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Jason Schmitt is the editor of MIPrepZone.com, the high school sports website for The Oakland Press. He has served as the sports editor for a number of newspapers, including the Daily Tribune in Royal Oak and the Macomb Daily in Mount Clemens. In his time in the industry, he has covered every high school sport and has served a a beat writer for boys and girls soccer, boys and girls tennis, hockey, wrestling, bowling and cross country.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Individual wrestling finals ... a look at some of the favorites

The single biggest individual high school wrestling tournament in the country kicks off Thursday at The Palace of Auburn Hills. And in my opinion, it's not only the biggest tournament in high school sports, it's the most exciting. There will be 896 individual state qualifiers in four divisions.
Oakland County will have 79 wrestlers taking part in the festivities. I have included a complete list, by school, below. The county generally has between 70-80 qualifiers. And normally, anywhere from 4-10 kids walk away as individual state champions. I'm not going to predict how each of the 79 wrestlers will fare this weekend, but I will throw out a few facts and take a stab at a few predictions here.

Team with the most individual qualifiers: Oxford, with 11

Returning state champions: Ken Bade, Catholic Central; Prescott Line, Oxford; Alec Mooradian, Catholic Central.

Returning state finalists: Kevin Beazley, Catholic Central; Nick Gajdzik, Stoney Creek; Andrew Garcia, Catholic Central; Shawn Scott, Holly. 

Best bet to win a state championship: Prescott Line, Oxford - He's overpowering. He's dominating. He's a beast. The second-ranked wrestler at his weight is Bryan Smith (44-1) of Temperance Bedford. Guess where his one loss was? Watch it here.

Who else will win a state title? No reason to believe defending champs Ken Bade and Alec Mooradian won't win again. Both are ranked No. 1 at their weights. Bade (130) may see No. 2 Dominick Trevino of Holt in a semifinal. Mooradian (152), already a three-time state champ, has a tough draw, but plenty of experience. Holly's Shawn Scott is unbeaten (48-0) at 215 pounds. His toughest two opponents are on the opposite half of the draw. I like his chances to get to the final. Catholic Central senior Kevin Beazley, one of the most respectful young men you'll ever meet, is also one of the most determined. He's ranked No. 1 at 189 pounds in Division 1, and look what he did to the No. 2-ranked kid.

Don't be surprised if these guys walk away as champions as well: CC's Drew Garcia is No. 1 at 171 pounds, but he's got the Nos. 2- and 4-ranked guys in his half of the draw. He can win, but it won't be easy. Having been in the finals as a freshman makes him a favorite this year. Rochester's Kaelen Richards and Catholic Central's Malik Amine are 1-2 in the state at 135 pounds. Amine caught Richards late to win the Oakland County title. One may very well walk away a state champion on Saturday. Stoney Creek senior Nick Gajdzik is one of three unbeaten county wrestlers heading into this weekend (along with Line and Scott). Looks like it'll be a two-horse race in the 285-pound bracket, as Gajdzik and Temperance Bedford's Logan Rimmer appear to be on a collision course in the finals.

Wrong place at the wrong time: There are a number of county wrestlers who are having a tremendous season, but due to tough draws or a stacked bracket, winning a state title would surprise some people. Catholic Central freshman Trevor Zdebski is 34-5 in his first year as a Shamrock. He's ranked No. 2 at 103 pounds. But the kid he's behind, Davison's Lincoln Olson, is a stud. Olson beat Zdebski twice this year, most recently by a major decision. Oxford's Kyle Hill is ranked No. 2 at 125 pounds, but the No. 1 he's behind, Howell's Alex Calandrino, has lost just once this year. Clarkston's Scott DeVos has lost just three times this season. But the heavyweight (29-3) fell to Gajdzik in the OAA Red/White tourney, 7-4. They could meet up in the semifinals, where Gajdzik will again be the favorite. In Division 2, a number of contenders, thanks to stacked lineups by state finalists St. Johns and Lowell, will be just that, contenders. Holly's Mason Cleaver (No. 4 at 125 pounds) has lost just one time this year, but he has No. 2 Alex Melinn of Coopersville in his half of the draw. If he can win that potential semifinal, he would most likely get No. 1 Jacob Schmitt in the final. Cleaver's teammate, Anthony Gonzales (130), a former state champion, is ranked No. 3 and has No. 2 Nikolas Leal of Holland potentially in the second round. If he wins that, he might get unbeaten Jake Klingaman of Jackson Northwest in a semifinal, and then No. 1 Kyle Simaz of Allegan in the final. Lamphere's always good for a contender or two. This year, brothers Trevor (103) and Andrew (112) Gorman are having great seasons. But both have tough draws. Andrew (47-2), ranked No. 3, would have to get by No. 2 Dean Somers of Lapeer West in a semi before facing, most likely, St. Johns' nationally-ranked Zac Hall. And there's good news and bad news for Ferndale's Chevez Farris. The good news is that the third-ranked senior is on the opposite half of the draw from the top two wrestlers, St. Johns' Taylor Massa and Lowell's Garrett Stehley. The bad news is that Massa, a senior, is unbeaten in high school and might go down as one of, if not perhaps the best, high school wrestler Michigan has seen.

