By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Plenty can change – and change again – over the course of a four-month high school basketball season.
Below are this week’s highlighted teams in each class that have jumped out of late – including a number that started slowly this winter but are playing their best with the postseason less than a month away.
Birmingham Brother Rice (11-4) – The Warriors’ basketball program certainly is overshadowed by the football and perhaps hockey teams. But Rice went 3-1 over the second half of the Detroit Catholic League Central season and avenged an earlier 16-point loss to champion Detroit U-D Jesuit by handing the Cubs their only league loss this season, 58-53 last week.
Davison (12-3) – The Cardinals likely can’t catch leader Flint Northwestern in the Saginaw Valley Association South title chase, but can celebrate coming back strong off two straight sub-.500 seasons. Their only losses in 2014-15 are two to Northwestern and the third to Flint Southwestern Academy.
DeWitt (9-6) – An 0-4 start knocked down expectations a little for the reigning Capital Area Activities Conference Red champion. But the Panthers came back with a five-game winning streak and on Friday beat Haslett for the second time this winter to push into a first-place tie with the Vikings. All but one loss were by six or fewer points.
Grand Rapids Northview (13-3) – Last season’s runner-up in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Bronze is a win over reigning champion Forest Hills Northern on Friday from clinching a share of the league title. Northview is undefeated in league play and winner of nine of its last 10 games.
Benzonia Benzie Central (12-2) – The Huskies trail both Frankfort and Maple City Glen Lake by half a loss in the Northwest Conference standings, but play both during the final two weeks of the season. Until then, Benzie Central will try to build on a five-game winning streak and nine victories in their last 10 games.
Big Rapids (10-5) – The Cardinals trail Grant in the Central State Activities Association Gold and will need help if they’re to climb into first, but beat Grant 43-36 on Feb. 6 and added another league win Friday to stay within one of the lead.
Leslie (12-2) – The Blackhawks joined the Greater Lansing Activities Conference in the fall after a few seasons as an independent, and they’re in contention for the championship after beating first-place Lake Odessa Lakewood 43-41 on Friday. Lakewood, on Jan. 9, handed Leslie its last loss before this nine-win run.
Milan (14-2) – The reigning Class B champion is back in fine form, with its only losses this season to Class A teams that won league titles – U-D Jesuit and Romulus. The Big Reds are undefeated in the Huron League but face second-place Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central twice over their final four regular-season games.
AuGres-Sims (8-7) – Its overall record is just over .500, but AuGres-Sims is holding on to a slim lead in the Little Dipper division of the North Star Conference. The Wolverines have won three straight league games and have three to play, including a pair against opponents that are a combined 4-20.
Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest (12-2) – The Crusaders hold a slim lead in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue thanks to a 66-52 win over Sterling Heights Parkway Christian on Thursday – after they lost to Parkway on Jan. 30. Lutheran Northwest finished 1-20 and last in the Blue a year ago.
Ironwood (15-2) – The Red Devils have followed last season’s run to the Regional Finals with another impressive performance; their only losses are to Wisconsin teams, and they edged Bessemer (see below) by a bucket on Friday to complete a season sweep.
Ishpeming (10-5) – The Hematites didn’t play their first game until Jan. 2 and are accustomed to late starts after three straight trips to the Football Finals at Ford Field. A loss to rival Negaunee on Friday broke a six-game winning streak that included a win over first-place Iron Mountain on Feb. 6.
Bessemer (12-5) – The Speedboys opened 2-3 and have absorbed a second loss this season from Ironwood. But they also have claimed a share of the Porcupine Mountain Conference title and can make it an outright championship March 5 against Ewen-Trout Creek – which beat Bessemer on Dec. 19.
Brethren (10-5) – The Bobcats are tied for fourth in the West Michigan D League, but their losses to first-place Onekama and second-place Baldwin over the last three weeks were both by only two points. Brethren gets Baldwin one more time, in its regular-season finale March 3.
Climax-Scotts (12-4) – Despite a seven-point loss to Battle Creek St. Philip near the end of January, Climax-Scotts remains in first place in the Southern Central Athletic Association West. The Panthers have won five of their last six and will equal last season’s win total with their next victory.
Hillman (16-1) – The Tigers will at least share the North Star League Big Dipper title and sit undefeated in the league standings, their only loss on opening night to still-undefeated Cedarville. Hillman hasn’t had a win by fewer than 10 points.
PHOTO: Grand Rapids Northview needs one more win to claim the O-K Bronze title, thanks in part of to a 75-50 win over Greenville on Friday. (Click for more from 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.)