By Wes Morgan
Special for Second Half
Four year ago, Gage McGuire sat down with his mother, Carrie, and made a list of high school basketball goals. That piece of paper is still hanging on his bedroom wall, and nearly all the items have been checked.
“Looking back on it, I can’t thank her enough,” said the 6-foot-6 Coldwater senior forward. “Once you set a goal, you know you can chase it.”
Except for hitting a bit of turbulence earlier this month that resulted in a three-game skid, the Cardinals (14-5) have been flying high. The cast includes starters Dylan Targgart, a 6-2 junior center who has won an individual Division 2 Finals championship in the shot put as well as a team state title. Damon Beckhusen, a junior guard who helps set the tone for everything the Cardinals do on the court, was an all-Interstate 8 Athletic Conference football selection. And underclassmen Ethan Crabtree (freshman guard) and Spencer Rodesiler (sophomore guard) have played more like veterans.
But it’s undeniably McGuire’s team, and his list of accomplishments is quite impressive. The small forward set an all-time scoring record for the Cardinals back in December when he hit 1,180 points — a tally that will be significantly higher once the season ends. McGuire was an Associated Press Class A all-state honorable mention last year, and his sophomore season, as well as the Interstate 8 Most Valuable Player last winter.
Averaging around 20 points, 12 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks and steals per game, the future Emporia State University player has one last thing to check off that list.
“One of my goals was to become the all-time leading scorer,” McGuire said. “When I got it, it was pretty exciting. But I’d much rather have a state championship than an individual record.”
Noticeable improvement on defense and rebounding the ball this year has made McGuire one of the more complete players in the state.
“He has gotten a lot better,” first-year Coldwater coach Aaron Bucklin said. “He has really bought into the kind of system we want to play. That’s something he has added to his game, and his rebounding numbers are up a ton from the previous year.
“He is able to do so much. If we are being pressed, he can be the guy to bring the ball up the court as well. We just kind of try to exploit any mismatch. Defensively, he does a pretty good job on the ball and can guard all five positions as well. He causes problems for guards with his length and centers with his athletic ability.”
McGuire’s actions off the court, including a work ethic in the classroom and a willingness to speak up in the locker room have equally influenced the program.
“I think it’s just his sense of leadership and his ability to add that part to the game and the mental toughness he can bring to this game,” Bucklin said. “I think in years past he has kind of gone with the flow and done very good things on the basketball court. But his senior year he has really stepped up and become a leader. He gets everybody else involved, whether it’s offseason workout stuff or getting into the gym extra times. He’s that guy. He wants to be in the gym 24/7. That’s been big for us.”
Emporia State, a Division II school in Kansas that competes in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, believes McGuire can do the same there. But McGuire is focused on closing out his prep career strong.
After losing three straight, McGuire and fellow captains called a players-only meeting to get things sorted out as the regular season winds down and the Cardinals prepare for their Division 1 District Semifinal game Feb. 27 against either Battle Creek Lakeview or Battle Creek Central.
“We called everybody out — just kind of a man-to-man conversation to see what we’re doing wrong,” McGuire explained. “The past couple games we had averaged like 20 turnovers per game. You’re not going to win the game with 20 turnovers. We have a special team, and we needed to figure it out to make the deep run in the playoffs that we know we’re capable of.
“Everybody took it like a man, and I think it worked out really well. I asked everyone if they truly believed we could win state. Everyone said yes.”
Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and ESPNChicago.com, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of JoeInsider.com. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Coldwater’s Gage McGuire (standing, fourth from left) and his teammates celebrate his becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer this winter. (Middle) McGuire goes for a block against Jackson Lumen Christi. (Photos courtesy of the Coldwater boys basketball program.)
We've got a long way to go before the stories of this season conclude with four MHSAA boys basketball champions crowned March 15 at Michigan State University's Breslin Center.
But the first week of the 2023-24 regular season gave us plenty to fill our first installment of “Breslin Bound” – our official tip-off to following more than 700 boys basketball teams through those final buzzers in East Lansing.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 46, Flint Beecher 44 This was their first meeting since January 2022 and it provided a memorable start as the Cavaliers downed the reigning Division 3 champion.
2. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 75, Ferndale 66 These two both have several new contributors, but big things will be expected again as well as Brother Rice regularly contends in Division 1 and Ferndale is the reigning Division 2 champion.
3. Lansing Waverly 58, Detroit Martin Luther King 57 Waverly took major strides last season doubling its win total from 2021-22 and could be on the verge of more coming off this impressive victory at the Detroit Douglass Tip-Off Classic.