DIVISION 1
Birmingham Brother Rice (3 wrestlers)
135 - Andrew Napieraj, Jr. (49-3)
145 - Thomas Giradot, Sr. (44-6)
160 - Shon Powell, So. (47-2)

Birmingham Seaholm (2)
135 - Tim List, Jr. (37-8)
140 - Ryan Law, Sr. (41-8)

Clarkston (5)
119 - Cameron Wilkie, So. (36-14)
152 - Nick Vandermeer, Jr. (37-10)
171 - Chris Calvano, Jr. (31-10)
189 - Ethan Frick, Sr. (39-10)
285 - Scott DeVos, Sr. (29-3) 

Novi Detroit Catholic Central (10)
103 - Trevor Zdebski, Fr. (34-5)
112 - Myles Amine, Fr. (33-12)
125 - T.J. Fagan, Sr. (22-4)
130 - Ken Bade, Jr. (46-1)
135- Malik Amine, So. (35-6)
152 - Alec Mooradian, Sr. (44-2)
160 - Nick Mason, Sr. (41-9)
171 - Drew Garcia, So. (42-3)
189 - Kevin Beazley, Sr. (44-1)
285 - Bob Coe, Jr. (37-7) 

Farmington Hills Harrison (1)
125 - Andrew Fialka, Jr. (33-15)

Farmington (1)
125 - Immanual Govantes, Jr. (32-12)

Lakeland (1)
112 - Brandon Calma, Sr. (30-8)

Milford (1)
130 - Steve Shay, Sr. (33-15)

Lake Orion (1)
125 - Charlie Highlen, So. (47-7)

North Farmington (2)
189 - Kevin Miller, Sr. (43-4)
285 - Majd Mokbel, Sr. (36-12)

Novi (2)
171 - Jake Dobras, Sr. (37-14)
285 - Jimi Keller, Sr. (38-12)

Oxford (11)
103 - Dan Curtis, Fr. (41-14)
112 - Edwin Schlickenmeyer, So. (33-8)
125 - Kyle Hill, Sr. (47-7)
130 - Mike Willits, So. (41-11)
135 - Noah Cantara, Sr. (38-17)
140 - Rocco Borg, Jr. (45-8)
145 - Wes Maskill, So. (35-16)
152 - Jacob Peasley, Sr. (33-4)
160 - Marty Giannola, Jr. (43-15)
171 - Liam Logan, Jr. (25-21)
215 - Prescott Line, Sr. (45-0)

Pontiac (1)
145 - Deishawn Stewart, Sr. (35-6)

Rochester (6)
103 - Justin Kim, Jr. (35-1)
135 - Kaelan Richards, Jr. (46-5)
140 - Dean Vettesse, Jr. (40-6)
145 - Aaron Morgan, So. (38-9)
171 - Cody DeVoe, Sr. (49-4)
189 - Shwan Shadaia, So. (43-14)

Rochester Adams (3)
103 - Justin Schofield, Jr. (35-15)
125 - Alex Potoniec, Jr. (36-18)
145 - Jack Addy, So. (30-17) 

Stoney Creek (3)
145 - Andrew Price, Fr. (38-11)
215 - Serge Andreou, Sr. (32-5)
285 - Nick Gajdzik, Sr. (42-0) 

Waterford Kettering (4)
112 - Deven Acker, Jr. (29-11)
140 - Dave Dolehanty, Jr. (34-17)
215 - Matt Okaiye, So. (32-11)
215 - Daulton Arthur, Sr. (26-15)

West Bloomfield (2)
119 - Ross Bahro, So. (47-6)
135 - Danny Davidson, Sr. (16-8) 

Walled Lake Central (3)
171 - Conner Marion, Sr. (30-10)
189 - Charles Sovel, Sr. (42-7)
285 - Ildo Luca, Sr. (25-18)

Walled Lake Northern (1)
130 - Christian Lauderback, So. (42-10)

DIVISION 2
Bloomfield Hills Andover (1)
215 - Brody Wagerson, Sr. (39-4)

Ferndale (1)
171 - Chevez Farris, Sr. (40-2)

Hazel Park (1)
135 - Cody Vanderhagen, Sr. (38-7)

Holly (5)
119 - Tyler Gibson, Sr. (45-7)
125 - Mason Cleaver, Jr. (48-1)
130 - Anthony Gonzales, Jr. (44-3)
145 - Andrew Scott, So. (39-7)
215 - Shawn Scott, Sr. (48-0) 

Madison Heights Lamphere (3)
103 - Trevor Gorman, So. (49-3)
112 - Andrew Gorman, Jr. (47-2)
285 - Skip Conner, Sr. (42-9)

Ortonville Brandon (1)
285 - Matt Smith, Sr. (49-3)

South Lyon East (1)
215 - Luke Patterson, Jr. (27-19)

DIVISION 3
Clawson (2)
119 - Jason Palmer, Sr. (32-13)
171 - Deonte Hill, Sr. (41-11)

DIVISION 4
Madison Heights Bishop Foley (1)
189 - Brenton Pippin, Sr. (27-4)

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Remembering back: Novi vs. Catholic Central - 2011

