Regional Round: Best small school opening games

Class C

Flint Hamady
Detroit Cornerstone 11-9 vs Flint Beecher 20-2, 7:30 pm:
Beecher survived a rare postseason test in their district opener with Flint Hamady then won their next two by 85 points. Cornerstone has the most talented player in the entire division, 6-6 junior Jamal Cain. He’s an elite prospect, but is he yet a leader, winner and champion? This would be a great proving ground for those traits.

At 6 pm another team with legitimate state finals aspirations, 20-1 Southfield Christian, plays 15-6 Sandusky.

McBain 23-0 vs Beaverton 19-1, 7:30 pm:
This should follow course for Beaverton, who often come in with sexy records only to fall to a true North team. There’s a third hall of fame coach in the regional, Keith Haske whose 16-7 Traverse City St. Francis team plays 16-5 Tawas at 6 pm.

Detroit Loyola 18-5 vs Monroe St. Mary Catholic 21-1, 5:30 pm:
No break for Loyola, who just made it out of the toughest district in the state and now face one of the state’s top programs. Kind of like Beecher, Loyola won’t wow you in the layup line but once the game starts will beat you with a bunch of tough-minded guards. Monroe St. Mary graduated Bank Hoops’ 2015 Class C MVP, Bryce Windham, but went out and had one of the most successful regular seasons in school history. It helps that his old man is still around, as SMCC has won six district titles in Randy Windhams’ seven seasons as head coach. 6-3 Madonna signee Stephan Umfress plays with springs in his soles and second-semester eligible 6-7 junior Nick Welch is a double-double threat every time out. The second game features 17-4 Riverview Richard against 19-3 Adrian Madison.

Class D

Lansing Christian
Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes 18-4 vs Allen Park Inter-City Baptist 17-6, 5 pm:
From the Class D non-rural variety, Catholic League runner-up and 2015 state semifinalist WOLL takes on perennial tough out ICB. Both have the luxury of leaning on all-state candidates are guard, the Lakers’ Andrew Kline and Inter-City Baptist’s Garrett Kraatz. In the second game 16-6 Novi Franklin Road Christian plays 13-9 Lansing Christian, whose record is somewhat deceiving giving how many Class B and C schools are on the schedule.

Traverse City Central
Frankfort 20-2 vs Bellaire 22-1, 6 pm: 
Both coaches have taken these schools to the Breslin in the past decade, Frankfort’s Reggie Manville and Bellaire’s Stan Sexton. Frankfort played the superior schedule this winter. The Panthers’ only losses were two Class C district champions — St. Francis by a point and McBain in OT — and they beat Class B, Benzie Central; Class C, Boyne City; and Class D, Buckley, district champions. This may be a Class D game, but there are three scholarship caliber players here with Bellaire junior Gabe Meriwether and Frankfort juniors Matt Loney and Jaylon Rogers.

Powers North Central 23-0 vs Lake Linden-Hubbell 22-1, 6 pm:
North Central entertained everyone at last year’s state finals, and could be even better this year. Their district semifinal opponent, Nah Tah Wahsh, wouldn’t argue that, after falling last week 113-25. But they’ll have earned it if they get out of the UP again, as North Central, Lake Linden-Hubbell and Crystal Falls Forest Park are all top 10 teams. In the late game, 21-2 Crystal Falls Forest Parks meets 13-9 Rock Mid-Peninsula.

Regional Round: Best big school opening games

Class A

Ypsilanti Lincoln
Belleville 19-4 vs Ypsilanti 20-1, 7 pm:
Belleville was supposed to be a team of the future. But the present isn’t proving to be such a bad thing. A big-time guard matchup between a Mr. Basketball finalist, Ypsilanti senior Corey Allen, and a likely future finalist, Tigers sophomore Davion Williams. In the 5:30 game, 18-4 Ann Arbor Pioneer plays 17-6 Woodhaven.

