Boys Basketball Quarterfinal Preview: West Ottawa plays East Lansing in one of Tuesday's top games
(PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Donoher)
The stage is almost set for Thursday’s and Friday’s semifinals with eight schools from each of the four classes looking to reach the Breslin Center with wins in Tuesday’s quarterfinal games.
Of the 32 remaining teams, New Haven (25-0, Class B), Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (24-0, C), Unionville-Sebewaing (25-0, C), Dollar Bay (25-0, D), and Hillman (24-0, D) are the last of the undefeated. Clarkston and New Haven are the only two defending state champions still alive and both are favorites to repeat.
Returning Quarterfinalists are Clarkston and U-D Jesuit
Warren DeLaSalle (18-7) will play U-D Jesuit (22-3) at the University of Detroit’s Calihan Hall is the first of a quarterfinal doubleheader with a 5 p.m. tip. This is the fourth meeting for the two Catholic League rivals with the Cubs winning the previous three including the Catholic League final also played at Calihan Hall for their sixth straight Catholic League title. U-D has won 19 of 20 games since starting the season 2-2. The Pilots’ regional final win was their first since 2010 and matched their longest win streak of the season at five. U-D’s last quarterfinal appearance was two seasons ago, the same season it won the Class A title. The last time DeLaSalle won a quarterfinal was in 2007. The winner will face the winner of our next quarterfinal preview on Friday.
Flint Carman-Ainsworth (23-2) will play Clarkston (23-1) at Grand Blanc High School at 7 p.m. and is a rematch of an early season matchup which Clarkston won, 72-67. The Wolves have won their last four games against Carman-Ainsworth and seven of the last 10 meetings dating back to the 2009-10. The last time the Cavaliers defeated Clarkston was Feb. 3, 2014 (71-57). Clarkston was the state’s top-ranked team in the preseason and finished No. 2 in Class A. Carman-Ainsworth was ranked No. 10 in the preseason and finished No. 8 in Class A. Clarkston won the Oakland Activities Association Red Division title and Carman-Ainsworth won the Saginaw Valley League title. Carman-Ainsworth last made the quarterfinals when the Cavaliers went on to Class A runner-up finishes in the in 2003 and ‘04.
East Lansing (22-3) will play Holland West Ottawa (23-2) at 7 p.m. at Lansing Eastern’s Don Johnson Fieldhouse, one of the state’s top venues. A win will put the Trojans in the semifinals for the first time since 2008 when they lost to a Draymond Green-led Saginaw team. West Ottawa’s appearance represents the program’s first and comes on the heels of their first district title won last season. East Lansing was ranked No. 6 in the preseason, West Ottawa was No. 17. East Lansing dropped out of the top 10 in Class A at season’s end and West Ottawa finished ranked No. 7. The winner will play the Belleville-Novi winner on Friday.
Belleville (20-5) and Novi (16-8) will play in the second game at Calihan Hall at 7 p.m. It’s a tale of two halves for Belleville, ranked No. 3 in the preseason. The Tigers started the season 5-4 then upped their level of play winning the Western Wayne Athletic Conference Blue Division title. The same can be said for the Wildcats, ranked No. 15 in the preseason. Novi was 7-8 at the end of January but the Wildcats had to overcome injuries and plus eligibility issues in the first semester. Both teams finished outside of the Class A top 10.
Returning Quarterfinalists are New Haven, Benton Harbor, and River Rouge
Benton Harbor (24-1) and Williamston (22-2) will play at 7 p.m. at Ionia High School, and will pit the state’s No. 3-ranked team, Benton Harbor, against the No. 5-ranked team. Benton Harbor lost to the eventual state champion, New Haven, in last season’s semifinal. This is Williamston’s third consecutive quarterfinal appearance. The Hornets reached the state semifinals in 2016. The winner will play our next quarterfinal preview winner on Friday evening.
Dearborn Divine Child (18-6) and River Rouge (22-1) will play at Chelsea High School at 7 p.m. River Rouge was a semifinalist a year ago but this is the Falcons’ first quarterfinal appearance since 2011. River Rouge was ranked No. 1 in the preseason in this class and finished ranked No. 4. Divine Child won the Catholic League AA Division regular season title.
