Wednesday, February 25, 2009

March Madness - on it's way to a basketball court near you.

It won't be long.

The Girl's District Tournament launch March 2, 4 & 6, while the Boy's District Tournament kicks off the week after, March 9, 11, 13.

Digging around the "archives" known as my haphazard filing system, I stumbled upon a Xerox copy (honest - it was made on a Xerox copy machine!) from the earliest days of my high school sports research. Surprising I had the foresight to make the copy, as my sole focus at the time was Muskegon Big Red Football. I had yet to meet Dick Kishpaugh, the gentleman who would ultimately guide me to this hobby.

Anyway - this one, I believe, came from the collection of Gontram Miller. Gont was an old Muskegon football captain, and kept a wonderful scrapbook prepared for him by his mother. Look at the officials working this event - the "Sixth Annual State Championship".

This is now part of a collection of old MHSAA tournament finals programs. The Collection for boys basketball is pretty much complete from 1947 and beyond, but we're on the lookout for anything from 1917 - 1946.

Can you help? Please contact me at While we'd love to have an original for the collection, a "Xerox" or scan of the program would be WONDERFUL!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Milan basketball fans are in for a treat!

Fans of Milan High School basketball are in for a treat next Friday, February 27th. Milan, Michigan that is...

The school counts Charles E. Forsythe, the first director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association among its alumni.

Located about 16 miles south of Ann Arbor, Milan has its own Athletic Hall of Fame. The school shares its name with perhaps the most famous high school in America. (You may have heard the story of the basketball team from Milan, Indiana. If not, I suggest you pick up a DVD copy that tells the tale from Amazon).

On Friday, the Michigan school will pay tribute to their lone state championship basketball team.

On the eve of spring, 1948, the Big Reds of Milan completed an undefeated season by grabbing the state's Class C cage crown. Undefeated is indeed an accomplishment, but it was the final two games of the MHSAA tournament that insured the accomplishments of this group of high school athletes would be remembered over 60 years later.

During Friday's semifinal round at Jenison Fieldhouse that year, Milan rallied for a 36-34 come-from-behind overtime win over Charlevoix. While Al Benjamin led Milan with 14 points, it was forward Carl Tschirhart who emerged the hero. Tschirhart, whose name was not included on the roster of the finals game-day program, scored the game-tying basket, then launched the winning shot with 13 seconds remaining in the extra frame. He finished with nine points.

Bob Carey, who would become a three-sport star at Michigan State then play from 1952-56 in the NFL, led Charlevoix with 11 points. Milan coach Fred Sukup missed the fireworks as he was hospitalized with an acute appendicitis late Thursday.

Saturday's contest pitted Milan against the Midgets from Saginaw SS Peter and Paul. Heavy favorites, Saginaw was riding a 52-game win streak.
"Best played basketball of the night was found in the Milan-SS Peter and Paul game", wrote Goerge S. Alderton, sports editor for the Lansing State Journal. "The teams were evenly matched and they traveled at a dizzy pace all the way. There were 45 fouls called, most of them due to the driving pace."
Lead by center Art McColgan, the state's top scorer, Saginaw opened up an eight point lead early in the second quarter, but the taller Milan squad rallied back to take a 23-22 lead into the locker room at halftime. Battling close to even in the second half, the game was tied at 33, 34 and 37 as the teams began their march to the finish. The driving pace took it's toll as Milan found three starters whistled to the sidelines on fouls including their leading scorer, Sherman Collins.

A basket by Al Benjamin broke a 37-37 tie to give Milan the lead as the game neared it's conclusion. But the Saginaw parochial squad pulled to within a point, 43-42 on a long shot by Francis Kruske with under a minute remaining to play in regulation. According to the United Press report on the game,
In the melee which followed, Tschirhart came up with the ball and let loose a long shot which swished the nets and doomed SS Peter and Paul.
Tschirhart's basket with 15 seconds remaining gave Milan a 45-42 win. Watching from his wheelchair was Coach Sukup. He had been brought to East Lansing by ambulance from an Ann Arbor hospital.

"My forever young and wonderful 79-year-old Dad is flying home from Florida to be here" notes Julie Fontera.

