By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
With the new calendar year underway, boys basketball season is revved to begin three uninterrupted months capping with an annual trip to Breslin Center – and with a much-anticipated change to the tournament sure to draw some added attention on the way there.
Remembering that this season will see the top two teams in each District seeded for the first time, we’d like to take this week to introduce the Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) on MHSAA.com. Teams are searchable and comparable both by division and District number, and every Monday during the regular season we’ll also pull a top 20 in each division and post them on our Second Half rankings page.
There’s a full explanation of how MPR is calculated, and for the rankings teams were considered this week that had played at least four games against opponents that also are eligible for the MHSAA Tournament, since MPR includes only those opponents in its calculation.
Below is a look at some of what you may have missed in holiday hoops during the break. “Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at MHSAA.com. Send corrections or missing scores to Geoff@mhsaa.com.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Flint Beecher 76, Benton Harbor 62 – The Division 3 Bucs have won four straight since falling in their season opener, and followed up a win over Division 1 Flint Carman-Ainsworth by dealing the Division 2-contending Tigers their only loss.
2. Clarkston 65, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 56 – The Wolves also earned a noteworthy win over Carman-Ainsworth that should affect Division 1 state rankings.
3. Orchard Lake St. Mary's 69, Grand Blanc 66 – The Eaglets moved to 5-0 with their only close win so far, handing Grand Blanc its first loss in another matchup of Division 1 powers.
4. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 54, Detroit Cass Tech 53 – The Cavaliers are mentioned a lot in this short list, but they also arguably played the toughest holiday schedule of any team in any division.
5. Detroit Cass Tech 72, Saginaw 62 – Although the Technicians went on to take their first loss three days later (see above), a 10-point win over Saginaw always is noteworthy.
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Holland West Ottawa (5-0) The Panthers went from Division 1 runners-up in 2017-18 to 10-11 last season, but the bounce-back is on with this perfect start. West Ottawa won a pair of showcase games during the last days of December, over Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills and then Muskegon Mona Shores. The Panthers will carry that fast start into an Ottawa-Kent Conference Red that also has Grand Haven and Hudsonville at 5-0.
North Farmington (6-0) An eight-point win over rival Farmington on Friday extended a perfect start that most impressively included a 47-46 win over Detroit Communication Media Arts on Dec. 21 – still CMA’s only defeat. North Farmington tied for second in the Oakland Activities Association Red last season behind champion Clarkston, and looks to be in the mix again.
Macomb Lutheran North (5-0) The Mustangs are on a roll coming off two straight sub-.500 seasons. They opened with three wins over Blue Water Area Conference opponents and followed with Metro Conference Holiday Reunion Tournament victories over Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood. They’ve won twice by six points or fewer – experience which may come in handy in a Detroit Catholic League AA that features also-unbeaten Detroit Loyola and one-loss Dearborn Divine Child.
Sparta (5-0) The Spartans are coming off six straight sub.-500 seasons, but they’re already more than halfway to equaling last winter’s nine wins. They’ve held on in some close matchups, including a 67-66 victory over Gibraltar Carlson on Dec. 26. Sparta’s O-K Blue produced four teams (of seven total) with winning records last winter, and the Spartans begin league play Friday with hopes of joining that group this time.
Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (5-1) A 40-39 overtime win Friday over Grandville Calvin Christian avenged last year’s two-point loss to the Squires and ran Covenant’s winning streak to five. After starting 2-6 a season ago and finishing 8-14, the Chargers also have avenged losses to Wyoming Godwin Heights and Zeeland West.
Negaunee (5-0) The Miners finished a solid 15-8 a season ago but with two losses to Division 1 Marquette and a third to Escanaba. Those two teams are the only two Negaunee hasn’t beaten by double digits so far this winter; the Miners opened with a 52-43 avenging against the Eskymos and handed Marquette its lone loss Friday, 79-73 in overtime.
Dollar Bay (5-0) A Division 4 semifinalist the last two seasons, Dollar Bay actually is off to a better start this winter thanks to a 69-45 win over past early-season nemesis Bessemer. The Blue Bolts have won four games by at least 24 points and the fifth by nine, and their 81 points against Chassell on Dec. 27 would’ve been their third most last season.
Fulton (5-0) The Pirates have finished a game or two over .500 the last three seasons after their most recent trip to the MHSAA Semifinals in 2016. But this 5-0 start is the team’s best since 2011-12, the difference in large part being holiday break wins over Division 3 Ithaca and Carson City-Crystal. Fulton also owns a pair of early league victories over Saranac and rival Fowler.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – Detroit U-D Jesuit (2-2) at Grand Blanc (4-1) – Last season’s Division 1 runner-up Cubs have a pair of losses to tough Division 3 opponents and can make a strong statement to open 2020 by downing another Division 1 contender in the Bobcats.
Tuesday – Holland West Ottawa (5-0) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (3-1) – This is a great nonleague test for both, as West Ottawa (mentioned above) goes into a competitive O-K Red and reigning Division 2 champion Unity begins play Friday in the O-K Green.
Tuesday – Adrian Lenawee Christian (4-0) at Southfield Christian (2-2) – These are regulars among the state’s small-school elite, and this winter they have aspirations in Divisions 3 and 4, respectively.
Thursday – Dollar Bay (5-0) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (4-0) – These two are early co-leaders in the Copper Mountain Conference Copper Country division after they finished second and fourth, respectively, last season.
Friday – Freeland (4-1) at Bridgeport (5-0) – Champions (Freeland sharing) in separate divisions of the Tri-Valley Conference last season, they’re early contenders in the new-look TVC East this winter.
Second Half’s weekly “Breslin Bound” reports are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTO: Orchard Lake St. Mary’s edged Grand Blanc 69-66 in one of last weekend’s most intriguing games. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)