Monday, February 28, 2011

Rapid Fire: Girls Basketball District Preview

Some teams to keep an eye on for the district playoffs

Upset Watch:
After losing to Hartland less than 10 days ago 32-28 after a five point first half output, Lakeland will be looking for some revenge when it matters most. With a first round bye, the Eagles may have a perfect storm in the making to come out on top of their district. It seems that the Lakeland and Hartland are on a crash-course to face off and if that happens, expect things to turn out differently.

Continuing Success:
Waterford Kettering, even though the Captains finished the season 19-1, they still seem to be flying under the radar. With their only loss of the season coming at the hands of 17-3 Grand Blanc, 44-40, Kettering is one of the most dangerous teams in the state. They will face a tough opening round match-up with 12-8 Troy, but if they can pass that challenge, look for the Captains to make a run throughout March.

No Shocker Here:
Birmingham Detroit Country Day is easily the favorite in their district and more than likely will be playing at the Breslin Center with a chance to add to the impressive state title collection. The Yellowjackets are about as close as you can come to a sure bet to make it past the district stage of the playoffs as they don’t have a single team over the .500 mark in their district.

Ready to Bounce Back:
Novi, currently on a three game losing streak, is still a team to look out for after winning the KLAA Central division. The Wildcats are easily overlooked at this point but two of their last three losses came to Lakeland and Waterford Kettering, two teams that hold a combined record of 35-5. After taking a closer look at their recent losing streak, it’s easy to see that the Wildcats became the victims of a very challenging schedule, while trying to prepare for the state playoffs. The Wildcats drew a first round bye in and are looking at a match-up with a below .500 team in the second round. A showdown with KLAA champion Canton looks likely in the district final.

Don’t Overlook:
Stoney Creek is a team to keep an eye on as the playoffs move forward, because of their impressive guard play. Senior Gabby Yurik is a match-up night mare for just about any team because of her range, capable of knocking down shots from pretty much anywhere on the court. The Cougars are another team with a first round bye, and it’s not something to overlook, the bye will give these teams some extra rest and preparation, something that the Cougars will be sure to take advantage of with a match-up with Lake Orion or Rochester Adams looming in the second round.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Defensive Minded

With the class of 2011 signed, sealed and delivered, the class of 2012 has a more defensive look and plenty of Division 1 schools are fully aware of that. Less than one month after national signing day for the 2011 class, offers are rolling in for some of the top defensive prospects for next year.
*Schools the athletes are considering is according to and*

James Ross- OLB, Orchard Lake Saint Mary’s
Ross, who burst onto the scene as a big time performer as a sophomore in 2009, turned in a dominant 2010 campaign which has grabbed the attention from a number of Big 10 schools. Ross is said to be considering Michigan and Michigan State along with Purdue and Illinois as well as Pittsburgh from the Big East.

Matthew Godin- DT, Novi Detroit Catholic Central
Godin proved to be a dynamic force on the interior for the Shamrocks in 2010, proving that he could stop the run at times and put some pressure on the quarterback. Like Ross, because of Godin’s 2010 season, he has a number of offers on the table from Big 10 schools like Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern and Purdue.

Mario Ojemudia- DE, Farmington Hills Harrison
Ojemudia has been a match-up nightmare for opponents on a game-in-game-out basis, and proved to play an enormous role in Harrison’s run to the Division 2 state title. Ojemudia showed his power all year long on his way to making 101 tackles and six sacks, a stat line that has caught the attention from in-state powers Michigan and Michigan State, and will continue to catch the eye of several other schools.

Leviticus Payne- CB, Southfield Christian
Payne, a two way player, figures to play in the secondary at the next level, and for good reason. Payne has shown the speed and athleticism to keep up with some of the top receivers in the county, which should translate to the college game well. Payne is looking over offers from Iowa and Toledo and is sure to have more offers on the table by the end of his senior season.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Heading to the Finish

Taking a look at some of the intriguing match-ups as we near the end of the boys basketball regular season.

