Hoops Finds Annual Home During Holidays

December 27, 2019

By Ron Pesch
Special for Second Half

Nothing says the Holidays like a high school basketball tournament.

It started, like many things do, with a drip. Well, make that a dribble.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association has allowed Holiday basketball tournaments for years. When was the first? That’s hard to establish. No one really kept track of such. A 1934 Wakefield News article indicates that a “Christmas Tournament will be held for the (Gogebic) Range teams at Wakefield December 27 and at Ironwood December 28.” Hurley, Bessemer, Ironwood and Wakefield were entered in the “blind” tournament, with opponents drawn just before game time. It was a new idea, at least in the Upper Peninsula.

“Nothing of its kind has ever been attempted in the Peninsula before,” stated the Ironwood Daily Globe. The tournament, won by Hurley, was a financial success. After expenditures, including the purchase of trophies, profit equaled enough that $22.42 was distributed to each school competing in the tournament. Plans were announced to bring back the tournament in a larger format the following year. It did return the following December, with the same teams in the same format but with all games played in Wakefield. This time out, Ironwood topped Hurley 22-21 for the tournament title.

In the Lower Peninsula in 1935, an All-Berrien County Holiday tournament was held Dec. 26, 27 and 28, with Three Oaks winning the Class B-C division title, 15-13 in the final over Berrien Springs. St. Joseph Catholic emerged as the Class D victor with a surprising 27-26 win over the reigning MHSAA state champ from Stevensville. The 14-team competition was played at Niles High School. Attendance was “slim, very slim” for the opening day of the tourney. The event did not return in 1936.

A similar, but much smaller, event was staged in Berrien County in 1941 with the Bridgman Class C Invitational. The tournament featured seven teams with contests spread over three nights. It was a success.

“Some 450 paid admissions were checked in Wednesday night for the championship finals, which Bridgman won from Berrien Springs. … The total paid admission for the three night event was 1,420 fans with a gross gate of approximately $400.”

By the mid-1940s, the idea of playing prep basketball during the Christmas lull had begun to take off across the state.

In December 1946, before a crowd of 1,500 at the Flint IMA Auditorium, Holland, the reigning Class A champion, downed Flint Northern 51-48 behind a pair of late field goals by Ken ‘Fuzz’ Bauman in the first annual Motor City Invitational. In Jackson, Detroit Catholic Central won the Michigan Catholic Invitational, beating Kalamazoo St. Augustine, 42-40. Bridgman again snagged the title at the Sixth Annual Berrien Class C Christmas Holiday Tournament. It was the Bees’ third Christmas championship in four years. The Little Eight Conference Holiday Tournament was played across four school gymnasiums as the calendar transitioned from 1946 to 1947. Bangor downed Covert, 34-29, in the championship contest hosted at Watervliet High School on Saturday, Jan. 4.

“Holiday tournament basketball has really caught on in Michigan,” said Hal Schram in the Detroit Free Press in 1947. “There will be no Christmas-New Year’s rest for at least 60 Michigan high school squads which have jumped at the chance to sharpen their collective shooting eyes for the long season ahead. … At last count, tournaments will be played between Dec 17 and Jan 3 at Flint, Saginaw, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Lincoln Park, Fremont, Negaunee, Marquette, Benton Harbor and Detroit.”

The same eight schools that played at the first Motor City tournament – Jackson, Grand Rapids Central, Holland, Muskegon Heights, Monroe, Midland, Flint Central and Flint Northern – were invited back for the second year. According to Schram, “Not a single participating school of a year ago wanted to be left out.”

Jackson downed Flint Northern in the title game, 39-34.

The Saginaw Invitational, hosted at Arthur Hill High School, boasted six Class A schools as well as Alma and Mount Pleasant, both Class B schools. Mount Pleasant surprised the field, winning the tournament with a 40-25 triumph over Dearborn Fordson in the championship game.

A year later in December, Schram wrote, “The Michigan High School Athletic Association wasn’t caught unaware when the tournament bug started to bite every sector of the state.”

“Never did we expect such a wave of tournament play as we will see during the next three weeks,” said Charles Forsythe, state director for the MHSAA, noting 34 Christmas vacation tournaments were scheduled between December 15 and January 8 during the 1948-49 basketball season. “Perhaps we’re lucky at that. The Oklahoma association has had to sanction 123 tournaments.”

