By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Coaches always say at this point in the MHSAA Tournament that every team still playing has to be good, if not dangerous no matter what its W-L record shows.
And the last three months have boiled down to a mix of absolutely colossal and in some places unexpected matchups as we pull a week closer to championship time at Michigan State.
The toughest part of this week's "Breslin Bound" girls report was picking just five District Finals to highlight from a variety of great finishes last week. But below are a glance at some of the best, followed by Regionals of particular intrigue.
“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. Rankings below are by Michigan Power Rating (MPR).
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Macomb Dakota 46, Port Huron 29 – The Cougars (19-4) gave Port Huron one of its closest games of the regular season in a four-point Feb. 18 loss, then handed the Big Reds (21-1) their only defeat in this Division 1 District Final.
2. Manton 26, Lake City 17 – After falling twice by double digits to champion Lake City (20-2) in Highland Conference play, Manton (21-2) got past the rival Trojans – who had made the Division 3 Semifinals a year ago.
3. Freeland 64, Bay City John Glenn 38 – The Falcons (19-4) opened this season 2-3, with a two-point loss to John Glenn (18-5) on Dec. 18, but avenged it in a big way to move on Division 2.
4. Cadillac 35, Big Rapids 31 – The Vikings (22-1) won a Division 2 matchup of league champions, handing Big Rapids (21-2) just its second defeat of the season.
5. Haslett 39, Williamston 37 – These two Division 2 contenders had tied for the Capital Area Activities Conference Red title and split during the regular season, but Haslett (16-7) took the final upper hand after losing to Williamston (18-5) by a point in their previous most recent meeting.
Regionals at a Glance
These could be among our most competitive brackets. Host sites are in bold:
Holland West Ottawa
East Grand Rapids (21-2) vs. Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (21-2), Rockford (16-6) vs. Hudsonville (21-1)
West Michigan’s elite have poured into this Regional. Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold champion EGR advanced with a 56-53 District Final win over East Kentwood, which shared the O-K Red championship. The other Red co-champ Hudsonville also earned a big win during District week, handing Byron Center just its second loss on the way to advancing. The Eagles are plenty familiar with, and will be careful against Rockford after beating them twice during the regular season – but by just a point in overtime and then four in the rematch. Reeths-Puffer and East Grand Rapids will meet for the first time this season, and the Rockets are on a two-month surge. They’ve won 13 straight – including avenging both of their defeats – while clinching the O-K Black championship.
Southfield Arts & Technology
Bloomfield Hills Marian (18-5) vs. Grosse Pointe North (16-6), Farmington Hills Mercy (20-3) vs. Detroit Renaissance (21-2)
This Regional has some serious Detroit-area power and should draw statewide interest as well as Renaissance (No. 2), Marian (No. 8) and Mercy (No. 10) all were among the final top 10 in Division 1 regular-season MPR. Tonight’s second semifinal between Mercy and Renaissance is a rematch of the Operation Friendship game won by Renaissance 44-32 on Feb. 27. If Mercy wins the rematch, it may again see Marian, and won two of three against the Mustangs during the regular season as they shared the Detroit Catholic League Central championship and Mercy won the league tournament. But Marian will hardly stroll into Thursday’s final – Grosse Pointe North has won 10 of its last 12 with a pair of victories over Macomb Area Conference Red champion and No. 13 Grosse Pointe South after splitting with South during league play.
Walled Lake Western
West Bloomfield (17-6) vs. Hartland (22-1), Clarkston (19-4) vs. Walled Lake Western (19-4)
Hartland entered the postseason No. 6 in Division 1 and has been an anticipated championship contender all season. But the Eagles – winners of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West and overall titles – may have to defeat two more league champions to reach the season’s final week. West Bloomfield shared the Oakland Activities Association Red title and entered the postseason No. 18 in Division 1, while Walled Lake Western clinched the Lakes Valley Conference title. Clarkston is in this mix as well and with good reason. The Wolves were third in the OAA Red, just a game out of joining the title share with West Bloomfield and Southfield Arts & Technology, and previously defeated tonight’s opponent Western by 10 in their season opener.
