Breslin Bound: Quarterfinal Preview

March 19, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Breslin Center is only one more win away for 32 boys basketball teams taking the floor in Quarterfinals on Tuesday across Michigan.

So far we know we’ll have at least two new champions, in Class C and Class D, when this week ends. And only eight of the 16 teams that made the trip to East Lansing last season have a chance to book Semifinal repeat returns.

Our final “Breslin Bound” report – powered by MI Student Aid – takes a glance at all 16 Quarterfinals, which are all at 7 p.m. unless noted. All Quarterfinals will be broadcast and viewable with subscription on Come back Wednesday night for a more in-depth look at our 16 finalists as they head into this weekend.

Class A

Warren DeLaSalle (18-7) vs. Detroit U-D Jesuit (22-3) at University of Detroit Mercy – 5 p.m.

These Detroit Catholic League Central rivals have played three times, with Jesuit winning all three meetings – although the second Feb. 10 by just two points. The Cubs won their fourth straight Regional title and were Class A champions in 2016, while this will be DeLaSalle’s first Quarterfinal since 2010. Junior guard Daniel Friday leads three Jesuit players averaging double-digit scoring at 13.9 ppg, while senior forward Luke Pfromm scores a team-high 15.6 ppg for the Pilots.

Flint Carman-Ainsworth (23-2) vs. Clarkston (23-1) at Grand Blanc

Reigning champion Clarkston is hoping to add to last season’s first-ever title and celebrated its second Mr. Basketball Award winner Monday in senior guard Foster Loyer (25.6 ppg, 6.0 apg). Center Taylor Currie (13.1 ppg) and guard CJ Robinson (13.8 ppg) are also senior standouts. Only four opponents have come within single digits of the Wolves, and Carman-Ainsworth was the first falling 72-67 on Dec. 7. The Cavaliers are seeking their first Semifinal berth since back-to-back trips in 2003 and 2004. Their only other defeat this winter came to Holland West Ottawa, alive on the other side of this bracket. Senior guards Omari Duncan (16 ppg) and Ja’Kavien Lewis (14.9 ppg, 3.0 apg) are among playmakers.

East Lansing (22-3) vs. Holland West Ottawa (23-2) at Lansing’s Don Johnson Fieldhouse

West Ottawa is 23-2 for the second straight season but with a first Regional title in program history this time. In addition to defeating Carman-Ainsworth, the Panthers have beaten powers Muskegon and Grand Rapids Catholic Central over the last three weeks. Senior forward Tyler Bosma leads with 17.2 ppg. East Lansing’s Brandon Johns (26.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg) finished second in the Mr. Basketball voting and can lead the Trojans to their first Semifinal since 2008. The Regional Final win over rival Okemos avenged East Lansing’s two most recent defeats.

Belleville (20-5) vs. Novi (16-8) at University of Detroit Mercy – 7 p.m.

A pair of teams with high preseason hopes followed by slow starts have made good by reaching the final week of this winter. The Tigers have won 15 of their last 16 – with the lone loss in overtime – and are led by standout seniors Gabe Brown and Davion Williams. Novi has won 10 of its last 11 and surged with the return of senior guard Trendon Hankerson (14.2 ppg) from injury to go with senior Taveon Maddox, Jr. (17.5 ppg), and junior Jiovanni Miles (15.3 ppg).

Class B

Benton Harbor (24-1) vs. Williamston (22-2) at Ionia

Benton Harbor is seeking its second straight and third Semifinal berth in five seasons. Since falling to eventual champion New Haven in a Semifinal to end last winter, the Tigers have lost only to Class A Hazel Park. Sophomore Carlos Johnson (18.3 ppg, 13.1 rpg) remains among the top players statewide in his class and is joined by senior Shawn Hopkins (15.7/11.4). Williamston is undefeated in calendar year 2018, having fallen to Class A quarterfinalist DeLaSalle and Howell in November. The Hornets will play in their third straight Quarterfinal and made the Semifinals in 2016.

Dearborn Divine Child (18-6) vs. River Rouge (22-1) at Chelsea

River Rouge also is celebrating its third straight Quarterfinal appearance and after falling in last year’s Semifinal by a point in overtime to eventual Class B runner-up Ludington. Senior guard Jayvien Torrance-Jackson is the only returning starter from that team, but the Panthers have fallen this winter only to Class D quarterfinalist Southfield Christian. Divine Child is coming off its first Regional title since 2011 and seeking to make the Semifinals for the first time since 1977. Senior forward Quinn Blair leads at 20.2 ppg.

New Haven (25-0) vs. Bridgeport (24-1) at Corunna

Reigning champion New Haven has won 51 straight games going back to Dec. 2016, with junior star Romeo Weems (23.5 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 5.7 apg, 5.1 spg) leading four players averaging double-digit scoring. Seniors Tavares Oliver (16.8) and Ashton Sherrell (15.7) follow on that list. Bridgeport’s lone slip-up came by three points in its opener at Lansing Everett. The Bearcats have rattled off 24 straight wins thanks in part to the scoring of senior Charles Garrett (20.1 ppg) and junior Sirquarius Bell (17 ppg).

