MAC boys hoops divisional play set to start

By: Timothy Pontzer | C&G Newspapers | Published January 4, 2018

 Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse wing Jaylen Blackwell goes up for a layup in a Dec. 8 game against Macomb L’Anse Creuse North. The Lancers look to challenge for the Macomb Area Conference Blue Division title after finishing next to last in league play last season.

Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse wing Jaylen Blackwell goes up for a layup in a Dec. 8 game against Macomb L’Anse Creuse North. The Lancers look to challenge for the Macomb Area Conference Blue Division title after finishing next to last in league play last season.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

MACOMB COUNTY — As the calendar flips to a new year, local basketball squads begin league play. This season will see 35 teams compete in the Macomb Area Conference, with the clubs spread across six separate divisions.

For the second straight year, a postseason tournament will pit the Red against the White, with the same format matching the Blue and Gold, and Silver and Bronze.

As a whole, the league is in the second year of a two-year window for boys basketball in terms of the makeup of its divisions. Each color is comprised of the same six squads as last season, with the Bronze being the lone league with only five schools.

Macomb Dakota will look to defend its title in the Red after posting a 10-0 mark in the division last year.

“The Red is always tough because of good players and good coaches,” Dakota coach Paul Tocco said. “It is always the No. 1 goal on our list to compete in it and be in a position to win it. It’s a very good league with different styles for different programs. We like to get up and down and force the tempo, but some teams slow it down, forcing you to play zone. The team that plays the best defense usually wins the league.”

Grosse Pointe South and Sterling Heights Stevenson tied for the runner-up spot last year, both posting 5-5 records. Macomb L’Anse Creuse North, Utica Eisenhower and Clinton Township Chippewa Valley rounded out the league standings.

GPS coach Troy Glasser called the division a wide-open race, pointing to a pair of teams that could be favorites.

“I would think Chippewa would be the front-runner, followed by Stevenson,” Glasser said.  “Chippewa and Stevenson are the two best teams, I would think, in our league.”

The White saw a tie for first last year, with Grosse Pointe North and Utica Ford II each finishing at 8-2. Warren Mott, Romeo High, Roseville High and Utica High finished in that order.

North coach Ron Kochan’s goal is to win another championship. He believes a team that could challenge is Roseville High, which finished 2-8 in the division last year.

“I think it’s competitive every year,” Kochan said. “We have some good coaches that have been around for a while, and we have good new coaches too. I think Roseville’s been working hard and getting a lot better. They had a young group last year. They’ve created a little buzz for themselves.”

Now in his second year at the helm at Utica, Dave Hinkle believes the league will have close contests on a nightly basis.

“Top to bottom, the White has a lot of good talent,” Hinkle said. “Grosse Pointe North is very tough defensively, and they’re gigantic — they have a ton of height. Mott is very aggressive, and they fly around with a lot of man-to-man defense. Romeo has a lot of experienced guards, and they can push it and shoot it. Roseville is a dark horse, but they have a lot coming back.”

New Haven High posted a perfect season in the Blue last year, going 10-0 and 27-1 overall. Anchor Bay High and Warren Cousino tied for second at 6-4, followed by Warren Fitzgerald, Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse and Eastpointe East Detroit.

The Gold also saw a flawless mark last year as St. Clair Shores Lake Shore went 10-0. Warren Woods Tower took second with an 8-2 finish, followed by St. Clair High, Fraser High, Port Huron Northern and Port Huron High.

A trio tied for the title in the Silver as Sterling Heights High, Marysville High and St. Clair Shores South Lake each posted a 7-3 mark. Warren Lincoln, Clinton Township Clintondale and St. Clair Shores Lakeview also return for league play.

Kurt Wilson is in his fifth year leading South Lake. Under Wilson, the team won Silver titles in 2014-15 and 2016-17 and finished second in the 2015-16 campaign.

Wilson said the division will once again be tough.

“There are some strong teams and some good coaches in our division,” Wilson said after a non-league win earlier this season. “It’s going to be tough to repeat. There won’t be any easy games. Every team is going to have to come ready to play and defend every night.”

Center Line High last season won the Bronze in a romp, going 8-0 to claim its first outright division title in more than 20 years. The second-place team, Madison Heights Madison, finished three games behind the Panthers.

Center Line coach Chris Manchester said all the teams in the Bronze are pretty evenly matched. He looks for there to be more parity in the division this season.

“I don’t know that any team is going to run away with the (MAC Bronze),” Manchester said. “It’s going to be a dogfight.”

Madison Heights Lamphere, Clawson High and Marine City High round out the division.

From the perspective of Madison coach Karl Williams, along with his team, Center Line, Clawson and Marine City can all have standout seasons in the league.

“I believe we’re gonna have a great season in the Bronze,” Williams said. “It’s gonna be very competitive with Clawson, Center Line and Marine City.”

Lamphere coach Josh Thelen referred to the MAC Bronze as a division that is solid throughout.

“I think Center Line looks good after winning it last year,” Thelen said. “We’ve already played Madison this year; they looked pretty solid. They beat us. Clawson’s solid. Marine City has a new coach. He’s got them playing real well. I’d say it’s pretty competitive.”

Sports Writers Jason Davis and Mark Vest also contributed to this story.