January 14, 2013 at 1:00 am

Tom Markowski: Prep basketball insider

Freedom Classic evolves into daylong celebration of the high school game

Pershing’s Martez Walker (5) will play in Saturday’s Freedom Classic at Warren Fitzgerald. (Ricardo Thomas/Detroit News)

Warren— Martin Luther King Day is a time for remembrance and for the third year it's a time for the aptly named Freedom Classic at Warren Fitzgerald.

Once again the Horatio Williams Foundation will sponsor a one-day festival of basketball featuring some of the state's top teams and players. The third annual Freedom Classic will be held Saturday at Fitzgerald. Six games will be held beginning at noon, with the host team playing Troy and ending with the marquee matchup, Detroit Pershing (9-0), ranked No. 1 in Class A, against defending Class C champion and top-ranked Flint Beecher (9-0), scheduled to start at 8:30.

The cost is $10. Proceeds go to the Horatio Williams Foundation and the programs it supports. Last year Williams said the festival drew 1,300 fans. This year he hopes that number reaches 2,000.

"It's getting bigger and bigger," Williams said. "We take care of the security. We pay for the (Warren) police. The concessions are donated back to the school (Fitzgerald). It's their biggest concession day of the year.

"Although the foundation's headquarters are in Detroit, it's just not based in Detroit. We do a couple of events outside of Detroit including our golf outing (in West Bloomfield).

"The reason we started this is to give kids from the inner city a chance to play teams from the suburbs, and coincides with Martin Luther King Day. Everybody does Christmas tournaments. I didn't want to step on anybody's toes. And I try to line up teams that might not meet until the state tournament, if at all."

Completing the schedule is Detroit Southeastern against Detroit Community at 1:45, followed by Detroit Cass Tech against Walled Lake Western at 3:30, then Detroit Douglass against Warren DeLaSalle at 5 and Detroit Renaissance against Ann Arbor Huron at 6:40.

Among the top players are Beecher's Monte Morris, a surefire Mr. Basketball candidate; Pershing's Kahlil Felder and Martez Walker; Bo Zeigler of Community; Miroslav Jaksic of Western and A.J. Turner of DeLaSalle. Turner is a junior, the others are seniors.

Not to be forgotten

Also on Saturday the fourth annual Dorian Dawkins Show Your Heart Memorial Classic will be held at Saginaw High. This event is held in memory of Dawkins, a promising basketball player from Saginaw who died June 13, 2009. The son of former Saginaw High player and coach Lou Dawkins , Dawkins collapsed after shooting a free throw during a summer camp in East Lansing. The cause of death was acute myocardial ischemia.

Five games are on tap. Most noteworthy are the 5:15 matchup between Ypsilanti and Detroit East English Village Prep, followed by defending Class A champ Saginaw and Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy, featuring Mr. Basketball candidate Derrick Walton Jr .

Admission is $10 for adults and $7 for students with a school ID. Proceeds from the event will go to the American Heart Association and to college scholarships for underprivileged youth.

Stars aligned

Grand Blanc hasn't won a district title since 2007. It lost to Clarkston in a regional semifinal that season. Last year it lost to Clarkston in the first round of the districts. Clarkston isn't in Grand Blanc's district this season and Grand Blanc's chances at a district title look promising for that reason, plus Grand Blanc could have its best team in quite some time.

Coach Chris Belcher lost just four players from a team that finished 14-7. The top returner is 6-foot-5 senior Bart Williams , selected team MVP last season. K.J. Miller (5-11) is another returning starter but the most improved player is 6-7 senior David Battle . Battle is averaging nine points and eight rebounds and has had his best games against Flint Carman-Ainsworth, the most competitive team Grand Blanc (7-0) has played this season. Battle had 22 points and 13 rebounds in the first meeting (71-66) and 15 points and 10 rebounds in a 56-49 victory on Jan. 2.

Experience counts

New Haven was 21-4 last season and lost in the Class C quarterfinals. Coach Tedaro France returned his top six players and that experience came into play on Friday as New Haven upset No. 3-ranked Mount Clemens (5-1) 101-98 in double overtime.

