A-B Preview: 6 Hopefuls Seek 1st Title
A-B Preview: 6 Hopefuls Seek 1st Title
Boys Basketball
Posted Wednesday, March 23, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The MHSAA Boys Basketball Tournament is more than 90 years old – and yet it’s possible that two first-time champions will be awarded in Class A and B on Saturday at the Breslin Center.

Six of eight semifinalists from those classes are playing this weekend for their first championships in the sport – and a seventh would welcome home a boys hoops champion for the first time in more than 75 years.  

Class A and B Semifinals are scheduled for Friday, and all four Finals will be played Saturday.

Semifinals - Friday
Class A

Detroit U-D Jesuit (26-0) vs. Macomb Dakota (26-0), 1 p.m. 
North Farmington (23-2) vs. Lansing Everett (16-10), 2:50 p.m.

Class B
Detroit Henry Ford (18-6) vs. Williamston (21-3), 6 p.m. 
Big Rapids (23-2) vs. Stevensville Lakeshore (19-7), 7:50 p.m.

Finals - Saturday
Class A - Noon
Class B - 6:30 p.m. 
Class C - 4:30 p.m. 
Class D - 10 a.m. 

Tickets cost $8 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session. All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.TV on a pay-per-view basis. All four Finals will be broadcast live on FOX Sports Detroit-PLUS. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.

And now, a look at the semifinalists in Class A and B. Click on the name of the school to see that team’s full schedule and results from this season. (Statistics are through teams' Regional Finals.)

Class A

DETROIT U-D JESUIT
Record/rank: 
26-0, No. 1
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Pat Donnelly, eighth season (140-42)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 62-47 over No. 4 Ypsilanti Community in Quarterfinal, 47-39 over honorable mention Detroit Western International in Regional Final, 59-50 over No. 10 Detroit Renaissance in District Final, 92-76 over No. 6 Detroit East English, 66-56 over Class C No. 8 Detroit Allen Academy, 59-48 over Class C No. 2 Flint Beecher.
Players to watch: Cassius Winston, 6-1 sr. G (21.2 ppg, 7.2 apg, 4.9 rpg, 57 3-pointers); Gregory Eboigbodin, 6-9 jr. F (8.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg).
Outlook: After falling in a Semifinal last season to eventual champion Detroit Western International, Jesuit has done just about everything possible to prepare to take this year’s run to the end. The Cubs have remained perfect against a schedule that featured most of the best from the city of Detroit, and they follow the lead of Winston, the Mr. Basketball Award winner who will be playing on his future collegiate home court. Sophomore guard Elijah Collins (6.1 ppg) and junior 6-9 forward Ike Eke (7.0 ppg/8.3 rpg) also provide support.

LANSING EVERETT
Record/rank: 
16-10, unranked
League finish: Tied for third in Capital Area Activities Conference Blue
Coach: Desmond Ferguson, fourth season (51-43)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2004).
Best wins: 63-54 (2OT) over Hudsonville in Quarterfinal, 54-48 over No. 3 East Lansing in Regional Final, 56-49 over honorable mention Kalamazoo Central in Regional Semifinal.
Players to watch: Jamyrin Jackson, 6-3 sr. G (16.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg); LeAndre Wright, 6-2 sr. G (12.5 ppg, 2.8 apg).
Outlook: Everett will play in its second straight Semifinal, but this one came as much more of a surprise. The Vikings played an impressive slate of teams during the regular season – with losses to No. 3 East Lansing (twice), No. 2 Macomb Dakota and reigning champ Detroit Western International, among others – and those games no doubt helped prepare them for another long run. Jackson and Wright started last season as well, and 6-6 junior forward Diego Robinson also is a significant contributor at 10 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

MACOMB DAKOTA
Record/rank: 
26-0, No. 2
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Coach: Paul Tocco, fifth season (84-29)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 68-66 (Regional Semifinal) and 46-35 over No. 7 Clarkston, 74-68 over Rochester Adams in Regional Final, 57-50 over Saginaw Arthur Hill, 79-70 over Lansing Everett.
Players to watch: Jermaine Jackson, 5-10 jr. G (21 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.9 apg, 3.6 spg, 65 3-pointers); Steven Marshall, 6-1 sr. G (16 ppg, 3.9 apg).
Outlook: This has been Dakota’s longest run and first time playing during the final week of the season. The team has increased its win total each of the last four seasons under Tocco after finishing 9-10 his first. The Cougars are averaging 75 points per game with Jackson the focus but 6-8 sophomore center Thomas Kithier providing balance down low on both ends of the floor with 11.3 points, 10 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game.