No year goes by without the emails, the phone calls, the chitter chatter on public online forums, from those stirring up the Public vs. Private debate. The public school supporters complaining of the advantages private schools have of being able to draw from a large pool of schools to put together a team, of which they must then play against once the state tournament rolls around.
And the privates having to fend off accusations that they "recruit" kids to come to their schools. They claim they're playing by the rules set forth by the MHSAA.
I get it from both sides. And I see valid points from both.
But in the end, it is what it is. The MHSAA deals with this issue in many, many sports. And there's no easy, cheap fix to the situation. To form a separate playoff system for private and public schools - the most favorable solution for the public-school backers - would personally disappoint this hockey writer.
If that were to happen, we wouldn't have a game such as the one we have on tap tonight at Compuware Arena. Novi and Novi Detroit Catholic Central are playing in a pre-regional final, a rematch of what I consider the "Game of the Year" in last year's playoffs. I know we've already had some great games this postseason, some of the best going into overtime or double OT. But last year's Novi-Catholic Central battle went into triple-OT before Novi's Michael Kruse ended it and springboarded the Wildcats to a Division 1 state championship. (CLICK HERE TO WATCH KRUSE'S GAME-WINNING GOAL)
It was a battle of the top-two teams in the division. It was a battle of two teams whose coaches are at the center of the public vs. private debate. It was the most anticipated game of last year's playoffs. And it did not disappoint.
But, if some coaches had their way, it may not have ever happened.
So let's enjoy these kinds of matchups when they happen. Catholic Central, ranked No. 1 again this year, is the favorite heading into tonight's game. The Wildcats are No. 5. Novi lost a lot of talent from last year's title team. But coach Todd Krygier has done a brilliant job this season and has his team playing some good hockey.
The Shamrocks have been No. 1 from Day 1 and coach Todd Johnson has his team playing determined hockey right now. I predicted CC to win this game a year ago. I was wrong.
This year I'm going with the Shamrocks again. Prediction: CATHOLIC CENTRAL 3, NOVI 1

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Oxford wrestling surprises everyone but themselves with semifinal win

Oxford wrestling coach Brandon Rank wasn't necessarily surprised his sixth-seeded Wildcats beat No. 2 Brighton in the semifinals Saturday at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek. But he was surprised at how easily they did so.
The defending state champions pounded Brighton 52-13 and will get a shot at a repeat when they face Catholic Central here in a couple hours. Liam Logan, Prescott Line, Zach Wood and Edwin Schlickenmeyer all picked up pins in the rout. Kyle Hill, Noah Cantara, Rocco Borg, Wes Maskill, Marty Giannola, Matt Anger and Dan Curtis also picked up wins for the Wildcats.
Don't expect things to get easier, though, as Catholic Central is the big favorite to recapture the state title Oxford snatched from them a year ago. I'll be back later for another blog update later.

PLAY THE VIDEO BELOW FOR AN INTERVIEW WITH OXFORD COACH BRANDON RANK.

video

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Regional playoff predictions - check them out

Where has the time gone? Seems like just yesterday we were trying to wrap up the fall sports season and quickly realizing that I had missed the beginning of the hockey season. November ... four months ago ... where has the time gone?
The state hockey playoffs are here and once again expectations are high for Oakland County teams. Catholic Central and St. Mary's are ranked Nos. 1-2 in Division 1. Brother Rice is No. 1 in Division 2. And Cranbrook is No. 1 in Division 3.
Last year, for the first time since 1998, none of the aforementioned teams won a state title. At least one of the four, if not more than one, had captured a title every season since they were shut out in 1997-98. That's a remarkable feat.
This year it wouldn't surprise me at all if all three divisions were won by one of the above teams. That hasn't happened since 2005, when CC, Brother Rice and St. Mary's all won state titles.

That being said, here are my predictions for this year's regional tournament - at least those containing an Oakland County team. Don't agree? I'd love to hear what you have to say. Leave a comment!

DIVISION 1
Region 4
Pre-regional semifinal  (at Perani, Flint)
Grand Blanc over Swartz Creek
Kearsley-Brandon-Holly over Flushing
Pre-regional final 
Grand Blanc over Kearsley-Brandon-Holly 

Regional final (at Perani, Flint)
Grand Blanc over Bay City Wolves

Region 5
Pre-regional semifinal (at Detroit Skating Club)
Lake Orion over Lapeer
Pre-regional final
Lake Orion over Clarkston

Pre-regional semifinals (at Macomb Suburban Ice)
Rochester United over Macomb L’Anse Creuse North
Utica Eisenhower over Macomb Dakota
Pre-regional final
Utica Eisenhower over Rochester United

Regional final (at Mt. Clemens Ice Arena)
Lake Orion over Utica Eisenhower

Region 6
Pre-regional semifinals (at Troy Sports Center)
Berkley-Ferndale over Bloomfield Hills United
Troy over Troy Athens
Pre-regional final
Berkley-Ferndale over Troy

Pre-regional (at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s)
Orchard Lake St. Mary's over Birmingham Unified
Livonia Stevenson over Farmington Hills Unified
Pre-regional final
Orchard Lake St. Mary's over Livonia Stevenson

Regional final (at Livonia’s Eddie Edgar Arena)
Orchard Lake St. Mary's over Berkley-Ferndale

Region 7
Pre-regional (at Compuware Arena)
Novi over South Lyon
Novi Detroit Catholic Central over Northville
Pre-regional final
Catholic Central over Novi

