Boys Basketball Tournament Preview: Allen looks for recognition
Detroit – Anonymity can be a blessing for some, a curse for others.
Whether a team is given that label or not every team in the state is on a level playing field on Monday with the start of the boys basketball tournament.
Detroit Allen Academy has been ranked No. 1 in Class C by State Champs! since Jan. 17 after it hammered perennial Class A power Saginaw Arthur Hill, 76-56, at Warren Fitzgerald in the Horatio Williams Foundation Freedom Classic. That same evening in the same event, Flint Beecher, which was ranked No. 1, lost to Detroit Western, 53-32.
Allen (18-2) has won 15 consecutive games. Its last loss was to Chicago Orr, 71-68, on Dec. 27.
It must be noted that Arthur Hill also lost the previous night to Saginaw (78-46) and dropped out of the Class A top 10 rankings.
Nevertheless Allen has proven to be worthy of its lofty ranking. Last Tuesday it Allen defeated Detroit Renaissance, then ranked No. 9 in Class A, 68-64, at Renaissance.
Still there are many who don’t know about Allen let alone give the school recognition. It’s located on Quincy Street near Grand River and Joy on the city’s west side. The charter school has approximately 200 students grades nine through 12 and is in the building where former Catholic League high school St. Theresa was located. The basketball team practices at the historic St. Cecelia school gymnasium and its home games are held at Hackett Recreational Center in Highland Park.
Pontiac Northern graduate Craig Covington, Jr., 42, is in his third season as head coach and has but two seniors on his team but both are two of the top players in the city.
Jason Williams (6-0) signed with East Tennessee State and he recently set the school scoring record with 1,629 career points. Danny Pippen (6-8) is the school’s all-time leader in block shots and he signed with Kent State.
“I like our depth,” Covington said. “I like the fact that we started the season with a mission and we’ve maintained that. We want to in the state title.”
Part of the reason why Allen has remained anonymous is that last season it lost in the first round of the tournament. The season before the Wildcats reached the regionals before losing to eventual state champion Detroit Consortium and Josh Jackson.
“Jason and Danny are our trailblazers,” Covington said. “Jason has started all 87 games since he came here as a freshman. Danny is a three-year starter. They’ve seen the good and the bad.”
After the success the 2013-14 team had, last season brought sadness and disappointment.
“We had a (junior varsity) player in the program who was murdered on Christmas Day,” Covington said. “His brother was a member on the varsity. He was a well-liked kid. When you have a school our size, everyone knows everyone else.
“This season we’ve really bought into the defensive part of the game. We average 72 points. Offense has never been a problem. If we play defense, we’ll be tough to beat.”
Allen has an opportunity to make a name for itself in this tournament. It’s in the most competitive district (at Detroit Loyola) but if it can survive the early rounds Allen has a real shot at reaching the Breslin Center.
“The lack of recognition doesn’t bother me,” Covington said. “It matters to the kids though. I kind of like being the underdog. They’d like to have their names mentioned.
“In three games we’ve been to, the announcer said Allen Park when they introduced our team. They’re starting to get to know us.”
For the record, Allen Park is a public school and a member of the Downriver League. Allen is in the same league as River Rouge, the Michigan Metro Athletic Conference.
2015 champion: Flint Beecher
Top district: Detroit Loyola
Top opening game: Cassopolis vs. Niles Brandywine at Eau Claire
Top region: Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian
Possible upset: Southfield Christian over Beecher in a region final
Final Four: Allen, Beecher, Negaunee, Muskegon Heights Academy
2015 champion: Detroit Western
Top district: Grosse Pointe South
Top opening game: East Kentwood at Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills
Top region: Caledonia
Possible upset: Detroit East English Village Prep over U-D Jesuit in a region final
Final Four: U-D Jesuit, North Farmington, Clarkston, Grand Rapids Christian
2015 champion: Wyoming Godwin Heights
Top district: Fowlerville
Top opening game: Wayland Union vs. Godwin Heights at Grand Rapids South Christian
Top region: Detroit Mumford
Possible upset: Detroit Collegiate Prep at Northwestern over Detroit Henry Ford in a regional semifinal
Final Four: Detroit Ford, Godwin Heights, Big Rapids, Benton Harbor
Winner: Godwin Heights
2015 champion: Powers North Central
Top district: Flint International Academy
Top opening game: Crystal Falls Forest Park vs. Wakefield at Watersmeet
Top region: Negaunee
Possible upset: Wyoming Potter’s House Christian over Wyoming Tri-unity Christian in a district semifinal
Final Four: North Central, Frankfort, Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, Adrian Lenawee Christian
Winner: North Central