Rough Start Turns into Breslin Ending

March 22, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Some may consider it ironic that Detroit Community will play for the Class B championship Saturday despite nine losses this season.

But the Hurricanes are the first to explain those losses are why they’ll play in their first MHSAA Final.

Community advanced to the final game for the first time with a 58-37 win over Wyoming Godwin Heights in a Semifinal on Friday at the Breslin Center.

And now senior Byron Zeigler and his teammates will face No. 1 Detroit Country Day – although they won’t be intimidated after facing and falling to the likes of Romulus, Detroit Pershing, Cass Tech, Southeastern and others during the regular season.

“We’ve played all the top teams in the state, so there’s nothing we haven’t seen before,” Zeigler said. “Any situation we came to, we knew we had to stick together, play hard, and we knew we’d have a good outcome.”

Saturday’s Final tips off at 6:30 p.m. Community (18-9) entered the tournament unranked – but given this outcome, likely wouldn’t have scheduled any other way.

The Hurricanes found themselves at 6-5 just after the midpoint of the season. In three of their defeats – to Pershing, Southeastern and reigning Class D champion Southfield Christian – they led going into the final minutes.

During this run they’ve won three games by six or fewer points.

“I think that helped us out going down the stretch. We’re closing those games out now,” Community coach Venias Jordan, Jr., said. “Playing in every holiday tournament and not closing those games out, I guess we can’t help but get better.”

Closing out wasn’t a worry Friday. The Hurricanes took a 10-point advantage three minutes into the second quarter and led by double digits the rest of the way.

Zeigler, a 6-foot-6 forward headed to South Florida after graduation, said he wanted to be aggressive early and remind his teammates they’d reached the big stage. He scored 10 of his 17 points in the first quarter, and also finished the game with 12 rebounds. Godwin Heights coach Chad Conklin said Zeigler was the best his team had faced this season.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes worked to keep Godwin Heights’ standout guards out of the lane. Plugging the middle worked – the Wolverines’ point total was their lowest this season by 10. Three Godwin Heights guards entered the week averaging more than 10 points per game, but none scored more than four Friday.

“It’s a double-edged sword. If you’re not making your shots on the perimeter, and then go inside and your shots are blocked … to score 37 points like this is disappointing,” Conklin said. “I thought we got some decent shots outside, but they didn’t go in. We tried to attack the glass, but they did a good job of blocking (us).”

Community junior Jason Buyck grabbed 10 rebounds in just 11 minutes as his team outrebounded Godwin Heights 46-37.

Junior center Markese Mayfield led the Wolverines with 13 points and seven rebounds.

Conklin explained to his players after that they’d put Godwin Heights hoops on the statewide map. His teams were a combined 66-8 over the last three seasons including 23-3 this winter.

Jordan no doubt can say the same to his Community players, regardless of what happens Saturday.

“Over the last three years, we’ve been through a lot, faced a lot of obstacles,” Community senior Ramell Robinson said. “This last year, we have to take it all the way. Our first practice goal was March 23, and not to just get to the championship (game), but to win the championship.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Community's Byron Zeigler (35) tries to drive past Wyoming Godwin Heights' Markese Mayfield during Friday's Class B Semifinal. (Middle) Godwin Heights' Jamal Bland pushes the ball upcourt against a Community defender. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)