In Play with Tom Markowski

Quarterfinal picks: Walled Lake Central seeks to reach semifinals for the first time against powerhouse Arthur Hill

Basketball   | Tom Markowski

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Commerce Township – Walled Lake Central has never been to a state semifinal and few expect that to change anytime soon.

Central (20-5) will take on a team from one of the state’s top programs, Saginaw Arthur Hill (22-3), in a Class A quarterfinal on Tuesday at Grand Blanc at 7 p.m.

All quarterfinal winners advance to the Breslin Center in East Lansing. The Class C and D semifinals will be played on Thursday. Class A and B will be held on Friday with the four finals on Saturday.

Should Central win it would represent one of the biggest upsets in this season’s tournament in any class.

The Vikings weren’t picked to get out of their district. Most favored either Walled Lake Western or West Bloomfield.

In the regional at Holly again Central was an underdog. Most would have pointed to Howell, a quarterfinalist last season, or the host team to advance. Central defeated Holly 73-71 in the regional final.

So next there’s Arthur Hill and its Mr. Basketball finalist, Eric Davis.

Well, it has been a great season for the Vikings, hasn’t it?

That’s just the mindset Central coach Chuck Spolsky hopes Arthur Hill has when the teams take the floor. A program with little tournament tradition reaches this point, gets beat and is content with what it has accomplished.

After all, Spolsky is a Detroit Catholic Central graduate. Isn’t that a football school? Or maybe it’s a hockey school, or a wrestling school. Whatever.

The point is, Spolsky isn’t a basketball guy.

Is he?

This is Spolsky’s third season as Central’s head coach and this is the first time he’s coached a team to a district title. See. I told you.

But this was the third season Central finished first in the North Division of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association.

But the KLAA is a football conference. See what I mean.

Spolsky’s best player is Walter Kelser, a junior point guard. Kelser is the son of Raymond Kelser, one of the top basketball officials in Metro Detroit and is the nephew of Pistons announcer Greg Kelser, the former Michigan State great who later played with the Pistons.

Now I’m getting confused. What happened to football?

Spolsky said only one of his players played football.

Stop. I just told you the KLAA is a football conference.

“This is a big step for us,” Spolsky said. “It’s an exciting step. These guys are gym rats.

“We knew we had to win a tough district. Then we had to play Holly at Holly. And Holly is a really good team. That place was packed. It was a great atmosphere.

“My team wants to get up and down, and get after it. We like to pressure teams. We’re deep. We play 10 or 11 guys. We’re averaging 61 points a game. But at this stage you don’t want to give up any open looks. My guys like to shoot it. And I’m always screaming, ‘patience’.

“We’ve played some guys who are really athletic this year. Like Trishton Jackson at West Bloomfield and Jerald Booker at Western. But we haven’t played a starting five as athletic as Arthur Hill.

“We’ve got to handle their pressure.”

Spolsky sounds like a basketball coach.

But Arthur Hill is a basketball school. I checked. Pick: Arthur Hill by 10.

 

Class A

Lansing Everett (23-2) vs. Muskegon (24-1) at Lansing Eastern, 7: The game within the game will feature Everett’s 6-8 Trevor Manuel going against Muskegon’s 6-9 Deyonta Davis. Though Manuel can’t match Davis’ inside game, Davis isn’t as good as Manuel is on the perimeter. The x-factor is Joeviair “Hip Hop” Kennedy of Muskegon. Pick: Muskegon by 6.  

Clarkston (24-0) vs. U-D Jesuit (21-4) at Calihan Hall, 5:30: Many looked at the brackets before the tournament anticipating this matchup. The point guards will attract most of the attention from what is expected to be a big crowd at Calihan. U-D’s Cassius Winston is the frontrunner for the 2016 Mr. Basketball award and Foster Loyer of Clarkston is just a freshman. Pick: Clarkston by 2.  

Detroit Western (23-0) vs. Ypsilanti (19-4) at Calihan Hall, 7: This could be Western’s toughest test to this point in the tournament. Ypsilanti’s lack of a true post player could be its downfall. Western’s 6-8 center Gerald Blackshear could have a big game. Pick: Western by 8.

Class B

 

Milan (23-2) vs. Otsego (22-3) at Marshall, 6:30: Otsego has had trouble with teams that pressure full court. Milan likes a quick pace. If Otsego can make it a half-court game an upset is possible. Pick: Milan by 5.  

Wyoming Godwin Heights (23-1) vs. Spring Lake (18-7) at Rockford, 7: Godwin Heights has played a more demanding schedule and won’t be intimidated by the magnitude of this game. Pick: Godwin Heights by 14.

Essexville-Garber (21-4) vs. Cadillac (17-8) at Mount Pleasant, 7: Cadillac has been to the Breslin Center before so one would think the scales would be tipped in its favor. Essexville-Garber has flown under the radar this season. This team is underrated. Pick: Essexville-Garber by 4.

Detroit Henry Ford (19-5) vs. New Haven (25-0) at Marysville, 7: Like the Clarkston/U-D matchup, many looked at this matchup taking place before the districts started. Henry Ford is a guard-oriented team without a player over 6-4. Often New Haven won’t have a player on the floor under 6-4. New Haven had to come from behind to defeat one Detroit Public School League team (Detroit Osborn). Two is too many. Pick: Henry Ford by 4.   

 

Class C

 

McBain (22-2) vs. Boyne City (20-5) at Gaylord, 7: Boyne City was a dark horse coming out of its region where teams like East Jordan, Negaunee and Iron Mountain were expected to be the teams to beat. McBain was the prohibitive favorite coming out of its region and remains so. Pick: McBain by 6.

Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (19-5) vs. Shelby (23-1) at Zeeland East, 7: Once NorthPointe got past Grandville Calvin Christian in the districts its place in this game was solidified. Despite its record Shelby was considered a longshot, a sleeper if you will, to reach the Breslin Center. Pick: NorthPointe by 9.

Hanover-Horton (23-1) vs. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (22-3) at Ann Arbor Huron, 7: Hanover-Horton has certainly bucked the odds to get here. First it knocked off No. 2-ranked Jackson Lumen Christi in the districts then it beat No. 5-ranked Hillsdale in the regionals. I’m sold. Pick: Hanover-Horton by 3.

Flint Beecher (23-1) vs. Millington (19-5) at Burton Bendle, 7: If there’s a sure thing in the tournament it’s Beecher. Pick: Beecher by 13.

 

Class D

 

Morenci (22-2) vs. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (14-10) at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix, 7: For Tri-unity fans, better late than never. This perennial strong team struggled mightily early in the season. But a victory over Zeeland East, a Class A school, just before the tournament served notice to the rest of the teams in this class. Pick: Tri-unity Christian by 8.

Waterford Lakes (24-0) vs. Genesee Christian (17-6) at West Bloomfield, 7: It’s not often a title contender receives a breather this late in the tournament. Lakes will take it. Pick: Lakes by 15.

Fulton (20-4) vs. Frankfort (22-2) at Cadillac, 7: This promises to be the best game in this class in this round. Both are worthy of making the next round. Pick: Fulton by 3.

Powers North Central (24-0) vs. Hillman (23-1) at Sault Area, 7: The Upper Peninsula teams in this class were outstanding this season. Too bad more downstate didn’t get a first-hand look. Pick: Powers by 13.