The MHSAA Boys Basketball tournament reached the regional final round on Thursday night. At five gyms across the Michigan Sports Radio coverage zone, teams squared off with the opportunity to hang a regional championship banner. Even more importantly, the winners of Thursday’s games found themselves just one more win away from reaching the Breslin Center. A look at all of the games, and a look ahead to next Tuesday’s quarterfinals.
Division 1 Region 3 at West Ottawa
East Kentwood 61 Hudsonville 60
Even though the game was decided in the final second, the first three quarters in this game were completely one-sided. East Kentwood dominated the first three quarters, turning over Hudsonville to create a 49-31 lead heading into the final eight minutes. During those final minutes, Coach Elliott’s Eagles played a completely different brand of basketball. They fought hard, hit their shots and eventually took the lead from Kentwood at 60-59 with just seven seconds left to play. The Falcons responded, as they drove the entire length of the court. Senior Chris Brown drew the foul and was headed to the line to shoot a pair of free-throws with just 0.7 seconds left to play. Brown, who had missed two of three free throws earlier in the game, converted both shots from the charity stripe to put Kentwood in front for good.
Ja’Moni Jones was the best player on the floor all night long, as he led all scorers with 34 points. He hit six three pointers, and had sixteen of his 34 in the second half. Urim Sahitolli was also able to finish in double figures for Kentwood, as he hit five shots to finish with ten. On the other side, it was a tale of two halves for Max Perez. He scored just three points in the first half, but he hit three three-pointers on his way to an eighteen point second half performance to finish the game with 21. Stone Smeenge scored all nine of his points in the second half to finish as the Eagles’ second leading scorer.
Division 2 Region 11 at Fremont
South Christian 64 Grand Rapids Catholic Central 62
The Sailors and the Cougars met out at Fremont High School for the Region 11 Championship. This was a rematch of a regular season contest back in January that South won 54-42. Since that day, South Christian had been on an eighteen game winning streak, while Catholic Central came into Thursday winners of their last twelve games, so these two were two of the hottest teams in the area. This game was pegged as the best game in the area on Thursday, and it lived up to the hype. The two teams went back and forth all night long, and found themselves tied at 62 in the waning seconds. South Christian’s Connor Kok hit the game-winning shot with two seconds to play to carry the Sailors to victory, their nineteenth straight win. Kok finished the game with 20 points, the leading scorer for South Christian. On the other side, Catholic’s Austin Braun led all scorers with 23 points.
Division 2 Region 12 at Wayland
Unity Christian 63 Benton Harbor 54
The Crusaders and Tigers met in front of a sellout crowd at Wayland High School on Thursday. Though Benton Harbor was aggressive on defense, the Crusaders set the tone early with their patient ball movement and blanketing defense on the athletic Tigers’ offense. The Crusaders led by nine points after the first quarter, and they were able to balloon their lead to 17 points with two minutes left in the first half. A late surge by Benton Harbor in the first half allowed them to cut the deficit to ten, giving them some momentum heading into the locker room.
Coming out of the break, Benton Harbor continued to slowly chip away at the lead. With six minutes left to play in the game, Benton Harbor finally got a basket that evened the score a 46. Over the next ninety seconds, Coach Soodsma’s Saders showed why they were the better team on Thursday night, as they answered back with an impressive 7-0 run, capped off by a Zac Velthouse three-pointer in front of a rambunctious Unity Christian student section. Benton Harbor was never able to get closer than five the rest of the way, and Unity Christian will advance to Tuesday’s quarterfinals.
TJ VanKoevering had a tremendous game for Unity Christian, as he led the way with seventeen points. Noah Wiswary was able to fight through some physical play from Benton Harbor to finish the game with 11 points. Ryan Takens would get to double digits with ten points in the first half, and Zac Velthouse had nine points that all came in the second half. On the other side, Carlos Johnson led the way for Benton Harbor with 21 points. He scored 16 of those points in the second half. Free throws killed the Tigers, as they finished 5/15 from the stripe in this defeat.
Division 3 Region 19 at Northpointe Christian
Pewamo Westphalia 53 Calvin Christian 42
The Pirates continue their undefeated season with an 11-point win over the Squires. They are now 25-0 on the season, and they will take on 23-1 Cassopolis in Tuesday’s quarterfinals at Gull Lake High School (7:00). Cassopolis was able to advance to Tuesday’s quarterfinal after knocking off Schoolcraft 62-51.
Division 4 Region 29 at Mendon
Tri-Unity 62 Muskegon Heights 53
The Defenders and the Tigers met at Mendon with a bid to the State Quarterfinals on the line, and they provided fans a great night of basketball. Tri-Unity was able to get the best of Muskegon Heights and advance to the quarterfinals. This was the first playoff game for the Defenders that they won by single digits, having won the first three games by at least 12 points.
WHAT’S NEXT? Tuesday Quarterfinal Outlook
The East Kentwood Falcons will be back in action on Tuesday at Caledonia High School at 7:00. This is a short trip to the quarterfinals for the Falcons, when they will take on the Okemos Chiefs. The 22-2 Chiefs come in winners of twelve of their last thirteen contests. They defeated DeWitt 39-34 in Thursday’s regional finals to advance. Earlier in the season, Okemos defeated Rockford 63-29 in the only matchup of common opponents. Kentwood was swept by the Rams during their two regular season contests.
The gym at Calvin College will be rocking on Tuesday night at 7:00 as the two hottest teams in the area square off against each other. After defeating both of the 2018 state finalists in their regional finals, South Christian and Unity Christian bring their nineteen game winning streaks to Tuesday’s quarterfinal. These two played an epic contest back in January, and the Sailors opened their brand new gym with a 63-61 victory. Expect this one to be equally as close, with a need for someone to make the key play to carry them to the Breslin Center.
Tri-Unity (21-3) will try and return to the Breslin Center when they take on Bellvue on Tuesday night. The Broncos enter the contest with a 24-1 record, and winners of their last five. having been defeated in the regular season finale. They blew through their district beating Tekonsha, Jackson Christian and Marshall Academy by 45, 18 and 11 points respectively. In the regionals, they beat Webberville by 3 before defeating Pittsford 42-28 in the finals on Thursday night. The quarterfinal game will take place Tuesday night at 7:00 at Charlotte High School.