Pre-regional (at Livonia’s Eddie Edgar Arena)
Canton over Salem
Livonia Churchill  over Plymouth
Pre-regional final
Livonia Churchill over Canton

Regional final (at Compuware Arena)
Catholic Central over Livonia Churchill

DIVISION 2
Region 11
Pre-regional semifinals (at Hartland Sports Center)
Pinckney over Okemos
Hartland over Milford
Pre-regional final
Hartland over Pinckney

Pre-regional semifinals (at Cube Arena, Ann Arbor)
Ann Arbor Pioneer over Ann Arbor Skyline
Saline over Ann Arbor Huron
Pre-regional final
Saline over Ann Arbor Pioneer

Regional final (at Cube Arena, Ann Arbor)
Hartland over Saline

Region 14
Pre-regional semifinals (at Glacier Point)
Oxford over Romeo
Pre-regional final
Oxford over New Baltimore Anchor Bay

Pre-regional semifinals (at Onyx Ice Arena)
Stoney Creek over Utica
Stoney Creek over L’Anse Creuse

Regional final (at Suburban Ice)
Oxford over Stoney Creek

Region 15
Pre-regional semifinals (at Lakeland Ice Arena)
Walled Lake Northern over Walled Lake Central
Lakeland over Walled Lake Western
Pre-regional final
Walled Lake Northern over Lakeland

Pre-regional semifinals (at Lakeland Ice Arena)
West Bloomfield over Waterford Kettering
Pre-regional final
Waterford Mott over West Bloomfield

Regional final (at Lakeland Ice Arena)
Walled Lake Northern over Waterford Mott

Region 16
Pre-regional semifinals (at Farmington Ice Arena)
Birmingham Brother Rice over Royal Oak
Pre-regional final
Brother Rice over Farmington

Regional final (at Oak Park Ice Arena)
Brother Rice over De La Salle

DIVISION 3
Region 20
Pre-regional semifinals (at Polar Palace, Lapeer)
Goodrich over Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
Pre-regional final
Goodrich over Fenton

Regional final (at Perani’s, Flint)
Flint Powers over Goodrich

Region 21
Pre-regional semifinal (at McMorran Arena, Port Huron)
Marysville over St. Clair
Pre-regional final
Marysville over Macomb Lutheran North

Pre-regional semifinal (at Wallace Ice Arena)
Auburn Hills Avondale over Madison Heights Bishop Foley
Pre-regional final
Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood over Avondale

Regional final (at Wallace Ice Arena)
Cranbrook over Marysville

Region 22
Pre-regional semifinals (at Southfield Ice Arena)
Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett over Royal Oak Shrine
Pre-regional final
Liggett over Birmingham Detroit Country Day

Regional final
Liggett over Dearborn Divine Child

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Hockey's regular season coming to a close

Among all the high school sports, hockey has the longest season. It starts before the fall season ends. And it ends about the same time as most other winter sports. But in the end, there always seems to be a lot to play for at the end of the regular season.
And that's certainly the case this year.
The OAA Red champion will be determined this week. 
Regulation was not enough to determine a winner between Lake Orion and Clarkston in the final game of the league season a week ago (Lake Orion won the game in overtime, 2-1, but the official league result of the game was a 1-1 tie). Now the two have earned the right to battle it out for the league tournament championship this Saturday at the Birmingham Ice Arena (6:30 p.m.). Clarkston beat Oxford, 5-2, in one semifinal this past Saturday, while Lake Orion edged out Rochester United, 3-2, in the other.
It most likely won't be the last time the two teams see each other this year. They're on a collision course to play for a pre-regional final on March. 1

Shamrocks double their pleasure
Catholic Central beat St. Mary's at Joe Louis Arena Saturday, 5-3, to win the Catholic League Division 1 title. The team has already clinched at least a share of another MIHL championship. Charlie Green scored a pair of goals for the Shamrocks, which currently sits at 14-2-0-1 in league play this year. CC's only league losses came to Cranbrook and Trenton (twice). A win over Port Huron Northern or a Cranbrook loss to Trenton will wrap up an outright league title for the Shamrocks.

Berkley-Ferndale finishes off the White
I initially mentioned in last week's blog that Berkley-Ferndale had clinched the OAA White championship. Evidently, I forgot how to count. But coach Jeff Fleming's team did not make a liar out of me, winning two tough games against West Bloomfield, 3-2, and Avondale, 5-2, to clinch the title.
The Bears still have something to play for, though, an unbeaten league season. They're 9-0-1 - the lone blemish being a 1-1 tie with Royal Oak - with games against Bloomfield Unified, which is coming off a big, 8-3 win over West Bloomfield, and Troy Athens remaining.

Congratulations to Walled Lake Northern
The Knights surprised a few people by capturing the KLAA North championship this season. But the boys surprised hockey nation by winning the KLAA Lakes Conference championship. And although coach Claude Tunison's team fell to Brighton in the Association championship game, it has a lot to be proud of this season. Congratulations gentlemen.

All-league honors
If anyone has an official copy of your conference's all-league teams, please send them my way - jason.schmitt@oakpress.com. The Catholic League's honors can be found HERE.

