Who saw this coming?
The boys basketball state tournament moves on to the Breslin Center in East Lansing with Division 3 and 4 state semifinal games Thursday, and Division 1 and 2 semifinals Friday, with championship games in all divisions set for Saturday.
Only four teams in the final Detroit News Super 20 are still alive, including No. 3 U-D Jesuit, which will play No. 18 Okemos in a Division 1 semifinal Friday, following the first semifinal between No. 17 Ypsilanti Lincoln and Howell.
U-D Jesuit is familiar to playing in the Final Four, losing to Bloomfield Hills in a Class A semifinal in 2014, then to Detroit Western in a semifinal in 2015 before winning the state title in 2016, led by Cassius Winston, who has gone on to make more special memories at Breslin while playing for Michigan State.
Lincoln won its first regional title in school history last week and Howell — which upset No. 10 Saginaw in a quarterfinal Tuesday — last played in a state championship game in 1927, when it lost to Grand Haven in the Class B final.
You get the picture — there’s a lot of new faces at Breslin this weekend looking to make history.
Lincoln had a good team with an experienced guard trio of 6-foot-2 Tahj Chatman, 6-4 Amari Frye and 5-10 Jalen Fisher returning, but that good team turned great with the addition of 6-8 freshman phenom Emoni Bates.
“I’ve known this about our kids the whole time — don’t think everybody else knew — but they play with a lot of heart and a lot of courage,” said Lincoln coach Jesse Davis after Tuesday’s 56-52 quarterfinal win over Detroit King before a near-capacity crowd at 8,000-seat Calihan Hall. “I scheduled them against a lot of Detroit teams, Saginaw, and we come down here during the summertime and make sure we feel this kind of pressure, this kind of grit in Detroit. I’m just proud of them. I knew what they were capable of. I just think that everybody else is surprised by it.”
Added Lincoln senior guard Trevon Davis, who scored a key basket against King off a pass from Chatman for a 53-50 lead with 1:30 remaining: “We’ve been dreaming about this since our freshman year, talking about it (Final Four run). Emoni means a lot. He’s a great player. I like his energy. He’s going to be great when he’s older, but he’s already great right now.”
Bates scored 26 in a 58-55 regional semifinal win over Ann Arbor Skyline, making 7-of-14 3-pointers, including one for the difference in the final seconds. He scored 36, including a tip as time expired for the difference in an 81-79 regional final win over Detroit Catholic Central. He then had a double-double (17 points, 10 rebounds) in the win over King despite going 7-of-24 from the floor.
Division 2 outlook
No. 4 River Rouge is the other ranked team still alive.
Defending Class B and top-ranked Benton Harbor was sent to the sidelines in last week’s regionals. No. 2 New Haven and Mr. Basketball winner Romeo Weems were upset victims in Tuesday’s Division 2 state quarterfinal when unbeaten Harper Woods Chandler Park earned a 53-51 victory on Tyland Tate’s 15-footer with a second left.
Chandler Park (21-0) — which had never before won a regional title — will face River Rouge (22-2) Friday in a Division 2 semifinal, following the first semifinal between Ludington (14-10) and Hudsonville Unity Christian (24-2) which sent Benton Harbor home.
Lamonta Stone knows why he was brought back as head coach at River Rouge, pointing out that the only banners hanging in the school’s gym are 14 state championship banners, the last two in 1998 and 1999 when he was guiding the team before moving on to become and assistant coach at Eastern Michigan, Ohio State and Bowling Green.
River Rouge lost in the state semifinals the last two years, then removed Mark White as head coach this fall. Stone said prior to the season that his team’s path during the final week of the season would more than likely be going through No. 7 Williamston in the quarterfinals, No. 2 New Haven in the semifinals, then No. 1 Benton Harbor with the title on the line.
Now, River Rouge still has to get through Chandler Park.
“We just knew that we couldn’t allow both guys to have big games — Romeo probably didn’t have one of his better games and that gave us a chance,” said Chandler Park third-year head coach James Scott. “Obviously, Ronald Jeffery (21 points) played well, but Romeo scored 12 and six of those came late in the game. We played different defenses against him, went man, then zone. Tyland Tate guarded Romeo. He (Tate) is 6-6, did a good job on him and he also scored 20, made the winning basket from the left elbow with a second left.”
