These teams have cham­pi­onship look

An early glimpse at state-ti­tle con­tenders in each di­vi­sion

The Detroit News - - BASKETBALL - BY DAVID GORICKI The Detroit News

The boys bas­ket­ball state tour­na­ment will get un­der­way in a cou­ple of weeks, and two ri­vals will be tip­ping it off when No. 6 Detroit King faces No. 12 Detroit Cass Tech in a Di­vi­sion 1 dis­trict opener at Detroit Western Feb. 25.

The teams are fa­mil­iar with one an­other, have al­ready split their PSL reg­u­lar-sea­son se­ries. They’re on a col­li­sion course to play for the PSL cham­pi­onship Fri­day night at Cass Tech, if King (15-2) can get past Detroit Re­nais­sance (14-3) and Cass Tech (12-5) can get past Detroit Per­sh­ing (16-1) in Tues­day’s semi­fi­nals at Cass Tech.

While the sur­vivor of that dis­trict opener could make a long post­sea­son run, so could No. 4 U-D Je­suit, which has an out­stand­ing lineup in phys­i­cal 6foot-4, 220-pound for­ward Daniel Fri­day, 6-10 cen­ter Jalen Thomas, 6-6 ju­nior for­ward J.T. Mor­gan and guards Ju­lian Dozier, Jor­dan Mont­gomery and Caleb Hunter, who are all strong de­fend­ers.

Be­fore U-D Je­suit (15-2) — which won the Class A state cham­pi­onship in 2016 with Cas­sius Win­ston lead­ing the way — starts its post­sea­son run it will try to earn its sev­enth straight Catholic League cham­pi­onship.

“I think we have ev­ery­thing we need to win a state cham­pi­onship,” said Fri­day, who will play next year at Brown. “We have great guard play, prob­a­bly the best big in the state and we have me, who tries to do ev­ery­thing.”

U-D head coach Pat Don­nelly feels good about his team — whose lone losses are to No. 3 New Haven when Thomas was out be­cause of a foot in­jury and to Chicago Mor­gan Park in early Jan­uary — and is thrilled to have Fri­day lead­ing the way.

“He’s a great player, a man amongst boys,” Don­nelly said of Fri­day. “He’s big. He’s ath­letic. He’s strong and can han­dle the ball and get to the rim. He’s a tough matchup for high school bas­ket­ball.”

It’s hard to be­lieve Clark­ston would be in the con­ver­sa­tion of hav­ing the po­ten­tial to reach the Bres­lin Cen­ter in mid-March for the Fi­nal Four af­ter it lost its en­tire eight-man ro­ta­tion, in­clud­ing Mr. Bas­ket­ball award win­ner Fos­ter Loyer and leg­endary head coach Dan Fife, from its two-time state cham­pi­onship team.

But, Clark­ston (15-2) is in that con­ver­sa­tion, earn­ing its No. 5 rank­ing and clinch­ing the Oak­land Ac­tiv­i­ties As­so­ci­a­tion Red Di­vi­sion ti­tle with a 10-0 record, while also de­feat­ing Detroit King 53-39 on Jan. 19.

Clark­ston is get­ting things done with 7-foot ju­nior Matt Ni­chol­son (13.3 points, 11.4 re­bounds, 4.7 blocks) and a pair of fresh­man guards in Kee­gan Wasilk (11.6 points, 4.3 re­bounds, 3.2 as­sists) and Fletcher Loyer (16.4 points, 4.2 re­bounds), younger brother of Fos­ter, lead­ing the way.

Ro­seville — 14-2 and ranked No. 8 — would have to be con­sid­ered a sleeper, earn­ing an early sea­son win over Mr. Bas­ket­ball front-run­ner Romeo Weems (DePaul) and New Haven, with guard Darien Banks scor­ing 27.

Ro­seville, coached by 24year-old Has­san Nizam, is on col­li­sion course to face New Haven in the Ma­comb Area Con­fer­ence Red/White tour­na­ment cham­pi­onship game Sat­ur­day at Ster­ling Heights Steven­son, if Ro­seville can de­feat Ma­comb Dakota and New Haven gets by Steven­son in Tues­day night’s semi­fi­nals.

No. 15 Yp­si­lanti Lin­coln and 6-8 fresh­man phe­nom Emoni Bates will be a team to keep an eye on. Lin­coln will try to put an end to Yp­si­lanti’s run of 10 straight South­east­ern Con­fer­ence White Di­vi­sion cham­pi­onships when the teams meet Fri­day at Lin­coln.

Bates scored 43, mak­ing 6of-11 3-point­ers, in Lin­coln’s 6856 win over Yp­si­lanti Jan. 19 played be­fore a packed house, in­clud­ing Michi­gan State coach Tom Izzo.

