Ford Wins Another Championship Chance

March 25, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Kevon Bey played one minute during Detroit Henry Ford’s two-game stand at Breslin Center in 2015. 

As he put it Friday, he “just sat and watched.”

But he clearly learned a few things too watching the Trojans finish their longest MHSAA Tournament run as Class B runners-up.

The 6-foot-4 senior was a little more involved this time. Bey played 29 minutes, made 10 of 12 shots for 21 points, and also grabbed eight rebounds as Henry Ford advanced again to the Class B Final with a 70-48 win over Williamston.

“I just came out trying to play for my team, playing my role,” said Bey, who’s averaged eight points and nine rebounds per game this season. “We’ve just been thinking about this since the season started, wanting to get back to playing at the Breslin.”

Henry Ford (19-6) will face Stevensville Lakeshore on Saturday in the final game of the 2015-16 season, the Class B championship game at 6:30 p.m. 

The Trojans’ headliner this season has been senior guard James Towns, the leading scorer in last season’s title game loss to Wyoming Godwin Heights and the team’s leading scorer this winter at 23 points per contest.

He also was near-perfect from the field Friday, making 6 of 8 shots for 17 points. But Bey was among those who made the difference in a matchup that otherwise pitted two of Class B’s best guards.

Williamston senior Riley Lewis had a game-high 32 points and scored his team’s first 16. That was a tough way to keep up, as Ford built its lead to 10 points after five minutes and got it up to 28 near the end of the third quarter.

“We had scripts for the whole run of every team we played, and tonight they kinda flipped the script,” said Williamston interim coach Tom Lewis, who guided the team after coach Jason Bauer began cancer treatments earlier this month. “We knew we couldn’t play a certain style, and tonight they got going too quickly. The game got away from us, and we weren’t able to get it into the third quarter.

“We knew if we got it there, we’re pretty comfortable playing in close games and kind of have a recipe to close out. But they were too tough tonight.”

The Trojans scored 20 of their first 43 points of turnovers in building a 20-point third quarter lead.

Williamston (21-4) had downed an impressive slate of opponents during its run including three ranked among the top six in Class B, and the Hornets entered the postseason ranked No. 10. But the difference in Henry Ford was its experience. Four seniors started, with Towns and forward Alston Hunter back in the lineup after starting during Ford’s Breslin run a year ago.

“Just how hard they played, you could tell they were a tight team,” Riley Lewis said. “They stick together, and they’re experienced. And they got out here tonight and the show wasn’t too big for them. They looked like they had been there before, and they were ready. They threw some hard punches, and we couldn’t counter.”

Senior Jeremy Crawley added 14 points and five rebounds for Henry Ford, and Hunter had eight points and six rebounds.

Ford’s championship game berth in 2015 was the program’s first, so the Trojans again will play for their first title – and after again relying on a lesson from the first trip.

“Last year when we won, I thought the guys had really high emotions. People have got to understand there’s one more game,” Ford coach Kenneth Flowers said. “The first time Henry Ford had been to state championship (was) last year, and there were a lot of emotions back in our hotel room the night of. (So we have to) keep these guys humble, grounded, understanding it’s unfinished business.”

Click for the full box score.

The Boys Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Henry Ford’s James Towns (5) pushes past Williamston’s Cole Kleiver during Friday’s Class B Semifinal. (Middle) The Hornets’ Riley Lewis (22) looked for an opening with Towns defending.

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.)