By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Anything is possible during the basketball postseason, and this weekend's Division 2 bracket tells some of that story with at least a few surprises in contention for this season's championship.
But there’s no debating this weekend’s contenders haven’t earned their ways to East Lansing.
River Rouge has looked like a contender all along after making the Semifinals in 2018. Harper Woods Chandler Park was one of three undefeated teams in Division 2 at the end of the regular season but still had to get by New Haven, which was tied for the top spot in the final Associated Press poll. Hudsonville Unity Christian got here in part by defeating Benton Harbor, the other No. 1-ranked team when the playoffs began. And Ludington has pulled off the improbable – which we’ll detail below.
Division 2 Semifinals – Friday
Ludington (14-10) vs. Hudsonville Unity Christian (24-2), 5:30 p.m.
River Rouge (22-2) vs. Harper Woods Chandler Park (21-0), 7:30 p.m.
Division 2 Final – Saturday, 6:45 p.m.
Tickets cost $10 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session (Divisions 3 and 2). 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.)
HARPER WOODS CHANDLER PARK
Record/rank: 21-0, No. 7
League finish: First in Charter School Conference
Coach: James Scott, fourth season (69-20)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 53-51 over No. 1 New Haven in Quarterfinal, 61-60 (OT) over Detroit Henry Ford in Regional Semifinal, 89-40 over Ferndale in Regional Final.
Players to watch: Andre Bradford, 6-3 sr. G (17 ppg, 4.0 apg); Tyland Tate, 6-6 sr. F (15 ppg, 8.0 rpg).
Outlook: Chandler Park followed up its first Regional title by earning its first trip to the Semifinals, stunning New Haven on Tuesday in one of the rare times an undefeated team likely was the underdog. But the Eagles have won two straight league titles and bring a balanced attack to Breslin. In addition to Bradford and Tate noted above, senior Derrick Bryant Jr. (12 ppg, 10 apg), sophomore Jayland Randall (13 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.0 spg) and senior Josh Diggs (11 ppg) all average double figures scoring – Randall off the bench.
HUDSONVILLE UNITY CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 24-2, honorable mention
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Green
Coach: Scott Soodsma, 27th season (430-189)
Championship history: Class B runner-up 1973 and 1963.
Best wins: 71-45 over Grand Rapids South Christian in Quarterfinal, 63-54 over No. 1 Benton Harbor in Regional Final, 58-49 (District Semifinal), 69-64 and 63-42 over honorable mention Holland Christian.
Players to watch: T.J. VanKoevering, 6-5 sr. F (13.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.1 bpg); Chandler Collins, 6-5 sr. F (10 ppg, 3.1 rpg).
Outlook: Unity Christian will play in its first Semifinal since 1973 riding a 20-game winning streak, and after upsetting reigning Class B champion Benton Harbor and then avenging an earlier loss to South Christian. VanKoevering earned an all-state honorable mention last season and is one of six players averaging at least 6.2 points under longtime leader Soodsma. The Crusaders fill their roles well; senior Noah Wiswary averages four assists per game to go with his 7.8 ppg, while another senior Ryan Takens had made 44 3-pointers entering the week and sophomore Zac Velthouse scores 7.5 ppg with nearly 46-percent success from 3-point range.
Record/rank: 14-10, unranked
League finish: Tied for third in Lakes 8 Conference
Coach: Thad Shank, 17th season (265-132)
Championship history: Class B runner-up 2017 and 1953.
Best wins: 65-32 over Alma in Quarterfinal, 49-32 over Escanaba in Regional Final, 50-40 over Standish-Sterling in Regional Semifinal.
Players to watch: Joshua Laman, 6-4 sr. F (15.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 58 3-pointers); Jayden Hathaway, 6-4 sr. C (5.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg).
