Prep insider: Teams have points to prove in quarters
Calihan Hall will be the place to be Tuesday night with a pair of potential future Mr. Basketball point guards going head-to-head in Cassius Winston of Detroit Jesuit and Foster Loyer of Clarkston in a Class A state quarterfinal game.
Winston, a 6-foot-1 junior, has been in the limelight all season, already being heavily recruited by Michigan State, Michigan and other national powers. He is averaging 22 points, 6.5 assists and five rebounds for the three-time Catholic League champion (21-3).
Loyer has enjoyed an outstanding freshman year for unbeaten OAA Red Division champion Clarkston (24-0), playing his best basketball with a 35-point effort in a regional championship win Wednesday night over Macomb Dakota, just two days after scoring 30 in a regional semifinal win over Auburn Hills Avondale.
Now, Loyer will be on the big stage at Calihan with the opportunity to go up against Winston for a shot at moving on to the state finals at Breslin Center this weekend.
U-D Jesuit coach Pat Donnelly knows his team will have to play strong defense to move on to Breslin.
"I think that we had our best defensive effort Wednesday in our regional final win against North Farmington," Donnelly said of his team's 52-34 win. "Gary Collins has taken on the challenge of going up against our opponent's best offensive player all year and has done a great job of it. He played well against North Farmington's point guard, Jacob Joubert.
"We're going to have to do a good job of protecting the three-point line because they have some good shooters and also defend the back-door cut, and offensively we have to take care of the ball because they do a good job of getting in the passing lanes."
Winston and Jesuit have experience playing this time of year, losing to Bloomfield Hills in the state semifinals last year. Donnelly feels confident having Winston on the floor.
"Cassius lights it up when we need him to score, but he does a great job of distributing the ball, getting his teammates involved, a great job of creating to get the best shot," Donnelly said.
The same can be said for Loyer, the son of former Pistons interim coach John Loyer. He learned the game while watching his father coach in the NBA and then lead him in drills. He said early in the season it was his goal to help Clarkston earn Dan Fife his first state championship in his impressive 33-year coaching career at Clarkston.
Fife's lone state finals trip was in 2009, a loss to Kalamazoo Central in the semifinals, but Clarkston has all the ingredients of a state championship run with Andrew Myers joining Loyer in the backcourt, along with a defensive stopper in senior guard Josh Bonzheim, a three-point threat in Tabin Throgmorton and size inside in 6-5 Jonah Newblatt and 6-8 Cole Chewins, a tackle/defensive end from Clarkston's two-time Division 1 state championship football team.
Winston has a strong supporting cast as well, consisting of defensive stopper Collins and 6-9 sophomores Ike Eke and Greg Eboigbodin who cause opponents problems inside.
Donnelly noted Eboigbodin has elevated his game, scoring 22 and grabbing 14 rebounds in a 66-51 regional semifinal win over Redford Thurston a week ago.
More to the point
Prior to the start of the season, Muskegon head coach Keith Guy had to find a point guard to replace Mr. Basketball award winner Deshaun Thrower, who led the Big Reds to the Class A state championship with a 28-0 record.
When asked who will replace Thrower, he replied: "We won't replace Deshaun because his leadership and what he brought to the team can't be replaced so we'll have to do it by committee."
Well, Mr. Basketball will be announced Monday and 6-9 senior Deyonta Davis (Michigan State) is the front-runner to give Muskegon back-to-back elite award winners. And, by the way Guy has his quality point guard in junior Michael Littlejohn.
The term "survive and advance" has never been so true than for Muskegon after its 70-60 quadruple overtime win over Hudsonville in the regional final.
With Davis limited to 17 of the game's 48 minutes due to foul trouble, then fouling out with just under six minutes left in regulation, senior forward Joeviair Kennedy and Littlejohn took over to make sure Muskegon (23-1) would be a step closer to repeating as state champs.
Littlejohn scored the first eight points of the fourth OT. Kennedy finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds.
"There's been a misconception all year that we're just a one- or two-player team, but that's not the case at all," Guy said. "Sure, Deyonta is a great player, but Hip Hop (Kennedy) is the best-kept secret in the state. I mean, he (Davis) fouled out at the 6-minute mark of the fourth quarter. Jason Lorea played well and so did Jamel French."
Then, Guy talked of Littlejohn, who has a nickname of his own, "Hollywood."
"Michael's really playing well," Guy said. "He's found his way. He and has done a good job of scoring the ball, defending and is also a good facilitator."
Littlejohn stepped up in the fourth OT, making two 3-pointers and a short jumper in transition, finishing with 16 points.
Now, it's on to the state quarterfinal game with Lansing Everett (23-2) Tuesday at Lansing Eastern, showcasing a pair of Mr. Basketball finalists in Davis and Everett's 6-9 Trevor Manuel (Oregon).
"The fans will finally get the chance to see what they've wanted to watch for a long time," Guy said of the Davis-Manuelmatchup.
And, still it could be Littlejohn who makes the difference for Muskegon to earn another trip to the Breslin.
Otsego gets its shot
Otsego led Benton Harbor for nearly the entire regional final game last year, only to be beaten in overtime.
Well, 7-0 senior Seth Dugan made sure Otsego (22-3) would come away with a win this time around to get a showdown with Class B state champion Milan (23-2).
