By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The winter may be half over, but dig a bit and you may still come up with a few surprise contenders this boys basketball season.
Sure, there are obvious favorites to watch over the next few months – see Clarkston among them below. But a few more key wins here and there, and some of the other teams we’ve noted this week should be in the hunt when March rolls around.
Ann Arbor Skyline (7-3) – The Eagles are chasing Ann Arbor Huron after falling to their rival by 20 on Dec. 20, but remain tied for second in the Southeastern Conference Red thanks in part to five straight wins including one over Ann Arbor Pioneer. The last two victories have been nonleague but arguably their most impressive – 79-76 over surging Belleville and 60-54 over Southeastern Conference White second-place Dexter in overtime Friday.
Clarkston (11-0) – The Wolves have surged with the increased competition this month, beating Oak Park 69-63 in overtime and Southfield 55-39 last week after a 24-point win over Detroit Pershing on Jan. 17. Only Oak Park has come within 15 points. A major matchup with North Farmington on Friday should give the winner a nice advantage in the Oakland Activities Association Red.
Redford Thurston (10-1) – These Eagles are only a six-point loss to undefeated Walled Lake Western from being perfect themselves, and lead the Western Wayne Athletic Conference Red after running past second-place Dearborn Heights Crestwood 69-57 on Friday.
Taylor Kennedy (7-2) – Kennedy finished second in the Downriver League a year ago to rival Truman, but enters this week tied for first with Allen Park and Southgate Anderson (and with the first of two matchups with Truman coming up Feb. 3). The Eagles have won five straight since falling by 10 to Detroit Community at Romulus’ holiday classic.
Allendale (6-3) – The Falcons took a tough 55-53 overtime loss last week to Hamilton, but remain in first place in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue after successive wins earlier this month over contenders Grand Rapids West Catholic and Coopersville. Allendale was third and .500 overall a season ago.
Battle Creek Harper Creek (9-1) – An upset loss last week to Parma Western aside, Harper Creek looks good to increase its win total for the third straight season and sits tied for first place in the first-year Interstate 8 Athletic Conference with Jackson Lumen Christi – which the Beavers beat by 10 on Jan. 13.
Otsego (9-2) – Thanks to a mid-December loss to Plainwell, the Bulldogs are tied for first in the Wolverine Conference East and with Plainwell up again next week. But since that loss, Otsego is 6-1 and handed Class A Stevensville Lakeshore its only defeat this season.
Yale (11-0) – We’ve seen the Bulldogs for ourselves, and there are a few reasons they have 10 wins by double digits – notably the inside-outside combination of forward Josh McClelland and guard Cody Kegley. Up next are Blue Water Area Conference first-place (with one more win) Richmond and third-place Imlay City.
East Jordan (6-1) – Last week’s 60-53 overtime loss to Kalkaska was a misstep, with East Jordan otherwise off to a strong start. The Red Devils are tied with Boyne City and Elk Rapids atop the Lake Michigan Conference standings after finishing runners-up to Boyne last season.
Iron Mountain (9-0) – The toughest opponent comes tonight – Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference rival Negaunee, also undefeated in the league – but Iron Mountain should be ready to win close after two victories of four or fewer points over the last two weeks. The Mountaineers handed Negaunee their last league loss – in the regular season finale of 2010-11.
Quincy (8-0) – The Orioles’ drive for the Big 8 Conference championship has been steady with all eight wins this season by 10 or more points and the latest no doubt the sweetest to date. Quincy, after finishing second to Homer by a win last season, beat Homer 63-48 on Friday to remain tied atop the league standings with Concord.
Vestaburg (8-0) – The Wolverines won only 24 games total over the last four seasons and need just two more victories this winter to equal the 2013-14 total. They’re tied for first place in the Mid-State Activities Conference with tonight’s opponent, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart.
Bellaire (7-2) – The Eagles’ aspirations for a fourth-straight league championship got a major boost with a 57-51 win over Class C and second-place Johannesburg-Lewiston last week. Third-place Onaway broke Bellaire’s 36-game conference winning streak earlier this season and host the Eagles next week in a Ski Valley Conference showdown.
Boyne Falls (8-0) – The Loggers last lost a league game Jan. 28, 2011, and sit atop the Northern Lakes Conference standings with a 41-point win over second-place Mackinaw City to their credit. They also own a 25-point win over Johannesburg-Lewiston.
Lake Linden-Hubbell (9-0) – The Lakes have won 26 straight league games and again lead the Copper County Conference after beating second-place Republic-Michigamme 66-31 on Monday. No opponent has come within 32 points.
Waterford Our Lady (11-0) – The Lakers are shaping up as a Class D favorite, with the only single-digit wins this season against Class A Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and Class B Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood. The other nine wins have come by at least 12 points.
PHOTO: Clarkston remains undefeated in part thanks to a 78-54 win over Detroit Pershing on Jan. 17 at Warren Fitzgerald. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).