Team rankings don’t mean anything in March. It’s all about getting to the Breslin. Here are the four Class B teams most likely to make it nearly four months from now.
Caledonia 1/4: Wayland The MHSAA should expect a flurry of Christmas cards bearing zip code 49348 after Wayland and Godwin Heights no longer share a district. Godwin knocked out two very good Wayland teams the opening week of the past two state tournaments. No Class B point/post duo has a rapport quite like Wildcats seniors Avery Hudson and Zack Nieuwkoop. A senior and another fourth-year varsity member Mitch Dykstra, who can attack and score from the wing. Wayland will have to get past Benton Harbor or Stevensville Lakeshore. Benton Harbor graduated their top two guards and leading scorers. Thus commences the era of freshman forward Carlos Johnson, who is being mentioned with the likes of some legendary Tigers. Lakeshore graduated all-state center Braden Burke but this program is always a threat, as the Lancers proved last year parlaying an average regular season into an appearance in the state championship game. Senior Alex Warman looks like the next breakout forward from Lakeshore, a springy dunker at 6-7 committed to Hope. Coming out of the Sparta regional should be either Allendale or Grand Rapids Catholic Central. A future WMU tight end Nate Umlor is a terrific high school forward for Allendale and senior guard Hunter Greer can really shoot it. GR Catholic played a lot of youth last year. They already had a tough junior post duo with 6-8 Jacob Polakovich and 6-5 Jalen Mayfield, a group bolstered by 6-9 junior Ottawa Hills transfer Marcus Bingham a poor man’s Deyonta Davis.
Chelsea 1/4: Godwin Heights This is no easy go for Godwin. River Rouge likely awaits in the quarterfinal and the Panthers have the guard play, athletes and coaching to match up with the 2015 state champions. But first in the Ionia regional Godwin would have to avenge the loss to the team that kept the Wolverines from going back-to-back, Williamston. They graduate all-state guard Riley Lewis but still have a tough backcourt in senior Sy Barnett and junior Cole Kleiver. Williamston will have win a district that includes a not so distant state champion, Lansing Sexton, as well as recently demoted Class A schools Lansing Eastern and Everett. Godwin Heights is best known for its pressure defense, explosive scoring of junior guard Lamar Norman and slick playmaking of senior point guard Christian Rodriguez. There’s depth, as Norman headlines a loaded junior class of guards Peyton Harley, Susu Davenport and David Kellah and forwards Markeese Hastings and D’Avery Moore. And senior forward Kelvyn Valdez is athletic as any of them. A River Rouge match in the quarterfinal would be “big league” as the Panthers return all-state point guard Darian Owens-White and look for new senior wing guard Drequan Bell to flourish under new coach Mark White. Look for Rouge to face Dearborn Divine Child in the Milan regional final. Times are good at DC where they’re coming off a strong football season and 6-6 junior Quinn Blair is a D1 forward prospect.
St. Clair Shores Lakeshore 1/4: New Haven The Livonia Clarenceville regional may the state’s toughest. Defending state champion Detroit Henry Ford isn’t going anywhere as they showed with a win this week against defending Class C champion Flint Beecher. Henry Ford will likely face Hazel Park or another PSL team, Douglass or Northwestern, in the Clarenceville final. Northwestern graduated all-state guard Terrance Sewell but the backcourt is strong returning senior Kylan Shipp and adding one of the state’s top 5 freshmen Steve Pearson. Hazel Park returns its junior backcourt with Carl Bow launching from three-point range and lefty David Hearns locking down on the ball. 6-9 senior Kristian Lafayette has potential, but HP may miss the all-around post production of James Jenkins. New Haven is favored to come out of the North Branch regional. Last season they had to run its offense through its senior bigs. Now they have a more natural option at point guard in senior transfer AJ Crawford, who has committed to Spring Arbor. The strength of the team is on the wing with senior Eric Williams and the state’s top sophomore Romeo Weems. Goodrich and Detroit Country Day will be New Haven’s most likely regional threat. Goliath Mitchell is a junior vet at guard for the Martians, while the next Country Day star is only a freshman Wendell Green.
Battle Creek Central 1/4: Big Rapids Big Rapids is the pick to return to the Breslin Center. 6-5 senior Demetri Martin is the leading returning scorer for their state semifinalist team. There’s solid size and shooting across the board with 6-4 junior Braeden Childress and 6-4 soph Jake Martinson. It will be tough to reproduce the prolific perimeter scoring of Kenny Davis, so look for a more balanced approach from the Cardinals. Meanwhile, there are any number of individual stars that could carry a team and knock off Big Rapids. In the Corunna regional, Frankenmuth’s 6-3 junior Mario Whitley, Bridgeport’s 6-3 junior Charles Garrett. In the Grayling regional, the home team’s 6-8 Troy Summers, Sault Ste. Marie’s 6-8 junior Brandon Paul and Gladstone’s 6-4 sophomore Reece Castor. And never overlook Cadillac, because they’ll always guard you.