Edison Brings Another Title to PSL

March 24, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Perseverance and patience anchored the explanation as pride in the Detroit Public School League flowed Saturday evening at the Breslin Center.

The great majority of the conference’s nearly 30 MHSAA boys basketball championships have been won over the years in Class A. Most of the league’s schools lately have played in Class A and B.

And from Class C this weekend emerged the latest PSL champion, Detroit Edison, which entered the postseason with a .500 record but more than ready to run after  weathering a regular-season schedule loaded with larger opponents.

Edison completed its first MHSAA title run with a 53-38 win over Maple City Glen Lake, the Pioneers’ 12th victory over its final 13 games this winter.

“We didn’t struggle the whole year. We played in the toughest league, the PSL,” Edison senior Pierre Mitchell, Jr., said. “We won the PSL championship; the state run was a little easier than the PSL playoffs. We just had to click at the right time.”

Edison (17-10) became the fourth team to enter the playoffs with a record of .500 or worse and win an MHSAA boys basketball title, joining 1933 Grand Haven and 1967 Menominee in Class B and 1969 Marquette Baraga in Class D. The Pioneers also became the third to enter with double-digit losses and win it all – Menominee was 6-10 (in part because of four forfeits) at the end of the 1967 regular season and finished 13-10, and Baraga was 8-10 in 1969 and finished 16-10.

Edison finished fourth during its regular season in the PSL’s East Division 1, which also included Class A Detroit East English and Martin Luther King, Class B Osborn and Class C Pershing. But the Pioneers won the PSL tournament title by beating Pershing plus Class A Cass Tech and Class B Mumford and Renaissance.

The early losses weren’t by design, of course, but Edison didn’t employ its full attack until late in the season to keep opponents from being able to scout everything that might be coming their way during the playoffs.

“To go 2-6 (in the league) was a big disappointment, but we always understood that everyone makes it to the playoffs,” Pioneers coach Brandon Neely said. “I was very optimistic that once we got into the playoffs, we were going to be a tough team.”

Glen Lake (24-3) was a formidable final opponent. The Northwest Conference co-champion led the first seven minutes Saturday and then most of the first three of the second half.

With 4:58 to go in the third quarter, Mitchell made a free throw to tie the score at 25-25 and then missed his second. Glen Lake senior forward Cade Peterson came down with the rebound – by also twisted his right ankle as his foot came down on the foot of an Edison player behind him.

Peterson left the game, and 20 seconds later Mitchell drilled a 3-pointer to give the Pioneers a 28-25 lead. Starting with his basket, they finished the period on a 14-6 run. Edison pushed the lead to double digits three minutes into the fourth quarter, even as Peterson returned to the floor.

“He does it all. He defends, he scores, he attacks, he rebounds at both ends, and he’s our leader on the floor,” Glen Lake coach Rich Ruelas said of Peterson, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. “When you take that away – and we’ve been resilient all year – obviously he’s pretty important to our team.

“Cade was our rock this year and just led us every step of the way. … He wants to win as badly as anyone I’ve ever met.”

Junior guard Xander Okerlund led the Lakers with 19 points and seven rebounds as they played in their first MHSAA championship game since 1996 and first ever in Class C and making all three previous Final appearances in Class D.

Mitchell finished with 17 points and three steals, making 6 of 12 shots from the floor. Senior guard Gary Solomon made 7 of 14 shots for 16 points to go with four steals. Senior center Deante Johnson and junior forward Brian Taylor, Jr., both had 10 points, Johnson with 11 rebounds and Taylor with three steals as well.

“We had a tough season, but these guys preserved and continued to dig in,” Neely said. “And it was very gratifying to see these guys reap the benefits of hard work. They’ve grown as men and they understand what it takes to get to the next level whether it’s in basketball, whether it’s in school, whatever needs to be done. These guys understand when you’re dedicated to something and commit yourself, you can be successful.”

Edison also became the fourth school to celebrate boys and girls MHSAA basketball championships during the same school year; the Pioneers' girls won their second straight Class C title last weekend. Edison joined the Detroit Country Day teams of 1989-90 and 1995-96, Flint Northern's teams of 1994-95 and Flint Northwestern's teams of 1983-84 and 1984-85 in that achievement. 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Edison’s Deante Johnson approaches for a dunk during Saturday’s Class C Final at the Breslin Center. (Middle) Glen Lake’s Cade Peterson goes up for a shot while Edison’s Brian Taylor, Jr., defends. 

Hart Teammates Reunite After 80 Years Now as WWII Vets, Great-Grandfathers

By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com

June 7, 2023

Walter “Stretch” Hansen and Harold Tate were good friends and high school basketball and baseball teammates at Hart High School, graduating in 1943.

West MichiganNo one could have guessed that less than two months after graduation (on July 2, 1943), the two friends would head to Fort Custer in Battle Creek, the first stop on their way overseas to fight for their country in World War II.