NORTH FARMINGTON
Record/rank: 
23-2, No. 5
League finish: Tied for first in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Todd Negoshian, fifth season (87-27)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 70-57 over Sterling Heights Stevenson in Quarterfinal, 58-53 over No. 7 Clarkston, 61-56 and 69-48 over Rochester Adams, 67-49 over Detroit Henry Ford, 58-53 over Class C honorable mention Detroit Loyola.
Players to watch: Billy Thomas, 6-1 sr. G (19.1 ppg, 63 3-pointers); Amauri Hardy, 6-3 jr. G (14.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.2 apg).
Outlook: North Farmington has climbed from 13 to 22 to 23 wins and counting over the last three seasons, with this its first trip to the Semifinals. The Raiders have won 16 straight since falling to Clarkston in their first meeting, and the other loss came early as well to Detroit Western International. Senior guard Jacob Joubert rounds out a talented backcourt with 8.8 points and 4.1 assists per game, and senior guard Josh Hogans comes off the bench and had 36 3-pointers heading into this week. Senior forward Alex Darden is the main force in the frontcourt at 7.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. 

Class B

BIG RAPIDS
Record/rank: 
23-2, unranked
League finish: First in Central State Activities Association Gold
Coach: Kent Ingles, 13th season (185-104)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 42-23 over Essexville Garber in Quarterfinal, 54-45 over Benzonia Benzie Central in Regional Semifinal, 55-44 over Reed City in District Final.  
Players to watch: Demetri Martin, 6-3 jr. G (19.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg); Kenny Davis, 6-1 sr. G (13.2 ppg, 68 3-pointers).
Outlook: Big Rapids has transformed under Ingles and played in its third Quarterfinal Tuesday in four seasons – finally breaking through to the Semifinals for the first time in program history. The Cardinals’ only losses were to undefeated McBain and 19-win Alma, and they’ve won 13 straight. Junior 6-4 forward Christian Hector adds another 8.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.   

DETROIT HENRY FORD
Record/rank: 
18-6, unranked
League finish: Third in Detroit Public School League West Division 1
Coach: Kenneth Flowers, ninth season (128-67)
Championship history: Class B runner-up 2015.
Best wins: 62-40 over No. 4 New Haven in Quarterfinal, 66-52 over Detroit Martin Luther King, 72-66 over Lowell.
Players to watch: James Towns, 5-10 sr. G (23 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 5.7 apg); Jeremy Crawley, 6-1 sr. G (10.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg).
Outlook: Henry Ford skated a little under the radar again despite finishing runner-up in Class B last season, likely because of its losses although they were against strong competition: ranked Class A teams North Farmington, Detroit Renaissance, Detroit East English twice and reigning A champion Detroit Western International, and to 15-win Detroit Edison Public School Academy. Towns and 6-4 senior Alston Hunter (7.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg) started last season’s championship game, and 6-0 junior Devontaye Webb (9.3 ppg) and 6-4 senior Kavon Bey (8.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg) are significant contributors this time.

STEVENSVILLE LAKESHORE
Record/rank: 
19-7, unranked
League finish: Fourth in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West
Coach: Sean Schroeder, 14th season (236-94)
Championship history: Class B runner-up 2012.
Best wins: 42-40 over South Haven in Regional Final, 64-57 over Marshall in Regional Semifinal, 50-49 over Dowagiac in District Final, 63-60 over Battle Creek Central.
Players to watch: Braden Burke, 6-11 sr. C (15.9 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 3.2 bpg); Logan Steffes, 6-0 sr. G (11 ppg, 4.9 apg).
Outlook: Lakeshore hit its stride late with 10 straight wins including two over Portage Northern and Portage Central, avenging earlier league defeats. The Lancers also had their share of solid losses, including a pair to honorable mention Benton Harbor and another to No. 5 Wayland. Burke is joined in the post by 6-7 junior Max Gaishin (7.8 ppg) and senior Gibson Archer adds another 7.9 points per game, while senior Jake Bushu fills out the starting lineup averaging 4.5 assists.

WILLIAMSTON
Record/rank: 
21-3, No. 10
League finish: Tied for first in CAAC White
Coach: Jason Bauer, fifth season (79-31); interim Tom Lewis
Championship history: Lower Peninsula Class C champion 1940.
Best wins: 57-55 (OT) over No. 2 Wyoming Godwin Heights in Regional Semifinal, 70-60 (District Final) and 45-42 over No. 3 Lansing Catholic, 53-46 over No. 6 River Rouge in Quarterfinal, 82-77 over Lansing Everett, 64-51 over Stockbridge in Regional Final.  
Players to watch: Riley Lewis, 6-0 sr. G (28.6 ppg, 6.0 apg, 3.1 spg, 82 3-pointers); Kurtis Kodet, 6-2 sr. C (13.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg).
Outlook: The Hornets have established themselves as favorites by beating reigning champion Godwin Heights and three top-six teams total on the way to Breslin for their first Semifinal since 1993. Lewis continues to find ways to score despite being the focus of every team Williamston faces, but in addition to Kodet he also has plenty of scoring help from emerging 6-6 freshman forward Sean Cobb (9.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and sophomore guard Cole Kleiver (10 ppg, 3.2 apg). The Hornets are playing with added inspiration only a few weeks after coach Jason Bauer was forced to take on a much smaller role while undergoing cancer treatments.

The Boys Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System.

PHOTO: Macomb Dakota's Tavin Allison goes for a steal earlier this season against Saginaw Arthur Hill. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)


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