Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 7

January 25, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

There may be 25 undefeated boys basketball teams left in Michigan. 

But this week will be telling for a quite a few – both those expected to shine this brightly and also for some surprising us along the way.

Each week during the regular season, we’ll glance at four teams from each class that have caught our attention. Results and records below are based on schedules posted at

Class A

Canton (12-0) – The reigning league champion Chiefs look like they’ll be tough to stop in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association South again after winning every game of the first run through the division schedule by an average of nearly 15 points per.

Detroit U-D Jesuit (11-0) – Most people’s preseason favorite in Class A hasn’t disappointed – or had an in-state opponent come closer than 10 points. Last week’s lone win, over Detroit Catholic Central, gave the Cubs first place solo in the Detroit Catholic League Central.

Holland West Ottawa (10-0) – The Panthers moved into first place alone in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red with a 58-53 win over former co-leader East Kentwood on Friday – and long ago bested last season’s 6-15 finish.

Macomb Dakota (9-0) – The Cougars showed they were up for stepping into the elite during the first week with wins over West Bloomfield and Clarkston, teams they lost to during the first week last season. In addition to leading the Macomb Area Conference Red, Dakota also has added another impressive win over Lansing Everett.

Class B 

Big Rapids (9-1) – The Cardinals picked up a pair of 40-point league wins to hold on to a one-win lead in the Central State Activities Association Gold, but may need to finish a sweep against Grant next week to repeat as champion and this time win the title outright after sharing with Newaygo a year ago.

Leslie (10-1) – Although they’re from one of the smallest schools in Class B, the Blackhawks are riding high with nine straight wins and atop the Greater Lansing Activities Conference after beating reigning champion Lake Odessa Lakewood and former co-leader Stockbridge last week.

Onsted (10-0) – University of Michigan recruit Austin Davis is the player everyone knows, but he’s getting plenty of help as Onsted sits atop the Lenawee County Athletic Association with only second-place Hillsdale coming within striking distance so far.

Whitehall (9-1) – After tying for third in the West Michigan Conference last season, Whitehall leads the league with a 7-0 record through the first round of conference games and has lost only to nonleague Spring Lake.

Class C

Beaverton (8-0) – The Beavers have won 27 straight Jack Pine Conference games and lead the field by two wins in the league standings as they look to repeat; they’ve beaten the three teams tied for second by five, seven and 15 points, respectively.

Iron Mountain (10-0) – The Mountaineers surely have been looking forward to this week for a while after falling to Negaunee in the regular-season finale a year ago – and by doing so, giving up first in the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference to the Miners. Both are undefeated as they prepare for this week's latest rematch. 

Lutheran Westland (9-0) – The Warriors are another team that surely has prepped for this week; after sharing the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Red title with Sterling Heights Parkway Christian last season, they’re tied for first again and play Friday for the first time this season.

McBain (9-0) – The reigning Highland Conference champion is tied for first with rival McBain Northern Michigan Christian, making this week’s matchup much more meaningful than two one-sided Ramblers wins a season ago. 

Class D

Alanson (9-0) – A 58-57 win over Boyne Falls to start the new year has Alanson just ahead of the pack in the Northern Lakes Conference; the Vikings tied for second in the league last season.

Lake Linden-Hubbell (9-0) – The Lakes won the Copper County Conference championship last year and have the upper hand in the new Copper Mountain Conference’s Copper Country division with only nonleague Calumet coming within 12 points. 

Powers North Central (9-0) – The winning streak is up to 36 straight for the reigning Class D champion, which continues to score like few teams in the state are capable; the Jets have hit 87 twice and scored at least 70 five more times.

Vestaburg (7-0) – This week will be the biggest so far for the Mid-State Activities Conference co-leader as it faces co-leader Carson City-Crystal on Friday after finishing a win ahead of the Eagles for the league title a year ago.

PHOTO: Vestaburg sits tied for first in the MSAC thanks in part to a win over Coleman this winter. (Click for more photos 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.)