North Central Repeats Perfect Run in D

March 26, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

EAST LANSING – Jason Whitens held two fingers up as he moved through his teammates to the handshake line after Saturday morning’s Class D Final.

Their reaction to winning a second straight MHSAA championship was of course filled with celebration – but also respect. 

The Jets are in the midst of one of the most impressive runs in Michigan high school basketball history. And they had just withstood one of their few tests of the 2015-16 season.

North Central won its 55th straight game Saturday morning, 59-48 over Waterford Our Lady to claim a second straight championship at the Breslin Center – but after breaking away when the Lakers trailed by four with only four minutes to play. 

“They were playing harder than us, to be honest. We kinda got lazy, and they came out and wanted to hit us in the mouth,” North Central junior guard Jason Whitens said. “We took their shot, and we’ve taken shots all year. We just had to take it in and battle back. But they moved the ball real well, (Andrew) Kline’s a great player, and it’s just a great team over there.”

And a growing legendary one from the small village, with a school enrollment of 122, located west of Escanaba at the crossroads of U.S 2 and 41 on the southern end of the Upper Peninsula. 

The Jets finished 28-0, which with last season's 27-0 record ties them for the most wins, 55, of any team over two seasons. 

And not to move on too quickly from the repeat celebration – but there’s suddenly a lot more to look forward to next season as well. 

North Central now stands tied with Saginaw Buena Vista’s 1992-94 teams for the fourth longest winning streak in MHSAA boys basketball history. The record is 65 straight set by Chassell’s teams from 1956-59.

Five programs have won three straight championships during the 90 years of the Class D Finals. And the Jets would seem to be favored to become the sixth with Whitens, starters Dawson Bilski and Bobby Kleiman and up to 12 players total expected to return.

But along the way, Our Lady (22-5) was one of the most formidable opponents North Central faced this season – and provided a genuine scare into the fourth quarter.

The Jets opened the second half on a 13-3 run to build an 18-point lead midway through the third quarter. But with seniors Andrew Kline and Devin Senerius mostly taking turns getting to the basket, Our Lady went on a 23-9 run to cut the deficit to 49-45 with 5:24 left.

“We knew they were going to have a lot of confidence coming into the game. They were blowing out everyone; they won by 40 in the semis,” Kline said. “Coach kept telling us they have all the pressure on them. No one was expecting us to come out and win the game. We knew if we just did our thing, played them tough, we had a chance. We had nothing to really be nervous about.”

“That’s the biggest run somebody’s gone on us in a while, so I was interested in seeing how our kids were going to handle it coming out for the fourth quarter,” North Central coach Adam Mercier said.

The Jets did so not relying on Whitens, their leading scorer at 22 points per game, but by spreading the offense. Six players scored down the stretch as North Central finished on a 10-3 run started on a basket by senior Morgan Cox and a 3-pointer by junior Marcus Krachinski.

“Morgan’s basket was huge. We got a steal in there, I think too. And we executed some plays – my kids were probably shocked. I don’t call many plays,” Mercier said. “Their mental focus was great to start that fourth quarter. They understood that this (Our Lady) team was a very good team. I know we were favorites and everything, but anytime you’ve got a state finalist in football, they’re going to be kids that don’t back down from anybody.”

Actually, both teams playing Saturday morning were football finalists – Our Lady was the Division 8 runner-up for 11-player with Clay and Devin Senerius playing starring roles, and North Central won the 8-player championship with Whitens finishing the fall with 45 touchdown passes without an interception.

And they matched athletes well. North Central shot better, and especially from long range making 9 of 18 3-point attempts. But Our Lady had more rebounds (35-27) and only 12 turnovers to the Jets’ eight.

“We knew coming into it that it wasn’t a team we were going to beat probably best of seven. But we thought that we could take advantage of some of their personality,” Our Lady coach Paul Robak said. “They’re a team that scores 80 points a game, and they want to win by 50. They don’t want to win by 10. And we thought we could use that against them possibly if we could get them to play a style that maybe they aren’t as comfortable with. … We did some of the things that I thought were going to be key.”

