Local boys hoops squads gearing up for postseason

By: Zachary Manning | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 28, 2020

 Roseville High’s Anthony Cukaj drives to the basket in a game earlier this season. The Panthers open district play March 11 against St. Clair Shores Lake Shore.

Roseville High’s Anthony Cukaj drives to the basket in a game earlier this season. The Panthers open district play March 11 against St. Clair Shores Lake Shore.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

 Eastpointe High’s Cedric Poole goes up for a shot in a game earlier this season. The Shamrocks won the MAC Silver Division regular season title.

Eastpointe High’s Cedric Poole goes up for a shot in a game earlier this season. The Shamrocks won the MAC Silver Division regular season title.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ROSEVILLE/EASTPOINTE — With the regular season winding down, local boys basketball teams have started preparing for postseason play.

District action begins March 9, with the state semifinals and finals being held at the Breslin Center, in East Lansing, March 26-28.

Eastpointe High will begin its Division 1 playoff journey at 4 p.m. March 9 against Grosse Pointe North at Detroit Martin Luther King. The winner moves on to play the host.

On the other side of the bracket, Grosse Pointe South and Hamtramck High will battle for a spot in the district final. South, Eastpointe and King all won their respective conferences, and four of the five teams have at least 13 wins this season.

“I think that anybody can win this,” Shamrocks coach Nate Minnoy said. “It’s going to be tough to win that play-in game and then possibly beat King at home, but I think this team is up for the challenge.”

Eastpointe had won eight of its last nine games and was 15-3 overall at press time. That success is in large part due to the contributions of everybody on the team, and Minnoy sees his team playing its best basketball of the year.

“We just try to make sure that our guys understand that regardless of what’s going on that we continue to be Eastpointe basketball,” Minnoy said. “We’re kind of prepared for everything, but we just want to make sure that we’re playing our best basketball and put our best effort forward going into this district next week.”

Roseville High will have an opening-round bye before playing in a D-1 district semifinal at 7 p.m. March 11 at home against St. Clair Shores Lake Shore.

On the opposite side of the bracket, Fraser High is awaiting the winner of a March 9 game between Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse and St. Clair Shores Lakeview.

“Aside from us, I think there’s four good basketball teams in our district,” Panthers coach Hassan Nizam said. “I think our district is wide open for anybody to come take it, so hopefully we’re the ones that take it. That’s the plan.”

Nizam and Roseville have had their share of postseason success over the last few years, with a shot at grabbing a third consecutive district title next week.

Under Nizam, the Panthers’ motto has always been “Get better every day,” and he sees his program again trending in the right direction late in the season.

“Advancing in the state tournament — I talk to my kids about it all the time — you got to defend; you got to rebound; you got to take care of the basketball and make your free throws. You do those things, then you give yourself a good shot,” Nizam said.

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