D2 Preview: Embrace the Unexpected

March 13, 2019

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.)

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.

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.

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.

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.)

State Champs! Michigan: Hangtime 2-3-23

February 3, 2023

Join Lorne Plant, TJ Kelley and Scott Burnstein for the fifth episode this season of STATE CHAMPS! Hangtime.

0:00 – Open
1:22 - Mr. Basketball talk
1:41 - TJ’s picks
3:49 - Scott’s picks
6:37 – Making it to the Breslin helps chances
7:25 – Parity in this year’s Mr. Basketball race
8:33 – Big time player matchups
9:52 – Recap of games previously on SC! Network
10:41 – Flint Carman-Ainsworth tops Detroit Loyola
11:53 – North Farmington is consistent
13:48 – BCAM Chalk Talk with Grand Blanc Head Coach Tory Jackson
16:41 – Biggest change since 2006, social media. Players from this era include David Kool, DeShawn Sims and Tory Jackson
19:21 – Scott gives insight on how to grind for that D-1 scholarship
21:42 – Big changes to TJ’s Top 20 Rankings
23:48 - Weekend Showcases
25:53 – TJ talks about Davion Goins from Cassopolis
26:52 – Scott talks about Dylan Grant from Warren Michigan Collegiate
27:11 – And Jayden Hardiman from Ferndale
28:18 – TJ talks about Wyatt Nausadis from T.C. St. Francis
29:03 – TJ on Warren Michigan Collegiate
29:45 - Close