Class A-B Preview: Chasing Favorites

March 25, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Similar to the Class C and D Semifinals to be played Thursday, Friday's Class A and B games will feature five teams aspiring to win their first MHSAA championships.

But the field also includes four teams that advanced to Breslin Center in 2014, the undefeated top-ranked team in Class A and the reigning champion from Class B complete with its heroes from last season's run. 

All four Class A and B Semifinals will be played Friday, with all four championship games Saturday. 

Semifinals - Friday
Class A

Lansing Everett (24-2) vs. Saginaw Arthur Hill (23-3), 1 p.m. 
Detroit U-D Jesuit (22-3) vs. Detroit Western International (24-0), 2:50 p.m.

Class B
Milan (24-2) vs. Wyoming Godwin Heights (24-1), 6 p.m. 
Cadillac (18-8) vs. Detroit Henry Ford (20-5), 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, the Class D and A title games on FOX Sports Detroit's primary channel and the Class C and B games on FOX Sports Detroit-PLUS. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on

And now, a look at the semifinalists in Class A and B. 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.)

Class A

22-3, No. 8.
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central.
Coach: Pat Donnelly, seventh season (115-42).
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 56-54 over No. 5 Clarkston in the Quarterfinal, 52-34 over No. 10 North Farmington in the Regional Final, 72-57 over No. 6 Saginaw Arthur Hill, 69-56 over Class B No. 1 Milan.
Players to watch: Cassius Winston, 6-1 jr. G (22.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.7 apg); Gary Collins, 6-2 sr. G (9.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.6 apg).  
Outlook: Jesuit will attempt to take the next two steps after winning its first Regional title and making the Semifinals last season with Winston also the leading scorer on that team. Although in a 58-49 loss to end the regular season, Jesuit has faced Semifinal opponent Western, which should be beneficial, and also defeated Arthur Hill on Feb. 7. The only other defeats were to Romulus and Catholic League Central runner-up Birmingham Brother Rice.

24-0, No. 1.
League finish: First in Detroit Public School League West D1 and overall.
Coach: Derrick McDowell, fourth season (46-35).
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 58-49 over No. 8 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 69-57 over No. 6 Saginaw Arthur Hill, 72-55 over Class B honorable mention Detroit Henry Ford.
Players to watch: Brailen Neely, 5-10 jr. G (15.9 ppg, 4.3 apg); Josh McFolley, 6-1 sr. G (14.5 ppg, 3.2 apg).
Outlook: This has been a season of milestones for Western under former Detroit Redford coach McDowell. The Cowboys won their first Detroit PSL championship since 1922 and will play in their first Semifinal since 1974. They’ve beaten two of the three teams left in Class A and present a variety of challenges to opponents this weekend – including 6-8 senior center Gerald Blackshear, averaging 11.8 points and 5.2 blocks per game.

24-2, No. 9.
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Blue.
Coach: Desmond Ferguson, third season (36-33).
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2004).
Best wins: 75-52 over No. 2 Muskegon in the Quarterfinal, 91-78 over No. 7 Kalamazoo Central in the Regional Final, 82-77 over honorable mention Ann Arbor Huron in the Regional Semifinal, 57-51 (District Final) and 82-78 over honorable mention Grand Ledge, 64-57 over Class B No. 10 Benton Harbor.
Players to watch: Trevor Manuel, 6-9 sr. F; Jamyrin Jackson, 6-3 jr. G. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: The Vikings have played their way through a strong field after going only 5-16 a year ago; they’ve also avenged both losses from the season's first half, to Grand Ledge and Kalamazoo Central. Manuel was part of a Class B championship team at Lansing Sexton as a freshman before transferring out-of-state as a junior and then moving back to Michigan last summer. He finished third in the Mr. Basketball voting and has signed to play at the University of Oregon next season.

23-3, No. 6.
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley Association North.
Coach: Greg McMath, 13th season (251-52).
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2006), five runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 78-59 over Walled Lake Central in the Quarterfinal, 88-66, 90-81 and 83-47 (District Semifinal) over Saginaw, 67-62 over Class B No. 7 Flint Northwestern.
Players to watch: Eric Davis, 6-3 sr. G; Brian Bowen II, 6-7 soph. F; De’Quevion Johnson, 6-4 sr. F. (Statistics not submitted).  
Outlook: Arthur Hill enters under the rare scenario of having played all three teams also left in the Class A bracket. Although those three teams dealt the Lumberjacks their losses, Arthur Hill will be plenty prepared for rematches. Davis, who will play next season at the University of Texas, was the Mr. Basketball runner-up. The Lumberjacks are in the Semifinals for the first time since 2006, having dispatched familiar postseason foe Saginaw High during the District.

