Boys Basketball Finals Picks: GR Christian to take A title; Beecher, North Central picked to win third consecutive titles
East Lansing – Clarkston, New Haven and Buckley are the only schools of the eight finalists that have never been to a state final.
It’s good for the game to have new teams participate in the finals. It’s also good to have teams like Flint Beecher and Powers North Central going for their third consecutive title. Historical programs are so much a part of Michigan basketball.
History will be made if Clarkston defeats top-ranked Grand Rapids Christian in the Class A final. Clarkston’s Dan Fife is one of the most respected coaches in the state. This is his 35th season as the school’s head coach and there’s speculation that Fife will retire soon. Fife was an all-state player at Clarkston before going on to Michigan where he served as captain in the 1970-71 team. His three sons, Duggan, Jeremy and Dane all played for him with Dane winning the Mr. Basketball award in ’98.
Again, win or lose, it’s good for the game that Fife and Clarkston finally got to play on a Saturday in late March.
Looking back, two teams that finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in their respective classes are in the final. They are Grand Rapids Christian and Powers North Central. The other two are McBain in Class C (lost in a district semifinal to Manton) and Wyoming Godwin Heights in Class B (lost in a regional semifinal to Williamston).
Class A: Clarkston (26-1) vs. G.R. Christian (27-0), noon: When the brackets were released many had hoped for this matchup in the final. Which team wins will depend on which team is able to exert its will over their opponent. Led by Xavier Tillman and James Beck II Christian has the advantage in the interior. With Foster Loyer Clarkston has the edge at the all-important point guard position. Christian’s balance could be the deciding factor. Pick: Christian by 3.
Class B: New Haven (26-1) vs. Ludington (25-2), 6:30: Ludington in a final? Quick quiz. What’s Ludington’s nickname? Think Maryland crab cakes. Answer: Orioles. Okay, enough of the Tom Foolery. He couldn’t defend the perimeter anyway. Ludington’s overtime victory over the state’s most legendary program, River Rouge, caused many to scratch their heads and many more dressed in orange to invade the Breslin Center again. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, though. New Haven is a quality team that could compete with just about any of the Class A schools that reached the quarterfinal round. The Rockets would be the second public school from Macomb County to win a state title. Pick: New Haven by 5.
Class C: Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (21-5) vs. Flint Beecher (22-5), 4:30: Malik Ellison has an opportunity to end a celebrated four-year career with yet another title for the Bucs. Even Monte Morris only won two when he played for coach Mike Williams. Ellison would have three should Beecher prevail. By the way, since the start of the modern era in 1948 no Class C team has won three consecutive titles. Pick: Beecher by 11.
Class D: Powers North Central (27-0) vs. Buckley (26-0), 10 a.m.: North Central must guard against a letdown following its wild 84-83 double overtime victory over Southfield Christian on Thursday. The good news for the Jets is that they’ll have time to re-focus their attention to the task at hand and that’s to win a third consecutive title. Pick: N. Central by 11.
Semifinal record: 6-2
Quarterfinal record: 13-3