Chandler Park came back from a 12-point third quarter deficit to pull off the upset. Scott knows his team will be the underdog again against River Rouge, but he likes his team’s balanced attack and mentally tough attitude.
“Obviously, they are a championship team,” said Scott of River Rouge. “We have to continue to play Chandler Park basketball. We have to rebound and the biggest thing is we can’t beat ourselves.
Tate is averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds. Point guard Derrick Bryant is averaging 12 points and 10 assists. Andre Bradford is the top scorer, averaging 17 points and five assists. Sophomore Jayland Randle is the sixth man and Scott thinks Randle will be a Mr. Basketball candidate in 2021.
Edison, Southfield Christian roll on
And then there’s Detroit Edison and Southfield Christian.
Edison, the defending Class C state champion, upset No. 6 Flint Beecher and standout guard Jalen Terry 76-69 in a Division 3 quarterfinal. Beecher won Class C state titles in 2012 and 2013, and then three straight from 2015-17 and was considered the favorite to win again this year.
Edison’s title run last year was not a surprise with the talented trio of point guard Pierre Mitchell (CMU), 6-5 Gary Solomon (LIU-Brooklyn) and 6-9 Deante Johnson (Cleveland State).
Edison is a much younger, inexperienced team this season, but still talented and has size in 6-5 senior Brian Taylor, 6-7, 230-pound junior Bryce George, 6-4 Raynard Williams, 6-6, 230-pound David Hughes and 6-6 Jadha Sheppard.
George put on a dominant performance against Beecher with 19 points and 17 rebounds while Williams also had a double-double (13 points, 14 rebounds). George set the tempo by scoring 13 first-half points, including nine during the second quarter to build a 32-19 lead at the intermission.
“We have 15 capable guys and we can match up with a lot of teams because of our size and the development of our young sophomore guards,” Edison coach Bo Neely said. “Vincent Cooley is the lock-down guy. He gave Scooby (Benton Harbor’s Carlos Johnson) a tough out, as well as Jaylen (Terry) and B. Artis (Mr. Basketball finalist B. Artis White of Canton).”
Edison (19-7) — which defeated Benton Harbor and No. 9 Canton during the regular season — will play unbeaten Iron Mountain (26-0) in a Division 3 semifinal Thursday.
Southfield Christian won three straight Class D state championships from 2012-14 and Josh Baker guided Christian to another last season.
Baker knows how to get the job done on the big stage, but this one was a complete surprise after losing four-star guard Harlond Beverly (Montverde, Fla.) and guard Caleb Hunter (U-D Jesuit) to transfers, along with Bryce Washington, who is starting his freshman year at Penn.
“This group has been one of the best groups I have coached,” Baker said. “They all work hard and have great attitudes and are extremely coachable. I think they have a lot to prove and have a chip on their shoulder to show everyone how good and talented they are.
“Our guys play really hard. They guard well, share the ball well and we have shot the ball really well all year. This has been one of the best defensive teams I have coached. They have also put in incredible time before and after school and on weekends.”
Southfield Christian (19-6) will face Dollar Bay (21-4) in a Division 4 state semifinal Thursday.
All semifinals and finals at Breslin Center, East Lansing
Division 1, Friday
►Howell (20-6) vs. Ypsilanti Lincoln (21-4), noon
►U-D Jesuit (24-2) vs. Okemos (23-2), 2 p.m.
►Final: 12:15 p.m. Saturday
Division 2, Friday
►Ludington (14-10) vs. Hudsonville Unity Christian (24-2), 5:30 p.m.
►River Rouge (22-2) vs. Harper Woods Chandler Park (21-0), 7:30 p.m.
►Final: 6:15 p.m. Saturday
Division 3, Thursday
►Iron Mountain (26-0) vs. Detroit Edison (19-7), noon
►Erie-Mason (23-2) vs. Pewamo-Westphalia (26-0), 2 p.m.
►Final: 4:30 p.m. Saturday
Division 4, Thursday
►Dollar Bay (21-4) vs. Southfield Christian (19-6), 5:30 p.m.
►Frankfort (20-5) vs. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (22-3), 7:30 p.m.
►Final: 10 a.m. Saturday