Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 10

February 12, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Aspiring boys basketball teams are taking aim at frontrunners all over Michigan as we reach the middle of February.

The Detroit Public School League experienced this most last week as arguably the three favorites for this season’s league tournament title all were eliminated. The Upper Peninsula and northern Lower also saw undefeated powers fall for the first time.

Plenty more opportunities to re-set the pecking order are coming up; see some of them below. Breslin Bound is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at To offer corrections or fill in scores we’re missing, email me at

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results: 

1. Detroit Edison Public School Academy 59, Detroit Cass Tech 51 – This PSL game certainly shook up the bracket as the Pioneers eliminated the reigning league tournament champion.

2. Detroit Renaissance 66, Detroit East English 65 – This also was a bit of a PSL quarterfinal shocker, with East English the only team in the state this season to beat reigning Class A champ Clarkston.

3. Dollar Bay 51, Ewen-Trout Creek 42 – More than 3,000 fans packed Michigan Tech’s gym to see Dollar Bay emerge from this meeting of previously-undefeated Class D contenders.

4. Detroit Pershing 50, Detroit Henry Ford 44 – Despite an 8-9 record, Pershing has been mentioned as a Class C contender with its wins and losses more a reflection of its tough schedule; winning this game over a Class B contender backs up that theory.

5. Frankfort 53, McBain 48 – The Panthers should have plenty to say in Class D as well, and their play did the talking in handing Class C McBain its only defeat.

Watch List

With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each class making sparks: 


Holland West Ottawa (14-1) – The Panthers are on a two-month winning streak since losing their opener to Wyoming Godwin Heights. They clinched a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red championship, their third straight, on Friday with three league games to play. They finished 23-2 overall last year and will look to add a Regional title this time around. 

Ypsilanti Community (11-1) – The Grizzlies have a slim lead in the Southeastern Conference White but can solidify it next week by avenging their lone loss, to Dexter. They have won league championships all four years since forming from the old Ypsilanti and Willow Run high schools.


New Haven (16-0) – The Rockets are among the least surprising successes in the state coming off last year’s Class B title and returning standout junior Romeo Weems. Saginaw Arthur Hill on Saturday was the first team to come closer than 17 points, as New Haven won 71-68.

Wyoming Godwin Heights (14-1) – The Wolverines remain among the class of the Grand Rapids area and statewide, looking to return to the season’s final week after falling in the Regional a year ago. The only loss was in overtime to Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (now 13-2), with wins over West Ottawa and Pershing – and no other opponents coming closer than 11 points. 


Cassopolis (12-0) – The Rangers are holding down first place in the inaugural Southwest 10 Conference standings after winning Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph division championships the last three seasons. They’ve put up at least 70 points seven times – and dropped 111 in their last game Feb 3.

Unionville-Sebewaing (12-0) – The Patriots are looking to add a second straight league title and are perfect through the first half of the Greater Thumb Conference West schedule. Last week included a win over Jack Pine Conference leader Sanford Meridian Early College, and a December victory over Detroit Douglass also is worth noting.


Hillsdale Academy (13-1) – With a loss only to Class B neighbor Hillsdale High, the Colts look good to improve on last season’s 17-7 overall finish. Only one other opponent has come within double digits, and Hillsdale Academy leads the Southern Central Athletic Association East after tying for second last season.

Southfield Christian (12-3) – This season has been standard Southfield Christian – play a bunch of larger powerhouses to prepare for the postseason while taking care of things in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue. A win over Detroit Martin Luther King was strong, and an overtime loss to Pershing was similarly impressive.

Can't-Miss Contests

Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:  

Wednesday – Buckley (11-3) at Frankfort (12-1) – Frankfort won the first round by 16, but the reigning Class D runner-up Bears lead the Northwest Conference by half a game.

Friday – Frankenmuth (13-1) at Bridgeport (12-1) – The Bearcats set the tone for an excellent run by downing the rival Eagles by 14 at the start of January; a sweep would all but secure the Tri-Valley Conference East title. 

