This weekend’s final four contenders for the Division 2 boys basketball championship make up a high-echelon group, to say the least.
On one side of the bracket, reigning champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Ferndale will meet in a Semifinal rematch after both played many of the state’s best on the way to East Lansing. On the other side? Just the only two undefeated teams playing at Breslin Center this weekend.
Additionally, Ferndale's Treyvon Lewis (Loyola of Chicago signee) and Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Jack Karasinski (William & Mary) were two of four finalists for the Mr. Basketball Award this week.
DIVISION 2 Semifinals – Thursday
Grand Rapids Catholic Central (24-1) vs. Ferndale (21-3), 5:30 p.m.
Williamston (25-0) vs. Freeland (25-0), 7:30 p.m.
FINAL – Saturday – 6:45 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 2 semifinals (with rankings by MPR at the end of the regular season, and statistics through Regional Finals):
Record/rank: 21-3, No. 4
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Juan Rickman, fourth season (62-26)
Championship history: Class A champion 1966 and 1963.
Best wins: 68-55 over No. 12 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in Quarterfinal, 60-55 over No. 18 Detroit Country Day in District Final, 57-46 over Division 1 No. 9 Muskegon, 63-52 over Division 1 No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, 56-49 over Division 1 No. 13 North Farmington, 63-52 and 58-47 over Division 1 No. 14 Oak Park.
Players to watch: Jason Drake Jr., 6-2 sr. G (16.8 ppg, 6.7 apg); Treyvon Lewis, 6-5 sr. F (22.4 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, 2.1 bpg); Chris Williams, 6-5 jr. F (10.2 ppg, 9.8 ppg).
Outlook: After making the Semifinals last season for the first time since 1985, Ferndale is making the trip for the second season in a row after navigating one of the strongest schedules in the state. Four of five starters are back from the team that lost 81-55 to Grand Rapids Catholic Central last year at Breslin, with junior guard Cameron Reed (9.1 ppg, 4.9 apg, 2.9 spg) joining Drake, Lewis and Williams. Drake made the all-state second team last season, and Lewis earned an honorable mention. The Eagles’ losses this season were all to Division 1 teams that won Regional titles – Grand Blanc, Warren De La Salle Collegiate and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
Record/rank: 25-0, No. 14
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference 10
Coach: John Fattal, third season (49-15)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 67-47 over Cadillac in Quarterfinal, 55-52 (OT – Regional Semifinal), 68-47 and 69-57 over Alma, 82-59 over Flint Hamady in Regional Final, 63-57 over Division 3 No. 17 Pewamo-Westphalia.
Players to watch: Josh Elliott, 6-3 sr. F (18.5 ppg, 70 3-pointers); Bryson Huckeby, 6-4 sr. F (14.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 6.4 apg); Alex Duley, 6-4 sr. C (13.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.4 apg).
Outlook: After winning its first Regional title since 1971, Freeland will make its first trip to the Semifinals and after playing only three single-digit games during this season’s undefeated run. Huckeby earned an all-state honorable mention last season and guides a high-scoring offense that’s gone over 80 points in three of five postseason games. In addition to the three double-digit scorers, junior Cullum LeBaron added 8.3 points per game and had 63 3-pointers entering the week. Both he and Elliott connect on 44 percent or better of their attempts from beyond the arc, with Elliott nearing 50 percent.
GRAND RAPIDS CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank: 24-1, No. 6
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold
Coach: TJ Meerman, ninth season (141-64)
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2021, Class B runner-up 2018.
Best wins: 86-60 over No. 9 Benton Harbor in Quarterfinal, 69-44 (Regional Final) and 48-45 over Grand Rapids Christian, 68-48 over No. 2 Hudsonville Unity Christian in District Final, 64-59 over Division 1 No. 8 Grand Blanc, 80-66 over Division 1 No. 1 Detroit U-D Jesuit.
Players to watch: Jack Karasinski, 6-6 sr. F (16.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.1 ppg); Kaden Brown, 6-0 jr. G (21 ppg, 65 3-pointers, 4.2 apg); Durral Brooks, 6-2 soph. G (14.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.5 apg).
Outlook: The reigning Division 2 champion has lost just one game over the last two seasons – to 2021 Division 3 champion Flint Beecher, 75-69 on Jan. 8. Otherwise it’s been all wins despite a loaded schedule, but with four starters back from last season’s undefeated title earner. Karasinski made the all-state first team last season, while Brown made the second and Brooks earned honorable mention, and senior Jorden Brooks (11 ppg, 59 3-pointers) joins them as a returning starter. No opponent, including previously-undefeated Unity Christian, has come closer than 11 points since the Beecher loss.
Record/rank: 25-0, No. 7
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference White
Coach: Tom Lewis, sixth season (record N/A)
Championship history: Lower Peninsula Class C champion 1940.
Best wins: 70-54 over No. 20 Detroit Edison in Quarterfinal, 57-38 over No. 3 Onsted in Regional Semifinal, 66-29 over Chelsea in District Final, 66-37 over Division 1 No. 7 East Lansing, 49-32 over Division 1 No. 13 North Farmington.
Players to watch: Jacob Wallace, 6-4 sr. G (13.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg); Mason Docks, 6-0 sr. G (16.2 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.8 spg); Max Burton, 6-10 sr. F (13.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg).
Outlook: Williamston will be playing in its first Semifinal since 2016, led by a pair of 1,000-point career scorers in Wallace and Docks. The Hornets have had one single-digit game all season, against Lansing Everett, and they’ve won their five postseason games by an average of 27.2 points per. Wallace made the all-state second team last season, and with Docks and Burton is part of a group of 10 seniors.
PHOTO Freeland, including Alex Duley (42), defends the lane during Tuesday’s Quarterfinal win over Cadillac. (Photo courtesy of the Freeland athletic department.)
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.)