Forsythe and Schram explained the reasons for the wave of popularity. Of particular interest was the fact that, at the time, a school sponsoring both football and basketball could play a total of no more than 24 games, combined, in the two sports. However, MHSAA rules allowed a basketball team the chance to play as many as three games during a Holiday tournament and be charged with only one of its allotted combination of 24 contests. (The MHSAA rules changed prior to 1972-73 to allow basketball teams a maximum of 20 games.)

Coaches could keep their squads sharp during the two-week layoff with games rather than just mandatory practices. And, as a bonus to all because tournaments were financed through gate admissions, invitations to larger tournaments meant teams got to “stay and eat at the best hostelries, go on sightseeing tours when not playing and play non-conference opponents from other sections of the state.“

Add in the chance to play before larger-than-normal crowds, and the formula for a successful tournament was cast.

Beginning with the 1950-51 season, the football-basketball rule was altered to count play in mid-season invitational tournaments as two contests. With the change, according to the Detroit Times, “the number of such meets dropped sharply.”

Only nine Holiday tournaments, involving 50-plus teams, were recorded by the MHSAA during the 1951-52 season: the 5th annual Flint Parochial Invitational, the Alpena Catholic Invitational (involving 16 teams), the 5th Annual Greater Lansing Invitational, the Albion College Invitational, the Twin-Five Conference Christmas Tournament (a 10-team replacement for the disbanded Little Eight Conference’s tournament), the Otisville Invitational, the Columbiaville Invitational and the 1st Annual Portland St. Patrick Christmas Invitational.

But by the 1960s, Holiday Tournaments were again regaining popularity, with more now focused on teams from a specific community or section of the state, especially among smaller schools.

The St. Patrick tournament was still going strong in 1966 – its 15th year – with an eight-team, four-day design. Williamston downed a Cinderella squad from Carson City, 64-44, before 1,100 fans at Portland to earn the championship. Other Mid-Michigan holiday tournaments played out in Chelsea and Swartz Creek at the same time.

The Flint Parochial League Tournament was a mainstay of the Holiday season until the breakup of the league in the early 1970s.

“Basketball tournaments have become popular around the state and nation in recent years,” wrote Wendy Foltz, longtime Battle Creek Enquirer sports editor, before the kickoff of the inaugural Battle Creek Central Holiday Cage Tournament in 1968. In a twist that harkened back to earlier days, the eight-team event represented nearly every section of lower Michigan. “Battle Creek never has been a rabid basketball town like some around the state,” added a hesitant Foltz, noting a hope that the event could at least break even.

Hosted at the Cereal City’s historic Fieldhouse, built in 1928, that first tournament was won by host Battle Creek Central, which downed Traverse City 71-53 before a crowd of 2,000. Phil Todd led the Bearcats with 29 points, including 21 in the first half, while 6-foot-8 Tom Kozelko paced TC with 24. Muskegon Heights won the consolation game, holding off a late Ypsilanti Willow Run rally, 78-77. Other schools competing were Battle Creek Lakeview, Grand Blanc, Romulus and recently-opened Jackson Lumen Christi.

Chuck Turner, Central’s head coach, and junior varsity coach Jack Schils had contacted 60 schools during the summer of 1967 to organize the 12-game schedule.

“The response was terrific,” said Schils, who added, “Many schools could not accept because of schedule commitments but want to enter a year hence.”

The Battle Creek tournament was back in 1969, again hosting teams from near and far. Schils noted that cost ran high when teams were brought in from long distances: “However, this type of tournament is highly desirable so we hope fans will support it.”

But the event was discontinued following the 1970-71 season when the “eight team format became too unwieldy,” according to the Enquirer “… and both crowd and the quality of play declined.”

Pared down to a four-team format, it returned in a big way in December 1975. The tournament saw standing-room-only crowds of more than 3,000 for games between Battle Creek Central, Detroit Northeastern, Class A quarterfinalist Lansing Everett and reigning Class A champion Highland Park.

