Belleville had high expectations heading into this season with the talented 1-2 punch of 6-foot-9 Gabe Brown and guard Davion Williams returning from a 20-3 team, along with 6-2 senior point guard Kaevon Merriweather, a transfer from Romulus.
In fact, Belleville was ranked No. 2 in the state in The News preseason rankings.
But, Belleville stumbled, stumbled and stumbled some more, losing three games in the opening month of the season. Still, all of its goals are in front of it heading into the stretch drive of the regular season, then the state playoffs come March.
Belleville is 10-4 and unbeaten (7-0) in Western Wayne Blue Division play heading into Tuesday’s home game with Redford Thurston Tuesday before another home game Friday against rival Romulus.
Belleville has a chance to clinch the Western Wayne Blue title against Romulus (10-2, 6-1), a team that has owned the conference championship for over a decade.
“We could sweep Romulus with a win Friday night and clinch the conference title, which Romulus has owned since we’ve moved from the Mega to the Western Wayne Conference more than 11 years ago,” said Belleville coach Adam Trumpour.
Brown and Williams are both Division 1 athletes with Brown headed to Michigan State to play basketball and Williams headed to MSU to play football.
“Gabe’s had a strong season, averaging 19.5 points and seven rebounds and hasn’t played in the fourth quarter of five league games,” said Trumpour of Brown. “Davion is averaging 13 points and has had some big games offensively, scoring 26 against West Bloomfield.
“We’ve had nine guys score in double figures in one game or another. Kaevon has done a good job at the point, averaging six points and 7.5 assists, hasn’t needed to score and is content to set people up. We’ve also had Connor Bush, an athletic 6-foot-4 sophomore, a transfer from Plymouth, starting for us since becoming eligible. And, Devin Alverson has played well at times too. They all are now playing together. They just want to win.”
No doubt, Romulus was at its best when Nate Oats was head coach, guiding Romulus to the Class A state championship in 2013 before joining Bobby Hurley’s staff at Buffalo a couple of years later when the Bulls won the Mid-American Conference championship in 2015.
Then, when Hurley departed to take the head job at Arizona State, Oats was named head coach at Buffalo and led the Bulls to another MAC title in ‘16.
Buffalo is again the team to beat in the MAC (18-7, 10-2), led by a pair of metro area players in 6-foot-8, 250-pound Nick Perkins (Milan), who is averaging 16.2 points and 6.2 rebounds and senior guard Wes Clark (Romulus) who is averaging 14.2 points and 5.9 assists.
Romulus advanced to the Class A Final Four at the Breslin Center last season, defeating Belleville in a regional game, then defeating U-D Jesuit in a state quarterfinal before a semifinal loss to Grand Rapids Christian.
… U-D Jesuit is playing well heading into the Catholic League playoffs which gets underway Saturday at Birmingham Marian.
U-D Jesuit enters the Catholic League playoffs as the five-time defending champs and the team to beat, defeating Warren DeLaSalle 59-57 Saturday to improve to 13-3 overall and 8-0 in the Central Division. It defeated DeLaSalle (11-5) 64-45 last month.
U-D Jesuit is 8-1 since 6-9 junior Jalen Thomas became eligible. Thomas, who has an offer from Xavier, started the school year at U-D Jesuit before moving to Las Vegas, only to return.
“Jalen has been in the lineup since January 12th and he’s playing great,” praised U-D Jesuit coach Pat Donnelly who has also received strong play from 6-4, 220-pound junior Daniel Friday and guards Elijah Collins, Jordan Montgomery and Zach Winston, the younger brother of MSU point guard Cassius Winston.
Friday has already received multiple MAC offers, including one from Central Michigan while Collins signed with Michigan State to play football.
U-D Jesuit will face Macomb Lutheran North in an opening-round game Saturday at noon at Marian.
… Macomb Dakota has gotten the job done with or without Michigan State-bound Thomas Kithier during its streak of four straight MAC Red division titles.
Kithier helped Dakota earn three straight MAC Red championships before transferring to Clarkston for his senior year. And, while Kithier was ruled ineligible by the MHSAA, Dakota (10-3, 8-1) has continued to be the king of the MAC Red, receiving outstanding play by 6-3 sophomore guard Ryan Rollins and junior point guard Mark Tocco.
Rollins scored 19 in a clinching 76-71 win over Utica Eisenhower with Tocco contributing 17 points, eight assists and seven rebounds; Josh Hines, 12 points and L.J. Hassell, 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Rollins is averaging 23 points and six rebounds; Tocco, 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds.
Dakota, which owns the No. 1 seed heading into the MAC tournament, will play a first-round game Thursday at Grosse Pointe North with the winner playing the winner of the Chippewa Valley at Warren Mott game.