By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
While rematches and revenge will be the minds of many playing in Girls Basketball Regionals beginning tonight, rewards will be the end result for only 32 teams fortunate enough to advance past Wednesday and into the winter’s final week.
All 128 District champions will play Regional Semifinals this evening, with championship games Wednesday and then a long weekend before Quarterfinals roll us toward the Finals at Calvin College.
Below are three Regionals in each division that especially caught my attention, plus some of the District Finals that popped off the page over the weekend.
Countdown to Calvin is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at MHSAA.com. To offer corrections or fill in scores we’re missing, email me at Geoff@mhsaa.com.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Haslett 44, Williamston 42 – After finishing second in the Capital Area Activities Conference Red to Williamston with losses of 19 and 13 points, Haslett handed the Hornets their first defeat since Dec. 17 to claim a Division 2 District title.
2. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 71, Detroit Country Day 59 – The Fighting Irish remain one game below .500 this season, but following up an upset of Wixom St. Catherine with this Division 2 victory over the reigning Class B champion is what they’ll remember most about this season.
3. Kalamazoo Christian 42, Gobles 38 – Not only was Gobles undefeated entering this Division 3 District Final, but it had played just three single-digit games all season.
4. East Kentwood 57, East Grand Rapids 54 – The Ottawa-Kent Conference Red champion Falcons held on in Division 1 to edge the winners of the O-K Gold.
5. Brown City 41, Sandusky 31 – Three teams tied for first in the Greater Thumb Conference East, but only Brown City remains after winning this Division 3 District Final matchup of two of those champs.
Regionals at a Glance
These could be among our most competitive brackets. Host sites are in bold:
Coldwater (21-1) vs. East Lansing (20-2), Portage Central (16-4) vs. DeWitt (21-2)
This has been a historic season for Interstate 8 Athletic Conference champion Coldwater, as the Cardinals won their first league title since 1992 and are just a four-point loss to another District champ, Ann Arbor Pioneer, from a perfect record. But if Coldwater is to also win its first Regional title since 1991, it will have to break up the anticipated collision of CAAC Blue co-champs East Lansing and DeWitt. The Trojans – last year’s Class A runners-up – won the first meeting between the rivals, lost the second, and their only other defeat was by two points to Saginaw Heritage in a rematch of last year’s title game. DeWitt’s only other defeat came 24 hours after beating East Lansing, by four points to St. Johns. The Panthers, of course, can’t look ahead – Portage Central won the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West, although it may become important to note that the Mustangs fell to Coldwater by 38 in their regular-season finale.
Marquette (20-3) vs. Midland Dow (22-1), Saginaw Heritage (20-2) vs. Flint Carman-Ainsworth (18-5)
Saginaw Valley League Red rivals Midland Dow and Saginaw Heritage may get a rematch, after Dow won their lone regular-season meeting by four on Feb. 1 on Heritage’s home floor. That game ended up deciding the league title. But to get another chance at the Chargers, the Hawks first must defeat another league champion – SVL Blue winner Carman-Ainsworth – after also defeating the Cavaliers by seven on Jan. 9. Dow also has another league champ up first: Marquette won the Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference, with only a two-point loss to Brighton and defeats to one-loss Ishpeming Westwood and Negaunee helping to make for a strong resume.
Southfield Arts & Technology
Grosse Pointe North (19-3) vs. Bloomfield Hills Marian (21-1), Southfield Arts & Technology (20-1) vs. Warren Cousino (15-8)
Three more league champions highlight this bracket. Macomb Area Conference Red winner Grosse Pointe North and Detroit Catholic League Central and A-B champ Marian face off in a rematch from early December, when the Mustangs won by 13. Marian’s only loss this season was the Division 2 favorite Detroit Edison by six points. Southfield A&T doubled up Detroit Public School League Tournament champion Detroit Mumford in their District Final last week and is a two-point loss to Heritage from a perfect run. This bracket really presents an opportunity for the MAC Red to show again why it’s considered one of the toughest leagues in the state after all six teams finished at least 12-9 this winter. North’s only other losses were to Division 2 powers Harper Woods Chandler Park and Detroit Country Day, and third-place Cousino fell by only three to Marian in both teams’ season opener.
Carlton Airport (21-1) vs. Dearborn Divine Child (13-9), Chelsea (22-1) vs. River Rouge (12-6)
Airport has won 20 straight games since falling to 2018 Class D champ Adrian Lenawee Christian on Dec. 13, and is playing for its first Regional title. But Divine Child is a dangerous opponent with wins in seven of its last nine games and both losses during that string to Marian. Similarly, Chelsea is playing for its first Regional title as well, and with just a two-point loss to Pioneer on Feb. 28 keeping it from perfection so far. But the Bulldogs first face another league champion in River Rouge, which prepped for the Michigan Metro Athletic Conference Blue schedule by taking on a number of the state’s best from Division 1. The Panthers opened this winter 2-5 against that strong competition, but its only loss since Jan. 8 came nonleague to Carman-Ainsworth.
Benton Harbor (4-15) vs. Plainwell (15-6), Hamilton (22-0) vs. Edwardsburg (23-0)
Of course the Hamilton/Edwardsburg matchup tonight is one of the state’s biggest regardless of division. Hamilton won its first Regional title in girls basketball last season, and Edwardsburg is hoping to accomplish the same for its program this week. The Ottawa-Kent Conference Green-winning Hawkeyes haven’t had a single-digit game since Jan. 11. While Edwardsburg won the Wolverine Conference South, Plainwell was second in the North and defeated a league champion in Comstock on Friday to move on to this week. Benton Harbor was one of the statewide surprises of the District round. The Tigers didn’t earn their second win this season until Feb. 19, but have now won three of their last five games and clinched the District title with two victories by a combined six points.