"Dad" is Sherm Collins, who finished with 14 points in the title game.

"He is healthy, active, plays and teaches tennis weekly or more, in Florida and in the summers in Michigan" continues Fontera. "He shoots hoops with the grand kids, is studying bowling books right now for when his knees can’t handle the tennis courts anymore, is an avid historical collector, volunteers and helps out many people and attends every one of his high school reunions and is happily married for 54 years!! What more could you ask for??"


Here's the roster from the 1948 game program - sans Carl Tschirhart. Rich Rezler of the Ann Arbor News tells me those highlighted are expected to attend.

3 – Rodger Sanford
4 – Roland Dunsmore
5 – George Holmes
7 – Dick Trimm
8 – Al Bassett
9 – Sherman Collins
10 – Wayne Tooman
12 – Al Benjamin
13 – Gene Gauntlett
14 – Dave DeTar
26 – John Taylor
28 – Harlan Benjamin

Rich also notes that Friday's opponent is New Boston Huron.

It should be a great night!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Cage Fight with a pair of old Southwestern Conference foes

From a fan's perspective, when it comes to high school basketball, Muskegon Heights is the place to be if you enjoy prep basketball.

The crowd loves their hoops, and they pack the place in support of their Tigers. Led by PA announcer John Mason and a crowd that arrives early, the house rocks. An independent, the Heights bring in some of the state's most talented teams. For first time visitors, it must rank as one of Michigan's most intimidating places to play. The open expanse of their lobby to the gym is lined with trophies, most highlighting the school's achievements in prep basketball. From the rafters hang banners celebrating their success in state tournaments. Come showtime, the place is electric.

It was all on display this past Saturday evening when the Maroon Giants from Kalamazoo Central, ranked No. 3 in Class A, came to town. The Tigerettes even made their first appearance of the season, entertaining the crowd with a dance number during halftime.

Word was the Class B Tigers would have their hands full against the visitors, who feature 6-5 junior forward Devin Oliver and 6-5 senior center Doug Anderson. K-Central ran rampant against Rockford 77-52, and according to Frank Majerle, father of former NBA star Dan, and current Rockford coach Steve, it could have been much worse.

"I doubt Heights will be able to stay with them," said Majerle while watching his grandson, sophomore Ryan Majerle, drop in 21 points against conference rival, Muskegon.
As expected, it was a "March Madness" match-up played out on a chilly February evening at the Heights.

The Tigers, ranked No. 5 in Class B, held their own on the court, leading 33-32 at the half, then jumped out to a 39-32 lead to open the third quarter. Scott DeCamp of the Kalamazoo Gazette was on the scene to capture the festivities as well as the action down on the floor. Sadly, my local paper ran a "From Local Reports" version of the game. (DeCamp, by the way, is the former sports editor of the Grand Haven Tribune, and a Ravenna graduate.)

While Anderson picked up two quick fouls, and landed on the sidelines for much of the first half, Oliver delivered 24 points and 12 rebounds, including 16 before the half, to lead K-Central to a 82-70 win. A 13-4 run late in the third was the difference. Heights hit only 35 percent of their shots from the floor - a credit to Kalamazoo's defense, height and depth. But, with a hot hand and solid free throw shooting, the result certainly could have been different.

DeCamp notes that, with 11 straight wins, the Maroon Giants haven't lost since falling to Detroit Country Day at the end of December. He then quotes senior T.J. Cameron.

"I guess we feel that we can make it all the way to the Breslin (for the state semifinals and finals)," Cameron said. "We feel like that - we can make it to the Breslin."

It was, indeed, a big-time win in a big-time environment for the Maroon Giants against an old Southwestern Conference foe (any of my readers remember the old SWC, Gene Thomas and Bob Quiring, and all those state titles?). They'll need many more come March, when the foes turn into the cream of Class A from Saginaw and Detroit.

Setting sights on Breslin is great, but I hope the Maroon Giants take it one game at a time. I'd love to see them win in Class A. They have made a total of 11 trips to the finals, however their last crown came in 1951. They have made only a single appearance in the title game since then, in 2001.