No one could have imagined how many twists and turns their lives would take over the next 80 years – from the battlefields in the South Pacific, then back to West Michigan where they both were married with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and now Harold even has a great-great-grandchild.

And, certainly, no one would have believed that the two young boys from Hart – who forged a friendship through high school sports long before the days of computers, microwave ovens and cell phones – would still be alive at the age of 98 for an emotional reunion last month, on May 22, seeing each other for the first time in 80 years and, to cap it off, the reunion took place in their hometown of Hart.

“It was such a great day,” Hansen said about the meeting, which was set up by Muskegon-area World War II historian Richard Mullally.

“We picked right up, talking about sports and the service and everything else.”

The conversation came easy for the two old friends, who played for Hart during a “golden era” at the school – particularly in basketball, as the Pirates won 11 West Michigan Conference basketball titles between 1940 and 1954.

Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. Perhaps the best team during that time period was Hansen and Tate’s as seniors in 1943. That team lost only once, to rival Scottville (31-25), but more than made up for it with an 80-10 trouncing of the Spartans in the final regular-season game.

Hart then crushed Scottville and Newaygo to win the District championship, only to have Michigan’s prep basketball season stopped abruptly at that point because of World War II.

That 1943 team featured four starters over 6-0, led by the duo of Hansen and Stan Kapulak (both 6-6), Joe Mack (6-2), Lyle Burmeister (6-1) and Stanley Riley (the lone starter under 6-foot at 5-11).

“The newspapers called us ‘The Hart Skyscrapers,’” said Hansen, who will be 99 on Nov. 6. “We were taller than most college teams at that time.”

Hansen and Tate’s friendship continued to blossom on the baseball field, only to have their lives turned upside down shortly after graduation 80 years ago, when all Hart senior boys who had been drafted headed to Battle Creek as a brief staging area on their way to the battlefields of Europe and the South Pacific.

Hansen served in the Army Specialized Training Program and was part of the 52nd Signal Battalion and the 4025th Signal Battalion in the Pacific Theater.

“I had an all-expense paid tour of the South Pacific,” Hansen said with a chuckle. “The Philippines, New Guinea, Okinawa, Hawaii, all over the place.”

Tate did his service in the 24th Infantry Division and the 19th Infantry Regiment, and was stationed in Japan.

During their visit last month, Harold showed off the Japanese Samurai sword and Arisaka rifle which he had sent back from Japan to Hart. The week after their visit, both took part in Memorial Day parades – Hansen in the Lakeside parade in Muskegon and Tate in his 77th Memorial Day service in Hart.

Hansen, who still has a home on a small lake in Holton and lives at a senior care facility in Muskegon, played many years of semi-pro basketball and did some coaching. He worked at GTE and has five children and 10 grandchildren.

Hansen served from 1943 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tate served from 1945 to 1946 as a Platoon Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II.“I have been so blessed,” Hansen said, sorting through one of his many scrapbooks. “All five of my kids are great and I have grandkids that are just amazing, everything they are doing. I don’t even know all of their names, but it’s sure been fun watching them.”

Tate returned to Hart after his military service and has been there ever since, at first working as a carpenter with his father and then becoming a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, retiring 26 years ago at the age of 72. He has lived in the same home for 75 years and has three children, six grandchildren, seven great-grandkids and now one great-great-grandchild.

Tate laments the demise of his beloved American Legion post in Hart, a town with just over 2,000 residents, as the number of members has steadily declined.

One topic that brings a smile to both of their faces is the recent resurgence of the Hart High School athletic program, which drew media attention not too many years ago for all the wrong reasons – notably a football program which went 24 years without a winning record.

That string was snapped with a 6-3 mark and the school’s first earned playoff appearance last fall.

But that was just the start.

This winter, Hart’s boys basketball team finished the regular season 22-0, the girls basketball team made it to the Division 3 Semifinals at the Breslin Center, wrestling qualified for the Team Finals for the fourth-straight year and competitive cheer placed fourth in Division 4. This spring, the Hart girls track & field team won its second-straight Division 3 Finals team title, and the boys placed fourth.

“It’s a great place to call home, a great place to live, always has been,” said Hansen of his hometown, which got its name from its central position in the “heart” of Oceana County.

And who would have imagined that these two high school teammates could still come home again for a reunion at the age of 98?

Tom KendraTom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Members of the 1943 Hart High School varsity baseball team gather together, preparing for a team photo. Among those are Harold Gayle Tate (far left) and Walter "Stretch" Hansen, at 6-6 the tallest player in the back row. (Middle) Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. (Below) Hansen served from 1943 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tate served from 1945 to 1946 as a Platoon Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. (Top photo courtesy of Stretch Hansen. Middle and below photos courtesy of Richard Mullally.)