Freeland (20-2) vs. Corunna (20-2), Stanton Central Montcalm (22-0) vs. Frankenmuth (14-7)
Three more league champs help fill this Regional. Freeland from the Tri-Valley Conference Central and Corunna from the Genesee Area Conference Red both are returnees to Regionals, Freeland making it to the Class B Quarterfinals a year ago. The Falcons’ only losses this winter were to Division 1 contenders Dow and Heritage, while Corunna has bounced back from mid-winter defeats to Fowlerville and Division 3 power Flint Hamady. Central Montcalm is coming off its second straight perfect regular season and Central State Activities Association Gold title, and is seeking its first Regional title. Frankenmuth is the lone non-league champ in this bracket, having finished third in the TVC East. But the Eagles have won nine of their last 12.
Houghton Lake (21-0) vs. Hart (12-10), Oscoda (22-0) vs. Lake City (19-2)
The winner of this bracket will be celebrating something not accomplished in a long time – or ever. A pair of undefeated teams might seem destined to meet in the Regional Final – Oscoda, from the North Star League Big Dipper, is seeking its first Regional title and Jack Pine Conference champ Houghton Lake its first since 1992. But Lake City is only a pair of three-point losses to Highland Conference champion Manton from also being perfect, and the Trojans are seeking their first Regional title since 1976. Hart is also seeking its first since 1992 and on a roll after navigating a number of much larger and successful opponents in the West Michigan Conference.
Springport (18-3) vs. Michigan Center (19-3), Adrian Madison (21-1) vs. Laingsburg (19-4)
Michigan Center is riding high after avenging losses to Manchester on Wednesday and then Cascades Conference champion Grass Lake with a 49-44 overtime win Friday to clinch last week’s District. The Cardinals made the Class B Semifinals a year ago and can continue to put that tournament experience to work against Big 8 Conference champ Springport, although the Spartans have won 17 of their last 18 since starting 0-2. Adrian Madison slipped up against Manchester two weeks ago but otherwise won the Tri-County Conference by four games and has nearly doubled up last season’s 11 wins. Laingsburg provides an interesting wild card to this bracket – the Wolfpack don’t get much attention coming from the same Central Michigan Athletic Conference as Division 3 favorite Pewamo-Westphalia. But aside from two losses to the Pirates, Laingsburg hasn’t fallen since the first week of this season.
Sault Ste. Marie
Iron River West Iron County (19-2) vs. Ishpeming Westwood (22-1), Charlevoix (18-2) vs. Elk Rapids (17-5)
The Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper and Iron champs, respectively, face off on the Upper Peninsula side of this bracket. Westwood has been making good on high aspirations all season and is now playing for its first Regional title since 2008. The Patriots’ only loss came to Negaunee, and they then avenged it twice on the way to league and District titles. Westwood beat West Iron by 15 all the back on Dec. 11, and the Wykons haven’t lost since on the way to also winning a league title. They’re seeking their first regional title since 1986. From the other side of the Bridge, Charlevoix is playing for its first Regional title since 2004 after also winning its league and seeing junior Elise Stuck become the program’s all-time leading scorer. Charlevoix beat Elk Rapids twice on the way to winning their Lake Michigan Conference. But the Elks upset Manton on the way to winning last week’s District and would love to add a first Regional title since 1993.
Hillsdale Academy (14-8) vs. Portland St. Patrick (17-6), Athens (18-4) vs. Adrian Lenawee Christian (21-2)
The reigning Class D champ Cougars, led by sophomore standout Bree Salenbien, are a comfortable favorite this week with losses to only Division 3 powers Grass Lake and Michigan Center this winter. But Athens is surging. The Indians began last week’s District by avenging an opening night loss to Battle Creek Calhoun Christian, and then got past rival Bellevue in their District Final after losing twice to the Broncos during the regular season. On the other side, Hillsdale Academy has flipped last season’s 7-14 finish and won 10 of its last 13 games. And quite quietly, Portland St. Patrick followed up Division 3 District winners P-W and Laingsburg in the CMAC to tie for third in that league under six-time Class D champion coach Al Schrauben.
Mendon (17-3) vs. Martin (18-3), Fruitport Calvary Christian (18-5) vs. St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran (18-2)
Calvary Christian is seeking its first Regional title and Martin its first since 1995 in what could be one of the most unpredictable brackets in any division. Martin and Mendon both finished second in their leagues to Division 3 teams, and all six of their combined losses were to Division 3 opponents. Calvary Christian’s losses all were to Division 3 teams as well as the Eagles went undefeated in the Alliance League. Mendon last won a Regional title in 2014, but Michigan Lutheran has the most postseason experience of the quartet making the Quarterfinals in 2017 and the Regional Semifinals a year ago. The Titans enter as Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph White champs and coming off avenging one of their two defeats by beating Three Oaks River Valley in the District Final.
St. Ignace (23-0) vs. Hillman (12-11), Newberry (12-10) vs. Mackinaw City (22-1)
The Saints are a Division 4 favorite with wins over Detroit Mumford, Goodrich and Reese augmenting the usual run through league and area opponents. But on the other side of Mackinac Bridge is a hopeful Comets team seeking its first Regional title and with only a Dec. 10 loss to Brimley keeping them from perfection so far. St. Ignace and Mackinaw City wouldn’t meet until Wednesday, though, and their Regional Semifinal opponents have the needed momentum to make tonight challenging. Hillman opened this season with six straight losses and nine in its first 12 games, but the Tigers bounced back to go 9-2 over their last 11 games. Newberry survived a string of seven losses in nine games through January and February to win its last five and get past Brimley by a point in last week’s District Final.
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PHOTO: Marquette's Kaeleigh Talbacka drives to the basket as Traverse City West's Tacey Looze (22) stands her ground. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)