New Haven (6-0), unranked, trailed by 13 points at halftime and by 10 with 3:16 left in regulation. Tedaro France III (23 points) made a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime tied at 74. New Haven trailed by five in the first overtime before it went to the second tied at 85. New Haven trailed by six in the second overtime. Sychar Sterling 's 3-point play and France's 3-pointer tied the game. Rayshawn Griffin (34 points) made four free throws in the last minute to give New Haven the impressive road victory.

"The whole game we had to fight, fight and fight," coach France said. "That's a real good team we beat. We might not be the most talented team but our kids are from the neighborhood and they're good kids."

Blast from the past

Former Michigan State star Mike Peplowski returned to his alma mater on Friday and gave a pregame talk to Warren DeLaSalle. DeLaSalle (7-1) played perhaps its best defensive game of the season, beating Detroit Catholic Central, 57-29.


Top five games last week

East Kentwood 60, Zeeland East 53 : East Kentwood (7-0) led 23-10 with six minutes left in the first half then held on. East cut the lead to 39-38 early in the fourth but never took the lead. East Kentwood was 6-of-12 from the 3-point range and was led by Jaylen Carter's 18 points. Josh Groenhof led East with 21 points.
Grandville Calvin Christian 59, Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 51 : Calvin Christian (8-0), ranked No. 5 in Class C, led 45-26 at the end of the third quarter before having to hold on against the top-ranked team in Class D. Daniel Cole scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter for Tri-unity Christian (6-1). Brad Visser scored 19 points for Calvin Christian.
Jackson Lumen Christi 63, Jackson 58 : Lumen Christi (5-0) hadn't defeated its rival in more than five years. Matt Bullinger's layup, with the assist going to Khari Willis, with 57 seconds left broke a 58-58 tie. Willis (23 points, three assists), a sophomore, came up with a steal on Jackson's next possession to seal the deal. Bullinger had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Clifford Kelly had 17 points for Jackson (2-5).
Kalamazoo Loy Norrix 58, Marshall 56 : Darrion Mullen banked in a 15-footer just before the buzzer to give Loy Norrix (7-1) the victory. Bishop Robinson led Loy Norrix with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Tony Wimberley scored 17 points to lead Marshall (5-1).
Walled Lake Central 39, Walled Lake Western 38 : Phil Nelson's 3-point play with 1:25 remaining gave Central (7-2, 3-0 KLAA North Division) a 39-35 lead and it held on for the upset at home. Western (6-2, 2-1) led 13-2 early in the second quarter and had two chances to win the game in the final few seconds but missed both shots.

Top 5 games this week

Wyoming Godwin Heights (7-0) at Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (6-1), Tue., 7 : Tri-unity Christian plays one of the top schedules of any Class D team and taking on Godwin Heights, ranked No. 5 in Class B, is another example. Godwin Heights has good balance offensively and could find a weakness or two in Tri-unity Christian's defense.
Detroit Southeastern (8-2) at Detroit Pershing (9-0), Fri., 4 : This is for first place between the top two teams in the PSL East Division. Point guard Kahlil Felder (hip injury) is expected to return for Pershing after missing last Friday's game. Unlike Pershing, Southeastern doesn't have a Division I prospect but it plays as a cohesive unit. The game could be moved to a larger venue because of the large crowd that is expected to attend.
Clarkston (5-2) at Southfield (9-1), Fri., 4 : Southfield is in first place in the OAA Red Division at 3-0. Clarkston, 1-1, must win to keep pace. Clarkston has had to cope with a number of injuries early in the season and is gradually getting some of those players back.
Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy (7-2) at Saginaw (8-1), Sat., 7 : Chandler Park plays one of the more competitive schedules for a Class B team and here's another. Chandler Park's Derrick Walton, Jr., is one of the leading candidates for the Mr. Basketball award and he could garner some votes with a fine performance here.
Detroit Pershing (9-0) vs. Flint Beecher (9-0) at Warren Fitzgerald, Sat., 8:30 : It's not often one has the chance to watch two No. 1-ranked teams face each other. Pershing's Martez Walker has yet to commit to a university and an assistant coach from Baylor is expected to be on hand to get a close look. Beecher's Monte Morris (Iowa State) goes head-to-head with Pershing's Felder (Oakland) at the point guard spot.

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