By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Division 4 has replaced Class D this year as the boys basketball tournament classification for Michigan’s smallest high schools, and some familiar teams from the previous era will return to the Breslin Center on Thursday to help usher in a new one.
Reigning Class D champion Southfield Christian and Wyoming Tri-unity Christian have won eight MHSAA Finals in this sport between them. Dollar Bay joins Southfield Christian as a returnee from last season, making the Semifinals for the second straight, and Frankfort is making the trip to East Lansing for the second time this decade.
Division 4 Semifinals – Thursday
Dollar Bay (21-4) vs. Southfield Christian (19-6), 5:30 p.m.
Frankfort (20-5) vs. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (22-3), 7:30 p.m.
Division 4 Final – Saturday, 10 a.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.)
Record/rank: 21-4, unranked
League finish: Second in Copper Mountain Conference Copper
Coach: Jason Kentala, 12th season (105-120)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 67-64 over No. 6 Pellston in Quarterfinal, 65-56 over No. 10 Munising in Regional Semifinal, 70-55 over Chassell in District Semifinal.
Players to watch: Ashton Janke, 6-3 fr. F (16.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg); Connor LeClaire, 6-0 soph. F (13.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg).
Outlook: Dollar Bay graduated an all-stater and brings only one starter back this weekend from last season’s Semifinal team, but is on a roll with 14 wins over its last 15 games. The lone loss during that string came to CMC Copper champ Chassell, and Dollar Bay avenged it six nights later at the District. Senior guard Brendan LeClaire (9.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.5 apg) is that one returning starter from a year ago, and sophomore guard Davin Hill adds another 12.4 ppg. The Blue Bolts are hitting on 32 percent of their 3-point shots this winter, a big plus as some of these players get their second looks at the Breslin rims.
Record/rank: 20-5, unranked
League finish: Second in Northwest Conference
Coach: Dan Loney, first season (20-5)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 53-51 (OT) over honorable mention Big Rapids Crossroads, 41-38 (Regional Final), 62-59 (OT) and 63-58 over Leland.
Players to watch: Will Newbold, 6-0 sr. G (14.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.1 apg); Jack Stefanski, 6-3 soph. G (14 ppg, 17.9 rpg).
Outlook: Frankfort is making its third trip to the Semifinals and first since 2014. This time the team is led by Loney, formerly an assistant for four seasons before taking over the program. Frankfort finished behind only Division 3 No. 4 Maple City Glen Lake in the Northwest Conference and has navigated two overtime wins and a third by three points during the postseason – the two overtime victories put the team at 4-0 this season in games that went past regulation. This is also the second straight season the Panthers have reached 20 wins, and four starters plus the top scorer off the bench are all seniors.
Record/rank: 19-6, No. 3
League finish: First in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue
Coach: Josh Baker, eighth season (179-30)
Championship history: Class D champions 2018, 2014, 2013 and 2012.
Best wins: 55-30 over honorable mention Adrian Lenawee Christian in Regional Final, 79-53 (District Semifinal), 61-51 and 69-52 over Novi Christian.
Players to watch: Jon Sanders, 6-1 sr. G (16.5 ppg, 56 3-pointers); Da’Jion Humphrey, 6-2 jr. G (16.4 ppg, 45 3-pointers, 6.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg).
Outlook: Reigning Class D champion Southfield Christian is making its third straight appearance in the Semifinals, with Humphrey and Sanders both starters on last season’s title winner and junior forward Rahmon Scruggs (7.4 ppg) the top sub during the 2018 Final. Junior guard Noah Rheker adds another 11.6 ppg and had made 45 3-pointers heading into this week as well. The Eagles started this winter 2-5 facing mostly Division 1 and 2 schools; they also have wins this season over West Bloomfield and Detroit Country Day, and their only loss since Jan. 5 came to Division 2 contender River Rouge.
WYOMING TRI-UNITY CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 22-3, No. 5
League finish: Second in Alliance League
Coach: Mark Keeler, 32nd season (599-188)
Championship history: Four Class D titles (most recent 2011), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 62-31 over No. 2 Bellevue in Quarterfinal, 68-56 over No. 4 Marcellus Howardsville Christian in Regional Semifinal, 58-40 over No. 9 Martin in District Final, 62-53 over Muskegon Heights Academy in Regional Final.
Players to watch: Bennett Sinner, 6-0 sr. F (12.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.8 spg); Brayden Ophoff, 5-10 sr. G (11.5 ppg, 42 3-3-pointers).
Outlook: Tri-unity has made at least the Quarterfinals four of the last five seasons and the Semifinals now for the first time since 2016. This Defenders team has the program’s best record since finishing Class D runner-up and going 25-3 in 2013. Tri-unity hasn’t lost since Jan. 22, and two of the defeats came to Division 3 No. 2 Pewamo-Westphalia and honorable mention Potter’s House Christian. Sinner earned an all-state honorable mention last season. Freshman guard Brady Titus adds another 12 ppg.
PHOTO: Southfield Christian’s Jon Sanders drives to the basket during his team’s Regional Final win over Adrian Lenawee Christian. (Photo courtesy of C&G Newspapers.)
Be The Referee is a series of short messages designed to help educate people on the rules of different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.
Below is this week's segment – Over the Back - Listen
Did you know there is no such thing as “over the back” in basketball? If two players are going for a rebound and the player behind another player is able to grab it over the top of the player in front – that’s not necessarily a foul. He or she did not go over the back.
The player behind another player may have committed a foul such as bumping the player in front, or pushing that player – gaining an advantage to grab the rebound – but that would be whistled for a push or grab. Not over the back.
A taller player or player who can jump higher grabbing a rebound is not a foul. It’s only a foul if they create an advantage by pushing, bumping, or any other kind of illegal contact while in the process of going for a rebound. Fans yell over the back all the time, but an official will never call a foul for going over the back.
Jan. 24: Competitive Cheer Judges - Listen
Jan. 17: More Lines - Listen
Jan. 10: On the Line - Listen
Jan. 3: Basketball Measurements - Listen
Dec. 13: Pregame Dunks - Listen
Dec. 6: Gymnastics Judges - Listen
Nov. 22: Football Finals Replay - Listen
Nov. 15: Back Row Illegal Blocker - Listen
Nov. 8: Swim Turn Judges - Listen
Nov. 1: Soccer Referee Jersey Colors - Listen
Oct. 25: Cross Country Tie-Breaker - Listen
Oct. 18: Soccer Shootouts - Listen
Oct. 11: Safety in End Zone - Listen
Oct. 4: Football Overtime Penalty - Listen
Sept. 27: Kickoff Goal - Listen
Sept. 20: Soccer Timing - Listen
Sept. 13: Volleyball Replays - Listen
Sept. 6: Switching Sides - Listen
Aug. 30: Play Clock - Listen
Aug. 23: Intentional Grounding Change - Listen