Ann Arbor Skyline had big expectations after earning its first league title a year ago and returning a strong nucleus led by the Wade brothers — Brandon and Ryan — and senior guard Jack Ammerman.
Skyline had extra motivation after getting bounced in the district semifinals to finish 15-6.
Brandon Wade plans to have a long postseason run his senior season before moving on to play for LeBron James’ former high school coach Keith Dambrot, who is now in his first year as head coach at Duquesne after a long, successful career at Akron.
Brandon Wade is averaging 22 points and seven assists to help Skyline to a 10-0 start (4-0 SEC Red). He scored 34, with 29 of them in the second half and overtime in a 78-73 win at Wayne Memorial on Martin Luther King Jr. day. That performance came two days after he scored 23 in an 87-67 comeback win over rival Ann Arbor Pioneer, the bulk of them coming during a 53-point second half.
The Wade brothers and Ammerman have played together since first grade and the chemistry shows.
“It’s a lot of fun and when you’re playing with your brothers, there’s just nothing better than that,” said Brandon, whose father and assistant coach Keith Wade played at Toledo. “We’ve come up from when we were little, worked out a ton together and put our blood, sweat and tears in everything we’ve done.
“We know where each other is going to be on the floor, know what each person can do and it all just makes it fun and that’s why we have so much success because nobody can stop us as a threesome.”
Ammerman, who averages 20 points, scored 22 against Wayne, with 10 in the opening quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers, then seven during overtime.
“When (Ammerman’s) hot, he’s hot and growing up that’s all we knew so once he’s able to hit two shots, keep feeding him because he’s going to hit more,” Brandon Wade said.
And, on his brother Ryan? “He picks up the best guy every single game (defensively) and he can shoot the ball from anywhere. He’s also starting to get his attack mind, too, so you can’t stop him.”
Ryan Wade, who has offers from Toledo, Central Michigan, Kent State and Detroit-Mercy, played strong defense against Wayne senior and Cleveland-bound guard Rashad Williams, limiting him to 12 points, and four during the second half and overtime.
“I love taking every challenge and earlier this year I was asked to guard Gabe Brown of Belleville so I look to take every challenge I can to help my team,” Ryan said. “They need me to shut down their best player so that’s what I do every game.”
With Skyline trailing Wayne by 11 early in the second half, Brandon Wade took over during the third quarter, scoring 13 straight of his team’s points to pull even at 45 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been playing for so long we know when someone’s hot, like Brandon was hot during that third quarter and he’s going to take some shots until he misses,” Ammerman said. “It’s really just who has the hot hand and we work on that every day in practice, too.”
Longton Skyline coach Mike Lovelace has put together a challenging schedule to prepare his team for postseason play and the team has responded with victories over Belleville — The News No. 2 ranked team heading into the season — Novi, Detroit Pershing, Pioneer and Wayne.
Skyline has a solid supporting cast including sophomore Kabir Bergin and juniors Jaylin Cooper and DeSean Munson. Bergin scored 10 in the win over Pioneer and Cooper nine, with all of his points coming off 3-pointers during the fourth quarter.
Skyline is an outstanding 3-point shooting team. Ryan Wade scored 22, knocking down seven 3-pointers in the 74-60 win over Belleville on Dec. 21.
Skyline has averaged 74 points, making an average of 10 3-pointers a game while shooting 37 percent from deep range, making a dozen long-range shots in the OT win over Wayne.
“There’s nothing better than just knowing the tendencies that your teammates like to do and not like to do,” Ammerman said. “Most of us have played together at least three or four years so just knowing what we like to do and where we’re going to be and just being able to communicate on the floor and adjusting to the defenses is so key for us to win these games, especially the close games.”
In the state tournament Skyline will host a district that includes Pioneer, Huron and Romulus before possibly moving on to a regional at Salem, which includes talented Canton.
“Our potential is through the ceiling right now,” Ammerman said. “I think we could make a run all the way, but we’ll be focusing on that first game once we reach the postseason. We haven’t won a district game in my career so we’ll take it game-by-game once we get there.
“I think we know we can compete with any team if we just stick to our game plan and are mentally prepared for the game because we have the skill and the offensive power to beat anyone. We just have to lock down on defense, that’s what it will come down to come March.”
Pershing facing tough competition
It would be safe to say Detroit Pershing is facing as tough a schedule as any Class C team in the state.
Pershing is 4-5 overall, but 3-1 in PSL play.
“We are playing OK, but have played the toughest non-conference schedule in the state and should be there when the dust clears,” Pershing coach Wydell Henry said. “Right now we’re getting good play from D’Juan Seal and Jalyn Benning.”
Seal, a 6-foot-4 senior forward, is averaging 16.5 points and the 6-6 Benning, the younger brother of former MSU center Derrick Nix, 12 points and eight rebounds.
Pershing has defeated Detroit King and Detroit Edison and Southfield Christian, and lost to defending Class A champion Clarkston, Hazel Park, Skyline, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and Detroit East English.
Pershing will host East English — with Michigan commit David DeJulius — on Friday, Jan. 26.