Friday – Troy (11-3) at Clarkston (13-1) – Aside from Detroit East English, which beat Clarkston in December, few others have come close to the Wolves; Troy, which fell only 59-54 on Jan. 9, is one of those few.

Friday – Detroit PSL Final at University of Detroit Mercy – King (9-5), Pershing (8-9), Edison (8-9) and Renaissance (11-4) will play in Tuesday semifinals to set Friday’s championship matchup.

Friday – River Rouge (15-0) at Southfield Christian (12-3) – They share some motivation; both made it to the Breslin Center last season and both lost Semifinals in overtime, in Class B and D, respectively.

PHOTO: A Bridgeport player goes up for a dunk during a win over Saginaw Swan Valley this season. (Click for more from

Longtime Coach Researches Photos to Tell Story of Grand Rapids Sports' Past

By Steve Vedder
Special for

September 16, 2022

GRAND RAPIDS – Bob Schichtel always pauses when he comes across the ancient black and white photo long enough to ponder whatever became of the two youngsters adorned in Grand Rapids Union basketball uniforms.

The posed shot shows two players facing each other in a local gymnasium in a photo apparently taken four days after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 that launched the country into World War II. Only a handful of fans today would recognize the players' striped, ultra-short shots and simple sleeveless shirts with "Union" emblazed across the front as recognizable basketball uniforms. One holds a battered-looking basketball, while the other looks on. The two players, whose uniform numbers are "4" and "9," aren't really smiling, but still seem as close as any teammates, whether 81 years ago or today.

In fact, it's the look the youngsters share that intrigues Schichtel, whose thankless, pro bono job it is to identify the two players.

"Once you start," said Schichtel, a former longtime Grand Rapids basketball coach, "it's like looking down a deep rabbit hole."

Longtime area coach Bob Schichtel researches hundreds of photos that are part of the Grand Rapids Public Library archive. Schichtel works as a volunteer for the Grand Rapids Public Library trying to identify mostly former Grand Rapids City League basketball players from approximately 1938 through the early fifties. The online photos are mostly from the Robinson Photo Studio Collection taken in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Herald newspaper. The library says the unique collection spans some 950 basketball negatives from the entire Robinson/Herald collection that totals well over 900,000 Grand Rapids photos.

While the work – which amounts to a ton of patience combined with a detective ability – can be exhausting, it's still what Schichtel describes as a labor of love. For example, there's the shot of the two still-unidentified Union players. Schichtel looks at the photo and can't help but wonder whatever happened to the kids. Were they exceptional athletes? Did they leave their marks on Grand Rapids history, whether it was in education, politics, business, industry, the arts or another field? He doesn't even know, as in many photos from this era, whether the two entered the military and thus even survived World War II.

Schichtel has searched everywhere for the answers, but has come up short. Too many times, in fact.

Which isn't to say he'll quit looking or chalk up his research as inconsequential. Schichtel said the foremost reason he spends hours on the project is that many of the athletes he identifies deserve the recognition for achievements far beyond basketball. In many cases former City League basketball, football, baseball, track and tennis athletes became the foundation on which Grand Rapids was built. If Schichtel can uncover an old photo which depicts these youngsters during their high school careers, so much the better, he said.

"It's important to recognize Grand Rapids sports history, and I don't know if we've given enough attention to their past," Schichtel said. "They are what got us here, and I'm a firm believer they need to be recognized for it."

Figuring out that history, however, ranges from, at the least, extremely time consuming to – in too many frustrating cases – virtually impossible. The City League was formed in the late 1920s and featured original schools Grand Rapids Central, Creston, South, Union, Ottawa Hills, Catholic Central and Davis Tech. The league was eventually folded into the Ottawa-Kent Conference in 2008. 

"It was a long, evolving league," Schichtel said.

