D1 Preview: Follow the Fan Favorites

March 13, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Friday's first Semifinals – formerly Class A, now Division 1 – always are the most popular ticket of Boys Basketball Finals weekend.

But you’ll want to get to Breslin Center especially early to see this season’s contenders.

It’s no secret that fans statewide are eager to see Ypsilanti Lincoln freshman Emoni Bates. But local Okemos no doubt will bring a big crowd as well. Howell, just down I-96, should too as it plays in its first Semifinal in more than 90 years. And Detroit U-D Jesuit always seems to bring a following, led by a festive student section.

Division 1 Semifinals – Friday
Howell (20-6) vs. Ypsilanti Lincoln (21-4), Noon
Detroit U-D Jesuit (24-2) vs. Okemos (23-2), 2 p.m.

Division 1 Final – Saturday, 12:15 p.m.

Tickets cost $10 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session (Divisions 4 and 1). All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a pay-per-view basis. The Divisions 2, 3 and 4 championship games will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit’s primary channel, while the Division 1 Final will be shown live on Fox Sports Detroit PLUS. All four championship games will be streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com and the FOX Sports 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.)

24-2, No. 1
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Pat Donnelly, 11th season (207-53) 
Championship history: Class A champion 2016.
Best wins: 91-54 over honorable mention Roseville in Quarterfinal, 79-59 over honorable mention Detroit Cass Tech, 70-69 over Division 3 No. 1 Flint Beecher, 54-47 over Detroit Edison.
Players to watch: Daniel Friday, 6-4 sr. G/F (16.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.5 bpg); Jalen Thomas, 6-10 F/C (12.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 3.5 bpg).
Outlook: The Cubs have reached at least the Quarterfinals six seasons straight and won their six playoff games this winter by an average of 27 points per. Jesuit hasn’t lost since Jan. 5, and it’s only instate defeat was Dec. 1 to Division 2 No. 1 New Haven. Friday and Thomas earned all-state honorable mentions last season and senior guard Caleb Hunter (9.6 ppg) made the all-state first team in Class D. Senior guard Julian Dozier adds 12.8 ppg and leads the team at 5.9 assists per contest.

20-6, unranked
League finish: Second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Coach: Nick Simon, seventh season (108-55) 
Championship history: Class B runner-up 1927. 
Best wins: 57-56 over No. 5 Saginaw in Quarterfinal, 59-46 over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in Regional Semifinal, 55-49 over Linden in District Final, 58-57 over Wayne Memorial.
Players to watch: Josh Palo, 6-2 sr. G (17.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.7 apg); Tony Honkala, 6-2 jr. G/F (10.2 ppg).
Outlook: Howell played its first Quarterfinal since 2014 on Tuesday to earn its first trip to the Semifinals since 1927. The Highlanders have won 14 of their last 16 games, the only losses during that time both to No. 3 Canton, and while giving up 50 or more points only four times during the run. Palo earned an all-state honorable mention last season and is one of four seniors in the starting lineup.

23-2, honorable mention
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Blue
Coach: Jeff Wonch, seventh season (101-58)
Championship history: Class B champion 1982 & 1981, Class A runner-up 2006. 
Best wins: 50-45 over East Kentwood in Quarterfinal, 39-34 (Regional Final), 56-41 and 41-35 over DeWitt, 72-28 over Howell.
Players to watch: Evan Thomas, 6-4 sr. G/F (17.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg), Noah Pruitt, 5-9 jr. G (10.7 ppg, 3.0 apg).
Outlook: Okemos is returning to the Semifinals for the first time since the runner-up run in 2006, although Wonch has been to Breslin a little more recently – he led Bath to the Class C championship in 2007. The Chiefs only losses this season were Detroit Catholic Central and Haslett, which both went on to win at least District titles. Long-range shooting could be key – entering the week, five players had made at least 13 3-pointers and the team as a whole was making 33 percent of its shots from beyond the arc.

