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Boys Basketball Notebook: Title contenders using final week of regular season to prepare for state tournament

By: Jeff Dullack, March 1, 2017, 12:00 am

As boys basketball teams prepare for the start of the state tournament, which begins next week, several teams have not shied away from scheduling difficult games this week.

Start with the No. 1 ranked team in the latest State Champs! Rankings, Grand Rapids Christian, who faced Wyoming Godwin Heights, the No. 1 ranked team in Class B, on Tuesday night. River Rouge, No. 2 in Class B, took on Southfield Christian, No. 2 in Class D, and New Haven, ranked just behind River Rouge, traveled to Flint Beecher, No. 2 in Class C as well on Tuesday night.

Grand Rapids Christian earned a 72-58 win over Godwin Heights, while River Rouge beat Southfield Christian 62-47. New Haven narrowly edged out Beecher, 108-104, in a triple-overtime thriller.

River Rouge head coach Mark White said that it was important for his team to face tough competition outside of conference play not only in the final week of the regular season, but throughout the season as well.

“Throughout the season, we want to get a variety of looks, a variety of challenges,” he said. “Southfield Christian presents a great challenge, they’ve got great offensive players, great skills, they’re a well-coached team and you want to try and fill your regular season schedule with that, whether it’s at the beginning or at the end, we’re very fortunate to have a good, tough game like this before our state districts. We’re really proud of what we’ve done the whole season.”

Grand Rapids Christian will face another top 10 team to end the season when the Eagles travel to Kalamazoo Central in a match-up that features two Mr. Basketball candidates, Xavier Tillman of Grand Rapids Christian and Isaiah Livers of Kalamazoo Central.

But these schedules were put together by coaches tactfully, trying to better prepare their respective teams, who are all expected to contend for state titles in March.

“You’re not just developing technically and physically, but you’re developing mentally,” White said. “Until you’re in those battles and until you’re in those moments of adversity, and until you’re faced with those really tough challenges, it’s hard to know how you’re team’s going to respond, it’s hard for them to have confidence in those moments. It’s very important for us as a staff to try to present those situations and scenarios during the regular season.”


Beecher’s Ellison scores 63 in loss to New Haven

In its aforementioned game against New Haven on Tuesday night, Flint Beecher’s Malik Ellison, one of the state’s top seniors put together a memorable performance in a 108-104 loss. Ellison scored a school record 63 points to lead the way for Flint Beecher as the Bucs begin their drive for a third straight Class C State Championship next week.

Ellison has gained attention on the recruiting trail from Detroit Mercy, Oakland and Eastern Michigan, but the only offer he currently holds is from Northwood. I’d expect to see a couple of late offers come through for Ellison and whoever lands the 5-9 point guard will be getting an absolute steal.

East English Village Prep’s Elliott lands Providence offer

It’s been a big 2016-2017 season for Greg Elliott both on the court and off the court and earlier this week, Elliott landed yet another major Division 1 offer. Earlier this season Providence head coach Ed Cooley was in to watch Elliott in the Bulldogs’ win over Detroit King and after about a month, the Friars have become the latest team to offer Elliott.

Already holding offers from Marquette and Michigan State, Elliott has continued to gain the attention from colleges across the country and could continue to see more Division 1 offers come through during the next month.