No. 4 Berkley continues six-week hot streak into postseason, looking to break 13-year district drought
BLOOMFIELD HILLS — You never know when the wake-up call is going to come, but you’d better heed it.
For the Berkley Bears, it was a 3-0 loss to top-ranked Troy Athens at home on Aug. 28 that drilled home that they needed to step it up.
Since then, the Bears — now ranked No. 4 in Division 1 — have gone 13-0-3, including Thursday’s 2-0 win over Birmingham Groves in a D1 district semifinal game at Bloomfield Hills, putting them back in the district title game yet again.
“We’re looking to try to get that first district championship ‘W’ in 13 years or so. This will be our third district final in a row, and it would be nice to punch one in and get through,” Berkley coach Steve Wloszek said. “We’ve really stepped up our game since the end of August. We just had one bad night where, at home, we decided to take the night off against the No. 1 team in the state, and we lost 3-0, and that was kind of the wake-up call we needed. The wake-up call we needed earlier in the year, and not right now. The boys have just been playing on another level — and we look forward to Saturday’s match.”
At the time, the Bears (18-3-3) were just 5-3, having lost to Linden, Athens and No. 7 Midland Dow. After a win and a tie, they ripped off seven straight wins before a 0-0 tie in a conference game against North Farmington, then won five more in a row through Thursday.
“Right now, we’re on a roll, just hoping to win some more games. We forgot how to lose. We didn’t lose a game in October at all,” Berkley senior Trey Bishop said. “We’ve just been playing a lot more cohesively, as a team, and we’ve been building — even out of practice we’ve been hanging out a lot more, and just working on our team, and our chemistry and stuff.”
In Saturday’s district championship game, hey’ll face Birmingham Seaholm, which beat Bloomfield Hills, 1-0, in a shootout in Thursday’s second semifinal.
Groves (12-6-2) finished just ahead of both Seaholm and Bloomfield Hills in the Oakland Activities Association’s White Division standings, while Berkley was second behind Athens in the OAA Red.
“I thought we were doing pretty well there. The only mistakes we made were goals, and unfortunately in a game like this, against a team like them, that costs you. Tough to come back from,” Groves coach Jonathan Turner said. “We had a good year. We won our league, the OAA White, and we’re moving up to the Red (next) year. Our guys worked hard. They exceeded my expectations, from what we lost last year. I’m really, really happy with what we were able to do this year. Now, obviously, we wanted to do better tonight. I thought we’d be a good challenge for Berkley, that we’d be able to put some goals in on them, but it just didn’t happen. But I’m proud of what we did, and we’ve got good guys coming back next year, so I’m excited.”
The Falcons couldn’t get much of anything going against a Berkley defense that was stingy, even playing a man down in the second half, due to a red card issued to Bishop less than three minutes into the second half.
“Things actually opened up for us more with the red card. We had a lot of running lanes. We had pretty good possession with only 10 on the field,” Wloszek said.
“I thought our back line was phenomenal tonight, won every 50/50 ball in the air. The anticipation from the back line was just on-point tonight. I thought our center-mids really controlled the play. We had really good possession we were able to build in the first half, when we had a full 11 on the field. We had two work-horses up top in the first half that just cost turnovers, did a great job for us, applying pressure to their back line, which gave us a lot of opportunities.
“Just an overall great game from the boys.”
Even with the man-advantage, Groves couldn’t muster much offense, getting just one solid shot that Berkley keeper Spencer Meade tipped over the crossbar with just over 11 minutes remaining.
“We possessed the ball well in the middle of the field. For us, in the final third tonight, we just weren’t able to find good, good opportunities to capitalize on,” Turner said. “We had one shot on-frame in the second half, that their goalie made a spectacular save on. The other shots we had, I wouldn’t really call them dangerous. We just weren’t able to really get in there and find those seams and get those opportunities.”
Bishop got the Bears on the board in the ninth minute of the first half, scoring unassisted.
“The ball bounced off my teammate’s back, and just kind of landed right in front of me. I’d been trying to hit the outside of my right foot for the past three games now, and I finally hit it right, and it went right where I wanted it to, in the right outside corner,” Bishop said. “Amazing. It felt absolutely wonderful. Everyone’s faces — it was just a great feeling to see it. So happy for them.”
That helped get the pressure off the Bears, and helped them turn it up on the Groves defense.
“That’s every coach’s dream, right? To come out and get that first goal, get that monkey off your back right away. I think with the amount of pressure that we had, we just kept creating chance after chance after chance. That led to the goal,” Wloszek said. “The amount of free kicks we had in the box, long throws, the development carrying the ball up the field — we kept creating, and finally we got that first one, and that gave the boys a lot of energy. That led them to the victory.”
The Bears made it 2-0 in the 36th minute, when Max Rebori drilled home a cross from Aden Kaye, and just rolled from there.