Boys Basketball Quarterfinal Picks: Clarkston should advance; Novi picked to upset Belleville
(PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Donoher)
Clarkston – It’s a question on everyone’s mind with regards to the Class A tournament. What team has what it takes to knock off defending state champion Clarkston?
Four teams come to mind.
One is U-D Jesuit. The Cubs have recently won a state title and, since Jalen Thomas returned to the team, the Cubs have a post presence few teams can match.
Another is Holland West Ottawa, the best of the west side. West Ottawa has shown it can play against a team (Muskegon) that thrives on defensive pressure and the Panthers whipped Flint Carman-Ainsworth, 45-27, a team that will play Clarkston in Tuesday’s quarterfinal.
A third team is Belleville. The Tigers have star power in Gabe Brown and they also have depth. What Belleville doesn’t have is experience at this level of the tournament.
The fourth could be the best choice and that would be East Lansing. Led by Brandon Johns the Trojans finally got over a huge hurdle and won a regional title. Kevin Mayes has replaced Steve Finamore (resigned) as head coach late in late February and the closest game East Lansing has played in the tournament was last Wednesday when it defeated Okemos, 50-42, in a region final.
Here’s a brief look at the quarterfinals and my predictions.
At Calihan Hall: U-D Jesuit (22-3) vs. Warren DeLaSalle (18-7), 5: The Pilots haven’t defeated U-D since 2014, and the teams play each other three times a year, in most cases. This is the fourth meeting this season. DeLaSalle has come close to breaking that streak recently. The Cubs are just a little bit better. Pick: U-D by 6.
At Calihan Hall: Belleville (20-5) at Novi (16-8), 7: Novi has come so close recently to reaching the semifinals. Last season’s loss to West Bloomfield, 67-66 in double overtime in a regional final, is the most recent setback. But that’s in the past. The Wildcats are playing with confidence and are ready to upset another top 10 team. Pick: Novi by 2.
At Lansing Eastern: East Lansing (22-3) vs. Holland West Ottawa (23-2), 7: This quarterfinal, specifically at this venue, seemingly is always a heavyweight matchup in Class A. Last season Grand Rapids Christian played Kalamazoo Central in a game matching the top two vote-getters in the Mr. Basketball race (Christian’s Xavier Tillman, Central Isaiah Livers). East Lansing has a Mr. Basketball finalist in Brandon Johns. West Ottawa has 6-6 Tyler Bosma and a number of other players who contribute. Pick: West Ottawa by 3.
At Davison: Clarkston (23-1) vs. Flint Carman-Ainsworth (23-2), 7: Not since T.J. Buchanan and Tyler Bell led Kalamazoo Central state titles in 2010 and 2011 has a team accomplished this rare feat. Foster Loyer and Taylor Currie and match that this season for Clarkston. If Clarkston does fall short of winning the title, it’ll happen in East Lansing, not in this round. Pick: Clarkston by 11.
At Corunna: New Haven (25-0) vs. Bridgeport (24-1), 7: Bridgeport has won 24 consecutive games but New Haven has that beat, winning 51 straight. New Haven has played a more adventurous schedule, one that included 12 Class A teams. Plus the Rockets have Romeo Weems, a sure-fire Mr. Basketball candidate next season. Pick: New Haven by 11.
At Big Rapids: Boyne City (19-6) vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (22-2), 7: Catholic Central has a Mr. Basketball finalist in Marcus Bingham, Jr., and he’ll draw the attention of Boyne City coach Nick Redman. But the Cougars and not just a one-man show. Catholic Central is a balanced team with a number of options offensively. Boyne City did reach a state semifinal in 2015 but that was in Class C. Pick: Catholic Central by 13.
At Ionia: Williamston (22-2) vs. Benton Harbor (24-1), 7: This is the best quarterfinal in this class. Benton Harbor has had many lopsided games but games against Hazel Park, a game the Tigers lost, and Chicago Bogan were challenging. Williamston suffered its losses in December to two Class A schools. Not sure Williamston can handle 6-6 sophomore Carlos Johnson inside. Pick: Benton Harbor by 2.
At Chelsea: Dearborn Divine Child (18-6) vs. River Rouge (22-1), 7: Divine Child has played a competitive schedule and the Falcons played teams like Detroit Cass Tech and Detroit Western to prepare for the tournament. River Rouge is a young team, perhaps a year away from winning a state title. The Panthers are talented but they often have trouble scoring. Look for a close, low-scoring game. Pick: River Rouge by 6.
At West Bloomfield: Detroit Edison (14-10) vs. Unionville-Sebewaing (25-0), 7: Edison has played nine Class A schools and won four of those games. At one time Edison’s record stood at 4-7. Records aren’t important this time of year. USA did not play a Class A school this season but the Patriots did play a number of good teams including Sanford Meridian, a quarterfinalist in this class. Pick: Edison by 11.
At Stanton Central Montcalm: Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (21-4) vs. Sanford Meridian (21-3), 7: Covenant Christian reached the state final last season and return many of those players including Carson Meulenberg. Meridian has played and defeated some good teams. Just not sure the Mustangs are ready for Christian’s perimeter game. Pick Covenant Christian by 9.
At Kalamazoo Loy Norrix: Kalamazoo Christian (23-2) vs. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (24-0), 7: This is the best quarterfinal in this class. These teams, on the surface, are evenly matched. It’s tough to tell sometimes because they play different teams from different areas. Kalamazoo Hackett and Schoolcraft, rivals of Schoolcraft in the SWAC, made the Comets earn their spot in this round. They defeated Hackett, 35-31, in a district final and then bested Schoolcraft, 45-44, in a regional semifinal. SMCC played a more demanding schedule, most of its opponents were Class B or Class A. Pick: SMCC by 3.
At Petoskey: Maple City Glen Lake (22-2) vs. Iron Mountain (23-1), 6: Let’s have a history lesson. The last time a team from the Upper Peninsula reached a state final was in 2000 when Negaunee won the state title. I realize this is a quarterfinal but teams at this level need to play at a state-final type of level. Negaunee, in 2014, was the last U.P. team to win a quarterfinal. Glen Lake has a strong inside game. Pick: Glen Lake by 6.
At Escanaba: Cedarville (21-3) vs. Dollar Bay (25-0), 7: Dollar Bay has never been to a state final. Cedarville won a state title in 2007, lost in the final two years later and, more recently, reached the semifinals in 2014. Dollar Bay has won a couple of close games in the tournament and that just might serve the Blue Bolts well. Pick: Dollar Bay by 2.
At Goodrich: Southfield Christian (20-4) vs. Flint International Academy (23-2), 7: Harlond Beverly, Caleb Hunter, Bryce Washington, etc., etc., etc. This Christian team is loaded. Would like to see how well the Eagles would fare in the Class C tournament. Pick: Christian by 17.
At Portage Northern: Marcellus Howardsville Christian (20-5) vs. Hillsdale Academy (23-2), 7: This is a landmark game for whichever team survives this round. Neither has reached the semifinal round. Just a hunch. Pick: Hillsdale Academy by 5.
At Gaylord: Buckley (19-5) vs. Hillman (24-0), 7: Take Southfield Christian out of the equation and this game is worthy of a state final, state semifinal at the least. Buckley reached the final for the first time last season and coach Blair Moss has all five starters back and the Bears are hitting their stride. Hillman has had a number of solid teams recently and this one likes to press and shoot the threes. It’s all about the pace of the game. If Buckley can be physical without getting into foul trouble the Bears will make a return trip to East Lansing. Pick: Buckley by 4.