High 5s: 3/27/2012
March 27, 2012
Every Tuesday, Second Half honors 2-4 athletes and a team for its accomplishments.
Have a suggestion for a future High 5? Please offer it by e-mail to [email protected] Candidates often will have accomplished great things on the field of play -- but also will be recognized for less obvious contributions to their teams, schools or the mission of high school athletics.
Flint Beecher junior
Morris, a 6-foot-3 guard, scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds in both his Class C Semifinal and the championship game and had a combined 13 assists over both in helping Beecher to its first MHSAA title Saturday since 1987. Beecher beat reigning champion Schoolcraft 65-45 in a Semifinal on Thursday before downing Traverse City St. Francis 74-60 in the Final. The Buccaneers finished 28-0, becoming the 12th boys basketball team in MHSAA history to win that many games.
Up next: Morris is one of the state’s most sought-after juniors and was named The Associated Press’ Class C Player of the Year for the second straight. He averaged 18.3 points, 6.4 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 steals per game entering the final week of the season.’
I learned the most about basketball from: “Coach (Mike) Williams. I started playing with him in second grade. I just stayed in the gym and kept working hard every day.”
Besides teammates, among all the finalists at the Breslin Center, I’d most like to play with: Denzel Valentine (Lansing Sexton).
In my dream game, the four NBA guys I’d most like to play with are: “Dwight Howard down low. Then I’d have to go with Kevin Durant, Kobe (Bryan) and LeBron (James).” Where does that put you? “At the one,” Morris chuckled.
Live at Breslin Center: “I like playing on the big stage. It’s a treat. It’s a blessing that I get this opportunity, so I try to cherish it every time we get here.”
My favorite subject in school is: “I’ll have to go with chemistry/science, because it’s really not that boring. You learn about a lot of stuff.”
Lansing Sexton senior
The Associated Press Class B Player of the Year and Mr. Basketball runner-up missed triple-doubles by one and three assists, respectively, in helping the Big Reds to their second-straight Class B championship this weekend. Valentine, a 6-6 point guard, had 12 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists and five steals in Sexton’s 74-59 Semifinal win over Detroit Country Day on Friday, and the next night had 15 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in the 67-32 championship game win over Stevensville Lakeshore. He was a combined 10 of 17 shooting from the floor and made both 3-point tries over those two games. Valentine was a four-year starter for the Big Reds and came back after tearing a knee ligament as a freshman.
“When you win two state championships, it just shows the dominance and how good you are during your high school career. Winning those back-to-back championships, I was just trying to build a legacy."
Up next: Valentine has signed with Michigan State. He is unsure what he’ll major in, but is considering something in athletic training. He’ll join a Spartans team that must replace another former two-time high school champion, Saginaw’s Draymond Green. “Day Day won two basketball championships, and he helped State to two Final Fours. So hopefully I can do that too. … It’s just a winning mentality I have, and I hope it leads on to college."
I learned the most about basketball from: His father and Sexton High coach, Carlton Valentine, who also was a captain on Michigan State’s 1987-88 team.
I modeled my game after: His brother Drew Valentine, a 6-5 forward who also was an all-stater at Sexton and just finished his junior season at Oakland University.
If I could play with four others, they’d be: His Sexton teammates Bryn Forbes and Anthony “Sapp” Clemmons and the Heat’s James. “Sapp and I would just give it to LeBron and Bryn.”
Sexton boys basketball
The Big Reds get the honor this week after completing a run that has drawn comparisons to some of the best in MHSAA history. Sexton won its second-straight Class B championship in its third-straight MHSAA Final, and over the last three seasons amassed a record of 74-9. Those wins tie for sixth-most in MHSAA history over a three-year span.
The Big Reds beat all of their opponents by at least eight points and won every game during the postseason by at least 10. They finished 27-1, with that lone loss to Class A then-No. 1 Detroit Pershing.
Hart Teammates Reunite After 80 Years 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.
No 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.
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.
“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 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.)