By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Class B could feature the most entertaining matchups of this weekend’s Boys Basketball Finals at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.
From one side of the bracket will emerge a longtime power – Benton Harbor, seeking its first title in more than a half century, or 14-time winner River Rouge.
On the other side, reigning champion New Haven is coming off its first MHSAA title and looking to repeat led by star junior Romeo Weems – who will surely get some time facing Grand Rapids Catholic Central standout Marcus Bingham, Jr., as the latter works to lead his team to its first Finals championship in this sport.
Class B Semifinals – Friday
Benton Harbor (25-1) vs. River Rouge (23-1), 5:30 p.m.
New Haven (26-0) vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (23-2), 7:30 p.m.
Class B Final – Saturday, 6:45 p.m.
Tickets cost $10 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session (Class C and Class B). All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a pay-per-view basis. The Class D, A and C championship games will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit, while the Class B Final will be shown on Fox Sports Detroit on a delayed basis at 10:30 p.m. Saturday. All four championship games will be streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com and the FOX Sports Go! app. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.
Below is a glance at all four semifinalists. 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.)
Record/rank: 25-1, No. 3
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Corey Sterling, sixth season (112-37)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 1965), seven runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 71-51 over No. 8 Williamston in Quarterfinal, 67-52 over honorable mention Hudsonville Unity Christian in Regional Semifinal, 77-49 (District Semifinal) and 55-46 over honorable mention Coloma.
Players to watch: Carlos Johnson, 6-6 soph. F (18.3 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 5.2 apg, 3.1 bpg); Shawn Hopkins, 6-4 sr. F (15.7 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 3.1 apg).
Outlook: Benton Harbor was Class B runner-up in 2014 and made the Semifinals a year ago, and Johnson and Hopkins starred for last season’s team as well. Senior guard Elijah Baxter (9.7 ppg, 6.7 apg) also started last season. Senior guards Dennie Brown and Devan Nichols both average just above 10 ppg as well, and total six players this winter average at least 8.8. The only loss was to Class A Hazel Park, which finished 18-3.
GRAND RAPIDS CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank: 23-2, No. 7
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue
Coach: T.J. Meerman, fifth season (73-43)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 63-52 (Regional Semifinal), 80-39 and 59-40 over honorable mention Spring Lake, 73-49 over Grand Rapids Christian, 90-84 over Detroit Country Day.
Players to watch: Marcus Bingham, Jr., 6-11 sr. F (16.8 ppg, 10 rpg, 3.7 bpg); Jacob Polakovich, 6-8 sr. F (14.2 ppg, 10.5 ppg).
Outlook: GRCC has won at least 20 games for the second straight season and upped its win total the last four under Meerman on the way to its first Semifinal since 1992. Bingham was a Mr. Basketball Award finalist and is plenty to handle – but he has lots of help as well. In addition to Polakovich in the post, junior guard Darrell Belcher is putting up 14 points per game, and junior guard Austin Braun is averaging 7.8 points and 7.5 assists per game.
Record/rank: 26-0, No. 1
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Blue
Coach: Tedaro France II, 10th season (185-57)
Championship history: Class B champion 2017.
Best wins: 78-72 over No. 5 Bridgeport in Quarterfinal, 92-74 over Detroit Country Day in Regional Final, 81-70 over Class C honorable mention Flint Beecher, 82-62 over Warren DeLaSalle, 74-57 over St. Clair Shores South Lake.
Players to watch: Romeo Weems, 6-7 jr. G/F (23.5 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 5.7 apg, 5.1 spg, 2.5 bpg), Tavares Oliver, Jr., 6-0 sr. G (16.8 ppg, 3.2 apg, 65 3-pointers).
Outlook: New Haven is in the Semifinals for the second straight season and second time ever – and has won 52 straight games. Weems nearly had a quintuple-double this season and will be one of the most anticipated players for fans this weekend. Senior forward Ashton Sherrell (15.7 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and junior guard Ronald Jeffery III (12 ppg, 3.1 apg) round out the majority of an offense outscoring opponents by 32 points per game.
Record/rank: 23-1, No. 4
League finish: First in Michigan Metro Athletic Conference Blue
Coach: Mark White, second season (47-3)
Championship history: 14 MHSAA titles (most recent 1999), five runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 50-43 over honorable mention Detroit Old Redford in Regional Final, 59-44 over Dearborn Divine Child in Quarterfinal, 75-32 over St. Clair Shores South Lake in Regional Semifinal, 48-42, 56-45 and 77-45 over Harper Woods. Players to watch: Jayvien Torrance-Jackson, 6-1 sr. G; Bralin Toney, 5-10 jr. G. (Statistics not submitted.).
Outlook: River Rouge is back at the Semifinals for the second straight season and after a one-point overtime last time loss kept it from a first championship game berth since 1999. Torrance-Jackson not only is the only starter back from that team, but also the only senior on this one. Toney also saw time off the bench in last season’s Semifinal and joins him in the backcourt, while the frontcourt includes two 6-6 post players. The lone loss this winter was to Class D semifinalist Southfield Christian.
PHOTO: New Haven’s Romeo Weems puts up a block as Bridgeport’s Charles Garrett drives during Tuesday’s Quarterfinal. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)