Detroit Northeastern downed Lansing Everett, 63-58 for the Cereal City championship trophy. Everett junior Earvin Johnson scored 22 points and, with teammate Reggie Chastine, was named to the all-tournament team along with Northwestern’s Wilbert McCormick, the tourney MVP, and his teammate Greg Lawrence. Highland Park’s William Trent and Battle Creek Central’s Leon Guydon also were named to the team.

By the 1980s, it seemed that the Christmas break nearly mimicked March in Michigan.

“I think a Christmas tournament really helps your program,” said Turner in 1980 to the Enquirer. He had taken over the head coaching position at Battle Creek in the fall of 1967 after a successful stint at Willow Run. “I don’t understand basketball teams having a preseason, playing three or four games, then taking two weeks off. When you get back, it’s like starting over.”

Besides Turner’s squad, the 1980 field included Detroit Western, Detroit Murray Wright and eventual winner Kalamazoo Central. The event would ultimately be re-christened the Battle Creek Central Chuck Turner Holiday Classic.

“The late Chuck Turner started bringing big games to the city over the holidays when he first started at the school in the 1960s,” wrote Bill Broderick in the Enquirer in 2018.

“Chuck started this because he wanted to give people the chance to come back home for the holidays and see everyone play. It’s been like a family reunion over the years,” Fred Jones told Broderick. Jones was a longtime assistant to Turner. “That we can keep it going in his name is great and hopefully we can keep if going for another 50 years.”

The girls are now part of the action. All five Battle Creek city schools – Central, Pennfield, Harper Creek, Lakeview, and St. Philip – were part of the event in 2018.

This year the Chuck Turner Central Field House Holiday Classic will again span two days – December 27 and 28 – and will again see all five city schools play on the historic floor.

Other Holiday tournaments scheduled this year include:

Petoskey Invitational – December 13-14
Raider Shootout – December 21
18th Annual Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Classic – December 27
Earl McKee Classic – December 27-28
North Farmington Holiday Extravaganza – December 27
Motor City Roundball Classic – December 27
Cornerstone Invitational – December 27
Washtenaw Hoops Showcase – December 28

Ron Pesch has taken an active role in researching the history of MHSAA events since 1985 and began writing for MHSAA Finals programs in 1986, adding additional features and "flashbacks" in 1992. He inherited the title of MHSAA historian from the late Dick Kishpaugh following the 1993-94 school year, and resides in Muskegon. Contact him at peschstats@comcast.net with ideas for historical articles.

PHOTOS: (Top) The Battle Creek Central and Pennfield girls face off during the 50th Chuck Turner Classic. (Middle) Shaheen Shaheen scores two points for Flint Northern, which fell to Jackson 39-34 during the 1947 Motor City championship game. (Below left) Lansing Everett’s Earvin Johnson makes a move toward the basket against Detroit Northeastern during the 1975 Battle Creek event. (Below right) Box scores from the 1975 tournament include Johnson’s 22 points in the 63-58 loss. Photos courtesy of the Battle Creek Enquirer, Lansing State Journal and Ron Pesch archives.)

Breslin Bound: 2022-23 Boys Quarterfinal Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 21, 2023

It finally feels like spring, at least here in East Lansing. And tonight, 32 teams will attempt to build into their spring breaks a trip to Breslin Center.


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Below is a glance at all 16 of tonight’s Quarterfinals across four divisions, with all games tipping off at 7 p.m. unless noted. Winners advance to Thursday and Friday’s Semifinals, and we’ll detail the teams more then as we preview those concluding rounds of this year’s tournament.

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Division 1

Ann Arbor Huron (23-2) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (25-1) at University of Detroit Mercy, 5:30 p.m.

After an early postseason exit last season, 2021 Division 1 runner-up Huron has put together another deep playoff run. Sophomore guard Macari Moore leads three players averaging double-digit scoring at 17 points per game. After winning its first Regional title last season since 1998, Cass Tech is back at the Quarterfinals for a second straight March. Darius Acuff is another super sophomore, also leading three double-digit scorers at 21.6 ppg to go with 5.8 assists per contest.

