Newest Champs Earn Spot in Milan Lore

March 22, 2014

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half

EAST LANSING — Milan's postgame celebration quickly went from the court to the stands.

Spectators who didn't understand what was taking place were befuddled when the Big Reds headed into the seats at the Breslin Center before receiving their championship trophy. One by one, they hugged an older gentleman many of them may not have heard of until a few days earlier.

The man was Harlan Benjamin, a member of Milan's 1948 MHSAA Class C championship basketball team. The Big Reds, playing beyond the Regionals for the first time since, found inspiration from this living, breathing embodiment of the school's athletic history.

"He inspired them before the game," Milan coach Josh Tropea said after the championship drought ended with a 78-59 victory over Benton Harbor in the Class B Final on Saturday. "They wanted to make sure they showed their appreciation."

Benjamin, 81, was a sophomore on the Milan team that beat Saginaw Ss. Peter & Paul, 45-42, for the Class C title. He went on to win the 120-yard and 180-yard hurdles at the 1950 Class C Track and Field Final, an accomplishment that led to his enshrinement in the Milan sports Hall of Fame.

He spoke with the Big Reds on Tuesday before their MHSAA Quarterfinal game against Wayland. He sought out Milan assistant coach Chris Pope before Saturday's title game and presented him with a memento.

"He gave us his state championship patch and he duct-taped over the '1948' and put '2014,' and said, 'Go win one for me,'" Tropea said. "To have him here and to have him on the floor with us after the game, like I told the kids on Thursday before we came here, whether you win this thing or not, someone's going to want you to speak in 40, 50, 60 years from now. After this weekend, they've solidified that. They're going to be remembered forever in Milan."

There's a good chance that it won't take 66 years for Milan to celebrate another MHSAA championship.

Four of the Big Reds' five starters are juniors, including the stars of Saturday's game.

Junior guard Latin Davis was 7 for 7 from 3-point range, tying the Finals record for baskets beyond the arc, while scoring a career-high 34 points. Nick Perkins, a 6-foot-7 junior center, scored 24 points on 10 for 16 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds.

"All year, we've been selling that players three through eight have to be the difference, because we know what Nick and Latin are going to do," Tropea said. "Before we went on the floor tonight, we said, 'Tonight, it's about the stars.' The best players showed up, and they won the game for us."

Davis' performance was particularly memorable.

He became the fifth player in Finals history to hit that 3-point mark. But only he and Berrien Springs' Shelby Wood (Class C, 2006) had a perfect shooting night from long range.

"I was coming off screens and was just feeling it, so I just shot it," said Davis, who averaged 1.3 3-pointers a game and never made more than five before Saturday. "My coach has been telling me to shoot off ball screens all year, so that's what I did tonight. I just kept shooting. I made one and kept hitting them and just kept shooting."

Toriano Smith of Saginaw Buena Vista (1990, Class B), Andrew Mitchell of Detroit East Catholic (1997, Class D) and Brian Watkins of Detroit Rogers (2005, Class D) also hit seven 3-pointers in a Final.

"Basically, we just tried to get out of the way," Perkins said. "After you set a screen once and he's shooting like that, he's basically going to make every one. After the fourth one, when we saw them start falling and he's draining it, you just keep letting him shoot."

Benton Harbor took its only lead when a 3-pointer by Jaton Gunn made it a 3-2 game with 6:07 left in the first quarter. Milan never trailed after scoring the next six points.

The Big Reds led 22-15 after one quarter, hitting seven consecutive field goal attempts during one stretch. They built their lead to 32-22 on a 3-pointer by Davis with 4:27 left in the second quarter, taking a 43-35 lead into halftime. Davis had 17 points in the first half on 7 for 17 shooting, dishing out three assists. Perkins had 14 points in the first half, shooting 7 for 11 and grabbing five rebounds.

Benton Harbor did not sub in the first half, while Milan got backups Thomas Lindeman (six minutes) and Garrett Gardette (four minutes) extensive playing time in the second quarter after going with its starters for the first. The Tigers' first substitution came with 6:06 left in the third quarter.

Davis opened the second half by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers, igniting an 8-0 run that extended Milan's lead to 51-35 with 5:25 left in the third quarter. The Tigers cut the lead to 56-46 with 2:25 left in the third, but the Big Reds scored the final nine points of the quarter to take a 65-46 lead into the fourth.

"The difference was in the third quarter we actually started playing some defense," Tropea said. "We hang our hat on our defense. It really wasn't there in the first half. That's all we talked about at halftime was we've got to do a better job rebounding the basketball, not giving up so many second-chance points and transition points. We really clamped down in the third quarter."

It didn't appear that this would be the season that Milan (25-3) ended that title drought when the Big Reds lost their first two games and started out 5-3. But they ended the season with a 20-game winning streak.

Benton Harbor (17-10), playing in its 10th MHSAA Final and first since 1993, was attempting to win its first crown since repeating as Class A champion in 1965. Overcoming Milan's 58.5-percent shooting from the floor proved to be too much for the Tigers.

"They were hot," Benton Harbor coach Corey Sterling said. "We had a game plan. We had hands up, but (Davis), I don't think he missed a three. Then the big (Perkins) was a force down low. 

“We already knew, win or lose, we were proud of this bunch. We came in unranked. So, it might hurt right now, but like I told you (Friday), God is still good. He blessed the city. These two seniors (John Robinson Jr. and Cortez Moore) brought the city together. It's something to be proud of. There's been love all over. We just ran into a hot team tonight."

Robinson had 19 points, Jaton Gunn 16 and Moore 13 for Benton Harbor. Gunn had 11 points in the first quarter, hitting three 3-pointers.

Milan played without starting senior forward Jake Novak, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee during Tuesday's Quarterfinal victory. He walked onto the court on crutches during pregame introductions and greeted each of Milan's starters as they were called out.

"It felt really great to know that everybody cares about this team so much," Novak said. "It's really nice to see the whole community come out and support the team. It's nice to know everybody cares. Even though I can't play, I was doing everything I can to help the team."

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

PHOTOS: (Top) Milan celebrates its first MHSAA title since 1948 by hoisting the trophy at the Breslin Center. (Middle) Milan’s Latin Davis tries to get around Benton Harbor’s John Robinson, Jr.

HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Benton Harbor's John Robinson Jr. scored in transition in the second quarter of the Class B championship game against Milan. Robinson led the Tigers in scoring with 19. (2) Nick Perkins makes a Calvin Johnson-esque catch of a long pass by Lance Lewis for the dunk in the Class B title game. Perkins had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Milan, which defeated Benton Harbor, 78-59.

Breslin Bound: 2023-24 Boys Report Week 1

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 4, 2023

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.

BMI Student Aidut 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.

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at

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).

Bath defenders surround a Charyl Stockwell player during the Sentinels' 63-55 victory.

Watch List

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.

Can’t-Miss Contests

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.'s weekly “Breslin Bound” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

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.)