D3 Preview: Repeat Faces Roadblocks

March 13, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

After making is first MHSAA championship game in boys basketball a year ago – and winning it – Detroit Edison is back at the Breslin Center seeking a repeat this weekend.

But the field lined up to halt the Pioneers is full of potential obstacles. Iron Mountain and Pewamo-Westphalia have not lost this season, and rarely been challenged. Erie Mason is having its best season ever and features one of the most productive scorers who will take the court at Michigan State University over the next three days.

Division 3 Semifinals – Thursday
Iron Mountain (26-0) vs. Detroit Edison (19-7), Noon

Erie-Mason (23-2) vs. Pewamo-Westphalia (26-0), 2 p.m.

Division 3 Final – Saturday, 4:30 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.)

18-8, unranked
League finish: Does not play in a conference.
Coach: Brandon Neely, sixth season (92-48)
Championship history: Class C champion 2018.
Best wins: 76-69 over No. 1 Flint Beecher in Quarterfinal, 77-68 over Division 2 No. 1 Benton Harbor, 69-66 over Division 1 No. 3 Canton.
Players to watch: Brian Taylor, 6-5 sr. F (16.6 ppg); Vincent Cooley, 6-2 jr. G (Statistics not submitted).
Outlook: Edison filled its regular-season schedule with larger and elite opponents, and its seven in-state losses all came to Division 1 or 2 teams, including four that made it to this week and two to this weekend (Detroit U-D Jesuit and Harper Woods Chandler Park). Taylor is the lone returning starter from last season’s championship game win, although current starters Cooley and junior forward Raynard Williams were among those on the bench. Taylor also is the only senior on the roster.

23-2, honorable mention
League finish: First in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Kevin Skaggs, eighth season (99-75)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 55-48 over No. 4 Hanover-Horton in Quarterfinal, 56-46 (District Final) and 64-44 over honorable mention Petersburg-Summerfield, 59-51 over Detroit Loyola in Regional Final.  
Players to watch: Joe Liedel, 5-10 jr. G (28 ppg, 81 3-pointers, 5.1 apg, 3.1 spg); John Sweeney, 6-7 sr. C (11.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 42 3-pointers).
Outlook: Erie-Mason will make its first Semifinal appearance after winning its first Regional title since 1973, and hasn’t lost since Dec. 11. Liedel has been one of the state’s most prolific scorers and went over 700 points for this season with 40 more Tuesday; he earned an all-state honorable mention a year ago. The Eagles beat another league champion, Riverview Gabriel Richard, in the Regional Semifinal. Senior Jake Trainor adds 12.5 ppg.

26-0, No. 3
League finish: First in Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Iron and Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference
Coach: Harvey Johnson Jr., 19th season (275-151)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 1939).
Best wins: 61-56 over No. 7 Sanford Meridian in Quarterfinal, 66-52 over Traverse City St. Francis in Regional Final, 71-41 (District Final) and 78-71 (OT) over Calumet.
Players to watch: Marcus Johnson, 5-10 jr. G (23.3 ppg, 94 3-pointers, 4.6 apg); Foster Wonders, 6-5 soph. G (23.9 ppg, 55 3-pointers, 7.0 rpg).
Outlook: Iron Mountain advanced to the Quarterfinals for the second straight season and has moved on to its first Semifinal since 1994. Johnson – an all-state first-team selection last year – and Wonders make up what should be one of the most entertaining backcourts of the weekend. Both are hitting about 38 percent of their 3-point tries to lead a team that hadn’t played a single-digit game from Dec. 7 until Tuesday’s win over Meridian.

26-0, No. 2
League finish: First in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Luke Pohl, 22nd season (415-96)
Championship history: Class C runner-up 2014 and 1993.
Best wins: 70-50 over Cassopolis in Quarterfinal, 32-14 over Carson City-Crystal in District final, 50-32 over Morley Stanwood in District Semifinal, 57-54 (OT) over honorable mention Wyoming Potter’s House Christian, 52-35 over Division 4 No. 5 Wyoming Tri-unity Christian.
Players to watch: Andre Smith, 6-7 sr. C (14.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg); Hunter Hengesbach, 6-3 sr. G (8.5 ppg, 2.7 apg).
Outlook: P-W emerged from a league that produced two more District title winners to claim its fifth straight and return to the final week and weekend for the first time since finishing Class C runner-up in 2014. Four seniors anchor the starting lineup for a team with seven players averaging at least four points per game and three averaging at least a pair of assists. Only three wins were by fewer than 10 points, and all have been by double digits since Jan. 24.

PHOTO: Iron Mountain's Charlie Gerhard puts up a shot during his team's win over Ishpeming on Feb. 1. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)