Lin­coln will be play­ing in a com­pet­i­tive dis­trict with a se­cond-round game against the Yp­si­lanti-Belleville win­ner, with a pos­si­ble ti­tle bout with No. 20 Ann Ar­bor Pi­o­neer (14-2), the SEC Red champ.

Di­vi­sion 2

Weems wants noth­ing more than to end his bril­liant ca­reer at New Haven with an­other state cham­pi­onship.

New Haven earned its first state ti­tle in pro­gram his­tory in 2017, then was de­railed in the semi­fi­nals last year, los­ing to Grand Rapids Catholic Cen­tral.

New Haven has one of the top 1-2 punches in the state in Weems (28.7) and 6-1 se­nior guard Ron­ald Jef­fery III (21.0), who have com­bined for nearly 50 points a game.

“He can shoot the ball and get to the rim; he’s quick and I love hav­ing him on the floor with me,” Weems said of Jef­fery. “We’re just tak­ing things one day at a time, get­ting bet­ter ev­ery day. If we play our game and do what we’re sup­posed to do we can com­pete for a state cham­pi­onship.”

Said New Haven coach Tedaro France: “I love this MAC tour­na­ment be­cause it’s a great tour­na­ment, and with short prep time it pre­pares you for the state tour­na­ment. It’s a great at­mos­phere, great event for us.

“This is prob­a­bly my deep­est team I’ve had as far as guard play and we have the fire­power, but we just have to be more con­sis­tent at do­ing the small things.”

Di­vi­sion

2

is

loaded

with great teams, in­clud­ing No. 1 River Rouge, which ad­vanced to the state semi­fi­nals the last two years, No. 2 and de­fend­ing Class B state cham­pion Ben­ton Har­bor, No. 10 Wil­liamston, No. 11 and un­beaten Bridge­port, No. 14 Grand Rapids Catholic Cen­tral and No. 20 and un­beaten Ot­sego.

Af­ter suf­fer­ing its lone loss to Detroit Edi­son, Ben­ton Har­bor de­feated Bates and Lin­coln, 8683, in the RedHawks Show­case at Grand Rapids Union Feb. 2 with 6-6 ju­nior Car­los “Scooby” John­son scor­ing 38. John­son re­ceived an of­fer from Michi­gan ear­lier this win­ter.

Ben­ton Har­bor will play host to River Rouge on Sat­ur­day.

Di­vi­sion 3

No. 7 Flint Beecher will be the team to beat in Di­vi­sion 3, with Detroit Edi­son be­ing a strong con­tender af­ter win­ning the Class C state ti­tle last year.

Beecher — which won three con­sec­u­tive Class C state cham­pi­onships from 2015-17 and two straight in 2012-13 — is led by the tal­ented ju­nior back­court of 6-0 Jalen Terry, who has mul­ti­ple Big Ten of­fers, in­clud­ing Michi­gan State, and 6-3 Earnest San­ders.

Edi­son has played one of the tough­est sched­ules, earn­ing wins over Ben­ton Har­bor, No. 13 Can­ton, Oak Park, Ro­mu­lus and Dear­born Di­vine Child and los­ing games against U-D Je­suit, Detroit Re­nais­sance and Chicago Orr.

Edi­son has size with 6-5 Brian Tay­lor and 6-6, 230-pound ju­nior Bryce Ge­orge show­ing some tough­ness in­side.

Un­beaten Pe­wamo-West­phalia and Iron Moun­tain are also hav­ing strong sea­sons, as are Quincy (14-1) and Detroit Per­sh­ing.

Di­vi­sion 4

South­field Chris­tian (2012-14, 2018) and Pow­ers North Cen­tral (2015-17) have won ev­ery Class D state cham­pi­onship since 2012.

Well, North Cen­tral (11-4) al­ready has lost sev­eral games this sea­son af­ter set­ting the state record for con­sec­u­tive wins (84, 2014-17).

And, South­field Chris­tian (12-6) lost the bulk of its starters from last year’s state cham­pi­onship team, los­ing stand­out guards Har­lond Bev­erly (Montverde, Fla.) and Caleb Hunter (U-D Je­suit) to trans­fer.

Brim­ley and Belle­vue are un­beaten and could make a deep run, and fans will be fol­low­ing Mar­cel­lus Howardsville Chris­tian (14-1) with in­ter­est, since 6-4 guard Dy­lan Jer­gens has been putting up big num­bers, av­er­ag­ing close to 40 points.

Jer­gens has 2,432 ca­reer points, ninth on the ca­reer state scor­ing list. He av­er­aged 32.1 points last sea­son while lead­ing Howardsville Chris­tian to a 20-6 record and re­gional cham­pi­onship. He scored 59 in a game this sea­son.

Robin Buck­son/Detroit News

New Haven's Romeo Weems (left), a DePaul com­mit, is av­er­ag­ing 28.7 points per game.

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