By Geoff Kimmerly
We’re only a week away from the start of the MHSAA Tournament, and it’s tough to not look a few days ahead to the matchups on the way – but we must to recognize a few more of the successes so far.
Most weeks during the season, we check in with four teams from each class that have been especially impressive. Here’s a look at 16 more that could ignite a run when Districts begin next week.
Clarkston (15-2) – After splitting with North Farmington, the Wolvers must defeat sixth-place Tory Athens on Tuesday to clinch a shared Oakland Activities Association Red championship. It would be at least the fifth straight league title for Clarkston, which made the Class A Quarterfinals last season and looks poised again with its only other loss to undefeated Macomb Dakota in December.
Grand Rapids Christian (17-1) – The Eagles clinched an outright Ottawa-Kent Conference White championship with a 52-40 win over second-place Lowell on Friday and have won 13 straight since falling to Hudsonville over holiday break. A matchup with reigning Class B champion Wyoming Godwin Heights on Tuesday is intriguing.
Grosse Pointe South (16-3) – The Blue Devils already are two wins better than last season and have clinched the Macomb Area Conference Blue championship with a game to play. They open District play next week against Detroit Martin Luther King, looking to avenge a 54-45 loss to the Crusaders on Jan. 18.
Muskegon (16-3) – The Big Reds have won nine straight and clinched the O-K Black title with two games to play in the league, adding a 72-71 win over second-place Zeeland East on Friday to finish a perfect run in the conference. They haven’t lost since falling to Detroit East English and Wayland (which are a combined 32-5) in back-to-back games in mid-January.
Allendale (16-2) – The Falcons have won 16 straight and finished an outright O-K Blue title run Friday with a 52-50 win over second-place Coopersville. Allendale was second in the league but only 12-8 overall a season ago.
Benton Harbor (14-4) – Despite an overtime loss Friday to Portage Northern, Benton Harbor has clinched the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West championship after finishing second last season on the way to the Regional Finals. A matchup with SMAC East champion Kalamazoo Central (15-3) could be telling of a run to come.
River Rouge (15-3) – The Panthers are closing in on another nice finish following up last year’s league and District titles, with a defeat to Detroit Allen in mid-January the only one in the Michigan Metro Athletic Conference this winter. River Rouge fell to Romulus and Flint Beecher over a 10-day period earlier this month, but came back to beat Saginaw Arthur Hill by a basket and can close the regular season with six straight wins.
Williamston (16-3) – The Hornets have taken on and beaten most of the best in the Lansing area, with losses only to Lansing Catholic (17-1) in overtime, East Lansing (18-0) and DeWitt (15-3). They came back to beat co-leader Lansing Catholic by three in the rematch and beat Portland on Friday to secure a shared Capital Area Activities Conference White championship.
Adrian Madison (17-2) – The Trojans finished a perfect 14-0 in the Tri-County Conference to win the league title by three wins after finishing a win behind Morenci in 2014-15. The next big test comes Tuesday with Class B Hillsdale (16-2).
Ithaca (17-2) – After sharing the Tri-Valley Conference West title last season, Ithaca has won it outright with a game to play against seventh-place St. Charles. The Yellowjackets’ only losses were to Class B Alma and Frankenmuth, which are a combined 32-4.
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (17-1) – The Huron League title belongs to the Falcons again after three straight second-place finishes; they finished a perfect league run with a 64-59 win over Milan on Friday and have won 15 straight since falling in overtime to Adrian Lenawee Christian on Jan. 8.
St. Ignace (17-2) – It’s always easy to forget about the Saints because the school’s girls program is so strong. But St. Ignace’s boys are led by Gage Kreski, who set the Upper Peninsula scoring record with more than 2,000 career points Saturday, and they finished a perfect run through the Straits Area Conference.
Boyne Falls (17-2) – The Loggers finished off a pair of league opponents last week to earn a share of the Northern Lakes Conference championship with Alanson, which it lost to Jan. 5 but then beat Jan. 29. The title was at least the fifth straight for Boyne Falls.
Marshall Academy (18-2) – The Griffons closed the regular season with 10 straight wins and their only losses to Bellevue and Vestaburg. Those two losses and a five-point win over Camden-Frontier were the only games this season that didn’t result in double-digit wins for the Mid-South Conference champ.
Morenci (13-6) – Last season’s Class D runner-up went through a bit of a tough stretch during the first half of February, losing three of five games. But the Bulldogs have since won three straight and finished second to Adrian Madison in the TCC.
Waterford Our Lady (15-3) – Despite a loss to Class C Royal Oak Shrine in the Detroit Catholic League C-D Tournament Final, the Lakers did sweep Shine to win their division title and look good to make another run after reaching the Class D Semifinals last season.
PHOTO: Ithaca’s Jake Smith works to get around an Alma defender in their game earlier this season. (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.)