Outlook: In a tournament filled with surprises, Ludington might be the biggest after entering the postseason with a 9-10 record. The Orioles had lost five of six entering the playoffs, but defeated five teams all with at least 13 wins to get back to Breslin for the second time in three seasons. Laman earned an all-state honorable mention last season and is sure to draw the most defensive attention. Senior Nathan Lange and junior Brayden Porter both add just over six points per game.
Record/rank: 22-2, No. 4
League finish: First in Michigan Metro Athletic Conference Blue
Coach: Lamonta Stone, seventh season (188-37)
Championship history: Fourteen MHSAA titles (most recent 1999), five runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 78-41 over Division 1 honorable mention Ypsilanti Lincoln, 66-61 over Division 3 No. 1 Flint Beecher, 83-64 over Division 4 No. 3 Southfield Christian.
Players to watch: Nigel Colvin, 6-1 sr. G (13 ppg, 50 3-pointers); Micah Parrish, 6-5 sr. G (12 ppg).
Outlook: Stone, who led River Rouge to the 1999 Class B title, returned this season for his third tenure as leader of the program and with experience also coaching for four college programs. His team has been driving hard after making the Semifinals a year ago, losing only to Benton Harbor and Detroit Martin Luther King and winning its five tournament games by an average of 23 points per. Senior Donavan Freeman adds 10 points per game, and senior Bralin Toney averages 4.8 assists and seven points per contest.
PHOTO: Ludington’s Nathan Lange gathers a loose ball during his team’s Quarterfinal win over Alma. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Foster Loyer’s four-season career at Clarkston from 2014-15 through 2017-18 certainly must be considered among the most accomplished in state history as he led the Wolves to back-to-back Class A championships in 2017 and 2018 and is listed in the record book 25 times.
Among Loyer’s most notable entries were 2,325 career points (12th most), 272 career 3-pointers (tied for ninth), records of 119 consecutive free throws and 634 career free throws, a .921 free-throw percentage as a junior (tied for fourth) and .900 career percentage (second), 589 career assists (sixth), 278 career steals (15th) and 102 games played (tied for sixth).
Loyer went on to play at Michigan State and then Davidson.
See below for more recent record book entries for boys basketball.
Four Onaway standouts were added for single-season and/or career records. Jager Mix, who graduated in 2022, was added for 92 steals last season and 225 over his four-season career. Kevin Pearson, a 2021 grad, was added for 81 steals as a senior and 247 over his career. Joe Sigsby, a 2016 grad, was added for 127 steals, and Jadin Mix was added for 124 in 2021-22. Their totals rank ninth and tied for 10th, respectively, on that all-time list. Jager Mix also was added for 967 career rebounds, and Onaway as a team was added for tying the record for most points in a quarter with 49 during the first quarter of a win over Fife Lake Forest Area on Feb. 3, 2022. Jager Mix is playing at Alpena Community College, and Jadin Mix is a senior this school year.
Uchenna Amene was added for 11 steals in a March 7, 2022, game against West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy and for 97 steals total over 25 games. He was a sophomore at Southfield Christian that season and now is a senior at Detroit Catholic Central.
Owen Franklin graduated from Oscoda in 2021 as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and nearly 44 percent of those 1,477 points came on 3-pointers. Franklin made the state career 3-pointers list with 216 over four seasons. He’s playing baseball at Northwood.
Traverse City Christian sophomore Reece Broderick became one of the state’s most accomplished long-distance shooters in just his second year of high school this past winter, drilling 104 3-pointers – good for third-most for one season all-time – over 23 games. He connected on 42 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
A pair of Rudyard four-year varsity standouts entered the record book after their graduations in 2022. Tate Besteman made the career rebounds list with 762 over 89 games, and EJ Suggitt made the career 3-pointers list with 215 over the same 89 contests. Besteman played this past season for Mid Michigan College, and Suggitt is playing baseball at Spring Arbor.
Success from 3-point range played a significant role in Mesick finishing 21-1 in 2021-22, as the team made 195 of its 578 attempts – with game highs of 15 twice in wins over Baldwin and Pentwater.
