Districts from Hell refer to those opening week basketball brackets where not only are there two or more teams capable of winning it, but could do damage further into March once they do.
Montrose: If you’re going to get three-time defending state champion Flint Beecher, this is the time to do it. 13-5 Flint Hamady already has, splitting with Buctown in the regular season. But March is a different beast, even when Beecher is just 12-8. Round 3 will likely come in the district final. Beecher opens with Montrose with 13-6 Burton Atherton in the semifinals, while Hamady plays Burton Bendle with 15-5 Burton Bentley in the semifinals.
Bath: 15-3 Laingsburg and 14-6 Dansville meet for the third time this season on Monday. Laingsburg took the previous two, 51-40 at home and 70-67 at Dansville. The Wolfpack won the state’s best small-school league, the CMAC, despite a starting lineup averaging sub-6 feet led by 5-9 senior guard Kam Brown. Dansville counters on the other end of the scale with 6-9 junior Caleb Hodgson, who averaged 24 points and 17. 5 rebounds in the two Laingsburg games. Another CMAC team, 13-7 Bath, opens with New Lothrop and is dangerous playing on its home court with a senior scorer, Harry Gilstrap, who can get hot.
Covenant Christian: The defacto district final will take place in the only Monday game in this district, where 2017 state runner-up Grand Rapids Covenant Christian plays host to 2016 state runner-up Grandville Calvin Christian. Covenant won the regular season meeting at home in January 54-45. Covenant is 16-4, Calvin 14-6. Expect some college coaches in the stands for this one, as Covenant’s 6-7 Carson Meulenberg is the focus of a recruiting battle between Cornerstone and Hope, while Calvin Christian’s 6-10 Blake Verbeek is one of the state’s top 10 available seniors. Meulenberg is one of four senior starters back for Covenant from last year’s Breslin team.
Glen Lake: The district semifinal between Manton and host Maple City Glen Lake is more like a state quarterfinal. 18-2 Glen Lake won a share of the NWC with Buckley and Frankfort, while 17-3 Manton shared the Highland title with McBain. Manton is even stronger than it was a year ago when it made the state semis. The senior backcourt of Jayden Perry and Hunter Ruell is diminutive but deadly, as both are 1,000-point career scorers. Junior guard Trever Salani is the perfect complement to them as he brings physicality along with another three-point threat. The Rangers will need a big effort from 6-6 senior Ethan Ancick against a pair of talented Glen Lake forwards, 6-6 senior Cade Peterson who is going to Grand Valley State as a quarterback and 6-5 sophomore Reece Hazelton, while 6-4 junior Xander Okerlund can play 1-4 and is Glen Lake’s best all-around player. The winner shouldn’t celebrate too soon, as awaiting in the final is likely 15-5 Traverse City St. Francis, which went undefeated in the LMC.