It’s a week away from the start of the state basketball tournament, but a number of teams were crowned conference tournament champions this past weekend, with more league titles on the line this week.
And don’t forget the huge non-league showdowns, including defending Class B state champion Benton Harbor’s 72-62 win over River Rouge on Saturday.
It was a rematch of last year’s state semifinal game that Benton Harbor won. Carlos “Scooby” Johnson, who was offered by Michigan last month, had 21 points and seven rebounds, while Chris Kyles chipped in with 18 points and seven rebounds and Justin Brown 15 points, including two 3-pointers to open up a 65-47 lead.
Benton Harbor — 17-1 and No. 1 in The Detroit News Super 20 rankings — could face No. 4 River Rouge (15-2) in the Division 2 Final Four next month at the Breslin Center.
Detroit Cass Tech (15-3) won its second PSL title in the last three years with a dominating 80-56 win over Detroit Renaissance. Cass Tech was thought to be the first team in PSL history to win the title on its home court.
“This means a lot, the thing about it as a competitor we got a lot of acclaim last year and we didn’t live up to it so that was motivation,” Cass Tech coach Steve Hall said of winning the PSL title. “We kind of wanted the bull’s-eye this year. and to be able to perform with the bull’s-eye was definitely rewarding. It also means a lot because this group of kids have been together for four years, several of them didn’t play much as juniors and they are seniors now and trusted the process.
“We had a lot of internal issues last year with jealousy, selfishness and parents. We had a motto that those who stayed will be champions. We had some defections, but the ones that are here bought in. They won a cross country city championship. They have a 3.2 team grade-point-average, and hopefully this is not the end of the book, just a chapter. It’s a goal we set out for and accomplished. I think we have the potential to keep going.”
Kalil Whitehead, a 6-foot-5 senior, had 17 points and eight rebounds for Cass Tech, making 9-of-14 shots from the field, while Michael Washington-Hill scored 18 and senior guard Danielle Autrey, 15 points on five 3-pointers with junior point guard Tyson Acuff running the offense.
Cass Tech will face Catholic League champion U-D Jesuit in the Operation Friendship title game Friday night at Calihan Hall. Cass Tech will then open up the districts on Monday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. against No. 15 Detroit King at Detroit Western.
U-D Jesuit — 17-2 and ranked No. 3 — won its seventh straight Catholic League championship with a 63-54 win over Detroit Catholic Central, ending the game with a 12-3 run.
“That’s a good team (Catholic Central), and winning the championship certainly gives you some momentum moving on to Operation Friendship and then we start districts the following Monday (against Oak Park) and you want to be peaking at the right time,” U-D Jesuit Coach Pat Donnelly said.
U-D Jesuit has won three straight Operation Friendship games. U-D Jesuit wouldn’t face Cass Tech until the Division 1 Final Four if both teams advance that far following Friday’s showdown.
No. 2 New Haven avenged an early-season loss by defeating No. 13 Roseville 64-55 in the MAC Red/White tournament championship game. Romeo Weems, considered the front-runner for Mr. Basketball, had 19 points, 17 rebounds and five assists while Ronald Jeffery had 26 points, 10 rebounds and six steals for New Haven, which won the Class B state championship in 2017 before losing to Grand Rapids Catholic Central in last year’s state semifinals.
KLAA, Huron Valley titles up for grabs
Canton will play host to Belleville (12-6) on Monday night, while Howell (13-5) plays at Wayne (15-3) in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association semifinals with the winners moving on to Thursday night’s championship game.
Canton — 17-1 and ranked No. 10 — won the KLAA West with a 14-0 record and is led by its senior backcourt of B. Artis-White (Western Michigan), who is averaging 21.5 points and Vinson Sigmon (17.5 points), along with junior forward Jake Vickers.
Canton has won 17 straight since a season-opening loss to defending Class C state champion Detroit Edison.
“We haven’t played Belleville, saw them play Wayne Thursday night and it will be a good test for us,” Canton coach Jimmy Reddy said. “They are really athletic, good at driving to the rim and they’re a good offensive rebounding team. They have a 6-7 kid in Brandon Jackson who is good offensive rebounder and can finish around the rim, but their best player is Connor Bush who is super athletic and great driver who can finish and also block shots.”
Reddy is pleased with his backcourt.
“Our backcourt of B. Artis and Vinson are playing really, really good basketball and our two bigger guys Jake Vickers and Kendall Perkins have played well,” Reddy said. “Kendall has been in double figures the last four games, has really come along.
“I think B. Artis and Vinson are the best backcourt in the area, if not the state. I had an official tell me he thought they were the best backcourt in this league in the last 20 years.”
White Lake Lakeland (13-5) will play at Walled Lake Northern (17-2) in the Lakes Valley tournament title game Thursday.
Ypsilanti Lincoln closing in on league title
Ypsilanti Lincoln athletic director Chris Westfall can’t recall the last time his school’s basketball team has won a league championship.
Westfall does know that Ypsilanti has won the SEC White title — the league Lincoln competes in — every season since 2009.
Well, Lincoln swept the season’s series with Ypsilanti, earning a 67-66 win Friday night in front of about 4,000 fans at Eastern Michigan’s Convocation Center, with 6-8 freshman phenom Emoni Bates scoring 25.
Now, Lincoln (14-3, 11-1) can clinch the SEC White title Monday night at Jackson (14-3, 10-2). The rematch between the teams will be Thursday night at Lincoln.