Class B

18-8, unranked.
League finish: Fourth in the Big North Conference.
Coach: Ryan Benzenberg, first season (18-8).
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 59-50 over Essexville-Garber in the Quarterfinal, 48-36 over Petoskey, 50-44 over Class C honorable mention McBain.
Players to watch: Andrew Emington, 6-1 sr. G (12.8 ppg, 36 3-pointers); Quinn Crago, 6-6 jr. C (9.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg).
Outlook: Cadillac is back at the Semifinals for the third straight season and first under Benzenberg, who formerly coached Fife Lake Forest Area and lower levels at Elk Rapids. The Vikings are 13-2 over their last 15 games after a tough start in the mostly-Class A Big North Conference. Emington brings some experience back to Breslin after averaging just fewer than 10 points per game last season.

20-5, honorable mention.
League finish: Second in Detroit PSL West D1.
Coach: Kenneth Flowers, eighth season (108-59).
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 61-55 over No. 2 New Haven in the Quarterfinal, 80-73 over Class A honorable mention Ann Arbor Huron, 54-51 over Class C No. 1 Flint Beecher, 59-54 over Class C honorable mention Detroit Loyola.
Players to watch: Joshua Davis, 6-5 sr. F (17 ppg, 6.8 rpg); James Towns, 6-0 jr. G (16.5 ppg, 3.5 apg).
Outlook: Henry Ford is at the Semifinals for the first time, having played in only one other Quarterfinal (1984) before Tuesday’s defeat of previously-undefeated New Haven. Ford bounced back from two straight sub-.500 records with its first District title since 2009 and finished second in its league only to Detroit Western International. The team has only three seniors, including 6-1 guard Antaun Carter, who adds another offensive threat scoring 8.5 points per game.

24-2, No. 1.
League finish: First in Huron League.
Coach: Chris Pope, first season (24-2).
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2014).
Best wins: 69-60 over No. 9 Otsego in the Quarterfinal, 54-43 and 65-49 over Class C No. 9 Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central.
Players to watch: Latin Davis, 6-0 sr. G (19.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.6 apg); Nick Perkins, 6-9 sr. C (16.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg). 
Outlook: Milan was a feel-good story of last season’s Finals, winning its first championship since 1948. The main change this winter was the coach – longtime assistant Pope took over a squad returning top scorers Davis and Perkins and a third starter from last season’s championship game, 6-4 senior forward Lance Lewis. He adds another 7.3 points per game, and senior guard Thomas Lindeman chips in 7.9. Davis has signed to play next season at Youngstown State University, and Perkins has signed with the University of Buffalo.  

24-1, No. 3.
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Silver.
Coach: Tyler Whittemore, first season (24-1).
Championship history: Two MHSAA runner-up finishes (most recent 1960).
Best wins: 63-56 over No. 6 Wayland in the District Final, 76-39 over honorable mention Alma in the Regional Semifinal, 75-61 over No. 9 Otsego, 65-55 over Class A No. 10 North Farmington, 62-53 over Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian.
Players to watch: Delaney Blaylock, 6-5 sr. G (16.4 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.4 bpg); Michael Williams, 6-4 sr. F (10.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg).
Outlook: Godwin Heights is seeking its first championship game appearance in more than a half-century, but has been circling for some time with three straight Quarterfinals and now two Semifinal berths in three seasons. The team lost only to league rival NorthPointe Christian, a Class C semifinalist, and avenged that loss. The Wolverines make nearly 50 percent of their shots from the floor and get another 9.8 points per game from junior guard Leon Redd, one of five averaging at least 8.3. Blaylock also started in the team’s 2013 Semifinal, and Whittemore, a first-year head coach, was the varsity assistant for seven seasons before the promotion.

PHOTO: Saginaw Arthur Hill standout Eric Davis drives to the hoop during his team’s Regional win over Davison. (Click to see more at

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.)