4. Norway 49, Munising 48 After the Knights gave Munising a tough final regular-season test last season, the Mustangs went on to claim the Division 4 championship. Norway will attempt to build off back-to-back 15-7 seasons starting with this win.
5. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 64, Grandville Calvin Christian 44 These two combined to finish 46-9 a season ago, when Calvin defeated Tri-unity 63-42 in the regular-season finale (although the Defenders rebounded to finish Division 4 runners-up).
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Rochester Adams (2-0) The Highlanders provided one of the best late-breaking stories of last season, reaching the Division 1 Quarterfinals after finishing fourth of five teams in a strong Oakland Activities Association Red that also featured North Farmington and Ferndale. The momentum started rolling again with wins last week over Milford 52-48 and Macomb L’Anse Creuse North 74-59.
Utica (2-0) Last season’s co-champion in the Macomb Area Conference Blue defeated MAC White reigning champion Port Huron Northern 68-49 in their opener and then Utica Eisenhower 56-41 at the MAC Champions of Champions event at Center Line. Utica improved to 15-7 last season after finishing 7-14 in 2021-22.
Dundee (2-0) After holding its own last season in a strong Lenawee County Athletic Association and finishing 13-12 overall, Dundee is hoping to turn a fast start last week into a climb up the standings with league play starting Friday. The Vikings doubled up East Jackson 52-26 and downed Milan 67-37 to start things off.
Goodrich (1-0) A 22-5 finish last season included a shared championship in the Flint Metro League Stars and a run to the Division 2 Quarterfinals, where the Martians fell by only five to eventual champion Ferndale. The second-to-last of those five losses came to Flint Beecher, 70-55, but Goodrich avenged it Friday with a 58-55 win over the Bucs.
Hillsdale (2-0) The Hornets finished just 4-19 last season, their second sub-.500 in a row. But the turnaround may be starting. Hillsdale is halfway toward last year’s win total after defeating Union City 53-45 and Jonesville 50-40 – and after losing to Union City 52-36 and Jonesville 39-23 last season, with Jonesville going on to finish 19-6.
Royal Oak Shrine Catholic (2-0) This is another team well on its way to bettering last season’s success by Jan. 1. After going 3-19 last winter, Shrine defeated Bloomfield Hills Roeper 48-30 and Utica Ford 55-52 in overtime last week. Ford had defeated the Knights 63-50 last season, and the 55 points Shrine scored this time would have been their second-highest total of 2022-23.
Adrian Lenawee Christian (2-0) Lenawee Christian finished last season on an 11-5 run after a 2-7 start, and might be rolling that right into this season as well after opening with a 74-60 win over Blissfield and 73-58 overtime victory over Hanover-Horton. Blissfield was among teams to deal the Cougars a loss during last season’s tough early stretch. Lenawee Christian is playing in the Tri-County Conference this winter after playing previously as an independent.
Wakefield-Marenisco (2-0) The Cardinals were a solid 13-10 last season, with the final week including a third win over Bessemer as they faced off in a District Semifinal, followed by a third loss to Ironwood in the District championship game. This season’s first week saw the same schedule, but a better outcome – Wakefield-Marenisco edged Bessemer 60-57 and this time defeated Ironwood 48-30. Ironwood was first and W-M third last season in the Copper Mountain Conference Porcupine Mountain.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – River Rouge (1-0) at Ferndale (1-1) – As noted above, Ferndale was last season’s Division 2 champion, and defeated Rouge 72-60 in last winter’s meeting.
Friday – Kalamazoo Central (0-0) at Battle Creek Central (0-0) – These longtime rivals finished first and third, respectively, in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East last season.
Saturday – Detroit Cass Tech (0-0) at Holt (1-0) – The Rams host the reigning Division 1 champion Technicians in the 4:30 p.m. game of the Moneyball Classic.
Saturday – Grand Rapids South Christian (0-0) vs. Rockford (1-0) at Calvin University – This will be the 10 a.m. opener of The Invite at Calvin University, with the reigning Division 2 runner-up Sailors taking on a Rockford team coming off an 18-win season.
Saturday – Grand Rapids Catholic Central (0-0) vs. Grand Rapids Northview (1-0) at Calvin University – This will cap off The Invite tipping approximately 7:35 p.m. and pitting last season’s Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold co-champion and White outright champion, respectively.
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PHOTOS (Top) A Westland John Glenn player gets to the basket during U-D Jesuit's season-opening 83-48 win over the Rockets. (Middle) Bath defenders surround a Charyl Stockwell player during the Sentinels' 63-55 victory. (Top photo by Olivia B. Photography; middle photo by Click by Christine McCallister.)