MAC boys basketball could see parity this season

By: Jason Carmel Davis | C&G Newspapers | Published December 19, 2018

 Madison Heights Lamphere sophomore Joe McNab attempts to score during a game against Royal Oak Shrine earlier this season. Lamphere is in the Macomb Area Conference Bronze Division.

Madison Heights Lamphere sophomore Joe McNab attempts to score during a game against Royal Oak Shrine earlier this season. Lamphere is in the Macomb Area Conference Bronze Division.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

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MACOMB COUNTY — If the past five years are any indication, some leagues in the six-division, 35-team Macomb Area Conference could see some boys basketball squads continue their runs of dominance on the court, while others will crown another new division champ.

Boys basketball teams in the MAC began divisional play Dec. 13. Teams in each league outside of the MAC Bronze will play 10 divisional contests. The Bronze comprises five teams, which means teams will battle in eight league contests.

Divisional play wraps up in early February, just in time for the third annual MAC boys tournament, which pits teams from the Red and the White against each other, along with Blue vs. Gold, and Silver vs. Bronze. The three championship games take place Feb. 17 at Sterling Heights Stevenson.

Following is a division-by-division look at the MAC. For a breakdown of the Oakland Activities Association, visit cand gnews.com/sports.


MAC Red
Macomb Dakota has had a stranglehold on the Red, having won four straight division titles. During that time, the Cougars have advanced as far as the state semifinals.

Roseville High is new to the division, but has had success against teams from the league in the past. The Panthers won the 2018 MAC Red/White tournament title.

The league also comprises Utica Eisenhower, Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, Macomb L’Anse Creuse North and Stevenson.

Dakota coach Paul Tocco said the league is as tough as it’s been in years.

“The new addition of Roseville adds athleticism. Stevenson is always a tough, well-coached team. Chippewa Valley has very good athletes. Ike and L’Anse Creuse North are teams that know us well, and we need to be prepared every time we play them,” Tocco said. “It will take a tremendous amount of resiliency and hard work to win the MAC Red a fifth straight season.”

Roseville coach Hassan Nizam said his team is up for the challenge of a new league.

“I think people will probably count us out because we’re playing against bigger schools and all that, but I believe in our guys,” Nizam said. “I believe in what we have. I think we’re talented enough to compete in any league in the state, and I think as long as we prepare the right way and the kids stay bought in, we’ll be all right. I think we should win the league. I think we should win the MAC Red.”


MAC White
New Haven High joins the league after winning two straight MAC Blue titles and has won a total of four consecutive division crowns. The Rockets feature one of best players in the state in Romeo Weems.

New Haven is 75-5 since the start of the 2015-16 season, and it won the Class B state title in 2017. A loss to Roseville earlier this season was the Rockets’ first to a MAC team since Dec. 16, 2016.

Grosse Pointe South moves to the White from the Red, joining Warren Mott, Grosse Pointe North, Utica Ford II, Romeo High and New Haven. There has been some parity in the White, as the division has had a different champion in four of the last five seasons. Romeo captured the division crown last season.

Ford coach Jeff Olson, who guided his team to a league title in 2017, said the league will be very competitive.

“There are lot of strong teams, with many talented players returning,” Olson said. “I really think it’s wide open for anyone in the league to take the title.”


MAC Blue
This season, the Blue welcomes two teams: St. Clair Shores Lake Shore and Utica High. The Shorians and the Chieftains join New Baltimore Anchor Bay, Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse, Warren Fitzgerald and Warren Cousino.

Lake Shore joins the league having won division titles in two of the last three years. New Haven, before its move to the White, went undefeated in the Blue in 2017 and 2018, winning the league by an average of 4.5 games over second place.

Utica High coach David Hinkle thinks Lake Shore is the favorite.

“They bring a nice supporting cast back from last year. They’ll have one of the top players in the league in Caleb Bates. I would say that would be the team at the top, and then you throw the rest of us all together,” Hinkle said. “I think one of us is going to emerge out and challenge them. I just don’t know who.”


MAC Gold
The movement continues in the Gold, with St. Clair Shores South Lake and Sterling Heights High moving up from the MAC Silver.

The Cavaliers won the last two MAC Silver titles and shared the 2017 MAC Silver crown with the Stallions. South Lake and Sterling Heights join St. Clair High, Port Huron Northern, Warren Woods Tower and Fraser High.

St. Clair won the Gold last season, becoming the fourth different champ in five years.

Sterling Heights coach Mike Griffin, back with the program after an extended absence, said he could see a new champ crowned this winter.

“It’ll be a dogfight,” Griffin said. “It’s my first year back, but I know most of the coaches, and I know they run their programs well.”


MAC Silver
Half of the teams in the Silver played in a different division last season. Madison Heights Madison moves up from the Bronze after winning that league last season. Eastpointe High moves down from the MAC Blue, and Port Huron High moves in from the Gold.

Clinton Township Clintondale, Warren Lincoln and Marysville High are the holdovers from last season.

South Lake, now in the Gold, won three of the last five MAC Silver titles, including last season. Over the last five seasons, Marysville, Sterling Heights High, Lake Shore and Clintondale have claimed the division title.

Clintondale coach Rob Townsend said he expects Madison to be a tough out, and that Marysville is always well-coached and works hard.

“But outside of that, I really don’t know how things will play out,” said Townsend, who has led the Dragons to multiple division titles. “Port Huron, Madison and Eastpointe are new to the Silver, and throw in new coaches at a couple schools and I think predictions are going to be tough to make.”

Madison coach Karl Williams said he pushed for his team to move into a new league.

“That way, (we’re) playing a little bit tougher competition during the regular season, so when we get ready for the playoffs, that’ll make us a little bit more solid and well-rounded for that situation,” said Williams, whose team plays in Class C.

“Moving to the Silver, we play a couple Class B and Class A schools with a little bit more athleticism. The Bronze is a good conference, but the Silver is just a little bit tougher,” Williams continued. “We’ve got a great chance to win the Silver, but we have to put in that work and be prepared and ready to go. And I think we’ll be able to do that with no problem.”


MAC Bronze
St. Clair Shores Lakeview comes to the only unbalanced division in the conference after a run in the Silver.

Hazel Park High joins the MAC next school year, which will give the league 36 teams. Mount Clemens left the MAC prior to the start of the 2015-16 school year.

Madison won the Bronze last season, while Center Line High claimed the league crown in 2017.

This season, the league comprises Marine City High, Madison Heights Lamphere and Clawson High, along with Lakeview and Center Line.

From the perspective of Lamphere coach Sam Hines III, every team in the division is solid.

“I think it’s a great division,” Hines said. “In our division, you have to come to play night in and night out. If you don’t come to play, you’ll probably end up with a loss.”

Sports Writers Mark Vest, Zachary Manning and Jacob Herbert contributed to this report.

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