Chelsea Coach Back 'To See This Through'
October 26, 2018
By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half
CHELSEA – Is anyone more excited about the start of prep basketball season than Josh Tropea?
With the calendar turning to November soon, we are only days away from the first boys basketball practice of the 2018-19 season. One of the biggest hardwood stories in southeast Michigan is that Tropea is back at Chelsea High School for his second stint as the head varsity coach there.
He wasn’t gone long – he stepped away for just two years to coach at Spring Arbor University – but Tropea has brought his high energy and passion for basketball, and his whole family, back to the high school ranks.
“I’m thrilled to be back,” Tropea said. “I love being in a packed gymnasium on a Friday night. I’m so looking forward to battles with Dexter and playing Ypsilanti and going on the road for games. I love it.”
Tropea said he stepped away from the college job for several reasons – including the time he was spending away from his family on the weekends and because the timing was right to come back. Mark Moundros resigned after two years when he moved from the area. Tropea said he wanted to ensure the program continued its upward path.
“I have two sons at Chelsea,” he said. “If Mark had stayed I would not be here. But, when Mark left, and they didn’t have a viable candidate at the time, I felt like I didn’t want to let my two years here, the two years I had invested before leaving, to fall apart. Mark did a great job. I’d love it if he stayed, but I felt like I owed it to the kids to come back and see this through.”
The college experience has changed his approach to the game.
“I loved my college experience – loved it. Absolutely no regrets,” Tropea said. “But, I tell you, they have a much better version of me now. My temperament is better. I think I see the bigger picture better. Spring Arbor is all about being the best person you can be. I think I’m better now, not just in the Xs and Os, but as a person, as a coach.”
Tropea was already pretty good.
A South Lyon native, he’s been a basketball junkie for years. He got his first high school coaching job at Walled Lake Western while still in college. He made stops at Whitmore Lake and Howell while looking for a permanent teaching job, then landed at Milan in what turned out to be a made-for-each-other job. In short time, he rejuvenated the Milan Big Reds program from two wins the season before he took over the varsity to a surprise run to the Class B championship in 2013-14.
It wasn’t so much of a surprise that the Big Reds won the title that season, but how quickly Tropea built them into a powerhouse. During the summer before the title run, Tropea had his troops playing games all over the state, lining up scrimmages and playing in shootouts and tournaments that exposed the Milan players to some of the other elite.
“We had a lot of kids come from struggling homes or from tough situations,” Tropea said of his time at Milan. “Those kids were not entitled kids. As a family, we were able to make an impact in so many ways. Team dinners were a big deal. That’s what made leaving Milan so hard.
“It was maybe the best five years of my life for my wife and I,” he added. “It was such an exciting time, and we were just so embraced by the community.”
During his time there, the Big Reds went 92-27 and won three Huron League titles. The Class B title run was led by future college players Nick Perkins and Latin Davis. The Big Reds’ state championship was the first in boys basketball in the Monroe County Region in more than 60 years.
Tropea left Milan, he said, because of the teaching and coaching opportunity in Chelsea. Frankly, he said, the job paid more, and, for a young family, that was a big deal.
“It was a very difficult decision, but it was right for my family,” he said. “I was on a pay freeze for five straight years at Milan. Plus, we loved the Chelsea community. My wife wanted to come here.”
Although he was there just two seasons, Chelsea’s basketball program also came a long way in a short time.
The Bulldogs improved from 3-18 the year before he was there to 9-13 in 2014-15 and 16-6 in 2015-16, tying for second place in the Southeastern Conference White his second season. More importantly, Tropea laid the groundwork for the future. He started by getting into the lower levels of the school and teaching basketball to the younger students – and trying to let his passion for the game pass on to them.
“It’s rolling now,” he said. “The first year I had a summer camp, we had 17 kids. This past summer, we had 121. Everybody knows you have to have a youth program.
“We won 16 games my last year here, we won a District title two years ago and the team went 12-8 last year,” he said. “The program is in great shape.”