Top performances from this past week
- Mackenzie MacEachern, Brother Rice: Scored a natural hat trick and totaled five points in the Warriors' 5-2 win over Divine Child. Teammate Thomas Ebbing had a goal and three assists in the win.
- Charlie Green, Catholic Central: Green scored twice in the third period as the Shamrocks won the CHSL title by defeating St. Mary's, 5-3, at Joe Louis Arena Saturday night.
- Christopher Brown, Cranbrook: Scored three goals and assisted on two others in the Cranes' 8-0 win over Grosse Ile. Sam Miletic and Alex Alger both had three points in the win.
- Cam Thomas, South Lyon Unified: Had a pair of goals, including the game-winner in overtime, as South Lyon beat Milford, 4-3.
- John Artemenko and Mark Andonian, Bloomfield Unified: Both players scored a pair of goals and assisted on another in the Chargers' 8-3 win over West Bloomfield. Teammates Kevin Barnett and Neal Krentz also had three points each for Unified.
- Brody Blair, Rochester United: No one came up bigger in United's 2-1 win over Farmington Hills Unified, as the goalie stopped 34 of 35 shots to lead his team to the win.
- Adam Pardonoff, Oxford: The Wildcats' netminder stopped 26 of 27 shots to help his team beat Farmington in the OAA Red Tournament.
- Mitchell Vanderberg, St. Mary's: Vanderberg had a pair of goals to lead the Eaglets past the Cubs.
- Chris Wilberding, Brother Rice: He had two goals to help the Warriors rally to beat Cranbrook, 4-3.
- Hayden Alpert, Berkley-Ferndale Unified: Alpert scored twice as his Bears clinched a share of the OAA White title with a 3-2 win over West Bloomfield - they later beat Avondale to clinch the title outright.
- Scott Cuthrell and Austin Sereno, Waterford Mott: Both players had a hat trick and three more assists as the Corsairs blew past Troy Athens, 8-0.
- Luke Ortell, Bishop Foley Unified: Had a hat trick and finished with five points in his team's 7-3 win over its biggest rival, Royal Oak Shrine. Teammate Austin Lukaschewski had two goals himself.
- Joe Nagle, Royal Oak Shrine: Scored twice, but it wasn't enough as his team fell to Bishop Foley.

LINKS TO GAME COVERAGE ON MIPREPZONE.COM
Plymouth 3, Lakeland 1
South Lyon 4, Milford 3 (OT)
Bloomfield Unified 8, West Bloomfield 3
Lake Orion 3, Rochester United 2
Rochester United 2, Farmington Unified 1
Oxford 5, Farmington 1
Berkley-Ferndale 3, West Bloomfield 2
Bishop Foley 7, Royal Oak Shrine 3

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Wrestling finals ... No. 1s should rule Battle Creek

Win two before you lose two. For every individual regional qualifier, those words mean the world. Win two matches before you lose two and you're moving on to the biggest wrestling spectacle in the country, the MHSAA Individual State Finals at The Palace on March 1.
I've covered a lot of high school events, state finals in hockey, tennis, bowling, baseball, softball, basketball and football. And, to me, nothing compares to this event. To see 896 of the state's best wrestlers entering The Palace to "We are the Champions" is awesome.
But that's a week away. First, we must decide which teams are the best of the best at this week's MHSAA Team Finals in Battle Creek.

Team states - who wins?
Oakland County's Catholic Central, Oxford and Holly punched their team tickets to this weekend's finals in Battle Creek. The brackets for the eight qualifying teams in each Division used to be predetermined heading into the tournament. But now the MHSAA seeds the teams. For Catholic Central, that means it's the top-seed for a second-straight year. The Shamrocks, ranked No. 1 all year long in Division 1, are the overwhelming favorite heading into this weekend's tournament.
A year ago, Oxford was the No. 2 seed and won its way into the final, where it upset top-ranked CC. This year the road to the final will be a bit more difficult for the Wildcats, who are the No. 6 seed and will face No. 3 Davison in Friday's quarterfinal round. CC will face No. 8 Roseville, No. 2 Brighton will wrestle No. 7 Grand Haven while No. 4 Temperance Bedford will take on No. 5 Hartland in the opening round.
Quarterfinal predictions: No. 1 CC over No. 8 Roseville, No. 2 Brighton over No. 7 Grand Haven, No. 3 Davison over No. 6 Oxford and No. 5 Hartland over No. 4 Bedford. Semifinals: CC over Hartland, Davison over Brighton. Final: CC over Davison.

In Division 2, Holly is facing the same predicament as Oxford. The Bronchos are ranked No. 6 in the state, but are seeded No. 7 at the finals. The top seven teams all reached the finals. So Holly will have to pull off something special. The Bronchos will face No. 2-ranked Lowell in the quarterfinals. No. 1 seed St. Johns and Lowell, who along with Catholic Central, are widely considered among the three best teams in the entire state, regardless of division. Somehow the seeding committee went against the state rankings and flip-flopped the Bronchos and Stevensville Lakeshore. Not exactly what coach Don Pluta was hoping for before the pairings were announced Sunday night.
Quarterfinal predictions: No. 1 St. Johns over No. 8 Mason, No. 2 Lowell over No. 7 Holly, No. 3 Allegan over No. 6 Lakeshore, No. 5 Greenville over No. 4 Tecumseh. Semifinals: St. Johns over Greenville, Lowell over Allegan. Final: St. Johns over Lowell

