By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Kenneth Flowers has been reminded more than a few times this week what he stepped into when he took over the Detroit Henry Ford boys basketball program eight seasons ago.
Congratulatory e-mails. Phone calls. Contacts from Henry Ford alumni dating back to the class of 1971.
“The community is huge over there,” Flowers said. “It’s amazing how basketball brings a community together like this.”
Imagine if he leads the Trojans to their first MHSAA championship Saturday.
They earned that opportunity, winning the first Semifinal in program history Friday, 64-38 over Cadillac at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.
Prior to this season, Henry Ford had played in a Quarterfinal only once before, in 1984. But it will take on Wyoming Godwin Heights at 6:30 Saturday night to decide this season’s Class B champion.
“Our school, it’s the first time in history coming into the Breslin. And making this deep run, I just want to keep it going,” Ford senior guard Joshua Davis said. “Especially this being my last year, I’m very excited, very anxious, ready to make history.”
Flowers played his high school basketball at Detroit Redford and later led the junior varsity under coach Derrick McDowell – who has Detroit Western International playing for its first MHSAA championship as well, in the Class A Final.
Flowers took over for McDowell at Redford for the 2005-06 season and stayed until the school closed during the summer of 2007. Flowers started at Ford that fall.
The Trojans have posted winning records six of eight seasons under him – with the two sub-.500 records coming the last two seasons. But they rebounded this winter and finished second in the Detroit Public School League West Division 1 behind only Western.
Ford seemed to play with the jitters many first-time visitors to Breslin Center experience. It fell behind by five halfway through the first quarter to Cadillac, which played in a Semifinal for the third straight season.
But the Trojans (21-5) got the score back to even at 11-11 by the end of the quarter – and put the game nearly out of reach over the next eight minutes with a 23-6 run.
Junior point guard James Towns got comfortable quickly on the collegiate floor, making 9 of 12 shots and all six of his free-throw attempts for 24 points to go with four assists and three steals. Davis added 17 points and senior guard Antaun Carter added 10 and four steals.
Senior guard Andrew Emington led Cadillac with 14 points, and senior forward Ethan Myers had 13. To its credit, their team came back from a 5-6 start this winter and despite graduating its leading scorer from a year ago. The Vikings finished 18-9 and went a combined 58-21 over the three-season run.
“I told our guys in the locker room that were getting emotional, you can cry for the finality of the season, but don’t cry for the outcome of the game,” Cadillac coach Ryan Benzenberg said. “Because all we ever wanted, when this thing ended, was to lose to a team better than us. And I have no shame saying that Henry Ford is a better basketball team than we were tonight.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Henry Ford players including freshman Da’Mon Gilmore (15) celebrate their first Semifinal win as they leave the floor Friday night. (Middle) Ford’s Joshua Davis finishes a dunk.
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.)