21-4, honorable mention
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference White
Coach: Jesse Davis, fourth season (54-34)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 56-52 over No. 8 Detroit Martin Luther King in Quarterfinal, 81-79 over Detroit Catholic Central in Regional Final, 58-55 over Ann Arbor Skyline in Regional Semifinal. 
Players to watch: Emoni Bates, 6-10 fr. (29.2 ppg, 53 3-pointers, 10.1 rpg, ); Jalen Fisher, 5-10 sr. G (13.1 ppg, 3.3 spg).
Outlook: Bates entered this season known as perhaps the top player his grade in the country. It’s fair to say his impact has been even greater than anticipated. He’s keyed Lincoln’s run to its first Regional title and now first Semifinal berth, making game-winning shots in both of last week’s games as he’s continued building one of the most memorable freshman seasons in state history. But his teammates certainly have done their parts. In addition to Fisher, seniors Amari Frye (10.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Tahj Chatman (10 ppg, 2.9 apg) also are averaging double-digit scoring, and Lincoln as a team is making nearly 45 percent of its shots from the floor with Bates, Fisher and Chatman also all at 73 percent or better from the free-throw line.

PHOTO: Okemos’ Evan Thomas looks for an opening during Tuesday night’s Quarterfinal win while East Kentwood’s Ja’moni Jones (1) defends. (Photo by Eric Sawatzki.)

Second-Half Surge Sends Tri-unity Christian to 3rd-Straight Final

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

March 23, 2023

EAST LANSING — The Defenders will once again have a chance to do just that.

In what has become a usual rite of March during longtime head coach Mark Keeler’s 36-year tenure, the Wyoming Tri-unity Christian Defenders are once again headed for the Division 4 boys basketball championship game following a 54-37 win over Frankfort in a Semifinal on Thursday.

Making its third-straight appearance in a Final and 11th in school history, Tri-unity Christian will attempt to repeat as champion when it faces Munising in the 10 a.m. title game Saturday. 

Junior Owen Rosendall scored 13 points and senior Roy Fogg added 11 on Thursday to lead Tri-unity Christian (22-6), which will go for its sixth Finals win. 

“At the beginning of the year, we had some ups and downs in the season,” Rosendall said. “But we stuck to it and kept working.”

Tri-unity Christian got it done mainly by dominating the board, collecting a 41-22 rebounding advantage.  

Emmerson Farmer (0) gets a hand up high as Owen Rosendall puts up a jumper.“I think our quickness on the boards outdid their size,” Keeler said. “I was really happy with how explosive we were on the boards.”

The discrepancy even surprised Frankfort head coach Dan Loney, who said rebounding has been a strength of his team all year. 

“Going into the game, I would not have guessed they would have outrebounded us like that,” Loney said. “It’s one thing we’ve done well all year. I think honestly a lot of that came from their guard play. When their guards got to the rim (and) our bigs stepped over to help, their bigs were there to get their missed layups.”

Sophomore Carter Kerby led all scorers with 21 points to pace Frankfort (18-9). 

“It was a fun season for sure. We look forward to the future,” Loney said. 

Tri-unity Christian separated itself in the third quarter after Frankfort cut the lead to 29-26 with 4:40 to go in the period.

From there, Tri-unity Christian ended the third on an 11-1 run to take a 40-27 lead into the fourth quarter.

“We have a little more depth, and it helped,” Keeler said. “We were really trying to push the ball, and we were really trying to pressure them on defense. I think we wore them down a little bit.”

The Defenders continued to grow the lead in the fourth, taking a 48-32 advantage with 4:17 remaining after a 3-pointer by Rosendall and a basket by Akais Giplaye. 

Tri-Unity Christian forced Frankfort into 12 turnovers and 38.9-percent shooting from the field while committing only six turnovers itself.

“We played great defense,” Keeler said. “That is what I was really happy about. We made them work for everything they had.”

Tri-unity Christian got off to a good start, taking a 16-8 lead after the first quarter before Frankfort settled in during the second. 

Frankfort outscored Tri-unity Christian 13-9 in the second quarter to cut its deficit to 25-21 by halftime. 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Tri-unity’s Jordan VanKlompenberg (3) puts up a shot over the outstretched arm of Frankfort’s Xander Sauer on Thursday. (Middle) Emmerson Farmer (0) gets a hand up high as Owen Rosendall puts up a jumper.