New Haven (25-0), which won its first state title last season, will take the state’s longest winning streak (51 games) into its game against Bridgeport (24-1) for a 7 o’clock start at Corunna High. Bridgeport dropped its first game of the season and has rolled off 24 straight victories since. A sold-out crowd is expected to fans should arrive early. Bridgeport won the Tri-County Conference East Division title and finished ranked No. 7. New Haven won the Macomb Area Conference Blue Division title and finished ranked No. 1. The winner will play the winner of the quarterfinal listed below.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central (22-2) and Mr. Basketball finalist, Marcus Bingham, Jr., will play unranked Boyne City (19-6) at Big Rapids High School at 7 p.m. Catholic Central’s last trip to a quarterfinal was in 2000 and the Cougars last made the semifinals in 1992. Catholic Central won the OK Conference Blue Division title and finished No. 6 in the final rankings. It’s been 85 years since Boyne City reached a state (Class C) final (1933).
Returning Quarterfinalists are Monroe SMCC, Detroit Edison, Kalamazoo Christian, and Grand Rapids Covenant Christian
Detroit Edison (14-10) will play Unionville-Sebewaing (25-0) at West Bloomfield High School at 7 p.m. Edison, the Class C favorite, reached a state semifinal last season before losing to Flint Beecher. The Patriots last made a trip to the Breslin Center in 2005. USA thwarted Beecher’s four-peat attempt last week in a regional final. Edison won the Detroit Public School League’s “Big D” tournament and ended the regular season as the No. 5-ranked team. Edison will attempt to duplicate what the girls basketball team did this past Saturday, and that’s to win a state title. USA won the Greater Thumb Conference West Division title and just missed the top ten rankings. The winner will play the quarterfinal pairing listed below on Thursday.
Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (21-4), a finalist last season, will play Sanford Meridian (21-3) at Stanton Central Montcalm at 7 p.m. Covenant Christian returns a strong core and the Chargers’ average victory margin through five tournament games is north of 25 points. Three of Sanford Meridian’s four playoff games have been won by double-digits. Covenant Christian ended the regular season as the No. 4-ranked team. Sanford-Meridian, unranked, won the Jack Pine Conference title.
Kalamazoo Christian (23-2) will play Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (24-0) at 7 p.m. at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix High School. Tournament history would seem to give Christian the nod but St. Mary C.C. is rolling as the top-ranked team in this class. Christian won the Class C title in 2008. The Comets won the Southwest Athletic Conference Valley and the Falcons ran away with the Huron League title. St. Mary C.C. last made the semifinals in 2013. The winner plays the winner of the next game on Thursday.
Maple City Glen Lake (22-2), ranked No. 7, will play Iron Mountain (23-1) at Petoskey at 6 p.m. Glen Lake’s only losses came to conference rival and Class D quarterfinalist, Buckley. Iron Mountain won the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference title and started 17-0 before conference rival, Ishpeming, ended that run in late February. Glen Lake was the 1996 Class D runner-up. Under coach Don Miller, Glen Lake won the 1977 Class D title. Iron Mountain’s last championships were in Class B in 1933 and 1928.
Returning Quarterfinalists are Hillman, Southfield Christian, and Buckley
Cedarville (21-3) plays Dollar Bay (25-0) at Escanaba in a game matching two Upper Peninsula schools at 7 p.m. Cedarville won a state title in 2007 and was runner-up in 2009. Dollar Bay is one of two Class D teams undefeated and is in search of its first state final appearance. Dollar Bay won the Copper Mountain Conference-Copper Country league title and Cedarville won the Eastern UP Athletic Conference title. Dollar Bay finished as the No. 3-ranked team. The winner will play the winner of the game listed below on Thursday evening.
Southfield Christian (20-4) and Flint International Academy (23-2) will play at Goodrich High School at 7 p.m. In the tournament, top-ranked Christian is winning by an average of 40 points per game and is playing at a high level. Christian lost in a semifinal last season. It won three consecutive earlier this decade (2012-14). Flint International, which has never reached a state final, defeated two quality teams (Fulton and Kingston) in the regionals.
Marcellus Howardsville Christian (20-5) will play Hillsdale Academy (23-2) at Portage Northern High School at 7 p.m. It features a pair of teams that were unheralded to start the season. Hillsdale Academy was ranked No. 8 when the regular season ended and Howardsville Christian remained unranked. Hillsdale Academy won the Southern Central Athletic Association East Division title and is riding a nine-game winning streak. Howardsville Christian won the BCS White Division and has won 10 straight. The winner plays the Buckley-Hillman winner on Thursday.
Two state-ranked teams, Buckley (19-5) and Hillman (24-0), will play at Gaylord High School at 7 p.m. Buckley was 27-0 before losing to Powers North Central in the state final last season. It was the program’s first state-final appearance. Buckley is ranked No. 6. Hillman finished ranked No. 2 and will look to run the table as they seek its first state title. Hillman will press the entire game and likes to shoot the 3pointer. Buckley will use its experience and seek to play a more physical game.