Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 11

February 24, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The following boys basketball high achievers include a few that made history in clinching championships last week.

Some of the other teams that stuck out most fell short of league titles this winter – but could become champions once the postseason begins.

Class A

Detroit Western International (17-0) – The Cowboys needed every last point to secure their first Detroit Public School League championship since 1922, beating Detroit Renaissance 46-45 on Friday after dispatching Detroit Pershing and Detroit Cass Tech in earlier rounds. The Final was only the second time Western didn’t win by double figures this season. 

Holly (15-2) – The Bronchos locked up a second straight Flint Metro League title against Clio on Friday and are undefeated in league play including 6-0 against teams with at least 10 wins overall. Holly’s lone losses were both by five points and both in December – to Detroit Country Day and Flint Southwestern.

Lansing Everett (15-2) – The Vikings pulled into a tie for first place in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue and handed Grand Ledge its first loss of the season Friday, 82-78 in overtime. Top player Trevor Manuel fouled out with a minute left in regulation, but his supporting cast filled in nicely in claiming the biggest win in the Lansing area this winter. 

Muskegon (16-1) – The reigning Class A champion is a mere basket from perfection this winter, its only loss 58-57 to East Kentwood on Dec. 30. The Big Reds have rocked since, clinching the Ottawa-Kent Conference Black title Friday against Muskegon Reeths-Puffer; a 69-59 win over Romulus last month has been among other highlights.

Class B

Goodrich (16-2) – Only a pair of losses to Genesee Area Conference Red leader Flint Beecher have stood between the Martians and perfection. Last week’s overtime win over Fenton went with impressive December victories from December over Class A Troy Athens, White Lake Lakeland and Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills; Athens and Ottawa Hills lead their leagues.

New Haven (17-0) – The Rockets have soared from fifth in the Macomb Area Conference Gold last season to first with a chance to clinch the title today at Warren Lincoln. New Haven had impressive wins early including a 40-pointer over Richmond, the top team in the Blue Water Area Conference. But Mount Clemens on Friday should be the biggest threat to the winning streak.

Onsted (13-3) – The Wildcats have improved substantially from last season’s 11-9 finish and are tied for second in the Lenawee County Athletic Association behind already-clinched champion Hillsdale. Onsted is a combined 13 points from 16-0, but does see co-second place Dundee again March 6 after losing to Dundee 45-43 on Jan. 6.

Wyoming Godwin Heights (16-1) – The Wolverines have avenged that lone loss, by three to Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian on Jan. 24, to move into a first-place tie in the O-K Silver. Godwin Heights should close out its fifth straight league title before a nice test against Class A Grand Rapids Christian to end the regular season.

Class C

Constantine (14-2) – The Falcons moved to the top of the Kalamazoo Valley Association standings Friday with a 59-51 win over previous leader Kalamazoo Christian, one of two teams that has beaten Constantine this season (third-place Kalamazoo Hackett is the other).

Flint Beecher (15-1) – In addition to beating a strong Goodrich team twice in the GAC Red (see above), Beecher has built an impressive slate with victories as well over River Rouge (11-4), Flint Northwestern (13-2), Flint Southwestern (11-4) and Saginaw (12-6).

McBain (14-2) – The Ramblers still may have to win two of their last three league games to clinch the Highland Conference championship. But McBain beat second-place Manton 61-33 on Friday to move into first place after entering that game tied with the Rangers atop the standings.

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (13-2) – The Falcons are going to have a tough time coming back to win the Huron League; they trail Milan by two wins with two league games remaining. But St. Mary should be tough to deal with in Class C this postseason after playing in Class B last winter, when it also fell to eventual B champion Milan in the first game of Districts.

Class D

Mio (14-2) – The Thunderbolts can’t catch Hillman in the North Star League’s Big Dipper division, but they’re firmly in second place with their only losses this season to the first-place Tigers. Mio should get one more regular-season test before the playoffs, in Class C Johannesburg-Lewiston on March 3.

Morenci (14-2) – The Bulldogs claimed a share of the Tri-County Conference championship Saturday night with a 58-52 victory over Clinton, which entered tied for first in the league. Those two were fourth and fifth, respectively, only a season ago.

Peck (15-3) – The Pirates have won seven straight, in the process taking back a share of first place in the North Central Thumb League by winning their rematch with co-leader Kingston on Feb. 17. The other two losses this fall were to Class B Richmond by only four and Class C Marlette.

Republic-Michigamme (15-2) – The Hawks won’t catch Lake Linden-Hubbell in the Copper Country Conference, but can finish an outstanding turnaround after going 7-14 a year ago. The final three opponents have a combined 12 wins this winter. Both of Republic-Michigamme’s losses were to Lake Linden-Hubbell.

PHOTO: Detroit Western International got stops when they counted in defeating Detroit Renaissance in the Detroit Public School League championship game. (Photo courtesy of Detroit Public School League). 

Hart Teammates Reunite After 80 Years as WWII Vets, Great-Grandfathers

By Tom Kendra
Special for

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.

West MichiganNo 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.

Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. 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.

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.“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 KendraTom 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.)