Macomb Dakota
Clarkston 20-2 vs Dakota 23-0, 7 pm:
Both teams are coming out of weak (Clarkston) to middling (Dakota) districts, but it gets very real now. One of Clarkston’s two losses was to Dakota in December, on the Wolves’ home floor no less.  This time around, though, Clarkston’s 6-5 junior Dylan Anderson, who recently surpassed 1,000 points, should feel more at home. Dakota has a new face of its own, 6-6 Brendan Sackey who didn’t play in the first meeting but had his coming out show in the district final against Romeo. High major schools needing a future point guard should be all over this one, with Dakota junior Jermaine Jackson and Clarkston sophomore Foster Loyer. The winner plays either 17-5 Rochester Adams or 15-7 Ortonville Brandon.

Muskegon 19-3  vs Grand Rapids Christian 22-1, 7 pm:
There are no more Mr. Basketballs on Muskegon’s roster, but this program isn’t going anywhere under Keith Guy as they again dominated the O-K Black, going unbeaten in the league. Grand Rapids Christian hasn’t lost since the day after Christmas, and that was before D1 junior bookend forwards Xavier Tillman and James Beck joined the Eagles’ lineup. Tillman will be looking to avenge Muskegon for knocking his former team out of the regional last year.

The opening game at Caledonia is no slouch between 17-5 Hudsonville, the one team to beat GR Christian, and 18-5 Lowell.

Class B

Imlay City
Lake Fenton 20-3 vs Yale 19-4, 6 pm:
This is Yale’s second straight regional appearance. But it almost wasn’t to be, as in Friday’s district final Croswell-Lexington pushed Yale to the brink before senior point guard Cody Kegley pulled it out on a layup with six seconds in the game to cap his 13-point fourth quarter. That ending was tame compared to how Lake Fenton got past Flint Powers in their district final, with Isaac Golson beating the horn with a three-pointer for a one-point victory.  On the other half of the bracket one of the overall tournament favorites, 20-2 New Haven, and one-time state power 9-12 Detroit Country Day.

Eaton Rapids
Wyoming Godwin Heights 20-3 vs Williamston 18-3, 6 pm:
If Godwin Heights is to defend their state title, they’ll have more than earned it. The Wolverines beat a top 10 team in their district opener, Wayland, now face another in the regional opener. This game features probably the two more gifted scoring guards in the entire division, Godwin Heights sophomore Lamar Norman and Williamston senior Riley Lewis. Lewis is 40 points waiting to happen. Norman can score at the rim and from behind the arc in a combination rare for an underclassman.

The second game at Eaton Rapids features 17-5 Stockbridge and 10-12 Portland.

Battle Creek Harper Creek
Marshall 19-4 vs Stevensville Lakeshore 16-7, 7:30 pm:
Lakeshore was thoroughly tested in the district final, where 6-10 senior Braden Burke hit the game-winner against Dowagiac with 7 seconds left. And if anything, they had it easier than Marshall. Marshall had to go to OT to beat Comstock in the district final, was taken to OT by Battle Creek Pennfield in the district opener, and beat Parchment by two in the semis. Of course it’s easy not to panic when you have a senior guard the caliber of Jacob Brubaker with the ball in his hands. The winner will play 19-3 South Haven or 15-7 Three Rivers.

Don’t miss these district finals

Class A
Grand Haven 16-5 vs Muskegon 18-3, Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills:
An old Lakeshore rivalry, which was tilted towards Grand Haven before Keith Guy came to Muskegon including a serious pasting of the Bucs in the regular season. But when clicking, Grand Haven has just as much talent as the Big Reds. They showed that at GVSU’s team camp, beating their Northern neighbor on a last-second three. But there’s a big difference between June and March basketball. College coaches will enjoy the junior forward matchup of Muskegon’s Anthony Bethea and Grand Haven’s Ross Koella.

Class B
Lansing Catholic 19-1 vs Williamston 17-3, Fowlerville:
Tiebreaker, as Lansing Catholic won in OT in the opening week of the season, and Williamston paid back the Cougars giving them their only loss 45-42 in January. This game has taken on added meaning for Williamston, whose bench will be without coach Jason Bauer after he underwent brain tumor surgery. Senior guard Riley Lewis scored 40 in the semifinal with Sexton. Williamston has other talent, senior forward Kurtis Kodet is a threat and the underclassmen are solid in their roles, sophomore guard Cody Kleiver and freshman forward Sean Cobb.

