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Boys Basketball Semifinal Picks: North Central vs. Southfield Christian highlight Thursday’s games

By: Tom Markowski, March 22, 2017, 8:12 pm

(PHOTO CREDIT – Lenny Padilla)

East Lansing – Not since 2009 has there been such anticipation for a Class D semifinal as there is for Thursday’s game between top-ranked and two-time defending state champion Powers North Central and No. 2-ranked Southfield Christian.

Game time is 6 p.m. and it will be played, just as all of the semifinals are, at the Breslin Center.

North Central (26-0) owns the state’s longest winning streak at 81.

Christian (21-5) spent the last two seasons competing in Class C. The Eagles were eliminated by Flint Beecher, the eventual champion, each season.

Before opting for Class C, Christian won the Class D title in 2012, ’13 and ’14.

Look past Christian’s five losses. The Eagles’ schedule can match any of the top teams in Class C. A weakness for the Jets is their rather weak schedule.

Rarely do the pure basketball fans have more than a passing interest in a Class D semifinal. This game is different. Both teams have more than one college recruit. Jason Whitens of North Central finished third in the voting for the Mr. Basketball award.

There are contrasts and similarities. One team is from the great white north, the other from the congested streets of Metro Detroit. North Central has a tall point guard (the 6-4 Whitens). Christian’s backcourt doesn’t reach six foot.

Both teams like to score. They’ll push it whenever the chance arises and both possess a solid post game.

Let’s go back to 2009 when Lawrence played Cedarville in a Class D semifinal. Lawrence was 24-1 and boasted Western Michigan 6-11 recruit Shayne Whittington. Cedarville was also 24-1 and featured point guard C.J. Paquin. Both were state ranked and Cedarville won, 80-77.

In ’07 Cedarville was also involved in a much-anticipated semifinal. Cedarville and Bellaire were 25-0. Paquin, who would go on to play at Northern Michigan, was a sophomore then and had 14 points as Cedarville defeated Bellaire and the last of the McClary brothers, Mike, 58-55.

In ’05 unbeaten Bellaire played tradition power Wyoming Tri-unity Christian, which had previously won titles in 1996 and 2002, in a semifinal. The McClarys (Brandon and Mike) teamed for 38 points and 15 rebounds as Bellaire downed the Crusaders, 56-50, for the school’s only semifinal victory.

New memories are made here. Pick: Christian by 4.


Other Thursday games

Class D

Lansing Christian (19-6) vs. Buckley (25-0), 7:50 p.m.: Some say that this Buckley team is the best representative from the north (south of the bridge) since the fine Bellaire teams of the early 2000s. Pick: Buckley by 2.


Class C

Flint Beecher (21-5) vs. Detroit Edison (14-11), 1 p.m.: This Edison has earned its place getting past such state-ranked teams like Detroit Cornerstone and Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central. Beecher is Becher but this one won’t be easy. Pick: Beecher by 5.

Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (20-5) vs. Manton (21-4), 2:50 p.m.: I keep picking against Manton and the Rangers keep winning. Pick: Covenant Christian by 8.


Friday’s games

Class A


Clarkston (25-1) vs. West Bloomfield (17-8), 1 p.m.: These two Oakland Activities Association Red Division played twice this season. Clarkston won both by 11 and seven points, the latter came on Feb. 28. Neither team has reached a final. Pick: Clarkston by 6.

Grand Rapids Christian (26-0) vs. Romulus (21-4), 2:50 p.m.: Even more than West Bloomfield, Romulus is the biggest surprise semifinalist. The Eagles eliminated defending champion U-D Jesuit on D.J. Lundy’s 3-pointer, 66-63. Christian showed its might with a 66-46 victory over Kalamazoo Central on Tuesday. Christian’s post players, James Beck II and Xavier Tillman teamed for 37 points and 24 rebounds. Pick: Christian by 7.


Class B

Benton Harbor (22-3) vs. New Haven (25-1), 6 p.m.: Benton Harbor trailed Spring Lake nearly the entire game before pulling out a 46-44 victory. New Haven has Romeo Weems and that’s a player Benton Harbor won’t be able to match. Pick: New Haven by 6.


River Rouge (24-1) vs. Ludington (24-2), 7:50 p.m.: The Panthers received a huge scare when they needed a late 3-pointer to get past Williamston. Ludington, unexpectedly, blew away Lake Fenton, 69-43. I must stay with the team I picked before the start of the tournament. Pick: River Rouge by 6.

Quarterfinal record: 13-3