Utica High boys hoops headed in right direction

By: Christian Davis | Shelby - Utica News | Published January 17, 2011

 Utica senior Matt Tatge (14) and junior Mighael Hollingsworth (4) defend against a Dakota player during a game earlier this season. The Chieftains beat the Cougars and were off to a strong 4-1 start at press time.

Utica senior Matt Tatge (14) and junior Mighael Hollingsworth (4) defend against a Dakota player during a game earlier this season. The Chieftains beat the Cougars and were off to a strong 4-1 start at press time.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

As boys basketball teams dive into division action across the Macomb Area Conference, Utica High knows it will have its work cut out for it.

The Chieftains play in the MAC White Division — a league that is quickly being tabbed as one of the most competitive and deep around.

“It seems no matter who you talk to, every coach from every division is stating how talented the White Division is,” Utica coach Gerry Kraemer said.

Each league win will prove crucial in the race for the division’s crown — a race that should be hotly contested until the end of the season.

“Our league is a really good one,” Kraemer said. “It is going to be very tough every night. It is important that we be focused each game and bring our best effort mentally and physically.

So it was key for the Chieftains to get off to a strong start in the league, winning their opener 55-52 Jan. 6 at home against Grosse Pointe North.

The squad was well-prepared for that battle, and the upcoming league battles ahead, by playing a tough non-league schedule.

Utica took on three teams from the MAC Red Division, going 2-1 with wins over Macomb Dakota and Utica Eisenhower, while falling by a close margin at Romeo High.

The team also beat Macomb Lutheran North to jump out to a 4-1 overall record.
Kraemer said the success has been based off of everyone on the team understanding their roles.

“They need to understand what their strengths are and do their best to minimize their weaknesses,” the coach said.

On the offensive end of the court, the Chieftains go through point guard junior Mighael Hollingsworth.

“It always starts at the point guard position, and we feel Mighael Hollingsworth is taking the next step in becoming a really good one,” Kraemer said. “He is improving as a leader on the court. He is getting us into our offense and beginning to understand the position better.”

And as Hollingsworth comes along, so is his surrounding cast.

“David Idziak, Andrew Thompson and Josh Hart are starting to come into their own at the wing positions,” the coach said. “We are getting much-improved play from all three of them.”

Idziak is a senior, while Thompson and Hart are juniors.

A group of seniors is leading the way for the Chieftains on the other end of the court and on the glass.

“We have a bunch of guys, like Robby Korthals, Connor Hinebaugh, Shane VanFleteren and Matt Tatge, that are doing the dirty work on the boards and doing a pretty decent job of making us a tougher team on the defensive end, too,” Kraemer said.

Utica will take on its fourth MAC Red squad of the season when it ventures back out of the division at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 14 to take on Utica Ford II. The Chieftains will return home and to division play with a 7 p.m. Jan. 18 contest against Port Huron Northern.