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Districts from Hell: Class D

All-state forward Mason Pline and Fowler will likely see CMAC rival Fulton or upstart Ashley in the Merrill district final.

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.

Merrill: Ashley against Fulton is the lone Monday game. 16-4 Ashley was one of the nice stories in the state with one of the best Bears teams in years. They’ll have to overcome the heartbreak of losing the regular season finale to Carson City-Crystal 42-40 — which denied this little school that’s dropping to eight-man football a share of the MSAC title. If they hang their heads just a little this has trap game written all over it, because Fulton took its lumps in the state’s top small school league, the CMAC, and is a program used to recent March success. The Pirates have two dangerous senior guards in Cole Blair and Evan Barton. Ashley counters with one of the top post combos in Class D, rugged 6-3 senior Colin Dolloff and finesse passer/shot-blocker 6-7 senior Nick Sperling. Vestaburg awaits the winner. The district favorite, however, sits atop the bracket, where 15-5 Fowler opens in the semifinals against terrible Merrill. Fowler, like Fulton part of the brutally tough CMAC, has lost three straight, but hasn’t fallen to a Class D team all season. Fowler has the top player in the district, 6-7 Mason Pline who is headed to Ferris State, but the guard play from Ashley or Fulton would give them a chance.

Bellevue: Can anyone stop the host school, Bellevue? It’s 19-1 and has convincing wins over the best teams here including 16-4 Athens, which awaits the winner of Battle Creek St. Philip and Marshall Academy in the semifinals. Bellevue has won five straight district titles, but this is its best team yet. And should only get better, with just one senior starter. Junior guard Wyatt Waterbury leads a balanced attack at 16 points per game. St. Philip is 10-9 under first-year coach Jay Luoma and has the best size in the district with a pair of 6-7s, Morgan Bohanan and Sam Conkley. 16-2 Marshall Academy has the most talented player of the bunch, sophomore guard Ta’vas Lawler-Showers.




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