Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 7

January 27, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The winter may be half over, but dig a bit and you may still come up with a few surprise contenders this boys basketball season.

Sure, there are obvious favorites to watch over the next few months – see Clarkston among them below. But a few more key wins here and there, and some of the other teams we’ve noted this week should be in the hunt when March rolls around.

Class A

Ann Arbor Skyline (7-3) – The Eagles are chasing Ann Arbor Huron after falling to their rival by 20 on Dec. 20, but remain tied for second in the Southeastern Conference Red thanks in part to five straight wins including one over Ann Arbor Pioneer. The last two victories have been nonleague but arguably their most impressive – 79-76 over surging Belleville and 60-54 over Southeastern Conference White second-place Dexter in overtime Friday.

Clarkston (11-0) – The Wolves have surged with the increased competition this month, beating Oak Park 69-63 in overtime and Southfield 55-39 last week after a 24-point win over Detroit Pershing on Jan. 17. Only Oak Park has come within 15 points. A major matchup with North Farmington on Friday should give the winner a nice advantage in the Oakland Activities Association Red.

Redford Thurston (10-1) – These Eagles are only a six-point loss to undefeated Walled Lake Western from being perfect themselves, and lead the Western Wayne Athletic Conference Red after running past second-place Dearborn Heights Crestwood 69-57 on Friday.

Taylor Kennedy (7-2) – Kennedy finished second in the Downriver League a year ago to rival Truman, but enters this week tied for first with Allen Park and Southgate Anderson (and with the first of two matchups with Truman coming up Feb. 3). The Eagles have won five straight since falling by 10 to Detroit Community at Romulus’ holiday classic.

Class B

Allendale (6-3) – The Falcons took a tough 55-53 overtime loss last week to Hamilton, but remain in first place in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue after successive wins earlier this month over contenders Grand Rapids West Catholic and Coopersville. Allendale was third and .500 overall a season ago.

Battle Creek Harper Creek (9-1) – An upset loss last week to Parma Western aside, Harper Creek looks good to increase its win total for the third straight season and sits tied for first place in the first-year Interstate 8 Athletic Conference with Jackson Lumen Christi – which the Beavers beat by 10 on Jan. 13.  

Otsego (9-2) – Thanks to a mid-December loss to Plainwell, the Bulldogs are tied for first in the Wolverine Conference East and with Plainwell up again next week. But since that loss, Otsego is 6-1 and handed Class A Stevensville Lakeshore its only defeat this season.

Yale (11-0) – We’ve seen the Bulldogs for ourselves, and there are a few reasons they have 10 wins by double digits – notably the inside-outside combination of forward Josh McClelland and guard Cody Kegley. Up next are Blue Water Area Conference first-place (with one more win) Richmond and third-place Imlay City.

Class C

East Jordan (6-1) – Last week’s 60-53 overtime loss to Kalkaska was a misstep, with East Jordan otherwise off to a strong start. The Red Devils are tied with Boyne City and Elk Rapids atop the Lake Michigan Conference standings after finishing runners-up to Boyne last season.

Iron Mountain (9-0) – The toughest opponent comes tonight – Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference rival Negaunee, also undefeated in the league – but Iron Mountain should be ready to win close after two victories of four or fewer points over the last two weeks. The Mountaineers handed Negaunee their last league loss – in the regular season finale of 2010-11.

Quincy (8-0) – The Orioles’ drive for the Big 8 Conference championship has been steady with all eight wins this season by 10 or more points and the latest no doubt the sweetest to date. Quincy, after finishing second to Homer by a win last season, beat Homer 63-48 on Friday to remain tied atop the league standings with Concord.

Vestaburg (8-0) – The Wolverines won only 24 games total over the last four seasons and need just two more victories this winter to equal the 2013-14 total. They’re tied for first place in the Mid-State Activities Conference with tonight’s opponent, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart.

Class D

Bellaire (7-2) – The Eagles’ aspirations for a fourth-straight league championship got a major boost with a 57-51 win over Class C and second-place Johannesburg-Lewiston last week. Third-place Onaway broke Bellaire’s 36-game conference winning streak earlier this season and host the Eagles next week in a Ski Valley Conference showdown.

Boyne Falls (8-0) – The Loggers last lost a league game Jan. 28, 2011, and sit atop the Northern Lakes Conference standings with a 41-point win over second-place Mackinaw City to their credit. They also own a 25-point win over Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Lake Linden-Hubbell (9-0) – The Lakes have won 26 straight league games and again lead the Copper County Conference after beating second-place Republic-Michigamme 66-31 on Monday. No opponent has come within 32 points.  

Waterford Our Lady (11-0) – The Lakers are shaping up as a Class D favorite, with the only single-digit wins this season against Class A Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and Class B Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood. The other nine wins have come by at least 12 points.

PHOTO: Clarkston remains undefeated in part thanks to a 78-54 win over Detroit Pershing on Jan. 17 at Warren Fitzgerald.  (Click for more from 

Hart Teammates Reunite After 80 Years Now 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.)