Class C
Manton 17-4 vs McBain 22-0, Pine River: Manton’s would-be dream season has been marred by injury, but Jayden Perry and Wyatt Baker are both back. Two of their four losses are to McBain, the other two are to Petoskey and TC West, who are meeting in a Class A district final. This is one of Bruce Koopman’s best McBain teams, which is saying something. The Ramblers have impact talent at guard, wing and the real mismatch the post with 6-7 sjunir Craig Sterk.

Class D
Hillman 22-0 vs Onaway 18-4, Wolverine:
Who knew Hillman would be this good after graduating all-state guard Mason VanPamel? Junior point guard Gunnar Libby, who is a problem on both ends of the court.

Sweet semis

Wednesday’s top MHSAA district semifinal games for each class.

Class A
Detroit Western 15-3 vs Detroit East English Village 17-4, 5:30 Grosse Pte. South:
Western can keep a repeat dream alive if the Cowboys can again keep it under 60 like they did when beating EEV last month. Easier said than done, as East English Village’s lanky guard pair of senior Karmari Newman and junior Greg Elliott can share 50 themselves.

Class B
Yale 17-4 vs Imlay City 17-3, 7:30 Croswell-Lexington:
Most have heard of Yale senior guard Cody Kegley, who signed with NMU, while Seith Reiff is a good senior guard himself for Imlay City. His teammate Griffin Schirmer is a matchup dilemma as a 6-6 junior wing.

Class C
Detroit Allen 18-2 vs Detroit Loyola 16-5, 5 Detroit Loyola: The home team will want to keep it in the 60s. That may be a steep task given Allen’s horses, including one for whom the Bulldogs don’t have an apparent answer 6-8 senior Danny Pippen.

Class D
Bellaire 20-1 vs Boyne Falls 17-3, 6
Bellaire: The home team’s only loss was to East Jordan, which also beat Boyne Falls during the regular season. Bellaire’s superior depth could make the difference.

Class D: Districts from hell

The schools may be small, but the stakes are high. Here are the state’s Class D districts from which it may be toughest to emerge.

13-6 Fulton reached the state semis last year. Senior guard Colton Antes is their all-state candidate this time. The most likely final here has Fulton facing the Fowler-Vestaburg winner. Vestaburg is 13-3 while Fowler comes in at 12-7 with the best big man in the district, junior Jeremy Pung.

Both Martin and Climax-Scotts are 15-5, and Martin has home court advantage. But is that enough in their first-round matchup to contend with 6-2 C-S senior Dallas Forberg and his 23.5 points per game? The winner will likely see 16-3 Kalamazoo Heritage in the final.

Suttons Bay
18-2 Frankfort has an opening round bye as the try to reach Breslin for the second time in three years. The Panthers flashed their March bonafides by recently taking the best Class C team in Northern Michigan, McBain, to overtime. They’ll play the Suttons Bay-Leland winner. If 13-7 Suttons Bay can establish their pace and get good shots for sophomore guard Thomas Hursey. Frankfort’s leading scorer is a sophomore guard himself, Jaylon Roger. Frankfort awaits the Suttons Bay-Leland winner, and will likely play Northport, 13-6 and with a rare league crown, in the final.

The probably semifinal between 19-1 Bellaire and 17-3 Boyne Falls will decide this one. Bellaire has one of the top prospects on pure talent in Class D, 6-3 junior Gabe Meriwether, while 6-2 Boyne Falls senior Marcus Matelski is looking to prolong an already ridiculously prolific career.

At 17-2 Onekama sits atop as king of this bracket, opening with .500 Fife Lake Forest Area. The other semifinal will likely be between 13-6 Bear Lake, and a team they recently beat rather easily 13-6 Buckley. But if Buckley’s personnel get it going on the same day, their young talent is the best in this district.

