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Sans Southfield Christian, Lakes and Inter-City Baptist could meet in the regionals next week in crucial Class D showdown

By: Scott Burnstein, March 9, 2015, 12:26 pm



The movement up to Class C by three-time defending Class D champion Southfield Christian has opened the road to East Lansing up for another team from Metro Detroit.

Enter state-ranked Waterford Lakes and Allen Park Inter-City Baptist. These teams were bounced out of the regional by Southfield Christian last season. Lakes and Baptist are expected to meet in the regional finals next week at West Bloomfield.

Lakes (20-0) recently won its second straight Catholic League C-D Division title. The last time the Lakers appeared in the final four was in 1993.

The star of that squad was Paul Robak, Lakes’ current coach. The Lakers’ best player is all-state senior swingman Nick Robak, the coach’s nephew who scored 34 points in the C-D championship game. Robak is averaging close to 25 points and eight rebounds.

“We’re tuned up to take a run at this thing,” coach Robak said on the eve of his team’s state tournament opener Monday at Clarkston Everest Collegiate against the host Mountaineers. “I like our chances. I think we’re a tough match-up.”

Robak’s team is big for the small-school ranks.

Besides the 6-foot-3 Robak, Lakes has all-league point guard Andrew Kline, a 6-4 junior with a diverse skill set fueling the backcourt, the 6-3 Senerius brothers (junior Clay and sophomore Devin) and 6-5 center Donnie Lochbiler pacing the frontcourt.

“We have height and length, hopefully that bodes well in the one-and-done format,” the elder Robak said.

Baptist (16-4) has significant size for a Class D club, too. The Chargers lost to Southfield Christian in the regionals the past two seasons. Two of their four losses came at the hands of Southfield Christian this year as well.

Spring Arbor-signee Luke Barber, a savvy and smooth 6-4 senior small forward and 6-1 junior Garrett Kraatz anchor Baptist’s perimeter attack and a pair of 6-6 post players, senior Troy Kazlauskas and junior Josh Estell, hold down the interior.

“It’s been a good year, we’ve got a versatile group,” said longtime Baptist coach Mark Kraatz, who captained Baptist to a state championship as a senior in 1985, the last time the program advanced to the final four. “We’ve got size, shooters and depth. That makes us difficult to defend.”

Garrett Kraatz, the coach’s son and an efficient scorer, started last year at the off-guard spot, but has moved to the point this season with the graduation of his brother, Evan, the state’s all-time assist king now playing in college at Cedarville (OH). Garrett Kraatz is still prone to find the zone from long range though, connecting on 11 3-pointers in a 43-point performance in a win over Novi Franklin Road Christian in January.

“I’d put Garrett and Luke (Barber) up against any outside shooters in the area,” Kraatz said.

The last time Kraatz took his team to the quarterfinals was in 2012. Baptist tips off the 2015 state tournament Monday against Taylor Baptist Park at Baptist Park.