Though Oakland County has no horses in Divisions 3 or 4, I'll still offer up my predictions. Like Divisions 1 and 2, the usual suspects made it to Battle Creek. And there's no reason to believe the annual powerhouses won't walk away as champions.
Division 3 quarterfinal predictions: No. 1 Richmond over No. 8 Roscommon, No. 2 Dundee over No. 7 Caro, No. 6 Whitehall over No. 3 Chippewa Hills, No. 5 Otsego over No. 4 Birch Run. Semifinals: Richmond over Otsego, Dundee over Whitehall. Final: Richmond over Dundee
Division 4 quarterfinal predictions: No. 1 Hudson over No. 8 Holton, No. 2 New Lothrop over No. 7 Rogers City, No. 3 Shelby over No. 6 Decatur, No. 4 Manchester over No. 5 Constantine. Semifinals: Hudson over Manchester, New Lothrop over Shelby. Final: Hudson over New Lothrop

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Let the (hockey) playoffs begin

No, not the state playoffs. Those begin in two weeks. But the OAA Red Tournament kicks off Friday at the Onyx Ice Arena in Rochester.
Top-seeded Clarkston will take on Stoney Creek in the night's first quarterfinal, beginning at 6 p.m. No. 3 Farmington Unified battles Rochester United at 6:15, with the late games between No. 4 Farmington and Oxford and No. 2 Lake Orion and Birmingham to follow.
Michael Wallwork, our MIPrepZone hockey guru, and I both agree the top seeds should be the favorites throughout the tournament, which picks up with the semifinals Saturday and the final taking place on Feb. 25. Each of the higher seeds handled its lower-seeded foe fairly easy during the regular season. That is all but Farmington Unified, which lost to Rochester United, 3-2, back on Jan. 11. But the two have gone in opposite directions since, with Unified going 6-1-1 while United has won just twice in six games.
Wallwork, who has seen every OAA Red team play at least twice this year (save for Birmingham), seems to think Clarkston and Lake Orion are a notch above the rest of the field. I can't say I argue with him. Would be a great rematch if it happens.
For a look at the complete bracket, CLICK HERE

Simply the best
- I said it in my latest blog update on Friday, Birmingham Brother Rice is the hottest team in the state. And I'm not backing down from that statement. The Warriors are 15-4-1 overall this season, and are 10-0-1 in their last 11 games. During that stretch, they've beaten ranked foes Livonia Churchill (No. 4 in Division 1), St. Mary's (No. 2 in Division 1), Wyandotte (No. 10 in Division 2), Port Huron Northern (No. 6 in Division 2), Traverse City Central (No. 3 in Division 2) and Cranbrook (No. 1 in Division 3).
Rice's losses this season have come against Catholic Central (No. 1 in Division 1) twice, St. Mary's and Trenton (No. 1 in Division 2). They also tied the Trojans.
And I swore I wouldn't overdo it with Warriors Mackenzie MacEachern this year, but you've got to tip your cap to the senior winger. He has 34 points during the recent 11-game unbeaten streak. That's more points than any other MIHL player - save for his linemate Thomas Ebbing - has put up the entire season. He has 27 goals and 31 assists (58 points) in 20 games played. Can anyone say, "Mr. Hockey?"

Bears closing in on OAA White title
-  The Berkley-Ferndale Unified team picked up a 5-1 win over No. 10-ranked South Lyon Sunday at the MPHSH Showcase in Chelsea. Coach Jeff Fleming's team has lost to just one opponent this year, Marysville twice, and tied Royal Oak in league play. The Bears lost to Avondale to open the season, but ultimately won by forfeit due to an academic eligibility issue by the Yellow Jackets. The team's leading scorers are junior Joey Leider and seniors Brad Zucker and Luc Hammerle. The team needs to win two of its final four games to clinch the OAA White title.