Tropea never has been afraid to adapt his game or the way he interacts with his players. He draws on his experiences working with other coaches every chance he gets.
“The game is constantly changing, and so are the kids,” he said. “You have to. You have to change.”
In today’s world that means using social media, such as Twitter, to set the tone of the program.
The @ChelseaBoysHoop Twitter feed, for example, regularly includes messages about workouts, inspirational quotes from some of game’s great players and encouragement to other Bulldogs athletes.
Great turnout at the meeting this morning! #BringtheJuice #GreaterThan #WePlayForMarch pic.twitter.com/ePCMjmAJdU
— ChelseaBoysHoop (@ChelseaBoysHoop) October 23, 2018
“I feel it can be a great tool if it is done right and positive,” he said of Twitter.
His wife, Alicia, is an integral part of the program, as are his children, Luke and Zack.
“This is definitely a family deal,” he said. “We are all in. I know no matter what, my wife will be in the third row and she’s so supportive. She’s all-in all the time. She supports me and my passion. You have to have that.”
Years from now, he said he might get back into the college game. But for now, being back at the high school level fits more his love of teaching the game.
“I’m a teacher at heart,” he said. “I love teaching the game. I love the four-player workouts and teaching the kids footwork and the importance of passing the ball with the seam. That’s what it’s all about – making an impact on the kids’ lives.”
The SEC can be a brutally tough league, and this year it’s only going to be stronger with the addition of Jackson to the division. With boys basketball season starting a week earlier this year and Chelsea’s football team alive in the MHSAA Playoffs, Tropea is employing somewhat of a different strategy than normal. The emphasis on the season, he said, will be to get his team ready for the Class B tournament come late February. He doesn’t want the players to peak too soon.
“We have one game before December 15,” he said. “We back-loaded the heck out of our schedule. I don’t care how good we are in November and December. I want to be playing our best basketball in March. We’re playing for March.”
Chelsea will have seven or eight seniors and five or six juniors on this year’s squad, Tropea said. Many of those seniors were part of a group that went 20-0 as freshmen and won 16 games as sophomores.
“We have some experience, and not just athletes but basketball players,” he said. “They are leaders. I’m so excited for this season. I’m happy to be back.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTO: Returning Chelsea boys basketball coach leads his Milan team to the Class B championship in 2014 at Breslin Center.
Breslin Bound: 2022-23 Boys Quarterfinal Preview
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
March 21, 2023
It finally feels like spring, at least here in East Lansing. And tonight, 32 teams will attempt to build into their spring breaks a trip to Breslin Center.
Below is a glance at all 16 of tonight’s Quarterfinals across four divisions, with all games tipping off at 7 p.m. unless noted. Winners advance to Thursday and Friday’s Semifinals, and we’ll detail the teams more then as we preview those concluding rounds of this year’s tournament.
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Ann Arbor Huron (23-2) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (25-1) at University of Detroit Mercy, 5:30 p.m.
After an early postseason exit last season, 2021 Division 1 runner-up Huron has put together another deep playoff run. Sophomore guard Macari Moore leads three players averaging double-digit scoring at 17 points per game. After winning its first Regional title last season since 1998, Cass Tech is back at the Quarterfinals for a second straight March. Darius Acuff is another super sophomore, also leading three double-digit scorers at 21.6 ppg to go with 5.8 assists per contest.
Grand Blanc (24-2) vs. Rochester Adams (17-8) at Lake Orion
Last season’s runner-up is two wins away from playing for another title, but this time the Bobcats are led by first-year coach Tory Jackson. Seniors Tae Boyd (15.4 ppg) and RJ Taylor (14.3) are a strong 1-2 punch. Adams is coming off its first Regional title in this sport, with junior 6-foot-7 football standout Brady Prieskorn among top contributors for a Highlanders hoops team that has won seven of its last nine games.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (14-10) vs. Warren De La Salle (17-8) at University of Detroit Mercy
These Detroit Catholic League Central rivals will meet for the third time, with St. Mary’s winning the first matchup by 17 on Jan. 10 and the reigning Division 1 champion Pilots taking the rematch by 12 on Jan. 31. Sophomore Trey McKenney is a force at 25.5 points and 11.1 rebounds per game for the Eaglets, while Phoenix Glassnor is another sophomore standout leading De La Salle at 18.4 ppg.
