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.) 

Longtime Coach Researches Photos to Tell Story of Grand Rapids Sports' Past

By Steve Vedder
Special for

September 16, 2022

GRAND RAPIDS – Bob Schichtel always pauses when he comes across the ancient black and white photo long enough to ponder whatever became of the two youngsters adorned in Grand Rapids Union basketball uniforms.

The posed shot shows two players facing each other in a local gymnasium in a photo apparently taken four days after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 that launched the country into World War II. Only a handful of fans today would recognize the players' striped, ultra-short shots and simple sleeveless shirts with "Union" emblazed across the front as recognizable basketball uniforms. One holds a battered-looking basketball, while the other looks on. The two players, whose uniform numbers are "4" and "9," aren't really smiling, but still seem as close as any teammates, whether 81 years ago or today.

In fact, it's the look the youngsters share that intrigues Schichtel, whose thankless, pro bono job it is to identify the two players.

"Once you start," said Schichtel, a former longtime Grand Rapids basketball coach, "it's like looking down a deep rabbit hole."

Longtime area coach Bob Schichtel researches hundreds of photos that are part of the Grand Rapids Public Library archive. Schichtel works as a volunteer for the Grand Rapids Public Library trying to identify mostly former Grand Rapids City League basketball players from approximately 1938 through the early fifties. The online photos are mostly from the Robinson Photo Studio Collection taken in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Herald newspaper. The library says the unique collection spans some 950 basketball negatives from the entire Robinson/Herald collection that totals well over 900,000 Grand Rapids photos.

While the work – which amounts to a ton of patience combined with a detective ability – can be exhausting, it's still what Schichtel describes as a labor of love. For example, there's the shot of the two still-unidentified Union players. Schichtel looks at the photo and can't help but wonder whatever happened to the kids. Were they exceptional athletes? Did they leave their marks on Grand Rapids history, whether it was in education, politics, business, industry, the arts or another field? He doesn't even know, as in many photos from this era, whether the two entered the military and thus even survived World War II.

Schichtel has searched everywhere for the answers, but has come up short. Too many times, in fact.

Which isn't to say he'll quit looking or chalk up his research as inconsequential. Schichtel said the foremost reason he spends hours on the project is that many of the athletes he identifies deserve the recognition for achievements far beyond basketball. In many cases former City League basketball, football, baseball, track and tennis athletes became the foundation on which Grand Rapids was built. If Schichtel can uncover an old photo which depicts these youngsters during their high school careers, so much the better, he said.

"It's important to recognize Grand Rapids sports history, and I don't know if we've given enough attention to their past," Schichtel said. "They are what got us here, and I'm a firm believer they need to be recognized for it."

Figuring out that history, however, ranges from, at the least, extremely time consuming to – in too many frustrating cases – virtually impossible. The City League was formed in the late 1920s and featured original schools Grand Rapids Central, Creston, South, Union, Ottawa Hills, Catholic Central and Davis Tech. The league was eventually folded into the Ottawa-Kent Conference in 2008. 

"It was a long, evolving league," Schichtel said.

Schichtel has identified these 1941 Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills basketball players as James Horn (left) and Chuch Reynier. The identification tools available to Schichtel are actually more numerous than most would suspect. For starters, he's formed an impressive database of information by pouring through old City League yearbooks and programs, photos from other collections and microfilm of old newspapers, And then there's also the knowledge gathered by Schichtel himself, a 1968 Grand Rapids Catholic Central graduate. After playing in many old City League gymnasiums, Schichtel went on to compile a 389-197 record in 27 years as the Cougars girls basketball coach. He uses countless City League contacts as both a player and coach to identify athletes. In all, Schichtel taught in the Grand Rapids school system for 34 years.

He also uses the game itself to identify the photos. For instance, he can pinpoint some photos simply by the styles of the uniforms worn by players. He also figures out who is who by other clues such as what the players are doing in the photo. If a player is taking a set shot in the photo, it's likely pre-World War II. The beginnings of the jump shot, or what Schichtel calls "elevation while shooting," is probably mid-1940s. In addition, Schichtel can identify photos through pure basketball athleticism. Players can look a bit awkward in shots from the thirties as compared to players from the late 1940s who were beginning to play with a more obvious flare.

Put all the information together and Schichtel, who has uncovered more than two dozen personal connections to subjects in the photos, believes he has a reasonable shot at identifying them.

Since he signed on with the project, Schichtel figures he's identified about 10 percent of the photos he's viewed. Among the City League athletes he's found shots of Central's John Lavan, who was born in 1890 and played Major League Baseball during the Babe Ruth era and became a military hero who is buried in Arlington National Cemetery; Creston basketball player Roger Wilkins, an assistant United States attorney general during the Watergate hearings; Art Spoelstra of Godwin, a former NBA player and member of the Grand Rapids Hall of Fame; and Grand Rapids native Bill Cutler, who turned a chance post-World War II meeting with then-American League president Will Harridge into a position as commissioner of the Pacific Coast League,

Schichtel said gaining information through photos on the people who became the bedrock of Grand Rapids should be celebrated.

"I think it's a great approach for the community; they shouldn't be forgotten," Schichtel said. "Who else is going to do this? Why do I do it? I see a certain, for lack of a better word, a nobility. These kids played for the love of game, and they became the “Greatest Generation.” These kids did great things. It's not just, 'Well, there's No. 58,’ in a photo.

"You want to know more about them. That's the real intrigue for me."

Schichtel identified Grand Rapids South High’s “Fireman Five” of, from left, Fred Esslair, Lee Morrow, Jack Carroll, Bob Youngberg and Bruce Bigford. Tim Gloege of the Grand Rapids Public Library said the collection of photos – and their identification – is continually growing. As more people log onto the library's website, more people want to either add to the collection or have information that leads to an identification. The library estimates about 1,200 photos are searched monthly. But as time grows, many of the original photos are disintegrating. The library is in a constant state of preservation, Gloege said.

"It's a massive project, and we're working to get as many photos online as possible," he said. "The numbers (of photos) we have are rising pretty significantly as people post them on social media.

"When you think of the past and now, you need to realize these are people, kids who used to play basketball and did other things. The work is hard and very time-intensive, but it brings a whole new dimension to history."

Schichtel said he's "kind of picked the low-hanging fruit" on many of the easy photos to identify. But the work will continue.

"Yes, it can be frustrating," he said. "There are limitations if you want it to be accurate. Sometimes you look at a photo and you know it's not going to happen, and you move on. But this a chance to learn about people who made Grand Rapids what it is. That's important to me."

PHOTOS (Top) Two Grand Rapids Union basketball players stand for a photo taken Dec. 12, 1941. (2) Longtime area coach Bob Schichtel researches hundreds of photos that are part of the Grand Rapids Public Library archive. (3) Schichtel has identified these 1941 Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills basketball players as James Horn (left) and Chuch Reynier. (4) Schichtel identified Grand Rapids South High’s “Fireman Five” of, from left, Fred Esslair, Lee Morrow, Jack Carroll, Bob Youngberg and Bruce Bigford. (Historic photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Public Library.)