Two of the most high-profile brands in Michigan high school basketball will clash at the Breslin Center on Friday, with the right to continue their season and play for a state title on Saturday on the line.
Muskegon, 25-2 and the only team from the west side of the state to reach the quarterfinal round, took down East Lansing in the quarters and now return to the Breslin Center for the first time since their 2014 state-championship-winning season.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s have been the ultimate turnaround story, after hovering around .500 throughout their gauntlet of a regular season schedule, the Eaglets have now won through another gauntlet of a playoff schedule, disposing of four-straight top-10 teams to reclaim a spot at the Breslin Center for the first time since 2006.
This is a game where top-end talent will come to the forefront. For OLSM, the story for the past two seasons (and still two more to come) has been their outstanding sophomore, Trey McKenney. McKenney is a 6’4, 205lb machine. The Eaglet sophomore can score with ease at all three levels, and has a particular knack for bullying smaller defenders with muscle and skill on his way to scoring at the bucket. McKenney also is an outstanding rebounder and a multi-position defender, he’s truly a player that touches every aspect of the game – and is just starting to unlock the top levels of his own game.
McKenney’s list of offers in just his 2nd year of high school says it all – Michigan, Michigan State, Texas, Indiana, Illinois, and a whole host of other top-tier programs already have put an offer on the table for the St. Mary’s standout.
Muskegon is led by a trio of Senior, next-level scholarship guards, composing likely the best backcourt in the MHSAA.
Jordan Briggs (Wayne State commit) scores nearly 20 PPG with a deadly shooting touch from deep, either off the bounce or on the catch.
Anthony Sydnor III (Ferris State commit) is a 3-level scoring machine that plays with an attacking drive on both sides of the floor, he provides the Big Reds backcourt best weapon at attacking the rack and getting to the line or scoring as well.
David Day III (Aquinas commit) has an endless motor and helps drive the Big Reds defensive intensity, and also is deadly with the catch-and-shoot from deep or running the length of the floor turning defense into offense.
Experienced coaches with their programs also headline the matchup. Keith Guy, the 2014 state champ with the Big Reds will have on his signature suit patrolling the Muskegon coach’s box and helps provide the intensity that his players feed off and match game-in-game-out.
Guy’s ability with this team to change paces and styles also has been an interesting note for a team mostly known for their break-neck pace and pressure on both ends of the floor. When slowed down in games vs. Hudsonville and East Lansing in the past few weeks, we’ve watched as the Big Reds have been comfortable slowing their offensive attack into half court sets looking for the best shot. Also, their use of 1-2-2 and other zone traps in the three-quarter or half court have been able to change the rhythm of their opponents.
Todd Covert and the Eaglets last saw the Breslin Center in 2006, OLSM has opted-up into division one the past few seasons in part because of the incredible year-in-year-out collection of talent that Coach Covert has been able to gel together each season.
The main story this year has been the turnaround and stretch run orchestrated by Covert’s group. They’ve hit their stride at the right moment, and under the intensity of their own coach – The Eaglets are in prime position to advance to the final.
‘Secondary’ pieces in this contest will be a critical element in pushing one team onto the state final. OLSM brings a top-level backcourt alongside Mckenney as well; Sophomore Sharod Barnes is an elite athlete and one of the best defenders in the state already, with an elite ability to turn defense into offense.
Muskegon’s Terrance Davis is a 6’6 junior with top-level athleticism and power that presents a difficult matchup for any team whether he is posted up down low or running the floor alongside the Big Reds deadly backcourt.
The Big Reds bench also is a unique element to watch, M’Khi Guy – also the QB for the football team in the fall – brings another level of 2-way play similar to that of David Day III off the bench. Along with the junior PG, Coach Guy has a ton of youth and size to choose from off the bench on the wing – backing up junior Stanley Cunningham (6’5) is the 6’6 sniper junior Justin Watson, 6’7 Power Forward Elijia Langston and a pair of wings in the 6’3 freshman James Martin and 6’4 junior Montrel Oliver.
Surrounding McKenney and Barnes is a ton more two-way skill for OLSM, notably a wealth of elite ‘3&D’ snipers that make a defense pay for over committing to and collapsing on McKenney. Junior guard Daniel Smythe is among the more deadly shooters in the state and cannot be given an inch outside (but the Big Reds will need to be wary of his strong finishing at the rim to match).
In total, we’re looking at one of the games of the year in the state on the Breslin floor, and Michigan Sports radio is excited to have live coverage with the Game Night on Michigan Sports radio crew starting at 1:30pm Friday.
Our winner will play the winner of Grand Blanc and Cass Tech, who will play the semi immediately before the 2:00pm tip-off of the Michigan Sports Radio covered game.
SOUTH CHRISTIAN EARNS FIRST BRESLIN TRIP SINCE 2005
The Sailors cruise into the Division 2 Semifinal after doing what they have done for much of the season, dominating their opponents both offensively and defensively. Through the duration of the playoffs South Christian has done that against some big time competition in the likes of Otsego, Hamilton and Unity Christian.
They now have a chance to book a trip to the finals if they can get past Romulus Summit Academy North. The Dragons come in at 25-2 on the season and have been tested as they arecoming off a tight battle with Chelsea. Summit is playing in it’s first Semifinal in program history. The Dragons are led by James Wright, Dontez Scott, and Sophomore Amir Perryman.
South Christian, who recently lost leading scorer Carson Vis, but they have not let that derailtheir season instead rallying around the young star. They just continue to keep clicking and have guys stepping up in every way led by Jake Vermaas, Jacob DeHaan and Sam Medendorp. They’ll face a team that can get it done much like themselves and that can score in bunches on Friday.
The Sailors and Dragons are set to square off in the late game on Friday, with tip right around 7:30. Expect South Christian to come out and see if they can put Summit in a hole early. If the Dragons can prove they’re able to go up-tempo with the Sailors, we could be in store for a dandy.
Whoever comes out on top will have the opportunity to play for a State Championship on Saturday at 6:45.