Ford Arrives in 1st MHSAA Title Game

March 27, 2015

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.”

Click for the full box score and video from the postgame press conference.

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.

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

By Tom Kendra
Special for

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.)