State Semifinals Preview - Win Or Be Haunted Forever

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It’s here people! We are down to 16 teams who will battle it out starting tomorrow for a chance at for that Michigan shaped trophy on Saturday. There were some great games this past week and a few surprises for us fans. Class C and D will play their semifinals tomorrow, March 13 while Class A and B will play theirs on Friday. State Championship games begin Saturday at 10am with Class D, followed by C (noon), A (4pm), and B (8pm). Let’s check out the teams still playing.

Class D

Muskegon Western Michigan Christian (22-3) vs. Cedarville (25-0) [Thursday at 6pm]

MWMC coach Jim Goorman calmed his team down and got them to play his way after starting out poorly in their game with Leland. Complicating matters was the number of his players who were sick. The sick players included Nate Bruinsma who scored 18 and had 11 rebounds. The Warriors knew that Leland would have problems matching up with the size of MWMC. A few dunks later, the Warriors were back in the semifinals for the first time since 2000.

If you want to talk about great basketball teams in Michigan, it’s hard to forget Cedarville. They have won 50 straight games (74-3 in the last three seasons) and are the defending state champions. Coach Dave Duncan’s team likes to press and create turnovers. All five of the starters average double figures in points scored. Duncan likes the defensive pressure his team has been able to produce and averages just over 80 points per game while only giving up about 45. It’s interesting that Coach Duncan’s twin sons both play for their dad.

Lawrence (23-1) vs. Detroit City (20-4) [Thursday at 7:50]

To get to their first semifinal appearance since 1962, Lawrence had to beat Lansing Christian. They were lead by senior Spencer Whittington who scored a game high 27 points and pulled down 13 rebounds. A size advantage gave Lawrence a mismatch, especially down in the paint late in the game. Coach Mike Salvano said, “Our size wore them down a lot, Spencer is a load and (the Whittingtons) just don’t move easily. They had trouble with our big boys underneath.”

After playing in a tough Detroit Public School League, Detroit City is ready for almost anything thrown at them. They made it to the quarterfinals of the league tournament before losing to much larger Detroit Renaissance (Class B). Coach Shaheed Saleem made sure to empty his bench last night and get all the players in when they lead by 30 with just over four minutes to play. Detroit City is tall and athletic and when you couple that with their tough PSL schedule, you get a good team. 19 of the 25 field goals scored by Detroit were layups or putbacks, according to Jim Spadafore of the Detroit News.

Class C

Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (21-5) vs. Kalamazoo Christian (24-1) [Thursday 1pm]

It took an overtime period for Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard to put away Melvindale Academy for Business & Technology 75-72. The top three players for AAGR, Josh Herbeck, Eso Akunne, and Daniel Gasco combined for 68 of the points last night. Herbeck has played very well in the playoffs, averaging ten points more per game than in the regular season. One thing is for sure; Ann Arbor Gabrield Richard High School fields a basketball team that is very confident in their abilities.

Kalamazoo Christian is enjoying success in both of the marquee boys’ sports this season. Their football team had a fine season and now their basketball squad is in the state semifinals after a 51-42 victory over Albion. This is the fourth trip to the semifinals and second straight in Coach Jerry Mastenbrook’s nine seasons. He is particularly proud of the way his team is playing defense right now. Nine players scored in last night’s game. Stephen Gould scored eight points and blocked five shots for the Comets. The game was close in the fourth quarter but K-Christian was able to handle the pressure and come away with the win.

Negaunee (25-0) vs. Flint Beecher (18-7) [Thursday 2:50pm]

Negaunee High School was able to do what they hadn’t in the previous two attempts - win a quarterfinals game. It was free throws made when the pressure was on that was the difference in the game. They had better clean up some of their mistakes (read – turnovers) if they want to beat Flint Beecher. This Miner team is very emotional and if they can control their emotions, players like Dan Ellis and Anthony Katona should come through for Coach Mike O’Donnell. Coach O’Donnell was able to rally his team when the score was tied at 36 with four minutes remaining in the game and rode his defense like they’ve done this whole season.

Senior Dominque Allen nearly lost the game for his Flint Beecher team. With time running down in overtime, he missed a wide open dunk with the score tied. Luckily for him, his team created a quick turnover and the ball again was pressed forward to Allen and again, he had no one between him and the basket. This time, he was able to dunk it with only one second remaining in overtime. Beecher was able to stay in the game because of the defensive pressure applied to Carson City-Crystal. Both teams are coming off sub-par games and had better ratchet it up another notch if they want to play on Saturday.

