By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The girls basketball season starts over for every MHSAA team today as 128 Districts tip off all over the state.
Below is a look at four teams from each class that look good to be in the hunt when the final 16 converge on East Lansing in three weeks. Follow all of the scores and brackets in real time at MHSAA.com, and click for a glance at every team with three or fewer losses heading into the postseason.
Detroit Martin Luther King (17-1) – The Crusaders are annually in this conversation and defeated reigning champion Bloomfield Hills Marian last week to add a little more to the momentum. The only loss was in December to Detroit Renaissance, and King came back to beat Renaissance 68-66 in the Detroit Public School League Tournament championship game. King made the Class A Semifinals last season before falling the Marian.
Flushing (18-2) – It’s been a strong follow-up to last season’s 24-1 finish. After opening this season with losses to Saginaw Heritage and Midland Dow, Flushing hasn’t experienced defeat again – but has celebrated some significant victories including over Renaissance, Flint Carman-Ainsworth (15-5) and Class C Flint Hamady (18-1).
Saginaw Heritage (19-1) – The Hawks looked like strong favorites before losing sophomore forward Jaela Richardson to a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago, and then taking their only loss to Midland Dow right after. But Heritage has bounced back with four straight wins including over Carman-Ainsworth last week and still has plenty of talent and the experience of beating Flushing, Country Day, Dow (17-3) and making last season’s run to the Class A Semifinals.
Southfield Lathrup (17-3) – A loss or two more than the other favorites doesn’t mean much, considering the defeats came to Bay City John Glenn, Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Detroit Country Day, all mentioned among Class B favorites below. The Chargers have 10 wins against teams with at least 13 victories, and finished 21-2 last season losing to Marian during the Regional.
Bay City John Glenn (19-1) – Aside from a three-point loss to Ypsilanti Arbor Prep on Feb. 6, John Glenn has been unstoppable with only two more games in single digits (wins over Southfield Lathrup and Class C Saginaw Nouvel). Most of the Bobcats' toughest games came nonleague at the beginning of the year, but they finished up last week with Class A Saginaw Arthur Hill and a 13-point win over Nouvel (after beating the Panthers by only four Dec. 16).
Detroit Country Day (18-1) – The Yellowjackets have beaten their usual slate of strong teams including Arbor Prep, Haslett, Detroit Renaissance, Midland Dow and Marysville. The only loss was to Saginaw Heritage on Dec. 29, and the reigning Class B champions bounced back for a perfect 2016 so far.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central (17-2) – The Cougars closed the regular season by avenging an earlier loss to Grand Rapids South Christian, earning a shared Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold championship with the Sailors. GRCC also fell to Class A Grand Rapids Christian, but has 10 wins over Class A schools, including 69-62 over Southfield-Lathrup on Dec. 12.
Marshall (19-1) – One more win would give Marshall its second straight and third in four seasons with at least 20 victories, and the slate was anything but easy. After falling to Williamston (17-3) in their opener, the Redhawks rattled off 11 wins against teams with 10 or more victories, including Otsego (17-3), Battle Creek Harper Creek (15-5) twice and Class A Jackson Northwest (18-2) also twice to win a strong Interstate 8 Athletic Conference.
Calumet (20-0) – The reigning Class C champion has done two better, at least during the regular season, finishing undefeated by sweeping Class B Houghton – which beat Calumet twice a year ago. Total, the Copper Kings have 12 wins against teams with at least 10 victories, and only Houghton and Hancock (16-4) have come within single digits of catching them. Calumet starts District play tonight against Hancock on Hancock’s home floor.
Gobles (20-0) – The Tigers haven’t lost a regular-season game since Feb. 21, 2013, and made the Class C Semifinals in 2014 thanks in part to a strong group of now-seniors looking to return next month in their final try. Among the most impressive wins this fall were a sweep of Saugatuck (16-4) and a 10-point win over Class B Otsego.
Napoleon (20-0) – The Pirates took another step after last season’s 13-win and District title season by running through a Cascades Conference that had three more teams win at least 12 games. Napoleon hasn’t had a single-digit game since beating Manchester in overtime Dec. 15, and also picked up a nice win last week over Class B Brooklyn Columbia Central (17-3).
Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (18-2) – Arbor Prep gets the slight edge on Traverse City St. Francis as the only team not undefeated to be mentioned here because of a slightly tougher schedule (although the Gladiators’ was quite strong as well). Arbor Prep’s only losses were to Class A Ann Arbor Huron (15-4) and Country Day (18-1). And the Gators have six wins over Class A teams including Marian, plus beat Bay City John Glenn 50-47 on Feb. 6.
Bark River-Harris (19-1) – The Broncos have followed up last season’s 18-2 regular-season finish by going one win better, and now hope to build on that District title from a year ago. The only loss came to Munising – the team that eliminated Bark River-Harris in last season’s Regional Semifinal – and only two weeks ago. But the Broncos do have seven wins over teams with at least 11 victories, including beating Stephenson (18-2) in their only meeting and Crystal Falls Forest Park (16-4) twice.
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (18-1) – The Irish are seeking their second Class D championship in three seasons and have one of the top post players regardless of class in Averi Gamble. Sacred Heart plays Big Rapids Crossroads Academy (18-1) on Wednesday, but beat Crossroads 54-24 on Jan. 4 and owns impressive wins over Class C Beaverton, Morley Stanwood and Carson City-Crystal with the only loss to Saginaw Nouvel.
Newberry (19-1) – The Indians already are six wins better than last season, when they went out of the tournament in their first District game. Newberry also is on one of the strongest surges in the state thanks in large part to a 54-50 win over Class C contender St. Ignace on Feb. 18 that gave the Indians the Straits Area Conference title to go with an outright championship in the Eastern Upper Peninsula Conference. Newberry also swept Class B Sault Ste. Marie (15-5).
Pittsford (20-0) – After suffering its only loss last season, and in overtime, to St. Ignace in the Class D Final, Pittsford is the likely favorite after another dominating run. While the Wildcats played mostly Class D teams over a 16-game league schedule in the Southern Central Athletic Association, they also posted solid wins over Class A Belleville and Class C Manchester – and had only one game in single digits, a 71-62 win over Class C Grass Lake on Dec. 8.
PHOTO: Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart’s Averi Gamble, here attempting a free throw, will lead one of the top teams in Class D into the tournament for the final time. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)