C-D Preview: Chasing the Champs

March 23, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Two storylines jump out immediately from this weekend’s MHSAA Class C and D Semifinals at the Breslin Center.

Reigning Class D champion Powers North Central has won 53 straight games – and with two more wins this weekend will tie the fourth-longest streak in MHSAA history and set up a run next winter at Chassell’s record of 65 straight victories.

Reigning Class C champion Flint Beecher, meanwhile, is only going for its fourth championship in five seasons.

Six more teams would love to ruin these scenarios.

All four Class C and D Semifinals will be played Thursday, with all four championship games Saturday. 

Semifinals - Thursday
Class C

Grandville Calvin Christian (20-4) vs. McBain (26-0), 1 p.m. 
Flint Beecher (23-2) vs. Detroit Loyola (21-5), 2:50 p.m.

Class D
Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (20-5) vs. Waterford Our Lady (21-4), 6 p.m. 
Fulton (19-6) vs. Powers North Central (26-0), 7:50 p.m.

Finals - Saturday
Class A - Noon
Class B - 6:30 p.m. 
Class C - 4:30 p.m. 
Class D - 10 a.m. 

Tickets cost $8 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session. All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.TV on a pay-per-view basis. All four Finals will be broadcast live on FOX Sports Detroit-PLUS. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.

And now, a look at the semifinalists in Class C and D. Click on the name of the school to see that team’s full schedule and results from this season. (Statistics are through teams' Regional Finals except for Tri-unity Christian’s, which are through 18 games.)

Class C

21-5, honorable mention
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League AA
Coach: John Buscemi, 12th season (171-75)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 58-47 over Hanover-Horton in Quarterfinal, 66-53 over No. 10 Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in Regional Semifinal, 69-45 over No. 8 Detroit Allen Academy in District Semifinal, 56-49 over Detroit Martin Luther King.
Players to watch: Romari Ennis, 5-11 sr. G (13.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.2 spg); Dequan Powell, 5-10 sr. G (13.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg).
Outlook: Loyola is no longer just a football school. The Bulldogs built on their third District title in eight seasons with a first Regional championship and will be prepared for more having faced a schedule loaded with larger schools – after falling to Southfield Christian by nine in its opener, Loyola’s other four losses were by a combined eight points to three Class A teams and a Class B. Sophomore guard Pierre Mitchell adds another 11.1 points per game to a balanced starting five.

23-2, No. 2
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference Red
Coach: Mike Williams, 12th season (229-71)
Championship history: Six MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 72-45 over honorable mention Ithaca in Quarterfinal, 78-65 over No. 9 Southfield Christian in Regional Final, 68-62 over Flint Hamady in District Quarterfinal, 58-48 over Class B No. 6 River Rouge, 72-69 over Class A No. 6 Detroit East English.
Players to watch: Malik Ellison, 5-8 jr. G (statistics not submitted); Levane Blake, 6-8 jr. C (statistics not submitted).
Outlook: Beecher has returned to the elite and then some under Williams, who will attempt to lead the Bucs to their fourth title in five seasons. Ellison, Blake and 6-4 senior guard Aquavius Burks all started in last season’s Final as well and key a lineup that lost this season only to reigning Class A champion Detroit Western International and current top-ranked Class A Detroit U-D Jesuit.

20-4, unranked
League finish: Third in Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver
Coach: Ryan Stevens, 18th season (269-146)
Championship history: Class C champion 1994, Class B runner-up 1992.
Best wins: 64-42 over No. 5 Kalamazoo Hackett in Quarterfinal, 39-35 over Muskegon Heights in Regional Final, 52-45 over Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian in District Final, 63-52 over Class D No. 8 Wyoming Tri-unity Christian, 59-52 over Hudsonville Unity Christian.
Players to watch: Tony DeWitte, 6-2 sr. G (18.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.3 apg); Blake Verbeek, 6-9 soph. C (11.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg).
Outlook: Calvin Christian will play in its first Semifinal since the championship season of 1994, with DeWitte pacing a group that has improved eight wins from a year ago. The Squires avenged two of their regular-season losses by beating reigning Class C runner-up NorthPointe during the District, and their other two losses came to reigning Class B champion Wyoming Godwin Heights. Senior guard Braden Stevens adds another 9.4 points and 3.3 assists per game for a lineup that sees all five starters average at least six ppg.