Kline led Our Lady with 22 points, four assists and three steals. Devin Senerius added 17 points and nine rebounds.

Whitens had 16 points and seven rebounds. Bilski added 15 points, three assists and four steals and senior Troy Ekberg had 11 points, seven rebounds and three assists. 

Our Lady ended up as one of three teams to come within 12 points of North Central this winter. The Jets had beaten teams by an average of 34 points entering Saturday, with only Class B Menominee and rival Crystal Falls Forest Park coming closer; Menominee fell by 12 and four, and Forest Park also lost by only four to go with defeats of 14 and 30.

“This year we had a couple blowouts, and they’re still fun,” Bilski said. “But being together having close games, it shows who we are and if we’ll fall apart or not. As you can see, we didn’t fall apart tonight.“

Click for the full box score.

The Boys Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Powers North Central players celebrate their second straight Class D championship. (Middle) The Jets’ Troy Ekberg works to stay in front of Our Lady’s Andrew Kline.

Father & Son Seidl Have Much to Discuss, Notes to Compare From Perfect Starts

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

February 7, 2023

Matt and Derek Seidl have a lot to talk about these days.

Southeast & BorderThe father and son duo both have highly-ranked, undefeated basketball teams going into the first full week of February, something neither of them saw coming.

“We were hoping for a season like this, but you never think about winning this many in a row,” said Matt Seidl, the father and head coach of the 15-0 Olivet Eagles. “When our season ended last year, we knew our top seven players would all be returning.”

About 50 miles south of Olivet, in Jackson County, Derek Seidl has the Napoleon Pirates off to a 14-0 start. They are sitting on top of the Cascades Conference.

“We have a really talented group right now,” Derek said. “We were 19-3 last year and brought six guys back. Having that experience has been very valuable.”

Olivet is ranked No. 2 in MPR in Division 2 while Napoleon is No. 9 in Division 3. Both are top-10 teams in the latest Associated Press polls as well.

Matt Seidl, 60, graduated from Ypsilanti Lincoln High School in 1981 and went to Eastern Michigan University to become a sportswriter. He didn’t begin teaching until he was in his early 30s, but, by then, was already a veteran coach.

“It was getting difficult because I was always leaving my job to go coach,” he said. “I decided to go and get my teaching degree.”

He wound up in the classroom, which enabled him to dive deeper into coaching. He spent several years coaching at the middle school and high school levels, boys and girls, with stops at places like Pinckney, Ypsilanti, Manchester, Willow Run and Romulus. He was the JV boys basketball coach at Dexter when his son, Derek, made the team as a freshman.

Senior Brayden Wine makes a move toward the basket for the Eagles.By then, Derek already knew he would be on the bench one day as a coach.

“I played for my dad in youth travel stuff, and he was on staff for one year my freshmen year of high school,” Derek said. “He was a varsity coach all growing up. I was always at games. I loved talking to him about the game, the strategy of it, the Xs and Os. Even when I was younger, I thought about coaching someday. Growing up if you would have asked me what my dream job was, it would have been a teacher and coach.”

Derek, 27, graduated from Dexter in 2014. He played four years of college basketball at Lawrence Tech University. After getting his master’s degree and teaching degree, he got his first coaching job as an assistant coach at Chelsea, under Josh Tropea, who also had coached with Matt.

Derek’s first teaching and head coaching job came at Springport in 2019-20. This is his third year at Napoleon.

“It’s been a really good fit here,” Derek said. “Before I started looking into the job, I barely knew anything about Napoleon. It has worked out well.”

Matt is also the athletic director at Olivet. If he would have had his way, Derek would be coaching at Olivet.

