By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
We’re two weeks from the start of District tournaments in girls basketball, and diligently working to bring fans fully up-to-date on what they could see when the postseason begins.
But there are still plenty of substantial games to play … so many this week that league-deciding matchups like Flint Beecher/Goodrich and Hamilton/Zeeland West just missed our “Can’t-Miss Contests” below.
In addition to our weekly “Countdown to Calvin” reports, please be encouraged to check out MHSAA.com; click “Schools” to search for full schedules, results and standings for every team, and click “Sports” and then “Girls Basketball” for brackets for every District and Regional.
Countdown to Calvin is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school on our site. To offer corrections or help us fill in missing scores, email me at Geoff@mhsaa.com.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. St. Ignace 87, Goodrich 56 – Here come the Saints; untested for most of the season, they passed their toughest so far in a big way to remind the rest of the state they’ll be among Class C contenders.
2. Goodrich 57, Flushing 51 (OT) – Don’t sleep on the Class B Martians; four days before falling to St. Ignace, they beat the reigning Class A champion in overtime.
3. Macomb Dakota 51, Clarkston 41 – These two stand to be contenders in Class A, Dakota as the Macomb Area Conference Red co-champ and Clarkston right now trying to close out at least a shared Oakland Activities Association Red title.
4. Midland Dow 52, Midland 33 – The Chargers have won six of their last seven to climb back into the thick of the Saginaw Valley League race, this time avenging a 12-point December loss to their rival.
5. Gaylord St. Mary 38, Bellaire 32 – With this rivalry series between Class D elite went the Ski Valley Conference title, with St. Mary sweeping and hoisting the trophy for the second straight season.
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each class making sparks:
East Lansing (15-0) – The Trojans have built on last season’s 21-3 finish with another dominating run. East Lansing opened this winter with a 10-point win over Marshall and has added victories over DeWitt and Williamston – both 15-1 – to a perfect run through the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue that saw them win their first meeting with second-place Okemos by 34.
Utica Eisenhower (15-1) – A 10-point loss to Lake Orion on Nov. 28 has to feel like a distant memory as Eisenhower enjoyed a perfect run through the MAC White after finishing second in the league a year ago. Now comes a major opportunity to impress – the MAC Red/White tournament beginning today and will give the Eagles a chance to match up with opponents from one of the state’s most touted leagues.
Edwardsburg (16-1) – The Eddies are one victory from completing a perfect run through the Wolverine Conference South for the second straight season and have won 14 straight; the lone defeat came by three points to Class A St. Joseph on Dec. 5. Only two other games have been decided by fewer than 14 points, and the District this season includes four opponents Edwardsburg has swept so far.
Kingsley (17-0) – This indeed has been a special season for the Northwest Conference-leading Stags, who have beaten all of their opponents by at least 16 points and most by many more. That 16-point win was the only loss for rival Maple City Glen Lake – which beat Kingsley twice last season to win the league title.
Detroit Edison Public School Academy (15-1) – Although it’s a matchup Edison needs to be watchful for during the tournament, the five-point loss to Ypsilanti Arbor Prep on Jan. 11 has been the only trip-up for the reigning Class C champion. The list of wins is awe-inspiring: Detroit Martin Luther King, Detroit Country Day and Ann Arbor Huron all fell to the Pioneers by double digits.
Maple City Glen Lake (16-1) – The Lakers would be undefeated this season if not for that 16-point loss to Kingsley noted above – and surely they’ve circled the Feb. 20 rematch. Aside from that defeat, only two other games have been decided by single digits – and Glen Lake has won its last five by an average of 44 points per game.
Adrian Lenawee Christian (15-1) – A one-point loss to Class A Monroe in January is all that’s kept Lenawee Christian from a perfect run. Early, the Cougars beat a Class B Ida team that went on to win the Lenawee County Athletic Association title outright. Most recently, they downed Class A Dexter by 14 on Thursday.
Ewen-Trout Creek (12-3) – The school’s boys team has gotten a ton of attention as one of the state’s best in Class D, but the girls are right there as well. A seven-game winning streak included a 54-49 overtime win last week over Ontonagon, the only team with a chance of catching the Panthers in the Copper Mountain Conference Porcupine Mountain division.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Thursday – Bay City Western (14-1) at Saginaw Heritage (14-0) – Western suffered that lone loss to Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Feb. 2, but downing the Hawks would put all three in line to share the Saginaw Valley League title.
Thursday – Detroit Country Day (12-2) at Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (11-5) – The last time these two met, Country Day claimed the 2017 Class B championship.
Friday – Detroit Public School League Final at University of Detroit Mercy – Renaissance (11-6), Martin Luther King (13-2), Mumford (13-3) and Collegiate Prep (11-2) will play semifinals tonight.
Saturday – St. Ignace (17-0) at Detroit Edison Public School Academy (15-1) – Could these be the state’s best in Class C? This one could be a preview of a late March rematch.
Sunday – Detroit Catholic League A-B Final at University of Detroit Mercy – Farmington Hills Mercy (15-2), Bloomfield Hills Marian (13-3), Dearborn Divine Child (12-5) and Livonia Ladywood (7-9) remain in contention with semifinals Wednesday.
PHOTO: Goodrich, here against Corunna, played two of the state’s most notable games last week. (Click to see more from Varsity Monthly.)