Escanaba (13-7) vs. Sault Ste. Marie (20-1), Cadillac (22-1) vs. Standish-Sterling (19-3)
This Regional includes four teams that finished among the top 20 in Division 2 MPR at the end of the regular season, led by No. 6 Sault Ste. Marie with its lone loss Dec. 20 to St. Ignace. That defeat was avenged Feb. 6, and the Blue Devils also own a 63-56 win over Escanaba from way back on Dec. 13 (their scheduled rematch Feb. 28 was canceled). The No. 20 Eskymos earned a one-point overtime win over Houghton and a four-point victory over Gladstone last week to claim their District title, and have won six of their last eight as the head into Regional play for the first time in at least a decade. On the other side of the bracket, No. 16 Standish-Sterling finished second in the Tri-Valley Conference East but took out a league champion – Clare from the Jack Pine Conference – to win last week’s District. Now comes Big North Conference champion and No. 14 Cadillac in a rematch of last season’s Regional Semifinal – a 61-39 Vikings win on the way to eventually reaching the Quarterfinals.
Marine City (18-4) vs. Lake Fenton (17-6), Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood (11-10) vs. Imlay City (20-3)
Whichever team emerges from this bracket will have accomplished a historic program achievement. Cranbrook and Imlay City are playing this week for their first Regional title, while Marine City is hoping for its first since 1976 and Lake Fenton its first since 1993. Marine City in the MAC Gold and Imlay City in the Blue Water Area Conference are league champions, and Lake Fenton finished second to Goodrich in the Flint Metro League Stars but then defeated the Martians in last week’s District Final. Cranbrook has been on a nice streak as well after a rough start; the Cranes have won seven of their last 10. Imlay City has won 16 of its last 17, and avenged the lone loss during that run two games later in a District Semifinal. Marine City opened 13-1 and then bounced back last week from a bumpy end to the regular season.
Freeland (19-4) vs. Chesaning (19-4), Portland (20-3) vs. Frankenmuth (18-5)
Freeland (No. 7), Frankenmuth (No. 10) and Portland (No. 12) have been climbed among the Division 2 elite, and Chesaning belongs in the conversation with its second-place showing in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference to Division 3 contender Byron. Chesaning takes on a Falcons team with only two losses against Division 2 opponents and 17 wins over their last 18 games – Freeland also clinched the TVC East title ahead of Standish-Sterling (above) and Frankenmuth. The Eagles did earn a win over Chesaning during the regular season but were swept by Freeland – although they’ll be eager for another rematch after falling to the Falcons by only two and four points in their two meetings, respectively. The Raiders, however, may not allow that to happen as they look to add to their CAAC White and District titles, the former against a league group including four teams that finished with at least 13 wins.
Kent City (22-1) vs. Pewamo-Westphalia (21-2), Muskegon Western Michigan Christian (17-6) vs. Ithaca (21-1)
Reigning Division 3 champion P-W ended this regular season No. 1 in Division 3 MPR and has won 17 straight, but will face a Kent City team tonight that surely hasn’t forgotten about last year’s 35-33 Regional Semifinal loss to the Pirates. Both teams are led by mostly the same groups of standouts as a year ago, P-W by a pair of 1,000-point career scorers and Kent City with a host of long-distance shooters who have continued to post record-book 3-point performances. But whichever team wins tonight can’t think all is won. WMC finished second in the Lakes 8 Athletic Conference to Division 2 Ludington and has won 15 of its last 17 games. And Ithaca was runner-up in the TVC West to Hemlock (see above) with their only losses of the season a pair against the Huskies.
Sault Ste. Marie
Calumet (19-3) vs. Ishpeming Westwood (21-2), Charlevoix (18-5) vs. Oscoda (20-3)
Calumet (No. 9), Westwood (No. 14) and Charlevoix (No. 18) all finished among the top 20 in Division 3 MPR, and Oscoda’ only regular-season losses were to Division 2 teams before going on a 14-game winning streak. The Owls open tonight against one of the most intriguing opponents of the entire playoffs. Charlevoix won the Lake Michigan Conference and is riding a streak of 15 victories in 16 games despite playing the regular season without University of Michigan recruit Elise Stuck – who was thought to be lost for the winter with an injury but came back for the playoffs. On the other side of the bracket, Calumet is a rough two weeks from a perfect record – the Copper Kings lost three in a row from Jan. 2-16, including 59-45 to Westwood, but otherwise are undefeated. They won the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference West, and Westwood won the East and is playing for its second-straight Regional title after defeating Charlevoix 47-29 in last year’s championship game for this round.