Grand Blanc (24-2) vs. Rochester Adams (17-8) at Lake Orion

Last season’s runner-up is two wins away from playing for another title, but this time the Bobcats are led by first-year coach Tory Jackson. Seniors Tae Boyd (15.4 ppg) and RJ Taylor (14.3) are a strong 1-2 punch. Adams is coming off its first Regional title in this sport, with junior 6-foot-7 football standout Brady Prieskorn among top contributors for a Highlanders hoops team that has won seven of its last nine games.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (14-10) vs. Warren De La Salle (17-8) at University of Detroit Mercy

These Detroit Catholic League Central rivals will meet for the third time, with St. Mary’s winning the first matchup by 17 on Jan. 10 and the reigning Division 1 champion Pilots taking the rematch by 12 on Jan. 31. Sophomore Trey McKenney is a force at 25.5 points and 11.1 rebounds per game for the Eaglets, while Phoenix Glassnor is another sophomore standout leading De La Salle at 18.4 ppg.

Muskegon (24-2) vs. East Lansing (16-9) at Caledonia

East Lansing has won six straight and 12 of its last 14 games, with three of those wins over opponents responsible for four of their losses this winter. Only one starter is a senior, and sophomore Cameron Hutson leads the way at 19.3 ppg. Muskegon is in the midst of a ninth 20-win season over the last decade and earned its first Regional title since 2015. Senior Jordan Briggs (18.7 ppg) has qualified for the MHSAA single-season record list with 84 3-pointers, connecting on nearly 40 percent of his tries from beyond the arc.

Division 2

Cadillac (22-4) vs. Saginaw (20-6) at Alma

The Trojans are seeking their first Semifinal appearance since 2013 and have lost only to Division 1 opponents this season, with guard Javarie Holliday leading a mostly senior-powered lineup at 15.8 ppg. Cadillac also won its Regional last season and is seeking to return to the Semifinals for the first time since 2015, with 6-6 junior Charlie Howell the leading scorer (15.3 ppg) and rebounder (7.4 rpg).

Ferndale (18-8) vs. Goodrich (22-4) at Lake Orion, 5:30 p.m.

The Eagles are working to reach Breslin and the Semifinals for a third-straight season and have won 13 of their last 14 games while navigating a power-packed schedule again this winter. Senior Chris Williams leads a balanced lineup at 13.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Goodrich is a combined 93-20 over the last five seasons and playing to make the Semifinals for the first time with senior Jack Locey (18.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.0 spg, 45 3-pointers) among those filling the stat sheet.

Hudsonville Unity Christian (18-9) vs. Grand Rapids South Christian (23-3) at Calvin University

These rivals will be filling Calvin for a rematch after South Christian won the regular-season meeting 58-50 on Dec. 16. The bad news for the Sailors is they lost leading scorer Carson Vis (17.7 ppg) to injury in the Regional Final, but senior Jacob DeHaan (13 ppg) leads three others averaging at least 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Unity has won 11 of its last 12 games, with two-point upsets of Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Grand Rapids Christian along the way. Juniors Trayton Fisher and Colin Neiuwenhuis both average about 11.5 points per game and have combined for 97 3-pointers.

Chelsea (21-5) vs. Romulus Summit Academy (24-2) at Milan

These are two more teams looking to reach the Semifinals for the first time, Summit having played in a Quarterfinal as recently as 2021 and Chelsea’s last trip to the season’s final week in 2000. Juniors Jacob Stephens (22.7 ppg) and Joseph Cabana (22.2) set a strong pace for the Bulldogs. The Dragons have doubled up all four of their postseason opponents so far and done the same in 16 wins total this winter.

Tri-unity Christian’s Roy Fogg pulls in a loose ball during his team’s Regional championship victory over Lansing Christian.

Division 3

Detroit Loyola (25-1) vs. Flint Beecher (21-4) at Waterford Mott

A 67-58 loss to Division 1 Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Jan. 29 remains the only defeat on Loyola’s list this winter. All five starters are seniors, with Dashawn Martin (15.1 ppg) leading three averaging double-figure scoring. Beecher’s losses were to Division 1 and 2 opponents, including three playing tonight. Robert Lee leads a senior-dominated lineup at 24.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game as the Bucs attempt to make the Semifinals for a third-straight season.

