Center Line sophomore guard Kameren Broughton looks for an open teammate.

Center Line sophomore guard Kameren Broughton looks for an open teammate.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Center Line boys basketball team working as one towards goal

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Warren Weekly | Published January 19, 2024

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CENTER LINE — There weren’t many words that could describe Center Line’s 70-30 loss in the first round of districts to Warren Michigan Collegiate.

The Panthers were one of the hottest teams in the state with a 14-2 stretch before the playoffs with a Macomb Area Conference Bronze league title to their name, spearheaded by a perfect 10-0 league record, but a team that prided itself on defense and physicality all season was strong-armed in their first state tournament matchup.

“It was a toughness thing,” Center Line coach Derrick Walton said. “They actually, in my terms, punked us. They were more tough than us, and they took some things away from us that we were pretty good at.”

Graduating the majority of their 2022-2023 team, the only thing that seemed to surround Center Line was questions.

How would the young players step up after playing behind a senior-heavy group, how would the defensive unit look, but more importantly, how would Center Line respond to their state tournament showing?

Currently 9-2 to start the season and allowing only 52.5 points per game, the Panthers have put the memory of districts in the rearview mirror courtesy of their focus and dedication to each other this season.

Sure, there’s comedic moments when the coaches and players exchange jokes or the players videotape one another attempting dunks, but it’s business for the Center Line basketball this season, which is why they label every away game as a “business trip.”

“We knew we had to work together because we lost a lot of seniors last year,” sophomore guard Kameren Broughton said. “The whole team was basically seniors. We got new people from different schools, but I feel like we’re working good, though, together.”

Led by junior Terez Holmes, a 6-foot-7 forward/center averaging roughly 24 points and 12 rebounds on the season, Center Line is looking to put Division 2 basketball on notice with back-to-back league titles and a trip to the district championship stage.

Toughness was the point of emphasis with Walton and company, for good reason, and Center Line’s mixed bag of returning players and newcomers have all bought into the mindset.

Varsity veterans such as Holmes, Broughton, and senior Justin O’Neal have firsthand knowledge of the physicality of Center Line basketball, and they’ve been instilling it into the team.

“They had to go through that in practice,” Walton said. “When you have to go everyday in practice against Keymon (Wade), Dante (Davis), and especially Cody (Boling), you’re going to have to learn something. Those seniors last year, I always told them to never hold up anybody just to make them tougher. I have to remind them to be the same way with the new people we have and make it hard for them in practice.”

Add transfer players such as senior guard Jordan Zeigler (Michigan Collegiate), junior guard Isaiah Ashford (Hamtramck), and brothers and Harper Woods transfers Tegan (Sr.) and Caleil Spencer (Jr.) into the mix, and Center Line has completely retooled their defense.

Zeigler may have hit a few sore spots with players given his previous school, but his elite-level defense has made an immediate impact with his ability to swipe the ball from opposing teams.

“Really, he (Walton) just tells me to rebound and just talk on the floor,” Zeigler said. “Scoring comes easy once you get your team involved with the defense.”

Ashford has also been an impact player for Center Line’s defense in his first year.

With the healthy amount of newcomers, the guys prioritized the summertime for training and learning about each other both off and on the court.

Some players took part in various summer leagues, including at Macomb Community College, that helped build some form of chemistry before the season started, but Holmes said the players are still learning something new about each other every week.

“This a new team, so we’re still putting pieces together,” Holmes said. “That’s the joy every week when we continue to learn each other. We’re unselfish and we play as a team, especially on defense.”

The Panthers offense has continued to be steady, averaging 57.4 points per game so far.

Holmes is a force in the paint, and arguably Center Line’s most lethal player behind the perimeter, but Broughton has taken a major step forward offensively, averaging nearly 10 points per game in comparison to four last season.

Walton said Broughton’s dedication to his craft has been vital to his improvement.

“He goes and gets up shots before he comes to school,” Walton said. “It’s really just me in his head and letting him grow, but I’m teaching him at the same time. I’m always in his ear about what he should see and what he didn’t see, and then I let him process it and see if for himself. Sometimes I have to get on him about his shot selection, about what’s a good shot and what’s a bad shot. Other than that, he’s steady as a rock.”

O’Neal, senior Jayden Collins, and junior Jyshaun Lucas have also been consistent contributors offensively.

Center Line may not have the outside recognition yet in the rankings, but their impressive start has Walton and his guys motivated for a state tournament run.

Toughness was everything for the Panthers, and they’re showing this season that they have a surplus of it.

“I feel like we’re still flying under the radar, but after this season I feel like we’re going to be up there,” Broughton said. “They’re going to know our name.”