Stephen Bell, who posts his High School Basketball Bulletin for also has a great write-up on the game. Concerning the Heights,
The game's best dunker wasn't Anderson, who had one, but Heights' 5-9 senior Lemarcus Beckem. He plays more like a 6-5 athlete than a guard. Beckem jumped over two players, one from each team, for a put-back jam. But he did miss two dunk attempts at unfortunate times in the second half. Also for Muskegon Heights, 6-6 junior Julian Plummer is coming into his own and is becoming an impact inside player. He was a man on the glass, and is more agile and athletic than I remember, going out of his space to get the ball. 5-9 Heights senior Ricarri Stimage was typically fearless. He hit some 3s but became a volume shooter unable to finish at a high rate inside. But Stimage had to carry the backcourt workload, because 6-2 senior Sean Davis misplaced his game. He continued to force the issue, with no reward. He may have been suffering from PTSD after Anderson blocked two of his shots, throwing a layup into the bleachers then coming out to get a piece of a three-point attempt.
Stimage finished with 21 points, while Plummer had 12, with 15 rebounds.

I'd also love to see the Tigers at Breslin. They will be a long shot this year, but I would never count them out. At the Heights, the regular season is simply a warm-up for the post season. Fans always expect a long run come tournament time, and rightfully so. The Tigers have been to the finals on 13 occasions. Only River Rouge, with 19 trips to the title game, has more. Along the way, the Heights has won six crowns. Their most title in 1979, while finishing the year as runner-up in 1993, 2003 and 2005.