Class C: Districts from hell

How tough is Class C? The No. 1 team, Detroit Allen, will have to get out of the division’s strongest district, while two-time defending champion Flint Beecher is one of four winning teams in its district. Those and more below.

Whitmore Lake
Lutheran Westland is 20-0 and plays Ann Arbor Greenhills in the semis. Lutheran defends really tough for a Class C school and has three terrific players senior guard Brent Croft, junior forward Luke Smith and junior guard Kory Bankimo. They will likely face Arbor Prep in the final. The latter has a chance if like another local kid two years ago, Skyline’s Tristan Wilson, 6-7 senior Kyle Hayes takes over like he can.

Kalamazoo Christian
The host school and Kalamazoo Hackett should play a third time, in the district final. Kazoo Christian’s only two losses are to 20-0 Hackett. The last one was serious, Hackett won by 25. That’s running clock in AAU. Christian has a sweet shooter in 6-4 senior Kevin Wunderly, while Hackett is led by a pair of 6-1 seniors Jack Dales and Dane Preston.

The host, Saugatuck, is 15-3 and has the state’s best athlete — junior Blake Dunn. With his gaudy scoring average he could now add basketball to one of what would be four all-state sports. They open with .500 Wellspring. Awaiting the winner is Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian. Last year’s state runnerup fell to 10-8. But they had the toughest schedule here, and feature the least guard-able scorer 6-6 senior Tyler Baker. 15-4 Calvin Christian and 15-5 Covenant Christian meet in the other semifinal.

Elk Rapids
Johanesburg-Lewiston is 18-2, but did it coming out of the Class D-heavy Ski Valley. They open with 13-7 Traverse City St. Francis, who comes from one of the state’s top Class C leagues, the Lake Michigan, and best March coaches, Keith Haske. Senior guard Dylan Sheehy has had a terrific season for the Gladiators. Ditto senior guard Shae Somers, whose 12-8 Elk Rapids team plays 12-4 Grand Traverse Academy. Awaiting that winner is 14-6 Maple City Glen Lake.

Indian River
The likely final pits 18-2 East Jordan and 17-3 St. Ignace. Both feature senior guards vying for all-state honors. EJ’s Jordan Weber, with the greenest of lights and guilt-free range, and Iggy’s Gage Kreski, perpetual motion headed to CMU for football, couldn’t be more different. Nothing’s a given though. East Jordan opens against the best team Inland Lakes has had in years at 11-9, while on the other half of the bracket the Saints will have to get past Lake Michigan Conference rivals Boyne City or Charlevoix. Boyne is just a year removed from the state semifinals. 

Burton Bendle
17-2 Flint Beecher begins the journey to a possible third-straight state championship against 17-2 Flint Hamady. Beecher’s only losses are to the state’s top Class A team, 20-0 Detroit U-D Jesuit, and last year’s Class A champion, Detroit Western. Monday’s other game features 17-3 Burton Bendle against 14-5 Burton Atherton. Bendle swept that regular seson series. 

Harbor Beach
Pencil in 18-0 Bad Axe to the final. 14-5 USA recently played Bad Axe close and has a first-round date with 14-5 Harbor Beach. 

Detroit Loyola
There are plenty of Class A schools that would want nothing to do with this district. Detroit Allen’s talent is rare for Class C. Senior guard Jason Williams is going to ETSU, 6-8 Danny Pippen to Kent State, and freshman guard Mark Watts already has an offer from Oakland. They will play Monday’s winner between Detroit Southeastern and Detroit Loyola, 15-4 and battled-tested in the Catholic League. 14-4 Detroit Edison has the other bye, and yet another underclassman D1 guard joining Watts and Loyola’s CMU sophomore pledge PJ Mitchell, sophomore David Dejulius. They play the winner of University Liggett and Detroit Pershing, the not-so-long ago Class A power. The Doughboys have the only one here with any kind of chance of sticking with Pippen, 6-6 senior David Syfax. 

Class A: Districts from hell

All brackets may be created equal, but the teams on the lines aren’t. Here are the toughest Class A districts for the MHSAA tournament which opens Monday. All these groupings have more than one team capable of winning then making a further run, and are full of college prospects. All districts semifinals are Wednesday, finals Friday.