Top performances from this past week
- Eric Stanis, Farmington Unified: Finished with six points (five assists) to help the Flyers past Sault Ste. Marie, 9-0. Derek Ried and Jared VanValkenburg scored two goals each for Farmington Unified.
- Nick Daigneau, Catholic Central: Finished with a goal and an assist in the Shamrocks' 3-1 win over Calumet.
- Mackenzie MacEachern, Brother Rice: Continued his hot season with a hat trick and two more assists in the Warriors' 8-0 win over U-D Jesuit.
- Zac Bensinger, Country Day: Had a pair of goals and assisted on another as the Yellowjackets beat Saginaw, 5-4.
- James Piec, Madison Heights Bishop Foley: The senior tallied two goals as the Warriors edged Belleville-Willow Run Unified, 4-3.
- Blake Manginell, Cranbrook: Had two goals while teammate Michael Romund had a goal and three assists in the Cranes' 6-2 win over Marquette.
- Nolan Gluchowski, Catholic Central: Netted the game-winner mid-way through the third period in CC's big win over Hill Academy (Ont.) at the MIHL Showcase.
- Nicholas Carbone, St. Mary's: Scored two times as the Eaglets knocked of D-2 No. 1 ranked Trenton, 5-1.
- Scott Cuthrell, Waterford Mott: Senior had two goals and two assists while teammates Austin Sereno and Tyler Vaughn had a goal and two assists each in a 7-4 win over Rochester United.
- Christopher Brown, Cranbrook: Scored twice in the third period as the Cranes topped Wyandotte, 4-1.
- Conner Jean and Thomas Ebbing, Brother Rice: Each player had two goals in the Warriors big win over St. Mary's.
- Hayden Alpert and Noah Reiter, Berkley-Ferndale Unified: Alpert had two goals and Reiter tallied three points as the Bears picked up their first win of the season over a ranked team (South Lyon Unified).
- Stephen Wroe, Berkley-Ferndale Unified: The Bears netminder made 32 saves in goal to help his team past South Lyon, 5-1.
- Louis Carnevale, South Lyon Unified: Made 16 stops in goal to help South Lyon knock off St. Clair Shores Unified at the MPHSH Showcase in Chelsea.
- Luke Ortel and Garrett Schilling, Bishop Foley: Each scored twice in the Ventures' 7-3 win over Carleton-Airport.
- Shane Kahn, Walled Lake Western: Stopped 38 of the 39 shots he faced to lead the Warriors past Lakeland, 2-1.
- Nathan Gurzell and John Merola, Troy Athens: Gurzell scored a pair of power-play goals and Merola had three power-play assists to help the Red Hawks past Troy for their first OAA White win of the season.
- Spencer Ray, Royal Oak Shrine: Scored the game-winning goal to help the Knights past Riverview Gabriel Richard.

Here are the updated MIHL, OAA, CHSL and KLAA league standings as of Tuesday (Feb. 14)

MIHL Standings
Team                    GP    W   L  T  OL  Pts.
Catholic Central     17    14   2   0   1     29
Cranbrook             16    13   2   0   1     27
Brother Rice          16     11    4   1   0    23   
Trenton                  16     10   4   1   1     22
St. Mary's              14     10   4   0   0     20
PH Northern          14     5    8    0   1     11
GP North               15     5   10    0   0    10 
De La Salle            15     3   12    0   0     6
U-D Jesuit             16     2   12    0   2     6
Wyandotte             13     2   10    0    1     5

OAA Red
Team                      W  L  T  Pts.
Lake Orion              5  0   2   11
Clarkston                 5  0   2   11
Farmington U.          4  2   1    9
Farmington               4  3   0    8
Oxford                     2  4  1    5
Rochester U.            2  5  0    4
Birmingham U.         1  4   2    4
Stoney Creek           1  6  0    2

OAA White
Team                      W  L  T  Pts.
Berkley-Ferndale     7   0   1   15
Avondale                 6   3   1   13
West Bloomfield      5   3   0    10
Bloom. Hills United  5   4   0   10
Troy                        4   7   0    8
Royal Oak               3   5   1   7
Troy Athens             1   8   1   3

KLAA Central
Team                      W  L  T  Pts.
Brighton                   8   2   1   17
Novi                        7   3   1   15
Livonia Stevenson*  6   3   0   13
South Lyon*            5   5   0   11
Northville*               4   5   1   10

KLAA North
Team                       W  L  T  Pts.
WL Northern            9   1   1    19
Waterford Mott        7   4   0    14
Lakeland                  3   8   0     6
WL Central              3   8   0     4
Waterford Kettering  1  10   0    2

KLAA West
Team                      W  L  T  Pts.
Howell                     9   1   1   19
Hartland                   6   2   2   14
Grand Blanc*           5   2   2   13
Milford*                   6   4   0   13 
Pinckney                  5   4   2   12
WL Western             1   9   0   2
* one OT loss

CHSL Division 1 - Group A
Team                      W  L  T
Catholic Central        3   0  0
Brother Rice             2   1  0
Cranbrook                1   2  0
U-D Jesuit                0   3  0

CHSL Division 1 - Group B
Team                      W  L  T
St. Mary's                2   0  0
Divine Child             2   1  0
De La Salle              1   2  0
Notre Dame Prep    0   2  0

CHSL Intersectional
Team                           W  L  T
AA Gabriel Richard       4   1   0
Bishop Foley                4   2   0
Riv. Gabriel Richard      3   2   0
Cabrini                         2   3  0
RO Shrine                    0   4  0
Lutheran North             0   3   1

LINKS TO GAME COVERAGE ON MIPREPZONE.COM
Marysville 4, Stoney Creek 2
Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 4, Bishop Foley 2
Troy Athens 5, Troy 1
Walled Lake Western 2, Lakeland 1
Bishop Foley 7, Carleton-Airport 3
South Lyon Unified 5, St. Clair Shores Unified 1
Berkley-Ferndale 5, South Lyon Unified 1

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Catholic Central hockey team beats Hill Academy at MIHL Showcase

