyle Burmeister (6-1) and Stanley Riley (the lone starter under 6-foot at 5-11).
“The newspapers called us ‘The Hart Skyscrapers,’” said Hansen, who will be 99 on Nov. 6. “We were taller than most college teams at that time.”
Hansen and Tate’s friendship continued to blossom on the baseball field, only to have their lives turned upside down shortly after graduation 80 years ago, when all Hart senior boys who had been drafted headed to Battle Creek as a brief staging area on their way to the battlefields of Europe and the South Pacific.
Hansen served in the Army Specialized Training Program and was part of the 52nd Signal Battalion and the 4025th Signal Battalion in the Pacific Theater.
“I had an all-expense paid tour of the South Pacific,” Hansen said with a chuckle. “The Philippines, New Guinea, Okinawa, Hawaii, all over the place.”
Tate did his service in the 24th Infantry Division and the 19th Infantry Regiment, and was stationed in Japan.
During their visit last month, Harold showed off the Japanese Samurai sword and Arisaka rifle which he had sent back from Japan to Hart. The week after their visit, both took part in Memorial Day parades – Hansen in the Lakeside parade in Muskegon and Tate in his 77th Memorial Day service in Hart.
Hansen, who still has a home on a small lake in Holton and lives at a senior care facility in Muskegon, played many years of semi-pro basketball and did some coaching. He worked at GTE and has five children and 10 grandchildren.
“I have been so blessed,” Hansen said, sorting through one of his many scrapbooks. “All five of my kids are great and I have grandkids that are just amazing, everything they are doing. I don’t even know all of their names, but it’s sure been fun watching them.”
Tate returned to Hart after his military service and has been there ever since, at first working as a carpenter with his father and then becoming a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, retiring 26 years ago at the age of 72. He has lived in the same home for 75 years and has three children, six grandchildren, seven great-grandkids and now one great-great-grandchild.
Tate laments the demise of his beloved American Legion post in Hart, a town with just over 2,000 residents, as the number of members has steadily declined.
One topic that brings a smile to both of their faces is the recent resurgence of the Hart High School athletic program, which drew media attention not too many years ago for all the wrong reasons – notably a football program which went 24 years without a winning record.
That string was snapped with a 6-3 mark and the school’s first earned playoff appearance last fall.
But that was just the start.
This winter, Hart’s boys basketball team finished the regular season 22-0, the girls basketball team made it to the Division 3 Semifinals at the Breslin Center, wrestling qualified for the Team Finals for the fourth-straight year and competitive cheer placed fourth in Division 4. This spring, the Hart girls track & field team won its second-straight Division 3 Finals team title, and the boys placed fourth.
“It’s a great place to call home, a great place to live, always has been,” said Hansen of his hometown, which got its name from its central position in the “heart” of Oceana County.
And who would have imagined that these two high school teammates could still come home again for a reunion at the age of 98?
Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Members of the 1943 Hart High School varsity baseball team gather together, preparing for a team photo. Among those are Harold Gayle Tate (far left) and Walter "Stretch" Hansen, at 6-6 the tallest player in the back row. (Middle) Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. (Below) Hansen served from 1943 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tate served from 1945 to 1946 as a Platoon Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. (Top photo courtesy of Stretch Hansen. Middle and below photos courtesy of Richard Mullally.)