By RJ Walters / Daily News Sports Editor
As published in the Hillsdale Daily News on March 9, 2009
If girl’s district play was any indication, these postseason battles will be worth every penny of your $5 ticket in boys district action this week. Here is a breakdown of who is playing where and what to look for:
District No. 36 at Marshall
Hillsdale County teams: Hillsdale
Hillsdale head coach Brad Felix used the word “loaded” several times to describe the Hornets’ district and it’s hard to argue with him.
Two of the teams in the district have handed the Hornets losses this season, one is fresh off a victory over Jackson High and two teams who have hovered around .500 have been deceptively good at times.
To even discuss a possible district championship the Hornets have to get by Coldwater, a team that beat them 73-61 at the Hive in late January. In that contest guard Cameron Holicki put up 18 points to go with nine assists, but he had plenty of help — including from Jacob Robison and Bobby White, a pair of starters who may not even suit up Monday.
They were suspended last week for violating team rules and did not dress for the team’s regular season finale Thursday. Several sources have said they expect the pair to be absent from the lineup for the district opener, but Felix said nothing is set in stone yet and he’s preparing for the game as if they’ll be able to play.
“That’s up in the air. I’ve heard that (Robison) is not playing and there’s another starter in limbo who is appealing the whole thing. I’m sure they’ll pull as many strings as they can to get their guys in there, but from what I’ve heard they’re in trouble,” he said.
“I’ll tell you what though, I watched the film on that game and I think we can beat that team with them or without them. Sometimes guys will come off the bench and play inspired too, so we’re going to treat it as if they’re going to be full-strength in our practices and if (they don’t) play, (they don’t) play.”
Despite what Felix said, Robison and White had a major impact in the outcome the first time the teams met. Robison tallied 19 points and 16 boards and White shadowed Hornet star Mitchell Gabriele all evening, forcing him into a 10-for-25 shooting performance.
Felix said he expects the momentum from Thursday’s game from Lansing Christian to carry over and the fact his boys are seeking a little sweet revenge on the Cardinals doesn’t hurt either.
If they can reverse their fortunes from earlier this season, they will face league foe Parma Western in the semifinals.
The two teams split the season series, with both squads winning at home. Western finished the season 10-10 overall.
A trio of teams loom as a possible district finals opponent: Jackson Lumen Christi, Marshall, and Columbia Central, with the Titans and Redhawks being the most likely challengers.
Lumen Christi finished the season 13-7, including a 71-67 win over Jackson High Thursday. Looking at common opponents, the Titans beat Western 43-40 early on this season and were blown out by Coldwater, 59-32 on Jan. 13.
Marshall started the season 4-0, but has been on a roller-coaster ride ever since and they finished out the year with back-to-back losses to Mattawan and Sturgis. Nonetheless, Felix and his assistants have noted several times this season that Marshall has quite a few athletes and the Redhawks are not a team to take lightly.
As Felix said, he’s not taking anything at less than face value in the postseason.
“We feel like we can win the district and we’ve got to play better than we have the last few weeks,” he said. “Even back against Leslie and Harper (Creek) we hit 12 and 13 threes those nights, but as far as our game goals were concerned, they were a little low, so I was a little red-flagged because we weren’t playing all that well, just shooting well. Sometimes you hit 12 or 13 pointers and it can mask other stats and Albion got us and Stockbridge got us.”
Editor’s pick to make the finals: Jackson Lumen Christi and Hillsdale
District No. 67 at Bronson
Hillsdale County teams: Jonesville, Reading
A trio of area teams will tangle in Bronson this week, with at least one guaranteed a berth in the district finals.
Quincy and Reading both have the luxury of first-round byes, but one of them will be going home after the two teams meet in the semifinals Wednesday.
Jonesville on the other hand will go up against the host Vikings at 7 p.m. Monday, where a victory would earn them a date with Union City two days later.
Records alone would tell you this is Quincy’s district to lose, but both Jonesville and Reading have two variables that could very easily propel them to a district crown — a go-to outside shooter, who can bury 3-pointers in tight situations, and a post presence who can cause a little havoc, especially when they’re playing against guys their own size.
For the Comets, guard Mitch Miller has already hit one game-winner and several other timely shots this season, and down low Logan Jenkins has been putting up double-figure rebounds and 3-7 blocks per outing over the course of the last month as Jonesville surged to a winning regular season.