“Derek did a really good job at Springport, and we had an opening and he interviewed and was recommended for the job, but before they offered it to him, Napoleon hired him,” Matt said. “He would have been the perfect choice to teach math and coach basketball.”

With Derek no longer in the running, Matt came out of coaching retirement and was named head coach.

“It was going to be a one-year deal, sort of a band-aid to get us to the next year,” he said.

Instead, Matt’s stayed on and put together quite a successful team. The Eagles have gone 47-6 since the start of the 2020-21 season. This year’s team has taken a big step.

Junior Bo Lincoln, a 5-foot-11 junior point guard, leads the team in scoring (17.1 points per game), assists (3.6 per game), steals (3.0 per game) and free throw percentage at 78 percent.

Drew Priddy, a 6-5 senior center, is averaging about eight points and seven rebounds a game, and junior guard Bryce Wine is averaging nine points a game and leads the team in 3-pointers.

“We had quite the youth movement a few years ago,” Matt said. “We go 8-9 deep now and have a lot of experience. Having those young guys play a couple years ago is paying off.

“We are a good team, but we’re not a 70-possessions-a-game type of team. We know who we are.”

Derek Seidl instructs his players. Derek also knows plenty about his dad’s team.

“I definitely keep track of them,” he said. “We talk on the phone on a daily basis – 30 minutes about Napoleon and 30 minutes about Olivet. We bounce things off each other. We run a lot of the same stuff as far as systems. We’re very connected on things.”

Matt and Derek’s teams tried to have a good old-fashioned scrimmage, or exhibition, last year but – with Derek’s team ahead – Matt received two technicals and got kicked out of the game. It’s a fun story for both to tell now.

“That was wild,” Derek said. “It was a cool thing we had going. We were winning so I was enjoying it, but that put a whole different spin on the situation.”

Matt said they probably won’t do that again. Probably.

“My wife said no,” he said. “Derek and I have talked about it, but I don’t know that it would ever happen.”

Derek said one day he’d like to coach with his father.

“I’m very energetic and into it, just like he is,” Derek said. “There are some similarities. I played for him and watched him a lot. I try and pull some of the things he does, being prepared. We get along super well. I don’t know if I could trust him to not get technical fouls.”

He’s kidding, of course.

Napoleon has a core group of four players with a ton of experience.

Devonta Habern is a 5-11 junior who is on the varsity for the third year and runs the show at point guard. Six-foot-5 senior Trent Jester is one of the best big men in the conference. University of Michigan baseball commit Grant Bradley is a three-year varsity starter and outstanding athlete. Holden Vanpoppel is an all-state track athlete who has turned into a pretty good basketball player.

“Grant is super steady and having a great year,” Derek said. “He looks like he’s been in the weight room since he was 5 years old. He can guard anybody. Vanpoppel is an unbelievable run and jump athlete. All four of these guys are averaging in double figures. They are really good athletes who have invested in the program and put the time in.”

“We’ve got a very talented group,” Derek said. “They are a little looser than I am. I tend to be very calculated, kind of analytical and serious. They like to goof around a little bit. They keep me even-keeled. They know when to get serious. It’s good for me to have a group like that.”

Derek said his squad wants to exceed expectations this year.

“We talk about that after every game – don’t be satisfied just because we are undefeated,” Derek said. “There is plenty more to accomplish. Last year we went 18-2 in the regular season and 19-3 overall, but we didn’t win a league or a District. Our guys have bought into that mindset. That’s helped us get to where we are.”

Matt is keeping a close eye on not only his team, but Derek’s as well.

“I probably get more stressed watching his games,” he said. “I’m really proud of what he has been able to do.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Father Matt, left, and son Derek Seidl are leading undefeated boys basketball teams this season at Olivet and Napoleon, respectively. (Middle) Senior Brayden Wine makes a move toward the basket for the Eagles. (Below) Derek Seidl instructs his players. (Olivet photos courtesy of Olivet High School; Napoleon photos by Jeff Steers/JTV.)