MHSAA State Basketball Crowns


River Rouge 19
Muskegon Heights 13
Muskegon Western Michigan Christian 12
Flint Northern 11
Kalamazoo Central 11
Detroit East Catholic 10
Detroit Southwestern 10
Saginaw Buena Vista 10
St Joseph 10
Benton Harbor 9
Detroit St. Martin dePorres 9
Saginaw 9
Detroit Pershing 8
Detroitry Day 8
Kalamazoo Christian 8
Bridgman 7
East Grand Rapids 7
Flint Beecher 7
Grand Haven 7
Jackson 7
Lansing Sexton 7
Saginaw Arthur Hill 7
Covert 6
Holland Christian 6
Lansing St. Mary 6
Orchard Lake St. Mary 6
Reed City 6
Saginaw Nouvel 6
Saginaw SS Peter-Paul 6
Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 6
Detroit Northern 5
Detroit Northwestern 5
Detroit St. Theresa 5
Grand Rapids South Christian 5
Highland Park 5
Ishpeming 5
Kalamazoo St. Augustine 5
Muskegon 5
Pontiac Central 5
Stevensville 5
Detroit St. Andrew 4
Flint Central 4
Flint Northwestern 4
Grosse Pointe St. Paul 4
Harbor Springs 4
Holly 4
Mt Pleasant 4
Negaunee 4
Niles 4
Saginaw St. Stephen 4
Sturgis 4
Albion 3
Alma 3
Ann Arbor St. Thomas 3
Bath 3
Brimley 3
Buchanan 3
Charlevoix 3
Chassell 3
Crystal Falls Forest Park 3
Dearborn Fordson 3
Detroit All Saints 3
Detroit City 3
Detroit Cooley 3
Detroit Redford 3
Detroit Rogers 3
Detroit Southeastern 3
East Lansing 3
Flint St. Matthew 3
Flint St. Michael 3
Fowler 3
Grand Rapids Covenant Christian 3
Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills 3
Grand Rapids Union 3
Holland 3
Lakeview 3
Maple City Glen Lake 3
Marshall 3
Mt Pleasant Sacred Heart 3
Okemos 3
Shelby 3
Three Oaks River Valley 3
Willow Run 3
Ypsilanti Central 3
Allendale 2
Baraga 2
Bay City All Saints 2
Beal City 2
Berrien Springs 2
Birmingham Brother Rice 2
Britton 2
Cass City 2
Coldwater 2
Dearborn Divine Child 2
Detroit Austin 2
Detroit Catholic Central 2
Detroit Central 2
Detroit Holy Redeemer 2
Detroit Murray-Wright 2
Detroit Renaissance 2
Ecorse 2
Ewen Trout Creek 2
Ferndale 2
Flint Carman-Ainsworth 2
Flint Holy Redeemer 2
Flint Holy Rosary 2
Flint St. Mary 2
Freesoil 2
Grand Rapids Christian 2
Grand Rapids Godwin 2
Grandville Calvin Christian 2
Gwinn 2
Hamtramck 2
Holt 2
Horton 2
Houghton 2
Howell 2
Hudsonville Unity Christian 2
Iron River West Irony 2
Lansing Eastern 2
Lansing Everett 2
Manton 2
Mass 2
Milan 2
Mio AuSable 2
Muskegon St. Joseph 2
Oak Park 2
Pontiac Northern 2
Port Huron 2
Redford Bishop Borgess 2
Romulus 2
Southgate Aquinas 2
St Clair 2
St Ignace 2
Stephenson 2
Traverse City 2
Adrian 1
Algonac 1
Allen Park Baptist 1
Alpena St. Anne 1
Alpena St. Bernard 1
Ann Arbor 1
Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 1
Ann Arbor Pioneer 1
Ann Arbor University High 1
Ashley 1
Auburn Hills Avondale 1
Baldwin 1
Bangor 1
Bark River-Harris 1
Baroda 1
Battle Creek Central 1
Bay City St. James 1
Bellaire 1
Belleville 1
Benton Harbor St. John 1
Benzie Central 1
Boyne City 1
Brethren 1
Brooklyn 1
Byron Center 1
Cadillac 1
Carson City 1
Cassopolis 1
Cedarville 1
Cheboygan 1
Clarksville 1
Coopersville 1
Copemish 1
Corunna 1
Dearborn 1
Decatur 1
DeTour 1
Detroit Cass Tech 1
Detroit Crockett 1
Detroit DeLaSalle 1
Detroit Kettering 1
Detroit Mackenzie 1
Detroit Servite 1
Detroit St. Martin 1
DeWitt 1
Dimondale 1
Dryden 1
Eben Junction-Superior Central 1
Elk Rapids 1
Elkton-Pigeon-Bayport 1
Evart 1
Ewen 1
Farmington 1
Fenton 1
Flint Hamady 1
Flint Powers 1
Fremont 1
Gaylord St. Mary 1
Gobles 1
Grand Blanc 1
Grand Rapids East Christian 1
Grand Rapids Lee 1
Grandville 1
Greenville 1
Grosse Pointe 1
Hamilton 1
Hanover 1
Harper Woods 1
Haslett 1
Highland Park St. Benedict 1
Hillsdale 1
Iron Mountain 1
Jackson St. Mary 1
Kalamazoo Hackett 1
Keego Harbor 1
Kent City 1
Kingsley 1
Lake Linden 1
Lake Odessa Lakewood 1
L'Anse 1
Lansing Catholic Central 1
Lansing Waverly 1
Leland 1
Leroy 1
Ludington 1
Maple Rapids 1
Marine City 1
Marion 1
Marlette 1
Marquette Bishop Baraga 1
Marquette Pierce 1
McBain 1
McBain Christian 1
Menominee 1
Merrill 1
Michigamme 1
Michigan Center 1
Muskegon St. Mary 1
Negaunee St. Paul 1
New Buffalo 1
Newberry 1
Northport 1
Olivet 1
Owosso St. Paul 1
Parma Western 1
Peck 1
Pellston 1
Petoskey 1
Pewamo-Westphalia 1
Pickford 1
Pigeon 1
Portage 1
Portland St. Patrick 1
Powers North Central 1
Redford St. Mary 1
Remus 1
Rock 1
Rockford 1
Roscommon 1
Roseville Eastland 1
Saginaw Carrollton 1
Saginaw Eisenhower 1
Saginaw Lutheran 1
Saginaw St. Mary 1
Sand Creek 1
Scottville Masony Central 1
South Haven 1
Southfield 1
Southfield-Lathrup 1
St Clair Shores Lake Shore 1
St Clair Shores Southlake 1
St Joseph Catholic 1
St Louis 1
Stambaugh 1
Stockbridge 1
Three Oaks 1
Trout Creek 1
Unionville-Sebewaing 1
Vanderbilt 1
Wayland 1
Weidman 1
Whitehall 1
Williamston 1
Wyandotte Smith 1
Zeeland 1