Schichtel has identified these 1941 Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills basketball players as James Horn (left) and Chuch Reynier. The identification tools available to Schichtel are actually more numerous than most would suspect. For starters, he's formed an impressive database of information by pouring through old City League yearbooks and programs, photos from other collections and microfilm of old newspapers, And then there's also the knowledge gathered by Schichtel himself, a 1968 Grand Rapids Catholic Central graduate. After playing in many old City League gymnasiums, Schichtel went on to compile a 389-197 record in 27 years as the Cougars girls basketball coach. He uses countless City League contacts as both a player and coach to identify athletes. In all, Schichtel taught in the Grand Rapids school system for 34 years.

He also uses the game itself to identify the photos. For instance, he can pinpoint some photos simply by the styles of the uniforms worn by players. He also figures out who is who by other clues such as what the players are doing in the photo. If a player is taking a set shot in the photo, it's likely pre-World War II. The beginnings of the jump shot, or what Schichtel calls "elevation while shooting," is probably mid-1940s. In addition, Schichtel can identify photos through pure basketball athleticism. Players can look a bit awkward in shots from the thirties as compared to players from the late 1940s who were beginning to play with a more obvious flare.

Put all the information together and Schichtel, who has uncovered more than two dozen personal connections to subjects in the photos, believes he has a reasonable shot at identifying them.

Since he signed on with the project, Schichtel figures he's identified about 10 percent of the photos he's viewed. Among the City League athletes he's found shots of Central's John Lavan, who was born in 1890 and played Major League Baseball during the Babe Ruth era and became a military hero who is buried in Arlington National Cemetery; Creston basketball player Roger Wilkins, an assistant United States attorney general during the Watergate hearings; Art Spoelstra of Godwin, a former NBA player and member of the Grand Rapids Hall of Fame; and Grand Rapids native Bill Cutler, who turned a chance post-World War II meeting with then-American League president Will Harridge into a position as commissioner of the Pacific Coast League,

Schichtel said gaining information through photos on the people who became the bedrock of Grand Rapids should be celebrated.

"I think it's a great approach for the community; they shouldn't be forgotten," Schichtel said. "Who else is going to do this? Why do I do it? I see a certain, for lack of a better word, a nobility. These kids played for the love of game, and they became the “Greatest Generation.” These kids did great things. It's not just, 'Well, there's No. 58,’ in a photo.

"You want to know more about them. That's the real intrigue for me."

Schichtel identified Grand Rapids South High’s “Fireman Five” of, from left, Fred Esslair, Lee Morrow, Jack Carroll, Bob Youngberg and Bruce Bigford. Tim Gloege of the Grand Rapids Public Library said the collection of photos – and their identification – is continually growing. As more people log onto the library's website, more people want to either add to the collection or have information that leads to an identification. The library estimates about 1,200 photos are searched monthly. But as time grows, many of the original photos are disintegrating. The library is in a constant state of preservation, Gloege said.

"It's a massive project, and we're working to get as many photos online as possible," he said. "The numbers (of photos) we have are rising pretty significantly as people post them on social media.

"When you think of the past and now, you need to realize these are people, kids who used to play basketball and did other things. The work is hard and very time-intensive, but it brings a whole new dimension to history."

Schichtel said he's "kind of picked the low-hanging fruit" on many of the easy photos to identify. But the work will continue.

"Yes, it can be frustrating," he said. "There are limitations if you want it to be accurate. Sometimes you look at a photo and you know it's not going to happen, and you move on. But this a chance to learn about people who made Grand Rapids what it is. That's important to me."

PHOTOS (Top) Two Grand Rapids Union basketball players stand for a photo taken Dec. 12, 1941. (2) Longtime area coach Bob Schichtel researches hundreds of photos that are part of the Grand Rapids Public Library archive. (3) Schichtel has identified these 1941 Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills basketball players as James Horn (left) and Chuch Reynier. (4) Schichtel identified Grand Rapids South High’s “Fireman Five” of, from left, Fred Esslair, Lee Morrow, Jack Carroll, Bob Youngberg and Bruce Bigford. (Historic photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Public Library.)