Class B

Menominee (21-3) vs. Lansing Catholic (21-4) [Friday 6pm]

Lansing Catholic had to battle all the way to the end in order to beat Detroit Community. They were helped by a fantastic night at the charity strip, hitting 20 of 23. Michael Murray had two big plays down the stretch that helped his team. First was a three pointer he made when the game was tied and only 1:57 remained. The second big play was a block on a three point shot soon after. These plays helped the Cougars take a little momentum to finish the 1:57 left in the game. They are headed across town to the Breslin Center to play in the semifinals for the first time since 1996.

The Maroons of Menominee beat Frankenmuth and Mr. Basketball Brad Redford. It wasn’t so much that they dominated the game, but they just played better. Menominee’s defense was able to keep Brad Redford in check for most of the game (Redford finished with 24 thanks to 15 points in the fourth quarter) and Coach Pete Pericolosi made in-game adjustments to keep Frankenmuth from scoring too much. The Maroons have won 18 straight games and has momentum on their side as they get ready for their battle with Lansing Catholic.

Flint Powers Catholic (19-7) vs. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (24-2) [Friday 7:50pm]

Flint Powers has made it to the semifinals for the fourth time in the school’s 38 year history. This time, they made it by beating #1 ranked and heavily favored Detroit Country Day. According to Powers coach Tim Herman, the refs let the players play and didn’t call “ticky-tack” fouls. This allowed a smaller Powers team to play physical in the paint and keep Country Day’s big men in check. Instead of DCD blocking many of FPC’s shots, they’d toss the ball back out and let the players hit shots from all over the place. If Flint Powers can come up and execute a game plan like they did versus Detroit Country Day, they have an excellent chance of playing on Saturday.

Forest Hills Northern returned all their players from last season and that’s really helped them get this far in the playoffs. They feature nine seniors. Free throws were not a strong point in their win versus Hudsonville Unity Christian. Luckily, the defense was strong for the Huskies and they rode that to the semifinals. The experience they have should help them in their Friday night game. Bryan Huntley led the way with 15 points but GRFHN had a strong game from Javontae Ford as well. Ford had 14 points, six rebounds, and three steals.

Class A

Detroit Pershing (21-4) vs. Romulus (22-3) [Friday 2:50]

When a team shoots 35% and commits 20 turnovers, it’s almost a given that the team in question will lose. Like many other teams in the quarterfinals, Pershing’s defense came alive and really pushed them into the finals, helped by a poor game from Detroit Finney. 6’9” Derrick Nix pulled down 17 rebounds and scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter. Last night’s game against their rival Finney was the third time these two teams have met this season with Pershing winning all three. They will be in the semifinals for the first time since 2000. If Pershing wants to beat Romulus, they will have to play much better offense than they played against their rival.

Romulus was able to pull out a victory over the school that *loves* overtime games, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, before the game went into extra minutes. It was the ability of the Eagles to hit three point shots throughout the game that helped them win. The game was tied going into the fourth quarter and the Eagles rattled off seven quick points to take the momentum. Will Clyburn made three shots from three point land to help him lead Romulus in scoring with 14. Dominique Buckley led in assists with eight.

East Lansing (18-8) vs. Saginaw High (25-1) [Friday 1pm]

East Lansing is headed to the state semifinals for the first time in 50 years. They beat Muskegon last night 66-64. Charlie Ward led East Lansing with 17 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocked shots. Free throw shots were kind to EL as they hit 19 of 27. They have survived many close games this season. It was the third game that they won by three points or less in the past couple of weeks. The Trojans will need that ability to win close games when they play the other Trojans, the defending champion Trojans, down the street at the Breslin Center.

Saginaw was very close to being spectators at the finals. It took them two overtime periods to put away Clarkston. They showed that this team is more than just Draymond Green and Daniel West. Senior Will Marlow stole the inbound pass and fell, but was still able to get up and make the layup to pull within one point in the first overtime when the clock was down to a minute. He had this to say, “That was all pride and energy and all the hard work for four years. I had to step up for my team.” Junior Mike Green chipped in 14 points as well. We know this team can run and they can press, but do they have the energy to push them into back to back state championships?