They took the Ann Arbor City Championship to Dexter. 16-5 Pioneer and 13-7 Skyline meet in one semifinal, while 15-4 Huron awaits the Dexter-Pinckney play-in. Skyline was 0-4 in the regular season series, while Pioneer and Huron both swept Skyline while splitting with each other. In the 2017-18-19 classes, there is as lot of guard and wing talent between the three schools. Jack Smith is the leading scorer of Huron’s trio of athletic 6-2 juniors with Alec Anderson and Lawrence Rowley. While he may not be high on the recruiting charts due to his size, junior Chris McGaughy is Pioneer’s leading scorer and a terrific high school player. Skyline’s leading scorers are a pair of 10th-grade guards, Brandon Wade and Jack Ammerman.

Grosse Pointe South
Defending state champion 15-3 Detroit Western awaits PSL champion 16-4 East English Village in the semis. The bottom half of the bracket features two programs with bright futures Detroit King and Cass Tech. EEV has the top senior, Karmari Newman, and junior, Greg Elliott, in the PSL; Western’s Brailen Neely will be the next star guard at Oakland; and Cass Tech’s 6-5 Randy Gilbert is the top soph prospect in the PSL.

Canton is a top 10 Class A team after running clean through the KLAA regular season and tournament to a 20-0 mark. Their 6-8 stretch 4 Logan Ryan is one of the state’s top available, college eligible seniors. Canton will likely meet 19-1 Northville in the semis. They didn’t play in the league tournament because Northville was upset by Churchill.

East Lansing
The Trojans dominated the CAAC Blue and enter the postseason 19-0. They’ll want to end the tournament right where it begins for them — East Lansing. They open with 13-6 Waverly, with 15-4 DeWitt next. Two of the best senior guards in Lansing face off in the other opening game Brandon Allen of 11-9 Haslett and Malek Adams from 14-6 Grand Ledge. East Lansing has to be the favorite, thanks to the state’s best prospect regardless of class, 6-8 sophomore Brandon Johns, and a deep group of high IQ shooters and passers. One-win Lansing Eastern is the outlier in this district.

West Ottawa is one of the state’s rising programs with five sophomores in the rotation of the 17-3 O-K Red champions. It should be an entertaining opening round match with fast-paced 14-6 Wyoming. There is D1 guard talent on the top of the bracket with 11-8 Holland and junior Demetrius Lake against 8-11 Jenison and sophomore Jacob Boonyasith. That winner will likely face 15-5 Zeeland East in the semifinals.

Grand Rapids Christian
There’s a rematch here where in 2015 Ottawa Hills ended East Kentwood’s 20-0 campaign. This time around EK is 15-5 and features one of the state’s top D2 recruits 6-4 senior Micah Rosser, while 10-9 Ottawa Hills has one of the state’s top juco recruits senior guard Anthony McIntosh. 19-1 Grand Rapids Christian is the district favorite. The mid-season addition of a D1 frontcourt, 6-8 junior Xavier Tillman and 6-7 junior James Beck, doesn’t appear to have affected chemistry. It helps to have a D1 point guard, sophomore Duane Washington, massaging the reins. GR Christian was the O-K White champion, and opens with the O-K Green champ, 14-6 Byron Center. Byron Center’s top player, 6-4 junior Brayden Smith, recently committed to WMU for football.

Class B: Districts from hell

Wayland junior Avery Hudson and his seemingly limitless range will try to knock off defending state champ Godwin Heights on Monday.
Wayland junior Avery Hudson and his seemingly limitless range will try to knock off defending state champ Godwin Heights on Monday.

Here are some of the state’s most competitive and entertaining Class B districts for the MHSAA tournament, which opens Monday.

Harper Woods
Class B is weak overall, so when you have a couple decent Detroit PSL teams likely meeting in one semifinal though Osborn is 9-10 and Denby 11-7 they’d be the favorites in a lot of places. The other semifinal will probably be 16-3 St. Clair Shores South Lake and 12-6 Chandler Park Academy. Both have all-state candidates, Chandler Park’s 6-3 senior Jalen Martin and South Lake’s junior guard Ricky Dixon.

