In Play with Tom Markowski


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Macomb Dakota looks to add success on the basketball court to that of the football program

By: Tom Markowski, February 23, 2015, 9:26 am

Macomb – Muskegon did it last season and now there are those in Macomb County that are convinced it’s Macomb Dakota’s turn.

It’s rare for a school known for its success on the football field will enjoy similar success in basketball.

Muskegon has won multiple state football titles and last season it won the Class A title in basketball.

Dakota won back-to-back Division 1 football championships (2006-07) but has never been much of a factor in boys basketball.

The Cougars are hoping to change that this season. Dakota (15-2) is 10-0 in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division and can clinch the title outright with a victory over Macomb L’Anse Creuse North on Monday. Should North pull off the upset Dakota will have another shot at the outright title on Tuesday at Warren Mott.

Dakota does have a MAC White Division trophy in its trophy case and this will be its first in the Red, regarded as the MAC’s top division.

Dakota has never won a regional title either. That will be a more difficult challenge. Barring an upset or two, the Cougars are expected to face No. 5-ranked Clarkston (15-0) in a regional final March 18 at Troy.

We are getting a little ahead of ourselves but it is fun to look at potential matchups.

To be more in the moment, Dakota will open up tournament play March 11 against L’Anse Creuse North at New Baltimore Anchor Bay at 6:30 p.m.

Coach Paul Tocco has a well-balanced and deep club. It is to his advantage that Tocco does not have one dynamic player though there are a few who have the capability to take over a game for a brief stretch.

“We’ve got to a rotation of eight or nine,” Tocco said. “They’ve done everything I’ve asked of them.”

The team leader is senior captain Alex Hagel. He’s the team’s emotional leader and he’s also the one to lay down the law when someone isn’t doing his job.

For the most part, Hagel has done his as he’s averages 14 points and eight rebounds.

Next is sophomore point guard Jermaine Jackson, Jr. Jackson is a floor leader and is at his best when he takes the ball into the key and dishes off. Jackson can shoot the ball but he doesn’t need to go to that art off his game as much with the talent on this team.

Like Jackson, Charles Penn is a transfer from Mount Clemens who became eligible the second semester. Penn is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds, and lends a certain athleticism that was missing.

Then there’s John Hall, a 6-5 senior. Hall played the first two games this season before he was diagnosed with mononucleosis. Hall missed 11 games and Tocco said Hall is 100 percent now and his contributions often don’t show up in the score book. Hall is a terrific defender and his experience is invaluable at this time of year.

The player who could potentially be one of the best in school history is freshman Thomas Kithier. Kithier is 6-7 and has started every game. He’s averaging 6.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and four blocks. Even if he isn’t scoring or getting a rebound, Kithier offers a presence in the middle that was missing a year ago.

And Dakota was good last season. The Cougars finished 17-6 and lost in a regional semifinal to Utica Eisenhower, a team they could face again in a regional semifinal.

Oh, we’re getting ahead of ourselves again.