26-0, No. 3
League finish: First in Highland Conference
Coach: Bruce Koopman, 22nd season (408-116)
Championship history: Class C champion 2002, runner-up 2011.
Best wins: 60-55 over No. 7 Beaverton in Regional Semifinal, 61-54 over Class D No. 5 Frankfort, 55-52 over Big Rapids.
Players to watch: Craig Sterk, 6-7 jr. F (15.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.2 bpg); Cole Powell, 6-3 sr. G (14.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg); Logan Elling, 6-0 jr. G (14.4 ppg, 54 3-pointers).
Outlook: McBain is nearly a regular during the final week of the season and is back in the Semifinals for the first time since 2011 with its best record at this point during Koopman’s impressive run. Only five games have been closer than 10 points, and three of those five came over the last three weeks. In addition to the three double-figures scorers, five more players average between 3-5 ppg in providing the Ramblers with reliable depth.

Class D 

19-6, unranked
League finish: Second in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Todd Walden, 19th season (249-178)
Championship history: Class D runner-up 2011.
Best wins: 51-41 over No. 6 Bellaire in Quarterfinal, 66-54 over Baldwin in Regional Semifinal, 55-42 over Fowler in District Final.
Players to watch: Colton Antes, 6-0 sr. G (19.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.9, apg, 92 3-pointers); Caleb Walden, 5-11 jr. G (9.3 ppg, 44 3-pointers).
Outlook: Fulton is making its third Semifinal appearance in six seasons and second straight, and like a year ago is dangerous to every opponent because of its ability to shoot from the perimeter – Antes will finish this winter with entries on the MHSAA single-season and career lists for 3-pointers. All of the losses were to Class C teams, and the Pirates have won 10 of their last 11 games overall.

26-0, No. 1
League finish: First in Skyline Central Conference West
Coach: Adam Mercier, 10th season (158-78)
Championship history: Class D champions 2015 and 1984.
Best wins: 75-52 over Onaway in Quarterfinal, 75-45 (Regional Final), 64-61 and 68-54 over No. 4 Crystal Falls Forest Park, 79-54 over No. 6 Lake Linden-Hubbell in Regional Semifinal, 60-48 and 64-60 over Menominee.
Players to watch: Jason Whitens, 6-5 jr. G (22.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 5.8 apg); Dawson Bilski, 6-2 jr. G (15.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.9 apg, 3.1 spg, 2.0 bpg).
Outlook: Powers North Central hasn’t lost since the 2014 Quarterfinals and shows no signs of slowing with its two leading players both juniors. As makes sense for a team averaging 76 points per game, Whitens and Bilski get plenty of help – junior Bobby Kleiman adds 10.5 points, while seniors Troy Ekberg and Morgan Cox round out the starters at 8.4 and 7.3 ppg, respectively, and top-scoring junior sub Marcus Krachinski averages 6.9. The only scare came in the four-point win over Menominee; the Jets have won their tournament games by an average of 35 points per.  

20-4, No. 3
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Intersectional #1
Coach: Paul Robak, third season (63-10)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 52-46 (Quarterfinal) and 61-58 over Marine City Cardinal Mooney, 58-46 and 48-46 over Royal Oak Shrine, 83-68 over Macomb Lutheran North.
Players to watch: Andrew Kline, 6-4 sr. G (18.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 5.7 apg, 3.1 spg); Devin Senerius, 6-2 sr. G (11.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg).
Outlook: After making the Semifinals last season for the first time since 1993, Our Lady is back for a second straight year and with three starters returning after finishing a point from making its first championship game. The Lakers bounced back big this time after losing the final two games of the regular season. Senior forward Clay Senerius joined Devin and Kline as starters in 2015 and averages 6.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game, while freshmen guard Noah Robak averages 9.2 and three others average 4-6 ppg.

20-5, tied for No. 8
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Mark Keeler, 29th season (546-168)
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2011), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 54-43 over Adrian Lenawee Christian in Quarterfinal, 65-60 (District Semifinal) and 41-39 over honorable mention Wyoming Potter’s House Christian, 58-57 (OT) over Lansing Christian.
Players to watch: Willie Otole, 6-0 sr. G (15.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.9 apg); Braydon Sherrod, 6-2 jr. F (10.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg).
Outlook: Tri-unity is back at Breslin after last finishing runner-up in 2013, and with a team featuring only two seniors in Otole and starting guard Javi Cuevas. The Defenders have won 10 of their last 11 after falling to Class C semifinalist Grandville Calvin Christian on Feb. 12, with the only loss since to Class A Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills. Junior guard Collin Rosendall adds another 11.1 points per game.

The Boys Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System.

PHOTO: Powers North Central locks down Onaway's offense during Tuesday's Quarterfinal win. (Photo by Paul Gerard.)