North Farmington’s Jeron Rogers, shown against Clarkston, hopes to lead his team to a regional title. He’s averaging 13 points, 11 rebounds. (Ricardo Thomas/Detroit News)
Farmington Hills -- The favorites in the state tournament are clearly defined. Teams like Detroit Pershing, Romulus and Saginaw in Class A, Detroit Country Day and Stevensville Lakeshore in Class B, Detroit Consortium and Flint Beecher in Class C, and Southfield Christian and Wyoming Tri-unity Christian in Class D all advanced to this week's regionals.
Teams like North Farmington are the ones many look past and advance without much fanfare statewide.
But it is teams like North Farmington (17-5) and perhaps Hudsonville (16-7) that could be this season's Lake Orion (which won first regional title last season) or even Macomb L'Anse Creuse North, which became the first Macomb County public school to reach a Class A semifinal in 2012.
North Farmington has never won a region title, and coach Todd Negoshian said the opportunity is there for the taking.
Regional semifinals are today and the finals Wednesday.
"It's wide open," Negoshian said of the regional at Ann Arbor Huron. "There are four teams who can beat each other on any given night. It doesn't have to be pretty. Just win."
North Farmington plays South Lyon (16-7) at 7 p.m. The first game, at 5:30, pits Canton (17-6) against Ypsilanti (18-4).
Negoshian starts three seniors, a sophomore and a freshman. The sophomore is a 6-6 forward, Deron Rogers, who averages 13 points and 11 rebounds. He's the son of former NBA player and Detroit Northwestern graduate Carlos Rogers.
The freshman is Jacob Joubert, the son of Detroit Southwestern star and former Michigan player Antoine Joubert. Negoshian's top reserve is freshman Alex Darden, whose grandfather, Oliver Darden, started at U-M with Cazzie Russell on the '65 team that lost to UCLA in the NCAA championship game.
"We do have some basketball genes," Negoshian said.
It's been a similar road for Hudsonville. It tied Rockford for second place (7-3) in the O-K Conference Red Division, one game behind East Kentwood. Like North Farmington, Hudsonville is the only team from its division to advance to the regionals. Hudsonville has won nine of 10 and will be a big favorite when it plays Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (17-6) at Cedar Springs at 7.
If the shoe fits
Romeo got lost in the shuffle in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division. It finished fifth in the seven-team division at 5-7, with L'Anse Creuse North garnering much of the attention as it finished first at 11-1.
But North's only loss was to Romeo, 60-53, on Feb. 22.
One of four MAC Red Division teams to win a district title, Romeo (13-9) is the team in Class A few expected to win a district game, much less advance to the regionals. On Wednesday, Romeo upset Clarkston (18-4), 52-48. On Friday, it defeated Rochester Adams (21-1), 53-52.
Next for coach Dale Teller's Cinderella team is another Oakland County power, Rochester (19-4) and McDonald's All America James Young . Romeo and Rochester play at West Bloomfield at 7.
"We reassessed the team after our (4-6) start," Teller said. "We made adjustments. We were getting hammered on the boards. It's working."
Romeo kept its poise in both games as it trailed Clarkston 9-2 and Adams 10-2 before finding its rhythm.
Romeo wasn't the only MAC team to pull off a surprise.
Warren Cousino was in a slide three weeks ago. It stood at 9-7 after losing three of four and appeared to be headed to yet another mediocre season. A 51-49 victory over Utica Eisenhower began a modest four-game winning streak to end the regular season, but Cousino was considered just another competitive team in the Class A district at Fraser, a district in which Warren DeLaSalle was labeled the favorite, with Warren Mott the top challenger.
Cousino trailed Mott (20-2) by eight points in the second half on Wednesday before pulling out a 59-55 victory. On Friday, Cousino trailed DeLaSalle, 29-23, at halftime before outscoring DeLaSalle (17-5), 43-29, in the second half to win, 66-58, to capture its first district title since 1980.
"It's unbelievable to beat a program like DeLaSalle," second-year coach Chris Shepard said afterward . "I'm a Warren kid. I went to Mott. They are the team in this area and have been for years."
By the numbers
9 -- Number of top 10 Class B teams to win district titles.
14 -- Number of consecutive district titles won by DeLaSalle before Friday
703 -- Number of coaching victories (boys and girls) by Beaverton's Joy Johnston after Beaverton (20-2) upset Ithaca, 54-44, in a Class C district final on Friday
Kalamazoo Loy Norrix senior Bishop Robinson scored 20 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter to lead Loy Norrix (16-7) to a 75-67 victory over Portage Central in a Class A district final on Friday. Robinson also had 10 rebounds and three steals. It's Loy Norrix's first district title in 10 years.