Class A Preview: Contenders Peaking

March 22, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This weekend’s Class A bracket could be full of surprises. We’ve already had a few.

Not shocking to anyone: Reigning champion Clarkston is back and the team to beat.

But the three that will try include two traveling to the Semifinals for the first time – Holland West Ottawa and Novi – and another, Warren DeLaSalle, that avenged three losses to a nemesis to earn this opportunity.  

Class A Semifinals – Friday
Warren DeLaSalle (19-7) vs. Clarkston (24-1), noon
Holland West Ottawa (24-2) vs. Novi (17-8), 2 p.m.

Class A Final – Saturday, 12:15 p.m.

Tickets cost $10 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session (Class D and Class A). All Semifinals will be streamed live on 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 and the FOX Sports Go! app. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on

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.)

24-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Dan Fife, 36th season (701-170)
Championship history: Class A champion 2017. 
Best wins: 52-31 (Quarterfinal) and 72-67 over No. 6 Flint Carman-Ainsworth, 48-38 and 70-39 over No. 4 Hazel Park, 66-65 over Wayne Memorial.
Players to watch: Foster Loyer, 6-0 sr. G (25.6 ppg, 6.0 apg, 77 3-pointers); CJ Robinson, 5-11 sr. G (13.8 ppg, 57 3-pointers); Taylor Currie, 6-9 sr. C (13.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg).
Outlook: Coming off its first championship, Clarkston almost assuredly is the favorite again and has been rarely challenged – even when Loyer missed the second Hazel Park game with a knee injury. The only loss came Dec. 28 to formidable Detroit East English, and the only games decided by single digits came against Carman-Ainsworth the first meeting and to league rivals Troy (twice) and West Bloomfield. Loyer, headed next to Michigan State, was named Mr. Basketball on Monday, and Currie is headed to Wisconsin after graduation.

24-2, No. 8
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Coach: Steve Windemuller, fifth season (81-32)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 58-55 over No. 10 East Lansing in Quarterfinal, 46-42 (OT) over No. 9 Muskegon in Regional Final, 45-27 over No. 6 Flint Carman-Ainsworth, 59-49 over Class B No. 7 Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
Players to watch: Tyler Bosma, 6-6 sr. F (17.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.6 bpg); Xavier Wade, 6-3 sr. G (12.1 ppg, 5.2 apg).
Outlook: This is the longest run in West Ottawa history and included its first Regional title last week. The Panthers are a combined 47-4 over the last two seasons and this winter their only losses came by three to league rival East Kentwood and in the opener to Class B power Wyoming Godwin Heights. The run has been keyed by a number of great athletes who achieve across multiple sports; for example, Bosma will play baseball after graduation at Miami (Ohio), and Wade is headed to Ferris State for both basketball and football. Six players average at least five points per game.

17-8, unranked
League finish: Second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Gold
Coach: Brandon Sinawi, fourth season (63-32)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 75-73 over honorable mention Belleville in Quarterfinal, 61-59 over No. 2 Ann Arbor Skyline in Regional Final, 60-58 (District Semifinal) and 61-56 over No. 7 Canton.
Players to watch: Trendon Hankerson, 6-3 sr. G (14.2 ppg); Traveon Maddox, Jr., 6-5 sr. G (17.5 ppg). Outlook: Novi is 16-3 since Hankerson returned from an injury and avenged early-season losses to Skyline and Howell. The Wildcats have won 11 of their last 12, falling only to Grand Blanc in the KLAA tournament final, and last week’s Regional title was the program’s first. Junior 6-4 forward Jiovanni Miles is another big-time scorer, averaging 15.3 points per game with 55 3-pointers entering the week, and 6-9 senior Tariq Woody (10.9 ppg) adds plenty of presence in the middle.

19-7, unranked
League finish: Second in Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Greg Esler, 24th season (394-179)
Championship history: Class B runner-up 1982.
Best wins: 63-58 over No. 3 Detroit U-D Jesuit in Quarterfinal, 47-46 over Class C honorable mention Detroit Edison, 69-59 over Class B No. 8 Williamston.
Players to watch: Luke Pfromm, 6-5 sr. F (15.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg); Justin Fisher, 6-4 sr. G (10.6 ppg, 5.3 apg).
Outlook: DeLaSalle has been on the verge of elite all season long and pushed its way in by avenging three losses to U-D Jesuit with the Quarterfinal victory. Three of the Pilots’ losses this season were by a combined five points. Esler has more than 500 win total over a 31-year head coaching career, and Pfromm has plenty of championship experience from quarterbacking the football team to the Division 2 title in the fall. Senior 6-5 forwards Kole Gjonaj (10.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Jordan Winowiecki (9.5 ppg) add more size to the starting lineup.

PHOTO: Holland West Ottawa’s Xavier Wade (0) goes hard to the basket against Grand Haven. (Photo courtesy of the Grand Haven Tribune.)

Hart Teammates Reunite After 80 Years 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.)