Novi and Warren De La Salle have crashed the party to make trips to the Breslin Center this weekend to compete for the Class A boys basketball state championship.
Not many fans gave them much of a chance after De La Salle entered the postseason earlier this month with a 13-7 record and Novi at 12-8.
But Novi earned one upset victory after another, sending such teams as Canton, Ann Arbor Skyline and Belleville to the sidelines while punching its ticket to the Final Four.
And De La Salle played with the best teams all season, carrying a lead into the fourth quarter against such powers as U-D Jesuit and defending Class B defending state champion New Haven, only to come away with losses each time.
That was until Tuesday night when De La Salle longtime coach Greg Esler put his reserves in early, a plan which worked in a 63-58 upset win over six-time Catholic League champion U-D Jesuit Tuesday night at Calihan Hall.
Novi senior guard Traveon Maddox Jr. is making a habit of making winning shots in the final seconds, scoring off a driving layup with 2.8 seconds left for the difference in a 61-59 win over previously unbeaten Skyline to earn Novi its first regional championship last Wednesday, then making a 14-footer as time expired for the difference in a 75-73 quarterfinal win over Belleville at Calihan Hall.
“The team has gelled at the right time and you know who predicted it is us, nobody else did which is fine, our record speaks for itself,” said Novi coach Brandon Sinawi.
Warren De La Salle (19-7) vs. Clarkston (24-1), noon Friday
The schools both came away with state football championships, Clarkston in Division 1 and De La Salle in Division 2.
Now, De La Salle 6-5 senior quarterback Luke Pfromm will try to continue his strong play after scoring 21 in the quarterfinal win over U-D Jesuit.
“This is a perfect way to end the year as a senior, going all the way in football and all the way in basketball,” Pfromm said.
Look for Clarkston’s experience of winning the state championship last year to play a role in the Wolves returning to the title game with Mr. Basketball Foster Loyer leading the way.
Pick: Clarkston by 6
Novi (17-8) vs. Holland West Ottawa (24-2), 2 Friday
Novi has one of the top backcourts in the state with Maddox (Oakland), 6-3 senior Trendon Hankerson and 6-3 junior Jiovanni Miles combining for 62 points in the quarterfinal win.
Novi wants to play with the lead because West Ottawa knows how to put the game away at the line, making 20-of-20 in a regional final win over Muskegon and 9-of-10 during the fourth quarter of its quarterfinal win over Michigan-bound Brandon Johns and East Lansing.
Pick: Novi by 3
River Rouge (23-1) vs. Benton Harbor (25-1), 5:30 Friday
River Rouge returns to the scene of its fourth-quarter collapse in last year’s semifinal, failing to protect a 9-point lead with 1:48 left in a 51-50 overtime loss to Ludington.
Don’t expect River Rouge to own the lead in the fourth quarter of this one with Benton Harbor owning an outstanding 1-2 punch in 6-6 sophomore Carlos Johnson and Shawn Hopkins.
River Rouge has enjoyed a surprising run to the Final Four around after losing 10 players from last year’s team.
Pick: Benton Harbor by 5
New Haven (26-0) vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (23-2), 7:30 Friday
Fans will definitely want to stay around for the final game of the day Friday with one of the top players in the country in the 2019 class leading the way for New Haven in 6-7 guard-forward Romeo Weems going up against MSU-bound 6-9 small forward Marcus Bingham and 6-8, 230-pound Jacob Polakovich.
The teams were ranked No. 5 (New Haven) and No. 6 (GRCC) in The News preseason rankings and have lived up to the billing. Look for New Haven to continue to improve on its 52-game winning streak and go on to repeat as state champs.
Pick: New Haven by 2 in OT
Detroit Edison (15-10) vs. Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (22-4), noon Thursday
Edison has faced one of the toughest schedules in the state, coming away with the title of PSL champion despite owning a .500 record at the end of the regular season.
Oh, and Edison’s Big Three of CMU-bound point guard Pierre Mitchell, 6-4 shooting guard Gary Solomon and 6-8 Deante Johnson also has valuable experience of playing in the Final Four, losing a year ago in the semifinal to eventual three-time state champion Flint Beecher.
Look for Edison to be playing with extra motivation in this one to be playing for a title Saturday.
Pick: Edison by 6
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (25-0) vs. Maple City Glen Lake (23-2), 2 Thursday
St. Mary has received excellent play from Hunter Kegley and 6-8 C.J. Haut who is turning into a double-double machine.
They will have to play the same type of strong defense they did in its 31-28 quarterfinal win over Kalamazoo Christian or get sent to the sidelines by Glen Lake’s 3-point shooting.
Pick: St. Mary by 3
Southfield Christian (21-4) vs. Dollar Bay (26-0), 5:30 Thursday
Southfield Christian stacked the schedule to get it ready for postseason play after losing to three-time state champion Powers North Central 84-83 in a double-OT semifinal, allowing North Central to end the season with yet another title and a state record 83 consecutive wins.
Well, guard Harlond Beverly - one of the premier players in the country in the ’19 class – 6-4 Bryce Washington and Caleb Hunter return for Southfield Christian to complete the job.
And, Southfield Christian’s trio will have to be at its best against a talented Dollar Bay team led by Devin Schmitz and Jaden Janke.
Pick: Southfield Christian by 8
Hillsdale Academy (24-2) vs. Buckley (20-5), 7:30 Thursday
Look for 6-7 Peter Kalthoff, who averages more than 20 points and 10 rebounds, to have a big game in this one to put Hillsdale Academy in the title game after putting on a show with 35 points in a 66-38 quarterfinal win over Marcellus Howardsville Christian.
Pick: Hillsdale Academy by 4