Class C Preview: History Will Be Made
March 21, 2018
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Regardless of which team emerges as Class C champion Saturday, that crowning moment will conclude quite a story.
At the very least, the winner could be celebrating a first MHSAA boys basketball title in more than two decades.
Detroit Edison and Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central both are seeking not just their first MHSAA titles in boys basketball this weekend, but to play in the championship game for the first time.
Grand Rapids Covenant Christian, meanwhile, was runner-up last season at the Breslin Center but hasn’t won a title since 1994. Maple City Glen Lake, if it wins out, would claim its first since 1977.
Class C Semifinals – Thursday
Detroit Edison (15-10) vs. Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (22-4), noon
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (25-0) vs. Maple City Glen Lake (23-2), 2 p.m.
Class C Final – Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
Tickets cost $10 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session (Class C and Class B). All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a pay-per-view basis. The Class D, A and C championship games will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit, while the Class B Final will be shown on Fox Sports Detroit on a delayed basis at 10:30 p.m. Saturday. All four championship games will be streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com and the FOX Sports Go! app. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.
Below is a glance at all four semifinalists. 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.)
Record/rank: 15-10, honorable mention
League finish: Fourth in Detroit Public School League East Division 1
Coach: Brandon Neely, fifth season (69-44)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 73-46 over No. 3 Unionville-Sebewaing in Quarterfinal, 63-57 (Regional Semifinal) and 82-45 over Detroit Pershing, 59-51 over Class A honorable mention Detroit Cass Tech, 50-48 over Class A honorable mention Detroit Renaissance, 65-48 over Class A honorable mention Belleville, 83-67 over Class D No. 1 Southfield Christian.
Players to watch: Pierre Mitchell, Jr., 6-0 sr. G (15.3 ppg, 3.2 apg); Gary Solomon, 6-5 sr. G (16.2 ppg, 3.3 apg).
Outlook: Edison is making a second straight trip to the Semifinals after winning its second Regional title last week and this season also winning the Detroit Public School League tournament. The team’s record might look just slightly above average, but eight of those losses were to Class A teams including three team ranked among the top five at the end of the regular season and a fourth that will play in the Semifinals on Friday. Mitchell, Solomon and 6-9 senior Deante Johnson (13.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.2 bpg) also were starters and standouts a year ago.
GRAND RAPIDS COVENANT CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 22-4, honorable mention
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Tyler Schimmel, fourth season (71-25)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 1994), Class C runner-up 2017.
Best wins: 53-30 over honorable mention Sanford Meridian in Quarterfinal, 58-48 over honorable mention Dansville in Regional Final, 53-47 over Grand Rapids Christian.
Players to watch: Carson Meulenberg, 6-6 sr. F (15.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.2 apg); Tyler Cammenga, 5-8 sr. G (9.2 ppg, 64 3-pointers).
Outlook: Four starters from last season’s Class C championship game loss to Flint Beecher have brought Covenant Christian back this weekend. Meulenberg earned some attention with 20 points in last year’s Final, and Cammenga entered the last week of the season with 64 3-pointers for the second straight year. Senior 6-3 guard Nathan Minderhoud (10.7 ppg) is the team’s second leading scorer, and senior 6-4 forward Trenton Koole adds 7.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 3.2 apg. All four losses this winter came to Class B teams that finished with at least 17 wins, including semifinalist Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
MAPLE CITY GLEN LAKE
Record/rank: 23-2, No. 5
League finish: Tied for first in Northwest Conference
Coach: Rich Ruelas, third season (56-14)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 1977), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 66-49 over No. 4 Iron Mountain in Quarterfinal, 66-32 (Regional Semifinal) and 50-37 over No. 9 McBain, 49-29 over honorable mention Manton in District Semifinal, 54-45 and 52-31 over Class D No. 6 Frankfort.
Players to watch: Xander Okerlund, 6-4 jr. G/F (16.1 ppg, 3.1 apg); Cade Peterson, 6-5 sr. F (14.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.6 bpg).
Outlook: A talented group has Glen Lake at the Semifinals for the first time since finishing Class D runner-up in 1996. The only losses were to league rival Buckley, a semifinalist in Class D. Iron Mountain, falling by 17, came the closest to Glen Lake of any opponent so far this postseason. Some of the same players, including quarterback Peterson and senior starting forward Nick Apsey (a running back/linebacker in the fall), took Glen Lake to the Division 6 Football Final in 2016. Sophomore forward Reece Hazelton adds 13.3 ppg.
MONROE ST. MARY CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank: 25-0, No. 1
League finish: First in Huron League
Coach: Randy Windham, ninth season (181-37)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 31-28 over No. 6 Kalamazoo Christian in Quarterfinal, 61-56 over honorable mention Hanover-Horton in Regional Final, 56-44 over No. 7 Ottawa Lake Whiteford in District Final.
Players to watch: C.J. Haut, 6-8 sr. F (18.4 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 2.9 bpg); Hunter Kegley, 5-9 jr. G (15.2 ppg, 68 3-pointers)
Outlook: Monroe St. Mary has been on the verge of a championship run with four Quarterfinal appearances this decade and a Semifinal berth in 2013. The Falcons fell to Edison in last season’s Quarterfinal, but haven’t lost a game since. In fact, the last two games were two of only four decided by single digits this season. Junior 6-4 forward Tyler Welch adds another 10.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
PHOTO: Grand Rapids Covenant Christian’s Carson Meulenberg puts up a shot against Flint Beecher during last season’s Class C Final.
Hart Teammates Reunite After 80 Years as WWII Vets, Great-Grandfathers
By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com
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.
No 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.
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.
“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 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.)