It was known as “The Barn.” And it was home to the 1972 Class D boys basketball champion, the 1973 Class D girls basketball champion and the 1982 Class D boys basketball runners-up.
The Upper Peninsula’s all-time winningest female basketball coach coached at The Barn, as did the Upper Peninsula’s all-time winningest male basketball coach. And when Ewen-Trout Creek advanced to the 2022 Division 4 Final, its roster was littered with names from E-TC’s past:
► Leading scorer Jaden Borseth’s dad played on the 1995 team that advanced to the Class D Regional Final.
► Kelsey Jilek’s dad played on the 1992 team.
► Brendan Polkky’s dad is currently an assistant coach for E-TC and played on the 1991 team that also advanced to the Class D Regional Final.
► Caden Besonen’s dad Dave starred on the 1982 state runner-up team. Caden’s uncle Brad is the E-TC head coach. And Brad’s dad, Bryan, played on the 1972 championship team.
The Barn hosted its final E-TC game in 1998 and is now owned by Gary Fors, who also played on the 1972 title team. It’s now a community gym of sorts, and many members of the 2022 team worked out there growing up.
E-TC grad Kristin Ojaniemi – an award-winning documentary film maker and photographer, and the TV producer and host of “Discovering” for 906 Outdoors – is taking a look at the history of “The Barn” as well as its ties to the 2022 team in an eight-part series called “Born in the Barn.” The first two parts are complete, and the entire series will be available to view at KristinOjaniemi.com.
I had a chance to ask Ojaniemi about the project and why it’s so special to so many people.
Kristin, how did you come up with the idea to document the history of The Barn?
The idea to document the history of The Barn and E-TC basketball developed over time. Five years ago I had a conversation with Dan Truckey of the Beaumier Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University, and when I told him where I went to high school, we got on the topic of basketball and how E-TC was a powerhouse and that "there must be something in the water" here. Fast forward to 2021, and I saw on Facebook some photos of the inside of The Barn and all the newspapers Gary Fors had lined the walls with, sort of like a museum. February of 2022 I realized it was 50 years since the 1972 boys state championship and 40 years since the 1982 state runner-up seasons. I like anniversaries in history and thought it would be the perfect time to do some sort of documentary. Originally my focus was Gary and The Barn and more of the 70s and 80s boys and girls seasons, but once the 2022 boys started advancing in the tournament, that obviously changed.
What did the 2022 team’s run to the Finals mean to the players from the ’72 and ’82 teams?
The 2022 run meant a lot to the players of '72 and '82 because many of those boys are sons, grandsons, great-nephews of those guys. Bryan Besonen of the '72 team is coach Brad Besonen's father. Many of them traveled to every tournament game, and watching the 2022 season brought back memories of their glory days. They're definitely very proud of the 2022 team and the tradition that E-TC has continued through the years. Watching them watch those games was just as fun as watching the court. The 2022 team's run to the Finals meant a lot to the whole community. So many others traveled all the way to Lansing to cheer them on, and there is just a ton of pride in this team. I went to the banner unveiling a few weeks ago, and it was a huge crowd at the game to watch those few seconds of history being made.
What is your history with The Barn?
I graduated from Ewen-Trout Creek in 2000. We were in the "new" school then, but I spent four years – seventh-10th grade – in the "old" school, which had so much more character than the new one! I did play basketball seventh-10th – junior high and junior varsity. I was a benchwarmer most of those years. I loved the game but didn't spend any time offseason playing or practicing like others. I was also a cheerleader those years too, and if you look closely at one of the newspaper photos from the last game in the Barn, I'm in the background. Ha ha! This was back when girls basketball was in the fall and boys in the winter, so you could do both. As others in the documentary mention, The Barn was also where you hung out at lunch, and gym class was in there, and homecoming activities. Filming in there brought back a lot of memories.
What did Nancy Osier (U.P.’s winningest female basketball coach) and Tom Caudill (U.P.’s winningest male basketball coach) think made The Barn such a difficult place for opposing teams to play?
Thinking back to Nancy and Tom's interviews, I think the difficulty for other teams really boiled down to the atmosphere and the E-TC fans and that intimidation factor. E-TC had the ultimate homecourt advantage in The Barn, and their players spent hours upon hours practicing on that floor. And the school's history and tradition of rarely losing a home game is also intimidating.
There’s obviously a lot of family ties from the 2022 team to earlier teams – and it was the 50th anniversary of the ’72 win – did they feel more pressure along the way because of that?
I think the 2022 boys had this feeling that they wanted to one-up their grandfathers/fathers. I think it was Kelsey Jilek that told his grandfather, George Hardes (1972), that they had one more game in their schedule so they could potentially have a better record if they won all their games. But none of them came out and mentioned that the anniversary put pressure on them, but I’m sure it was there. They set out to win it all from the beginning and put the work in, and it paid off. There are a lot of parallels in these winning seasons.
When will the next part of the series be released?
Part 3, I should have done by the end of February. Part 3 focuses on the 1973 girls state champs; 1973 was the first year there was a state final for girls basketball after Title IX, and E-TC won the Class D title. And then I plan to release each part every two months with the final, Part 8, done by the end of 2023. This is just a fun hobby/personal project, I guess you'd say, so I only have so much time to dedicate to it after all my "real" work.
(PHOTOS of "The Barn" courtesy of Kristin Ojaniemi.)