For Reading, Joe Hubbard is as close to a 3-point specialist as you’ll find around here, and forward Alex Eastwood isn’t afraid to bang bodies in the paint, but he can also step out and routinely hit the 15-footer, making him a tough assignment for any defender.
Bronson has been a model of inconsistency much of the year, finishing 8-12, but they do have a road win at Quincy to their credit.
The Orioles finished near the top of the Big Eight, and seem to fare best when they can control the tempo and keep the score below 60.
Who will come out on top though is anybody’s guess and the head-to-head match-ups between some of these teams shows why.
Quincy drilled Jonesville 63-39 on Jan. 16, but the Comets paid them back with a 7-point victory just last week.
If a team has a few players get hot for a couple of games it could make all the difference.
Editor’s pick to make the finals: Bronson and Quincy
District No. 68 at Hudson
Hillsdale County teams: Pittsford
The Pittsford Wildcats can hang their hats on a 20-0 regular season, a feat that even time will not change, but the clock is now reset for all intensive purposes.
The records of some of the challengers on their side of the Class C district in Hudson may not look all that impressive, but the fact that it’s Class C period is a challenge in itself.
The Wildcats have the minimum number of students enrolled to qualify as a Class C school, meaning they are essentially a Class D team, who has played mainly Class D competition trying to take a step up the ladder.
Pittsford head coach Mike Burger is not using that as a crux though, and quite frankly he likes the challenge his boys have ahead of them.
They have a bye Monday, before taking the court at 7:30 p.m Wednesday.
“We’ve got a good team, it’s a wide-open district, with some exceptional teams like Hanover-Horton and Clinton and we’re going to play the winner of the Hudson-Addison and they’re going to come out and fight,” he said. “If it’s Hudson, it will be their fans this time, their community and they’ll fight hard if they can get past Addison.”
The Wildcats beat Hudson 65-43 in their final game of the regular season Friday.
Addison finished well below .500 this season, but lost by only four points to a Michigan Center squad that finished 16-4 and only fell by a combined 24 points in a pair of battles with Napoleon who finished the season 20-0.
The marquee matchup in this district — prior to the championship game — is Clinton taking on Hanover-Horton at 6 p.m. Monday.
The Komets went 16-4 this year using their depth and several sharp-shooters to lead the way.
Clinton meanwhile won eight of its last 10 games and 12 of its final 15 to finish the year at 13-7.
The winner of that game will take on Manchester for a spot in the finals.
Pittsford senior guard Clark Pelham said he’s confident he and his teammates have what it takes to win a district, but if that doesn’t happen this season will still be just as meaningful to him.
“Do I want this thing to end? No, I wish it never would. But if it does, then oh well, we have something no one can ever take away from us and it’s still an amazing feeling,” he said.
Editor’s pick to make the finals: Hanover-Horton and Pittsford
District No. 100 at Litchfield
Hillsdale County teams: Camden-Frontier, Hillsdale Academy, Litchfield, North Adams-Jerome, Waldron, Will Carleton Academy
This district may be one of the biggest crapshoots of them all.
Waldron brings the best record to the table, but they have to take on Hillsdale Academy at 5:30 p.m. Monday and all three games between these two teams have been single-digit margins this season.
With a healthy Peter Sullivan in the lineup the Colts are not a team to take lightly, especially when guys like Thomas Lundberg start getting into a rhythm. Mark Long’s team on the other hand has shown plenty of promise and is at its best when playing a physical brand of basketball and attacking the rim.
Two-time Pat Paterson Holiday Tournament MVP John Martin will be one player to keep an eye on, because a loss means his career as a Spartan is over.
In another first-round matchup, Camden-Frontier butts heads with the host Terriers, two teams who have struggled to find consistency this year.
The Redskins have plenty of scoring options all over the floor, but need to rebound well to win, while the Terriers have one of the SCAA’s best post presences in Terry Lawler, to go with Jeremy Cornish on the perimeter.
The other side of the bracket should not be overlooked though.
North Adams-Jerome surprised everyone but themselves last season by winning a district title in Pittsford and Patrick Humphrey has been playing as well as anyone in the area the last month.
They take on Jackson Da Vinci Institute at 7 p.m. Monday, and a win would set them up against Will Carleton Academy Wednesday.
Will Carleton’s Greg Balcom has been putting up monster scoring and rebounding numbers the second half of the season and this is the perfect stage for him to showcase his skills.
Editor’s pick to make the finals: North Adams-Jerome and Waldron