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State Tournament: Top Regional Finals

Will Kalamazoo Central senior Isaiah Livers and the Maroon Giants be celebrating after their regional final showdown with Brandon Johns and East Lansing?

Class A

20-4 Troy vs. 14-9 Warren De La Salle @ Troy Athens: At the beginning of the season we picked De La Salle to make the state semis. That prediction looked dim in the regular season but the Pilots are playing their best ball at the right time. Troy won’t be going anywhere as their top players are all juniors, guard Leon Ayers, wing Jason Dietz and forward Danny Sully.

20-3 Kalamazoo Central vs. 23-0 East Lansing 6 pm @ Gull Lake: Kalamazoo Central’s Mr. Basketball finalist Isaiah Livers and East Lansing’s future finalist Brandon Johns are both high-major forwards who will likely neutralize each other. So will it be K-Central’s athleticism and physicality, or East Lansing’s shooting and unselfishness? X factors may be a pair of 6-4 seniors who couldn’t play more differently, the Maroon Giants’ Roger Stein and Trojans’ Westin Myles.

24-0 Grand Rapids Christian vs. 23-1 West Ottawa @ Grand Haven: These teams won their regional semifinals by nearly identical and shocking scores, as GR Christian embarrassed previously undefeated Muskegon 64-26 and West Ottawa toyed with Forest Hills Northern 60-25. There will be over 3,000 fans expecting more this time around. They should get it. West Ottawa’s only loss came to these same Eagles, 57-49 on a neutral court in December. That came with WO junior point guard Xavier Wade out with an injury. He’ll be the best athlete on the court this time and could prove a crucial matchup especially if GRC junior point guard Duane Washington isn’t fully recovered from an illness; he struggled with his shot Monday. Christian’s size won’t bother the Panthers like it did Muskegon, as they’re long in their own right, but nothing like the muscle of the Eagles’ Xavier Tillman and James Beck.

19-4 Romulus vs. 16-7 Ann Arbor Pioneer @ Wayne: Romulus is proving they don’t need sexy D1 recruits to win big. They’re solid and deep with mid-sized athletes. Pioneer was the third-best team in Ann Arbor in the regular season but has turned it on when it matters most. Sophomore point guard Drew Lowder scored 18 in the semis against Woodhaven and Pi High will need him to again perform with upperclassman poise.

19-4 Detroit Cass Tech vs. 19-3 Detroit U-D Jesuit @ Dearborn Fordson: Speaking of sophomore point guards, U-D’s Julian Dozier has had some big sneakers to fill, as their last one, Cassius Winston, was only Mr. Basketball and the alpha of the school’s basketball history. Dozier and the Cubs are looking for another win over Cass Tech, following a 65-53 Operation Friendship victory. That’s the Technicians’ only loss since gaining their full complement of players for the second semester, a group which has come together seamlessly.

Class B

19-3 Detroit Northwestern vs. 15-9 Detroit Osborn, 6 pm @ Livonia Clarenceville: Osborn knocked off defending state champion Henry Ford in the regional semis. They have a really tough matchup for Northwestern er Collegiate Prep with senior Kenneth Holloway, a great high school forward.

20-3 Benton Harbor vs. 21-3 Wayland @ Allegan: Wayland will be the best team the Tigers have seen this year, as two of their three losses are to Grand Rapids Christian, they’ve crushed opponents in the tournament by an average of 37.5 points and senior guard Avery Hudson is the school’s all-time leading scorer.

22-1 River Rouge vs. 16-7 Dearborn Divine Child @ Milan: Divine Child will have to control the glass and tempo to keep it close. How good a guard is Rouge senior Darian Owens-White? He doesn’t have to score 25 to control the game and put his team in position to win.

21-2 Frankenmuth vs. 18-6 Lake Fenton @ Corunna: College coaches will want to see this matchup of physical wings, Frankenmuth junior Mario Whitley and Lake Fenton senior Jalen Miller.

18-5 Gladstone vs. 22-2 Ludington @ Grayling: Thad Shank is one of the state’s most underrated coaches, doing it off the beaten path in Ludington. The Orioles will find 6-4 Gladstone soph Reece Castor a tough physical matchup.

Class C

15-4 Detroit Cornerstone vs. 10-11 Detroit Edison @ Madison Heights Bishop Foley: Like we said going into Monday’s games, Edison is much better than their record. They went out and beat 19-win Michigan Collegiate by 30. Junior point guard PJ Mitchell and junior forward Spider Johnson are Edison’s household name, and while junior wing Gary Solomon was MIA when we saw him in Grand Rapids he’s been producing down the stretch. And if you want to see the player in the state with the most NBA potential, don’t miss Cornerstone senior Jamal Cain.

18-5 Grand Rapids Covenant Christian vs. 18-5 Muskegon Heights @ Belding: Covenant has been one of the surprises of March, and little has come easy. They beat Pewamo-Westphalia, which we’d originally tabbed as a final four team, in double OT in the regional semifinals. In their district final Covenant beat last year’s class C runner-up, Calvin Christian. It was Calvin that knocked out the Heights in last year’s regional final. Led by the Jones Bros., Anthony and Antoine, the Tigers blew out Galesburg-Augusta on Monday.

19-4 Manton vs. 17-7 Boyne City @ Houghton Lake: Manton got the McBain gorilla off its back in the district final and carried the momentum to get past a good Glen Lake team in the semis. But Boyne has more experience at this depth of the tournament. Senior guard Kane McPherson is an interesting story for the Ramblers, going from a bench player last year to averaging 15 points per game.

20-3 Iron Mountain vs. 19-4 Negaunee @ Escanaba: These two split during the regular season and feature two of the UP’s, and Class C’s, best in Iron Mountain’s 6-4 Carson Wonders, an NMU signee, and Negaunee’s 6-7 Trent Bell, a Michigan Tech signee. Wonders became Iron Mountain’s career scoring leader in Monday’s win over Newberry.

Class D

23-1 Hillman vs. 17-6 Pellston @ St. Ignace: Hillman senior Gunnar Libby is the school’s all-time leading scorer and one of the top ¬†guards in the division. Pellston’s 6-7 senior Trent Bell could be a matchup dilemma on the glass.

15-8 Tri-Unity Christian vs. 21-1 Baldwin @ Big Rapids Crossroads: Tri-Unity’s hall of fame coach is about the last guy you want to tangle with in March, but Baldwin has the two most talented players here in junior guard Blake Dockery and senior forward Dre McDonald.

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