Dugan, headed for Western Michigan, had 17 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocks in the 71-44 rout of Benton Harbor to give Otsego its first regional championship since 1984. How well is Dugan playing? At a Mr. Basketball-type level. He had a triple-double (21 points, 15 rebounds and 10 blocks) in a regional semifinal win over Battle Creek Harper Creek.
Dugan now will be matched up against physical 6-8, 240-pound Nick Perkins (Buffalo) when Otsego plays Milan in a quarterfinal at Marshall. Perkins and Milan limited Onsted 6-10 junior Austin Davis to 17 points and 10 rebounds in a 68-50 regional final win.
Sure, Milan has an outstanding point guard in Youngstown-bound Latin Davis, but Otsego has a pair of solid combo guards of its own in A.J. Atwater and 6-3 Chris Pearl.
Pearl has displayed the ability to take over a game which should make this quarterfinal one of great interest.
In the nightcap of the Class A doubleheader at Calihan, unbeaten Detroit Western (23-0) will take on Ypsilanti Community (19-4) with both teams having impressive backcourts.
Western is led by junior point guard Brailen Neely and Detroit-bound Josh McFolley with 6-3 junior guard Corey Allen and Jamezell Davis leading the way for Ypsilanti.
Allen was expected to play well for veteran Ypsilanti coach Steve Brooks, but Davis has come on and developed into an outstanding perimeter shooter.
Davis was a big reason Ypsilanti defeated Romulus 63-58 in a regional final. He scored 12 of his 15 during the second half, making three 3-pointers.
Western will be the heavy favorite, but if Allen and Davis are on their games and making long-range shots, Ypsilanti could make things interesting.
Quite a ride
It was a great ride for Birmingham Marian seniors Kara Holinski, Jaeda Robinson and Brittany Gray who played a big part in helping Marian win consecutive Class A state titles for the first time in program history after also being part of Mary Cicerone's first losing season (9-14, 2012) as head coach as freshmen.
Holinski and Robinson had to handle the ball more than usual when Bailey Thomas and her younger sister, Samantha, were in foul trouble in the opening half.
"It's definitely a different role since I've always been a spot up shooter, but I was happy to be able to take on that role today because I think we needed it at that point," said Holinski, who had 10 points and five rebounds in the 51-37 title win Saturday over DeWitt.
The outcome left Holinski ecstatic, especially from where Marian came from her freshman year.
"Both Brittany and Jaeda didn't come in from a feeder school as well," Holinski said of joining Gray and Robinson as freshmen on Marian's varsity. "It was kind of like a tight-knit deal to come in and be freshmen and be on varsity and be able to carry that all the way through, being her (Cicerone's) first losing record ever, then first back-to-back state champions. I think we're glad to do it for each other, for Cis (Cicerone), our teammates and Coach (Derek) Thomas."
Marian finished 26-1 this season and 72-7 the last three years. It was Cicerone's sixth state title in 32 years as head coach at Marian.
Foster Loyer, Clarkston: Loyer scored 35 in a 63-58 regional championship game win over Macomb Dakota Wednesday, scoring 13 during the final quarter to push Clarkston's record to 24-0.
Quote of the week
"I guess you could say it don't get no better than this."
Frank Orlando, Detroit Country Day 72-year-old coach, after his team won the Class B state title with a 49-41 win over Haslett. It was Orlando's 11th state title and Country Day won it with two sophomores and a freshman in the starting lineup.
By the numbers
20: Points St. Ignace came back from Saturday at the Breslin Center to win the Class D state title with a 64-60 overtime win over previously unbeaten Pittsford.
35: Points Detroit Country Day's defense gave up on average during its state championship season, finishing 22-4.
72: Victories for Birmingham Marian during the last three years after having a 9-14 record during the senior class' freshmen year.
Goricki's girls state finals MVPs
Samantha Thomas, Birmingham Marian: For the second consecutive year Thomas was the star of the championship game. As a 14-year-old freshman last year, she scored 15 and had five rebounds in a 44-26 win over Canton. On Saturday, she overcame foul trouble to score 17, 12 during the second half in a 51-37 win over DeWitt.
Kaela Webb, Detroit Country Day: The 5-6 freshman point guard scored 20, making six free throws during the final 11/2 minutes to help Country Day to a 49-41 win over Haslett. It was Country Day's first state championship since winning consecutive titles in 2008 and '09 and Webb played well despite being plagued with a right ankle injury suffered in the districts.
Alexis Rowe, Calumet: She scored 22, making 4-of-7 3-pointers, to help Calumet defeat Flint Hamady 57-49 to make sure the 500-mile bus ride home would be one to remember. It was Calumet's first trip to the state finals while Hamady won Class C state titles in 2009 and '10. It also gave the U.P. two state champions in the same season for the first time in history with St. Ignace winning the Class D title earlier in the day.
Abbey Ostman, St. Ignace: She scored 21 of her 31 points during the second half and overtime to lead St. Ignace back from a 20-point second half deficit in the 64-60 win over previously unbeaten Pittsford for their second state title in the last three years. It was the largest comeback since Detroit Cass Tech came back from 20 to defeat Saginaw in the 1987 Class A state final.