By Geoff Kimmerly
This week’s list of Michigan boys basketball teams to watch next month includes quite a few that have taken next steps toward elite this season, plus a few looking to hold on to top spots.
Most weeks during the season, we check in with four teams from each class that have been especially impressive. After a bit of a hiatus, we’re back for the rest of the winter starting with this look at 16 more.
Detroit East English (15-3) – The Bulldogs won a nail-biter over Detroit Collegiate Prep to advance to the Detroit Public School League tournament final, then won their first PSL tournament championship with an 86-62 victory over Renaissance.
North Farmington (15-2) – The Raiders have been surging since last losing Jan. 14 to Clarkston; they’ve won eight straight, including beating Clarkston 58-53 on Feb. 12, and are tied with Clarkston for first in the Oakland Activities Association Red standings with two league games to play.
Petoskey (15-1) – The Northmen are a perfect 10-0 in Big North Conference play and have lost only to Cheboygan, by a point Jan. 5. Petoskey must beat Gaylord tonight and then finish a season sweep against second-place Traverse City Central on Friday in order to clinch the league title outright.
Ypsilanti Community (15-1) – The Grizzlies are Class A contenders and have their destiny in their control; they can clinch the Southeastern Conference White title outright by winning out.
Birch Run (15-2) – Save for a two-game losing streak over six days in early January, Birch Run has been on point and sits second in the Tri-Valley Conference East. The Panthers take on league leader Frankenmuth on Wednesday with a chance to take a share of first place.
South Haven (14-2) – The Rams have clinched the outright Wolverine Conference North championship after tying for second in the South a year ago. A one-point loss last week to Edwardsburg was the team’s first since opening night.
Wayland (15-1) – The Wildcats earned a share of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold title with an 81-41 win over Hastings on Friday and have won 12 straight since their only loss, 63-56 to Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central on Dec. 29. Wayland finished second in the league last season.
Wyoming Godwin Heights (15-2) – The Wolverines earned a share of the O-K Silver title by beating Hopkins 77-42 on Friday, coming off a surprise three-point loss to Portage Northern three nights before. The reigning Class B champion hadn’t fallen since opening night, but Northern is solid in Class A at 11-5.
Kalamazoo Hackett (16-0) – The Fighting Irish have won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley title and need only one more win to equal last season’s team that finished 17-7. They haven’t had an opponent come within single digits since Schoolcraft – their next opponent – did so Feb. 1.
Muskegon Heights Academy (13-2) – The Tigers’ only losses were to Class A teams – Rockford last week and Battle Creek Central in December. They’ve equaled the 13 games won all of last season and with four more to play before the tournament begins.
Niles Brandywine (13-5) – The Bobcats came back from a three-game losing streak Feb. 5-12 to win twice on back-to-back nights last week and hold a half-win lead on Bridgman in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference Red with a league game to play.
Southfield Christian (16-1) – The Eagles have won 14 straight since falling to West Bloomfield by a point in overtime Dec. 12, and they can finish a perfect run in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue by beating fourth-place Ann Arbor Greenhills this week. They own wins over Belleville by a point and Southfield by three.
Bellaire (15-1) – The Eagles have won 12 straight since falling to East Jordan on Dec. 18 and can clinch a share of the Ski Valley Conference championship against fourth-place Indian River Inland Lakes tonight after handing second-place Johannesburg-Lewiston a loss on Friday.
Frankfort (15-1) – The Panthers finished their first back-to-back league titles since 1961-62 by beating Buckley on Friday to clinch the Northwest Conference championship; they lost only to Traverse City St. Francis, by a point Dec. 17.
Onekama (15-2) – The Portagers clinched the West Michigan D League title outright with a win over Custer Mason County Eastern on Friday after tying annual league power Baldwin for the title last season; Onekama has a two-game lead on Baldwin this time.
Wyoming Potter’s House Christian (14-3) – The Pumas’ 80-50 win over two-loss Kalamazoo Heritage Christian last week earned them the Alliance League South title; their losses this winter were by a combined six points, and they beat Pewamo-Westphalia 55-53 on Friday to extend their winning streak to 11.
PHOTO: Rivals Saginaw and Saginaw Arthur Hill are among many teams prepping for tournament runs with Districts set to begin in two weeks. (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.)