Grand Rapids Catholic Central (22-2) vs. Boyne City (19-6) at Big Rapids

GRCC’s 6-foot-11 senior Marcus Bingham, Jr., (16.8 ppg, 10 rpg) is another Mr. Basketball finalist who has brought his team to the final week, with plenty of help in the post from 6-8 senior Jake Polakovich (14.2 ppg, 10.5 rpg). The Cougars’ only loss of calendar year 2018 was to Class A quarterfinalist West Ottawa. Boyne City has been a Class C power over the last four seasons but moved into B for 2017-18. They eliminated reigning runner-up Ludington last week after winning a fourth straight District title. Senior forward Mason Gardner leads a balanced scoring attack at 11.4 ppg.

Class C

Detroit Edison (14-10) vs. Unionville-Sebewaing (25-0) at West Bloomfield

Edison reached the Quarterfinals and Semifinals for the first time last season and will play this time after also winning the Detroit Public School League tournament last month. Senior guards Gary Solomon (16.2 ppg) and Pierre Mitchell, Jr. (15.3 ppg), set the scoring pace. Unionville-Sebewaing eliminated three-time reigning Class C champion Flint Beecher in the Regional Final to reach championship week for the first time since 2005. That and the Regional Semifinal win over Saginaw Nouvel were the first single-digit victories for the Patriots since their third game this season against Detroit Douglass.

Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (21-4) vs. Sanford Meridian (21-3) at Stanton Central Montcalm

After a more than a 20-year absence, Covenant Christian returned to the season’s final week a year ago and ended up as Class C runner-up. Its losses during this repeat run were all to bigger schools, including by just four to GRCC. Senior forward Carson Meulenberg has returned as the team’s leading scorer at 15.4 ppg. Sanford Meridian celebrated its first Regional title since 2001 and is playing for its first Semifinal berth. The Mustangs are making this run without injured top scorer Lucas Lueder (14 ppg), as senior point guard Garrett Stockford (9.2 ppg) leads a balanced bunch.

Kalamazoo Christian (23-2) vs. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (24-0) at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix

Kalamazoo Christian won its second straight Regional title, this time by handing Cassopolis its only loss of the season 61-48 on Wednesday. Senior forward Jordan Katje (16.8 ppg, 11.6 rpg) has been a force. Monroe St. Mary also made the Quarterfinals last season – and this will be its fifth trip this decade. Senior C.J. Haut (18.4 ppg, 11.3 rpg) has a similar post presence as Katje, and they could provide a memorable matchup. Katje is 6-5 and Haut 6-8.

Maple City Glen Lake (22-2) vs. Iron Mountain (23-1) at Petoskey – 6 p.m.

Like its girls team last week, Glen Lake’s boys are Regional champs and playing for more. The Lakers’ lone losses were to reigning Class D runner-up Buckley, which also remains alive. Junior guard Xander Okerlund checks in at a team-leading 16.1 ppg. Iron Mountain is enjoying its longest tournament run since 1994, with its only loss to league foe Ishpeming. Sophomore Marcus Johnson (23.5) and freshman Foster Wonders (19.1) offer one of the most potent 1-2 scoring punches left in the tournament – and with a few more seasons to build on this success.

Class D

Cedarville (21-3) vs. Dollar Bay (25-0) at Escanaba

Dollar Bay has been one of the statewide stories of this season, and the Blue Bolts have advanced to the final week for the first time since 1979. They won their Regional games last week over Rapid River and Carney-Nadeau by a combined four points and should get another challenge from Cedarville. The Trojans have won 11 in a row and beat 20-win league foe Brimley to claim a fourth Regional title this decade. Senior guard Dakota Fairchild (14.1 ppg) leads a balanced attack.

Southfield Christian (20-4) vs. Flint International Academy (23-2) at Goodrich

Southfield Christian earned its fifth Regional title this decade and is sure to be motivated this week after missing last season’s championship game by a point in a double overtime loss to eventual champ Powers North Central. Senior Bryce Washington (21.6 ppg) and junior Harlond Beverly (16 ppg, 5.4) are among players to watch. Flint International will play its first Quarterfinal riding an 18-game winning streak. The Phoenix has given up more than 60 points this season only four times, and no more than 65 in a game.

Marcellus Howardsville Christian (20-5) vs. Hillsdale Academy (23-2) at Portage Northern

Howardsville Christian is another team playing a Quarterfinal for the first time. The Eagles have won 10 straight led by dynamic junior guard Dylan Jergens at 31.5 points and also 6.3 assists per game. Hillsdale Academy, coming off its first Regional title as well, also features a dynamic player – 6-7 senior center Peter Kalthoff, who averages 21.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game for the Colts. They avenged their second loss of the season with a Regional Final win over Adrian Lenawee Christian.

Buckley (19-5) vs. Hillman (24-0) at Gaylord

This has been a long-awaited matchup in the northern Lower Peninsula, as reigning Class D runner-up Buckley has faced many of the best in Class C and D on its side of I-75. Seniors Denver Cade (16.5 ppg), Austin Harris (17) and Joey Weber (14.4) are all 1,000-point career scorers. Hillman has only two single-digit wins this season, although the latest was a four-pointer over league foe Mio in the Regional Final.  This will be the Tigers’ second straight and third Quarterfinal in four seasons. Senior guard Jared Juergens (14.8 ppg) leads four players scoring at least 10 per game.

PHOTO: Flint Carman-Ainsworth's Ja'kavien Lewis looks to finish a drive against Midland this season. (Photo by Terry Lyons.) 

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.)