Muskegon (24-2) vs. East Lansing (16-9) at Caledonia
East Lansing has won six straight and 12 of its last 14 games, with three of those wins over opponents responsible for four of their losses this winter. Only one starter is a senior, and sophomore Cameron Hutson leads the way at 19.3 ppg. Muskegon is in the midst of a ninth 20-win season over the last decade and earned its first Regional title since 2015. Senior Jordan Briggs (18.7 ppg) has qualified for the MHSAA single-season record list with 84 3-pointers, connecting on nearly 40 percent of his tries from beyond the arc.
Cadillac (22-4) vs. Saginaw (20-6) at Alma
The Trojans are seeking their first Semifinal appearance since 2013 and have lost only to Division 1 opponents this season, with guard Javarie Holliday leading a mostly senior-powered lineup at 15.8 ppg. Cadillac also won its Regional last season and is seeking to return to the Semifinals for the first time since 2015, with 6-6 junior Charlie Howell the leading scorer (15.3 ppg) and rebounder (7.4 rpg).
Ferndale (18-8) vs. Goodrich (22-4) at Lake Orion, 5:30 p.m.
The Eagles are working to reach Breslin and the Semifinals for a third-straight season and have won 13 of their last 14 games while navigating a power-packed schedule again this winter. Senior Chris Williams leads a balanced lineup at 13.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Goodrich is a combined 93-20 over the last five seasons and playing to make the Semifinals for the first time with senior Jack Locey (18.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.0 spg, 45 3-pointers) among those filling the stat sheet.
Hudsonville Unity Christian (18-9) vs. Grand Rapids South Christian (23-3) at Calvin University
These rivals will be filling Calvin for a rematch after South Christian won the regular-season meeting 58-50 on Dec. 16. The bad news for the Sailors is they lost leading scorer Carson Vis (17.7 ppg) to injury in the Regional Final, but senior Jacob DeHaan (13 ppg) leads three others averaging at least 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Unity has won 11 of its last 12 games, with two-point upsets of Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Grand Rapids Christian along the way. Juniors Trayton Fisher and Colin Neiuwenhuis both average about 11.5 points per game and have combined for 97 3-pointers.
Chelsea (21-5) vs. Romulus Summit Academy (24-2) at Milan
These are two more teams looking to reach the Semifinals for the first time, Summit having played in a Quarterfinal as recently as 2021 and Chelsea’s last trip to the season’s final week in 2000. Juniors Jacob Stephens (22.7 ppg) and Joseph Cabana (22.2) set a strong pace for the Bulldogs. The Dragons have doubled up all four of their postseason opponents so far and done the same in 16 wins total this winter.
Detroit Loyola (25-1) vs. Flint Beecher (21-4) at Waterford Mott
A 67-58 loss to Division 1 Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Jan. 29 remains the only defeat on Loyola’s list this winter. All five starters are seniors, with Dashawn Martin (15.1 ppg) leading three averaging double-figure scoring. Beecher’s losses were to Division 1 and 2 opponents, including three playing tonight. Robert Lee leads a senior-dominated lineup at 24.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game as the Bucs attempt to make the Semifinals for a third-straight season.
Laingsburg (25-0) vs. Ecorse (19-4) at Ypsilanti Lincoln
The Wolfpack’s closest game this season was seven points, its Regional Semifinal win against Jonesville, as it attempts to reach Breslin for the first time since 2013. Junior Zander Woodruff is averaging more than a point per minute of playing time, leading at 24.4 ppg. Ecorse is seeking a return trip to the Semifinals and has won 17 of its last 18 games. Senior guard Malik Olafioye also is putting the finishing touches on a high-scoring career.
