GPS boys basketball closes strong regular season

Blue Devils ready for playoffs

By: Zachary Manning | Grosse Pointe Times | Published March 23, 2021

 Grosse Pointe South’s Thomas Hessburg backs down a Utica Eisenhower defender in a game earlier this season. At press time, the Blue Devils were 11-2 overall.

Grosse Pointe South’s Thomas Hessburg backs down a Utica Eisenhower defender in a game earlier this season. At press time, the Blue Devils were 11-2 overall.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Grosse Pointe South’s Anthony Benard makes a move to the basket against Utica Eisenhower earlier this season. The Blue Devils open postseason play against Detroit Martin Luther King March 25.

Grosse Pointe South’s Anthony Benard makes a move to the basket against Utica Eisenhower earlier this season. The Blue Devils open postseason play against Detroit Martin Luther King March 25.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Advertisement

GROSSE POINTES — Since taking over the program last season, Stephen Benard has elevated the Grosse Pointe South boys basketball program to new heights.

The Blue Devils won the Macomb Area Conference White Division a season ago and moved to the MAC Red this season. South and Macomb Dakota each finished with one loss in division play, with the Cougars taking the head-to-head matchup.

The Blue Devils are no stranger to the MAC Red, but they’ve rarely competed this closely for the top spot. South finished the regular season with an 11-2 overall record and 8-1 division mark.

Benard now believes his group has what it takes to stay in the highest division instead of fluctuating between divisions over the last few years.

“The biggest thing is our guys have all just stepped up. A few guys had to switch their roles around, and everyone’s embraced their role on the team, and we’ve had a good start, a good season,” Benard said.

Unlike last year where the Blue Devils were terrorizing opponents on offense, defense has been more of the mainstay for this year’s group. It’s not that the team isn’t talented offensively; shots just aren’t always falling, and the defense has stepped up in its place.

Benard knows he has a good shooting team and is hopeful his team will find its groove with playoffs on the horizon. But knowing he can rely on defense is a relief heading into the postseason tournament.

The Blue Devils have found some offensive mojo over the last few games, however, putting up 60-plus points over their last three contests. Defensively, only three opponents have topped the 60-point mark on South all season, with two of those being wins for the Blue Devils.

Benard knows it’s a testament to playing in the MAC Red. Having to defend and play top-notch coaches and players night in and night out only makes South better.

Being able to play in one of the toughest conferences in the area has its perks. Benard has seen the results, winning their last five games, including a victory over Oakland Activities Association Red Division champion Ferndale High.

With playoffs beginning this week, South will carry in some strong momentum for a matchup against one of the state’s top teams.

“I got to give hats off to my assistant coach Nate Schwarze. He’s done an amazing job with our halfcourt defense,” Benard said. “We can defend. We’re athletic, and we’re tough, and we’re not scared of anyone, and I just think our defense has really put us in position to be successful like we are.”

The Blue Devils received a bye into the semifinal round of districts, but that doesn’t mean South will be getting an easy path. The Blue Devils will open districts against Detroit Martin Luther King March 25 at Grosse Pointe North.

On the other side of the bracket, Hamtramck High awaits the winner of Grosse Pointe North and Detroit Cass Tech. The blue Devils fell to Hamtramck in last year’s playoffs.

Benard knows the district is tough, but he likes his group’s ability to defend. He noted that, if they are able to find their flow on offense again, they could have some success in this tournament.

“I only have to beat King once,” Benard said. “If I play them 10 times, I might only beat them once, might beat them twice, but I just need to beat them one time. I think we match up well with them. I can tell you one thing — we’re going into the game to win the game. That is our mindset. That’s how we’re looking at it.”

Advertisement