Boys Basketball Semifinals Picks: Macomb Dakota will look to pull off the upset
Macomb – Ypsilanti coach Steve Brooks was asked, before his team was about to play U-D Jesuit last Tuesday, how a team can defeat the Cubs.
“I had a lot of the coaches who played (U-D) give me advice,” he said. “U-D is 25-0. They haven’t lost. So the guys didn’t know what they were talking about.”
Excuse Brooks if he doesn’t lend similar advice to Paul Tocco, the coach at Macomb Dakota, whose team will play top-ranked U-D in a Class A semifinal on Friday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing at 1 p.m.
“We’ll do what we do,” Tocco said profoundly.
Let’s not sell Dakota short. The Cougars are also 26-0 and ranked No. 2.
U-D has Mr. Basketball, Cassius Winston, but Dakota also has a point guard being recruited by Division I schools, junior Jermaine Jackson, Jr. Winston is a point of emphasis but Tocco said there are other phases of the game that will likely decide the outcome.
“Cassius is a playmaker,” Tocco said. “He thinks the game of basketball. We need to figure out a way to slow him down.
“Rebounding will be huge. They get a lot of second shots.”
Many of U-D’s second-chance opportunities are created by the Nigerian duo, Ike Eke and Greg Eboigbodin, both are 6-9 juniors.
Dakota will counter with 6-7 sophomore Thomas Kithier. Kithier is averaging 20 points over the last three games. In Dakota’s 66-47 quarterfinal victory over Midland Kithier had 21 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. He had 17 points in the first half.
One Kithier, two Nigerians plus Winston. Even the new math can’t confuse the correct answer here. Pick: U-D by 5.
All games are at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
North Farmington (23-2) vs. Lansing Everett (16-10), Friday, 2:50: Much accolades were strewn upon Everett coach Desmond Ferguson last season when he engineered the upset of Muskegon, then the defending champion, in a quarterfinal last season, a deservedly so. But getting back to the semifinals with a team that had little experience is validation. Ferguson has earned his stripes. North Farmington has benefitted, and capitalized, on a friendly bracket and has enough balance to weather whatever Ferguson has planned. Pick: N. Farmington by 8.
Detroit Henry Ford (18-6) vs. Williamston (21-3), Friday, 6: Williamston could be a team of destiny. First is knocks off defending champion and tournament favorite Wyoming Godwin Heights in the regionals. Then it gets past the most storied program (River Rouge) in a quarterfinal. But Henry Ford has been down this road before. The Trojans lost in the state final a year ago and coach Ken Flowers didn’t like the taste that lingered. Pick: Henry Ford by 6.
Big Rapids (23-2) vs. Stevensville Lakeshore (19-7), Friday, 7:50: Big Rapids is here because of its defense (held Essexville Garber to 23 points in a quarterfinal). Lakeshore has won 10 straight and has 6-10 Braden Burke (signed with Robert Morris) in the middle. Pick: Lakeshore by 5.
Grandville Calvin Christian (20-4) vs. McBain (26-0), Thursday, 1: McBain struggled against teams like Manton and Beaverton in the tournament. Calvin Christian lost four games in the OK Silver Division, including two to Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian, a team it defeated in a district final. At 6-9 Blake Verbeek is an up-and-coming sophomore for Calvin Christian and will force McBain to make jump shots. Pick: Calvin Christian by 3.
Flint Beecher (23-2) vs. Detroit Loyola (21-5), Thursday, 2:50: Loyola might have had more talented teams before but none played as well as a team as this one. Credit goes to coach John Buscemi. And this is a relatively young team. Beecher’s two losses were to U-D and Detroit Western. U-D is favored to win the Class A title this season. Western won it last season. Pick: Beecher by 7.
Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (21-4) vs. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (20-5), Thursday, 6: This is the private school side of the bracket (all four semifinal teams are private schools) and there seems to be a bit more balance in this bracket. Tri-unity certainly had the more difficult challenge in its semifinal (defeated Adrian Lenawee Christian) and could be better prepared for this game in an environment such as this. Pick: Tri-unity Christian by 4.
Fulton (19-6) vs. Powers North Central (26-0), Thursday, 7:50: Fulton’s victory over Bellaire in the semifinals is another example of a team, like Fulton, that plays a competitive schedule that includes quality Class C teams like Pewamo-Westphalia and Laingsburg, is ready for the challenge of a state tournament. But North Central is a different animal. Those of us in the Lower Peninsula would like to see how North Central would match up with Class C teams like Beecher and Calvin Christian. I’m just saying. Pick: North Central by 13.
Quarterfinal record: 14-2.