Southfield Christian Follows New Leaders

March 14, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – It’s a new Finals, with another trip for Southfield Christian, and Jon Sanders and Da’Jion Humphrey’s turns to take on the spotlight.

The Eagles – last season’s Class D champions – will play for a second straight title Saturday morning after defeating Dollar Bay 55-28 in Thursday’s first Division 4 Semifinal.

Sanders and Humphrey started on last season’s team but played supporting roles. Now they’re the leaders, and have led the way this week. Sanders, a senior, scored 23 points in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal win over Burton Genesee Christian. Humphrey, a junior, had a game-high 16 and nine rebounds in the Semifinal.

“It’s a blessing to be able to step into a big role I wasn’t in last year,” Sanders said. “You always find a role and fit it and do the best you can. This year I’ve been doing the best of my ability with a couple guys we lost (after last season), and my teammates just helping me do it.”

Southfield Christian (20-6) will take on Frankfort in Saturday’s first Final at 10 a.m.

Humphrey opened the scoring Thursday with a 3-pointer just 27 seconds into the game. He had another later in the first quarter to give Southfield Christian a 16-10 lead, and went on a personal 8-0 run over 45 seconds at the end of the second quarter while the Eagles extended their lead to 18 heading into the break.

“We always stress to play hard and play smart and let the game come to you, and I thank my teammates – they found me when I was open,” Humphrey said. “I was just trying to do anything to win and get to the next game. That’s what we always preach – try to get to 1-0. We were just trying to get to 1-0 today.”

Humphrey was averaging 16.4 points per game entering this week, and Sanders was averaging 16.5. Sanders finished this game with 10 points, five rebounds and three steals.

“(Da’Jion) plays really hard. He’s kinda like our Draymond Green, how he rebounds and passes. He can really get it going,” Southfield Christian coach Josh Baker said. “Jon did last game, and Noah (Rheker) went on a huge run the game before. Each of them can bring a spark, and they’ve been doing it all year for us.”

Dollar Bay, making its second straight Semifinals appearance after also falling to Southfield Christian in this round a year ago, brought back only one starter from that team. The Blue Bolts stayed close through most of the first two quarters this time, but struggled mightily shooting the ball making only 22 percent of their attempts from the floor.

They entered this week connecting on 32 percent of their 3-point attempts, and found only 19 percent success from beyond the arc.

“They make you do things you’re uncomfortable doing – they made us play fast, they sped us up, and it’s hard to run any kind of sets, hard to run action,” Dollar Bay coach Jesse Kentala said. “It’s just defensively, they’re relentless. We knew that, and it wasn’t a surprise. But it came down to execution, and we kinda picked the worst time of the season to have a poor shooting night.”

Junior Ashton Janke had nine points, seven rebounds and three assists for Dollar Bay.

The Blue Bolts (21-5) ended this season with 14 wins over their final 16 games.

“Of course they’re a great program. They’re always good, and you know that,” said Dollar Bay senior Brendan LeClaire, that lone returning starter from last season, of Southfield Christian. “Every time we come here, the two times I’ve been here, you always think you have a chance. You always have to think you have a chance. We knew they have great players, but you try to find their weaknesses and try to exploit that.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Southfield Christian’s Jon Sanders hits the floor trying to gather a loose ball as Dollar Bay’s Ashton Janke goes for the same. (Middle) Noah Rheker hoists a 3-pointer – he made two of three attempts from beyond the arc.

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.)