Then-senior Tristan McFolley earned the first listing under single-game rebounds since 2013 with 30 in Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy’s game with Hope of Detroit Academy on Dec. 8, 2022.
Tawas found its groove from long range Jan. 10 against Oscoda, drilling 22 3-pointers in an 86-31 win. The total tied for fifth-most in one game.
Although Norway felt just short, 40-37, in its District loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park on March 8, Alex Ortman kept the Knights close scoring 20 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to make the single-quarter scoring list. He’s now a senior.
Kobe Clark has listings in two MHSAA record books, with three for boys basketball joining those he earned for football during his Schoolcraft career. He was added in hoops for 531 career assists and 290 career steals over 94 games from 2016-17 through 2019-20, and also for 82 steals as a senior. Tyler DeGroote also was added to the record book, for scoring 20 points during the first quarter against Delton Kellogg during Schoolcraft’s Jan. 11, 2022, victory. Clark began at Saginaw Valley State for football and now plays basketball and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and DeGroote is continuing at Rockhurst (Mo.).
Past Detroit Cooley star Larry Fogle has added a seventh record book listing a half-century later. Fogle grabbed 33 rebounds on Jan. 18, 1972, during a win over Detroit Mackenzie. He went on to play at Louisiana and Canisius, and then briefly with the New York Knicks.
Trevon Gunter scored 42 points in Kalamazoo Central’s 84-56 win over Richland Gull Lake on Jan. 17, 2020, including 31 during the third quarter – second-most and just one shy of the record for points during one period. A senior that season, Gunter plays currently at Grand Valley State.
Mark Wittbrodt held the record for consecutive free throws at 70 until 2008, and that entry in the record book has been joined by several others from the Bay City Western star. He was added for his 192 3-pointers, 436 free throws, .842 free-throw percentage and 266 career steals over three seasons from 1991-93, as well as for six single-season accomplishments. He went on to play at Michigan Tech.
Ellsworth’s Jacob Jenuwine tied for 12th on the single-game 3-pointers list when he connected on 11 as part of scoring 39 points total in his team’s Feb. 14 win over Alanson. Jenuwine graduated this spring.
Bellevue senior Dawson Wing capped his three-season varsity career last winter with three entries in the record. He was added for 12 blocked shots in a 2021-22 game against Colon, 107 for the season last winter and 203 blocks over his career. Teammate Caleb Betz, a senior this fall, was added for 12 steals in a game against Athens.
Logan Mansfield capped his Morenci career in a big way last winter. The senior drilled 90 3-pointers over 24 games to earn his school’s first individual record book entry in boys hoops since the 1987-88 season, when John Craig had 132 blocked shots that would have been the second-most recorded at that time. They currently rank 13th.
New Haven earned a pair of record book entries during its March 10 win over Memphis. The Rockets bested their previous single-quarter school record with 41 points during the opening period, and they also made the statewide single-game 3-pointers list with 16.
Whitehall’s Camden Thompson, a junior this fall, earned his first record book entry last winter – and the first for his school in boys basketball. He grabbed 303 rebounds over 21 games.
Grand Rapids Wellspring Prep junior Zeekeal Jackson earned his school's first boys basketball record book entry this past season as well. He made the single-season steals list with 106, over 22 games, and just missed the single-game list with a high of 10.
Jonesville’s Brady Wright was among his team’s leading scorers during his three varsity seasons ending this past winter, but he also was a major contributor defensively. He made the records with a season-high 101 steals over 25 games as a senior, and made the career list with 232 steals over 61 games.
Sophomore Christopher McLavish Jr. made a memorable impact last season with a pair of record book entries. He made the single-quarter points list with 20 in a Feb. 21 game against Flint Powers Catholic, but even more memorable were his 97 3-pointers over 25 games for the season – tying him for 11th all-time on that list.
PHOTO Foster Loyer directs Clarkston's offense during its 2018 Class A Semifinal.