Flint Hamady (20-2) vs. Bad Axe (11-11), Sandusky (19-4) vs. Hemlock (20-2)
Hamady is playing for its fifth Regional title in six seasons and second straight after winning the Genesee Area Conference title and losing only to Division 1 Davison and Division 2 Flint Kearsley during the regular season. The Hawks – last season’s Division 3 runners-up – first face Bad Axe, one of the best stories of last week statewide after entering the postseason two wins under .500 and winning its first District title reportedly since 1980. The other side of the bracket features a pair of teams also a little more familiar with this stage in the tournament. Hemlock, the TVC West champion, is seeking its second Regional title in three seasons. Sandusky finished second in the Greater Thumb Conference East behind only one-loss Ubly and is back playing in a Regional for the fifth time over the last six seasons after missing out a year ago.
Baraga (20-3) vs. Munising (8-13), L’Anse (19-4) vs. Carney-Nadeau (20-4)
Baraga won its first Regional title last season since 1992 and is aiming to repeat after winning the championship in the Copper Mountain Conference’s Copper Country division – although the Vikings did split nonleague with L’Anse, winning the first meeting by 16 but falling in the second by seven. They also have to be careful with Munising, which upset 15-win Rock Mid Peninsula last week on the way to claiming its District title. Carney-Nadeau similarly is surging, but with a different back story. The Wolves finished second in the Skyline Central Conference small-school division to Felch North Dickinson, but then beat North Dickinson by 11 in the District Final a week after losing to the Nordics by 12. And that brings us back to L’Anse, which has a similar story to C-N. The Purple Hornets came in second in the CMC’s Porcupine Mountain division, but downed league champ Ewen-Trout Creek 39-34 in their District Final.
Martin (21-1) vs. Colon (12-10), Fruitport Calvary Christian (18-3) vs. St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran (21-1)
On one side of this bracket are two teams that have been hoping to take the next step. On the other side, the contenders have done so recently and look capable of going farther if they can emerge from this strong field. Martin is playing for its first Regional title since 1995, and Colon its first since 1994. The No. 12 Clippers’ only loss was to Division 3 Gobles as it played mostly larger schools this season and won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore ahead of the runner-up Tigers. Colon finished second in the Southern Central Athletic Association West and has won eight of its last nine games after a rough start. Calvary Christian finally broke through for its first Regional title last winter and prepped for another tournament run with a number of nonleague games against bigger opponents – two of its losses came to Division 3 teams, and the Eagles have won 13 of their last 14 games. Michigan Lutheran’s most recent Regional title was in 2017, and they are in the mix again after winning the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference White title and avenging that lone loss to league runner-up New Buffalo with a 54-27 win in the District Final.
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (21-2) vs. Ubly (22-1, Mio (10-13) vs. Saginaw Nouvel (18-5)
This is familiar territory for the host Irish, who will be playing for their sixth Regional title in eight seasons although they fell short of this round a year ago. Sacred Heart stormed back to open this season with 16 straight wins and clinch the Mid-State Activities Conference title – and with their only losses to Division 3 opponents. No. 8 Ubly, meanwhile, lost only to Division 2 Caro in December and has won 18 straight – with its best of the bunch a 42-31 victory versus Kingston in the District Final that ended the Cardinals’ season at 20-2. Mio might be considered a surprise but has won six of its last eight games. Nouvel also emerged from a TVC West including Hemlock and Ithaca, with three of its five losses to those teams. But the Panthers handed Hemlock its only league defeat.
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PHOTO: Lake Fenton finished second to Goodrich in league play this winter, but defeated the Martians in last week’s Division 2 District Final. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)