Talking about coming up big. Catholic Central senior Nolan Gluchowski scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period of his team's 4-3 win over Hill Academy (Toronto) Friday at the MIHL Showcase in Trenton.
It was one of the premiere matchups at this year's events. Charlie Green had a goal and two assists and Pete Halash assisted on three goals himself in the win. The Shamrocks rallied from 3-1 down, with Steven Haydon and Matt Sorisho tying the game up by the end of the second period before Gluchowski's game-winner.
Cranbrook will get its chance against Hill Academy Saturday night.
In other action at the MIHL, Farmington Unified used a pair of Jared VanValenburg goals to double up Traverse City Central, 4-2. That's a nice win for the Flyers. Central's the No. 3-ranked team in Division 2.
Country Day eked out a 5-4 win on an unassisted goal by Scott Wolf in the final minutes of its game against Saginaw Heritage. Zach Bensinger scored twice in the first period to stake the Yellowjackets to an early 3-1 lead.
Also picking up an impressive win was Cranbrook, who took care of Marquette 6-2. The Redmen are one of a handful of quality teams from the UP that made the long trip down to Trenton. Blake Manginell scored twice to lead the Cranes, who outshot Marquette 50-21. Michael Romund had four points for Cranbrook.
St. Mary's seems to have the number of Trenton and it's all-state goalie Blake Wojtala. The Eaglets beat Trenton 4-1 Friday, scoring 4+ goals on Wojtala for the second time this season. Only Cranbrook, in a 4-3 win back in November, has done it against the Trojans. Nicholas Carbone had two goals in the win.
And Brother Rice, arguably the hottest team in the state, improved its unbeaten streak to nine games with a 3-2 win over Livonia Churchill, the No. 4-ranked team in Division 1. Chris Wilberding scored the game-winner in OT.

For all of Friday's results, CLICK HERE
For all of Friday's results at the Michigan Public High School Hockey Showcase, CLICK HERE

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Troy's Young outduels Clarkston's Tatu

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story will appear in Wednesday's Oakland Press and online at MIPrepZone.com/oakland, but due to technical difficulties Tuesday night, we were unable to immediately post it to the site. We're posting it here until we get things fixed. We appreciate your patience.

Young's school-record 49 points just enough to beat Clarkston and Nick Tatu's 47
By DAN FENNER
Special to The Oakland Press
TROY — Records fell Tuesday night at Troy High School.
Enormous pregame hype surrounded the matchup between a vaunted Clarkston team carrying just one loss and a surging Troy squad featuring James Young, arguably the best player in the state. If even possible, the actual event exceeded the lofty expectations of a certain thriller of a game.
Young turned in a staggering performance, notching a school-record 49 points and hauling down 18 rebounds to help the Colts storm past the Wolves in the second half and claim a 79-74 victory.
"Right now, we're playing team ball. We believe we can beat anybody and it showed tonight," veteran Troy coach Gary Fralick said. "Any time one player gets 49 for you, it's hard for the other team to beat you."
Remarkably, the logic that says a near-50 point individual performance is good enough to win could not also be applied in the case Clarkston's Nick Tatu.
 
The senior guard nearly matched Young's prolific scoring output with a 47-point performance of his own. Tatu connected on a dumbfounding 12 baskets from 3-point range, missing on only a few attempts. The 12 treys established a new Clarkston record.
The score was tied, 40-40, with 4:10 remaining in the third quarter. From there, the Colts went on an 18-9 run over the next seven minutes of play stretching into the fourth quarter.
Young scored 13 of his 33 second half points during that stretch to give Troy a nine-point lead.
"He was fantastic," Fralick said of Young. "The thing with James now is that he's going inside and outside. In the past, he has relied on everything outside, but now he'll go down and work to get open. He'll get a 15-foot (shot), he'll take a 5-footer, or he'll go out and get a three. He doesn't care where he gets the ball — he will score from that spot."
Clarkston coach Dan Fife said Young put on a scoring clinic and credited his versatility as the biggest reason his team's defense could never come close to containing him.
"What I like about (Young) was that he always had himself under control driving to the basket," Fife said. We got one charge called on him early and he didn't take another one after that.
"He was a man amongst boys tonight and he's just a junior."
Clarkston pulled within three points of a tie with 2:10 remaining when, for the second time in the final quarter, Tatu drained a 3-pointer and a subsequent free throw for a four-point play. But Young and junior Joe Leonard each managed to sink their free throws on Troy's next two possessions and the Wolves' comeback bid met its end.
"It was incredible. I've never seen anything like this," Fife said of the scoring duel between Young and Tatu. "It's not necessarily the way we wanted to score, but thank God Tatu kept us in the ballgame. If he hadn't scored offensively, it would have been a blowout."
 
Young's 49 point-performance is the highest single-game total of any player in Oakland County this season. He sank 17 shots from the field, including three 3-pointers, while nailing 12-of-16 free-throw attempts.
"I really had to pick it up. I knew (Clarkston) was a good team, so I really had to step my game up," Young said, adding that matching Tatu shot-for-shot was never on his mind. "We moved the ball around a lot and it gave me a chance to get open, so that's often how I scored.
"The points wouldn't mean anything if we didn't win though."
Leonard contributed 10 points for Troy, which improved to 10-4 (4-1 OAA White).
For Clarkston (12-2, 7-0 OAA Red), senior Mitch Baenziger tallied 15 points.
The win extended the Colts' streak to four-straight, while the Wolves dropped just their second game of the season and their first in Oakland Activities Association play.
"Clarkston is kind of the measuring stick," Fralick said. "They're a team that's always hard to beat because they're well-coached and well-disciplined. If you can beat them and show the same kind of discipline and rebound the basketball, they're a lot easier to beat on your home floor. We took advantage of an opportunity tonight."

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