St. Ignace (22-4) vs. Traverse City St. Francis (22-4) at Gaylord
St. Ignace is playing in its first Quarterfinal since 2001, seeking to reach the Semifinals for the first time since 1983. Junior Jonny Ingalls (22.4 ppg) leads three Saints averaging at least 13, plus he’s dishing 5.4 assists per game. St. Francis has won 11 of its last 12 games with that lone loss to Cadillac (see above) in overtime in the regular-season finale. Senior Wyatt Nausadis has paced the scoring at 20.1 ppg after quarterbacking the football team to a Division 7 runner-up finish in the fall.
Pewamo-Westphalia (19-6) vs. Niles Brandywine (24-2) at Portage Central
Brandywine has reached the final week for the first time with its first Regional title, and its only losses this season remain against Division 2 Benton Harbor. Junior Jaremiah Palmer leads a lineup with four players averaging at least 9.7 ppg at 12.9 per game. P-W is making its second-straight Quarterfinal appearance after edging North Muskegon by three and then Grandville Calvin Christian by two last week. Senior Jamison Eklund is averaging 22.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Painesdale Jeffers (25-1) vs. Munising (24-1) at Negaunee
The Upper Peninsula is guaranteed to send a one-loss team downstate to the Division 4 Semifinals, and for both programs it would be a first-time trip. Jeffers is playing its first Quarterfinal, and Munising its first since 1954. Junior Levi Frahm leads four Jets scoring in double digits at 20.5 ppg, while senior Kane Nebel is surrounded by a similar balanced attack and leads four double-digit scorers at 15.8 ppg.
Taylor Trillium Academy (21-3) vs. Marine City Cardinal Mooney (15-11) at West Bloomfield
Trillium is another first-time Regional champion, taking this step after falling just a four-point loss shy of reaching the Quarterfinals a year ago. Senior DaMaryon Fishburn is averaging 22.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game for the Wildcats, and junior Keymarryon Fishburn adds 15.3 ppg. Cardinal Mooney has won seven of its last nine games to reach the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 and after falling in Regional Finals the last two seasons – avenging the 2022 loss to Genesee Christian to advance. Senior Trent Rice leads three double-digit scorers at 12.9 ppg.
Frankfort (17-8) vs. Hillman (22-4) at Gaylord, 5 p.m.
Frankfort is another team on a nice streak with eight wins over its last nine games including 50-44 over 2022 semifinalist Lake Leelanau St. Mary in last week’s Regional Final. Senior Emmerson Farmer and sophomore Carter Kerby supply the backcourt with between 10-11 ppg apiece. This will be Hillman’s fourth Quarterfinal over the last nine seasons as the Tigers seek their first Semifinal trip. Trenton Taratuta is a big-time scorer averaging 27.4 ppg with 60 3-pointers but also 9.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 5.2 steals per game.
Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (20-6) vs. Kalamazoo Phoenix (17-2) at Richland Gull Lake
This is a familiar spot for Tri-unity Christian, the reigning Division 4 champion. All five starters average between 6-13 ppg and four have high games of at least 20 points this season; senior Roy Fogg tops both lists at 13 ppg and 25, respectively. This is new territory for Phoenix, which won one game just two seasons ago but has won 10 in a row heading into this week. Senior Cameron Lewis-Atkins (19.9 ppg) leads five players averaging 11 or more points per game. Phoenix avenged one of its losses, to Eau Claire, in the Regional Semifinal.
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PHOTOS (Top) A fan holds up a sign supporting Painesdale Jeffers between the third and fourth quarters of last week’s Regional Final win over Stephenson. (Middle) Tri-unity Christian’s Roy Fogg pulls in a loose ball during his team’s Regional championship victory over Lansing Christian. (Top photo by Cara Kamps; middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)