D1 Preview: Contenders' Stories Told Through Tough Tourney Roads
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
March 23, 2022
The final four teams playing in this weekend’s Division 1 boys basketball bracket at Breslin Center have certainly earned the memorable opportunity ahead.
The Detroit Catholic League Central saw all five of its teams finishing among the top six in Division 1 Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) – and No. 6 Warren De La Salle Collegiate has outlasted the rest. The I-75 corridor as always was impressive this winter – and reigning champion Grand Blanc is back.
Grand Rapids Northview has become one of the stories of the season as it’s emerged from a growing number of annual Division 1 contenders from the west side of the Lower Peninsula. And Belleville could become the headliner this weekend after emerging from a bracket that originally included the best from the Detroit Public School League and the southeastern part of the state.
DIVISON 1 Semifinals – Thursday
Warren De La Salle Collegiate (18-7) vs. Grand Rapids Northview (25-1), noon
Grand Blanc (20-5) vs. Belleville (19-6), 2 p.m.
FINAL – Saturday – 12:15 p.m.
Tickets for this weekend’s games are $12 for both Semifinals and Finals and are available via the Breslin Center ticket office. All Semifinals will be broadcast and viewable with subscription to MHSAA.tv, and all four Finals will air live Saturday on Bally Sports Detroit, with the Division 4 and 1 games on BSD EXTRA and the Division 3 and 2 games on BSD’s primary channel. All four will be broadcast live as well as on the BSD website and app. Audio broadcasts of all Semifinals and Finals will be available free of charge from the MHSAA Network.
Here’s a look at the four Division 1 semifinals (with rankings by MPR at the end of the regular season, and statistics through Regional Finals):
Record/rank: 19-6, No. 44
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association East
Coach: Adam Trumpour, ninth season (148-52)
Championship history: Class A runner-up 1998.
Best wins: 47-45 over No. 10 Detroit Cass Tech in Quarterfinal, 59-48 over Romulus in Regional Final, 50-47 (OT) over Ann Arbor Skyline in Regional Semifinal, 38-37, 62-45 and 63-43 over Dearborn.
Players to watch: Da’Jon Johnson, 5-10 sr. G (12.1 ppg, 3.0 apg); Mario Johnson, 6-4 sr. G (10 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.8 apg); Bryce Radtka, 6-8 sr. C (10.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg).
Outlook: The Tigers are headed back to the Semifinals for the first time since 2002, having won nine of their last 10 games and with five of their losses by a combined 11 points. Four seniors start, joined by sophomore guard Jalen Jenkins, another contributor to the balanced attack with 10 points per game. Trumpour, who assisted on the staff that guided Romulus to the 2013 Class A title, has led Belleville to District titles four of the last six seasons (not including COVID-abbreviated 2019-20) and also brought the Tigers to the Quarterfinals in 2017-18.
Record/rank: 20-5, No. 8
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League
Coach: Mike Thomas, fifth season (88-22)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2021, Class B runner-up 1952.
Best wins: 67-60 over No. 4 Detroit Catholic Central in Quarterfinal, 65-58 (Regional Semifinal) and 64-63 over Flint Carman-Ainsworth, 80-62 over No. 20 River Rouge, 70-66 (OT) over Division 2 No. 4 Ferndale, 68-57 over Division 3 No. 2 Flint Beecher.
Players to watch: RJ Taylor, 6-0 jr. G (16.8 ppg, 51 3-pointers, 4.3 apg); Amont’e Allen-Johnson, 6-1 jr. G (13.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.2 apg); Tae Boyd, 6-3 jr. G (13.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg).
Outlook: The reigning Division 1 champ kicked off this season against some of the best teams in the state, and started 1-3 – but after catching their stride, the Bobcats have been nearly unbeatable. Grand Blanc is up to 18 wins over its last 19 games, and the defeats have no doubt been beneficial to this run too coming against Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Detroit Martin Luther King and Muskegon. Something else to keep in mind: No seniors start, and eight of the team’s top nine rotation players should be back next season. Taylor made the all-state first team in 2021.
GRAND RAPIDS NORTHVIEW
Record/rank: 25-1, No. 24
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Coach: David Chana, third season (47-15)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 54-52 over Kalamazoo Central in Quarterfinal, 68-55 over No. 9 Muskegon in Regional Semifinal, 71-48 over No. 17 Rockford in District Final, 68-64 (OT) over No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, 64-51 over Grand Rapids Christian.
Players to watch: Kyler Vanderjagt, 6-4 sr. G (22.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg); Jalen Charity, 6-6 sr. G (13 ppg, 6.0 rpg); EJ Ryans, 6-3 soph. G (10.4 ppg, 3.3 apg).
Outlook: Northview’s buzzer-beating win over Kalamazoo Central on Tuesday added to the excitement of a run that’s landed the Wildcats in their first Semifinal since 1990. Aside from an eight-point loss to Grand Rapids Christian at the start of February, Northview is undefeated and has pulled out four victories by five points or fewer. Vanderjagt made the all-state first team last season when Northview finished 8-6, and he’s nearly equaled his scoring average from last year this winter; he will continue his career at Belmont in Tennessee. Senior guard Grant George adds 7.7 points per game off the bench.
WARREN DE LA SALLE COLLEGIATE
Record/rank: 18-7, No. 6
League finish: Fourth in the Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Gjon Djokaj, second season (31-11)
Championship history: Class B runner-up 1982.
Best wins: 50-48 over No. 2 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in Quarterfinal, 68-33 over No. 11 Canton, 49-46 over No. 1 Detroit U-D Jesuit, 59-54 over No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, 73-51 over No. 4 Detroit Catholic Central, 91-49 over Detroit Western, 57-44 over Coldwater, 76-69 (2OT) over Division 2 No. 4 Ferndale.
Players to watch: Tamario Adley, 6-3 sr. G (11.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg); Michael Sulaka, 6-8 jr. F (10.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg); Nino Smith, 6-0 jr. G (10 ppg, 4.3 apg).
Outlook: With Tuesday’s win over St. Mary’s, De La Salle had earned a victory this season over every other highly-ranked Catholic League Central team. Defeating the Eaglets sent the Pilots back to the Semifinals for the second season in a row and third time in four seasons (not counting COVID-abbreviated 2020). Six players average at least eight points per game, and five had made 16 or more 3-pointers entering the week. Four starters are back from last season’s Semifinal team that lost 55-39 to Ann Arbor Huron, and three starters plus top-scoring sub freshman Pheonix Glassnor (8.0 ppg) should return next winter as well. Junior Triston Nichols (8.8 ppg) and senior Caleb Reese (8.0 ppg, 4.1 apg) also start.
PHOTO Grand Rapids Northview’s EJ Ryans (5) lays up a shot during his team’s Regional Semifinal win over Muskegon. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)
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.)