Lansing Catholic is led by 6-7 senior all-state candidate Tony Poljan, 17-1 and in the semifinals will look to avenge last year’s district upset to Fowlerville. 16-3 Williamston has all-state candidate senior guard Riley Lewis with an opening round bye. Monday’s opening game features a young Sexton team that has taken its lumps all year and 10-9 Perry.

This district has some of the best looking records in Class B, as 16-4 Yale opens with 16-3 Richmond, with the winner facing 17-3 Imlay City. Yale and Richmond split in the regular season; Yale and Imlay City also split; while Imlay City swept Richmond. Yale has the best player in the gym, senior all-state candidate guard Cody Kegley.

Grand Rapids South Christian
The district championship will really be played at 7:30 Monday, with a state semifinal-caliber matchup of 17-2 Wayland and 17-3 Godwin Heights, the defending Class B champion. They played a terrific game in last year’s districts, at Godwin. 6-7 Wayland junior Zack Niewkoop will be a tough cover for the shorter Wolverines, while Godwin Heights has the advantage in depth. There are a couple of point machines in the backcourts, with Wayland junior Avery Hudson and Godwin sophomore Lamar Norman.

The host school is 18-2 and has a high school Ben Wallace in 6-8 senior Dylan Patton and an athletic senior shooting guard Zac Latter. The open with 11-9 Olivet, with breakout 6-2 junior Delbert Redfield. Eaton Rapids will play that winner, while the other semifinal is 15-5 Stockbridge against one-win (!) Lumen Christi.

Guard play will be the call of the day in one semifinal where 16-3 Dowagiac awaits 14-4 Benton Harbor. At 6-10, senior Braden Burke is the matchup with no answer here from 12-7 Stevensville Lakeshore.

Bank Hoops Players of the Week, 11

Dearborn Advanced Tech's 6-7 senior DeYuan Heard is one of Michigan's top available 2017 prospects.
Dearborn Advanced Tech’s 6-7 senior DeYuan Heard is one of Michigan’s top available 2017 prospects.

Class A Player of the Week
Brandon Allen  5-9  Sr  Haslett
: Twice last week a 5-9 guard became his school’s all-time scorer. Junior Demetrius Lake did it at Holland, and so did Brandon Allen for Haslett, reaching 1,629 for his career with games of 14 against Lansing Waverly and 20 against Fowlerville.

Class A Underclassman of the Week
Zach Winston  6-1  So  Detroit U-D Jesuit
: A valuable bench player for the state’s top team because he can both defend and shoot, Winston made all four of his three-pointers in the Catholic League final against De La Salle.

Class B Player of the Week
DeYuan Heard  6-7  Sr  Dearborn Advanced Tech: He is one of the most intriguing 2016 college-eligible prospects still out there, lanky and skilled like he’ll only get better. And he’s already pretty good, with 36 points and 14 rebounds against Warren Michigan Collegiate. He’s averaging 25 and 13 a game.

Class B Underclassman of the Week
Lamar Norman  6-2  So  Wyoming Godwin Heights
: Because he did this.

Class C Player of the Week
Kaleb Barrett  6-3  Jr  Carson City Crystal: His 10 three-pointers were a school record and powered him to 41 points in a win against Ashley.

Class C Underclassman of the Week
Daniel Poole  6-0  So  East Jackson: He had a 50-point week with 23 against Grass Lake and career-best to date 27 against Michigan Center.

Class D Player of the Week
Colton Antes  5-11  Sr  Fulton
: His reputation is built on his sick shooting range. But Antes is a good all-around guard as evidenced against Laingsburg when he had 33 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Class D Underclassman of the Week
Noah Robak  6-1  Fr  Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes: The Robaks keep coming for Lakes. Noah scored 19 in the Catholic League semis against Cardinal Mooney, then had 10 in a loss to Royal Oak Shrine at Calihan Hall.