Laingsburg (25-0) vs. Ecorse (19-4) at Ypsilanti Lincoln

The Wolfpack’s closest game this season was seven points, its Regional Semifinal win against Jonesville, as it attempts to reach Breslin for the first time since 2013. Junior Zander Woodruff is averaging more than a point per minute of playing time, leading at 24.4 ppg. Ecorse is seeking a return trip to the Semifinals and has won 17 of its last 18 games. Senior guard Malik Olafioye also is putting the finishing touches on a high-scoring career.

St. Ignace (22-4) vs. Traverse City St. Francis (22-4) at Gaylord

St. Ignace is playing in its first Quarterfinal since 2001, seeking to reach the Semifinals for the first time since 1983. Junior Jonny Ingalls (22.4 ppg) leads three Saints averaging at least 13, plus he’s dishing 5.4 assists per game. St. Francis has won 11 of its last 12 games with that lone loss to Cadillac (see above) in overtime in the regular-season finale. Senior Wyatt Nausadis has paced the scoring at 20.1 ppg after quarterbacking the football team to a Division 7 runner-up finish in the fall.

Pewamo-Westphalia (19-6) vs. Niles Brandywine (24-2) at Portage Central

Brandywine has reached the final week for the first time with its first Regional title, and its only losses this season remain against Division 2 Benton Harbor. Junior Jaremiah Palmer leads a lineup with four players averaging at least 9.7 ppg at 12.9 per game. P-W is making its second-straight Quarterfinal appearance after edging North Muskegon by three and then Grandville Calvin Christian by two last week. Senior Jamison Eklund is averaging 22.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

Division 4

Painesdale Jeffers (25-1) vs. Munising (24-1) at Negaunee

The Upper Peninsula is guaranteed to send a one-loss team downstate to the Division 4 Semifinals, and for both programs it would be a first-time trip. Jeffers is playing its first Quarterfinal, and Munising its first since 1954. Junior Levi Frahm leads four Jets scoring in double digits at 20.5 ppg, while senior Kane Nebel is surrounded by a similar balanced attack and leads four double-digit scorers at 15.8 ppg.

Taylor Trillium Academy (21-3) vs. Marine City Cardinal Mooney (15-11) at West Bloomfield

Trillium is another first-time Regional champion, taking this step after falling just a four-point loss shy of reaching the Quarterfinals a year ago. Senior DaMaryon Fishburn is averaging 22.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game for the Wildcats, and junior Keymarryon Fishburn adds 15.3 ppg. Cardinal Mooney has won seven of its last nine games to reach the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 and after falling in Regional Finals the last two seasons – avenging the 2022 loss to Genesee Christian to advance. Senior Trent Rice leads three double-digit scorers at 12.9 ppg.

Frankfort (17-8) vs. Hillman (22-4) at Gaylord, 5 p.m.

Frankfort is another team on a nice streak with eight wins over its last nine games including 50-44 over 2022 semifinalist Lake Leelanau St. Mary in last week’s Regional Final. Senior Emmerson Farmer and sophomore Carter Kerby supply the backcourt with between 10-11 ppg apiece. This will be Hillman’s fourth Quarterfinal over the last nine seasons as the Tigers seek their first Semifinal trip. Trenton Taratuta is a big-time scorer averaging 27.4 ppg with 60 3-pointers but also 9.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 5.2 steals per game.

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (20-6) vs. Kalamazoo Phoenix (17-2) at Richland Gull Lake

This is a familiar spot for Tri-unity Christian, the reigning Division 4 champion. All five starters average between 6-13 ppg and four have high games of at least 20 points this season; senior Roy Fogg tops both lists at 13 ppg and 25, respectively. This is new territory for Phoenix, which won one game just two seasons ago but has won 10 in a row heading into this week. Senior Cameron Lewis-Atkins (19.9 ppg) leads five players averaging 11 or more points per game. Phoenix avenged one of its losses, to Eau Claire, in the Regional Semifinal.

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PHOTOS (Top) A fan holds up a sign supporting Painesdale Jeffers between the third and fourth quarters of last week’s Regional Final win over Stephenson. (Middle) Tri-unity Christian’s Roy Fogg pulls in a loose ball during his team’s Regional championship victory over Lansing Christian. (Top photo by Cara Kamps; middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)