The boys basketball state tournament advances to regional play this week and Ypsilanti Lincoln and Emoni Bates will be going after their first regional championship in school history.
Bates, a 6-foot-8 freshman who is considered the top player in the nation in the class of 2022, has already helped Lincoln earn its first Southeastern Conference title in 15 years when he averaged 30 points and 10.3 rebounds in the regular season.
Lincoln — 18-4 and ranked No. 17 in The News Super 20 — defeated crosstown rival Ypsilanti for the third time this season in the district semifinal before earning its first district title since 2010 with a win over Saline Friday.
Next up is a Division 1 regional semifinal appearance against Ann Arbor Skyline (15-7) Tuesday night on Lincoln’s home court. Detroit Catholic Central (16-6) will face Wayne Memorial (18-5) in the other semifinal game at 5:30.
Catholic Central earned the right to move on with a 44-41 district win over Northville while Wayne upset No. 9 Canton, 55-50.
“Well, obviously there’s a lot of hype going into the game and Emoni Bates brings a lot of attention to every game he comes into,” said Skyline coach Mike Lovelace, who guided his team to the Class A regional final last season where it lost to Novi on a shot as time expired. “They had a very good season and their school is extremely excited. They are going to come out and be pretty emotional, an extremely well-attended game.
“We have a group of guys that’s really started to come together and we’re planning to have some good maturity come through and make it a basketball game as soon as possible and try to do what we’ve been doing the last few weeks on the defensive end. Hopefully, we can rebound well.”
Skyline, which has won eight of its last nine, is led by Holy Cross-bound guard Ryan Wade who will be playing with a chip on his shoulder after being slighted as a Mr. Basketball finalist. Wade has averaged 23.8 points and topped the 1,000-career scoring mark with 27 points in a 20-point district final win over Brighton Friday.
“People have been draped all over him all year, every game pretty much and he’s just been phenomenal scoring the ball,” said Lovelace of Wade. “Everybody we play knows the ball is going to him a lot. He’s basically played the whole game every game and still has been putting up huge numbers all year long.”
In Division 4, Dylan Jergens of Marcellus Howardsville Christian (22-1) will continue his assault on the record book, trying to become the first player since Richie Jordan (44.4 points) of Fennville in 1965 to average 40 points.
The stakes get higher for Jergens, who led his team to a regional title last season when he averaged 31 points.
Jergens enters Tuesday’s 5:30 regional semifinal against Wyoming Tri-Unity Christian (19-3) at Mendon averaging 41 points. Howardsville Christian was ranked No. 4 in the latest Associated Press rankings for Class D schools and Tri-Unity Christian at No. 5. Howardsville Christian’s lone loss came against Wyoming Potter’s House Christian (85-69) which defeated Tri-Unity Christian, 54-53.
Jergens has 2,755 career points, chasing down Mark Brown of Hastings (2,789, 1982-85) who sits in second and Jay Smith of Mio (2,841, 1976-79) who holds the top spot.
So, just how impressive has Jergens’ senior season been? Well, it’s a big milestone when a player tops the 1,000-point mark for his career. Jergens has 944 points this season, scoring 52 in the district title game win.
“It feels good to be back in the regionals, should be a lot of fun,” Jergens said. “Last year we beat Potter’s House in the first round of regionals. They actually beat Tri-Unity in the districts, but moved up to Class C, so this year we’re playing Tri-Unity, which has a good history. (They've) been to the Breslin a lot of years and won a lot of state championships. It should be a good matchup.
"We’ve watched a lot of film on them. We’re very similar in how we play, so I think it will come down to who is making shots. We have to rebound and take care of the basketball, but all the little things matter in big games like these.”
Tri-Unity Christian — whose best-known player was 7-foot Chris Kaman who helped Central Michigan win a MAC title in 2003 before being an NBA All-Star with the Clippers — last won a state championship in 2011, advancing to the Class D state title game in 2013.