Country Day vs. Perry (OH) Saginaw Arthur Hill, Romulus, 2/22, 2/24. 3/03.
There are a number of ways teams find to close out a regular season, the Yellowjackets are closing out their regular season with one of the toughest three game stretches imaginable. On Thursday, Country day will head to Ohio to take on 12-5 Perry followed by a intriguing match-up against Saginaw Arthur Hill on Friday, followed by their season ending showdown with 17-1 Romulus on March 3rd. There is no question that after their final three games, the Yellowjackets will no doubt be the most prepared team in the state come playoff time.

Pontiac @ West Bloomfield, 2/24
The Lakers are looking to make this a season sweep over Pontiac, having beaten the Phoenix once already back on January 21st, 74-63 in overtime. Pontiac will definitely be looking to keep a closer eye on Spencer Parker, who torched the Phoenix the last time for 34 points and 15 rebounds while shooting a deadly 63 percent from the floor. Pontiac, is now in the mode of trying to prove themselves, not only will they be looking for revenge on the Lakers but they will also be looking to rebound from two tough losses to OAA Red foes Clarkston and Southfield. West Bloomfield, who has been on a mission of their own to show that they now belong in the same class of the County's best all season long, is now looking to hold onto their slim OAA Red lead over Clarkston. This game should be interesting on just about every imaginable level if your a fan of either school.

North Farmington @ Clarkston 2/25
In what could be the final time that two legendary Oakland County coaches will face off between Tom Negoshian (North Farmington) and Dan Fife (Clarkston), Friday night figures to be a memorable one. With Negoshian set to retire at the end of the season, his Raiders will be playing back to back games against one of, if not the hottest team in the state in head coach Dan Fife’s Wolves who has won 10 of their last 11 games. On the flip side of the Wolves, the Raiders have been struggling as of late and could use their Thursday/Friday double-header of sorts to get back on track in time for the playoffs. This should be a game listed under the must see category if you're an OC hoops fan.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Top-Notch Jobs

As we near the end of the regular season and teams are gearing up for the playoffs, I thought that now would be as good of a time as any to take a look at some of the best coaching jobs this season.

Dennis Butcher, Walled Lake Central
After graduating a talented senior class last season, many thought that the Vikings would use this season as a rebuilding year and gear up for next season. This season has been just the opposite as the Vikings have dominated in their division play, going 9-1 and locking up a first place finish in the KLAA North. Because of their suffocating defense, the 13-3 Vikings, could very well make a solid run in the playoffs this season.

Jeremy Denha, West Bloomfield
The Lakers have been one of the pleasant surprises in Oakland County this season. Since losing to North Farmington back on January 7th, West Bloomfield has won eight of their last 10 games including back-to-back OAA Red wins over first place Southfield and Pontiac, putting themselves on the map for good. Coach Denha and crew have the Lakers setting up for a nice run over the next month or so.

Gary Fralick, Troy
Fralick has had the Colts firing on all cylinders since early January, putting together a lethal combo of offense and defense. The Colts have scored less than 60 points only twice this season while keeping opponents under that 60 point mark 12 times in 16 games this season.  Fralick and the Colts should have much of the same offense-defense magic come March when Districts start up.

Dan Fife, Clarkston
It’s hard to go a single year without pointing out the job that Fife does on a year in year-out basis. After starting the season with a rough stretch, losing three of their first four, the Wolves are back to their usual form. Winners of six straight including back-to-back-to-back wins against West Bloomfield, Southfield and Troy, the Wolves have clawed their way into third place in the OAA red, just one game behind Southfield and West Bloomfield. Much like we’re used to, Fife has the Wolves hitting their stride at the perfect time.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Friday's Finest

Amir Williams, Birmingham Detroit Country Day (Boys)
The Yellowjackets may not have been in action on Friday night but Williams deserves some well-deserved recognition as the senior center was name to the McDonalds All-American team. Williams joins an impressive list former Country Day standouts Ray McCallum Jr. Shane Battier and Chris Webber of those who have been named to the team.

Matthew Vlasic , Cranbrook Kingswood (Boys)
Vlasic was a force inside for Cranbrook on Friday night, recording a double-double, scoring 16 points grabbing 14 boards and rejecting an impressive six shots as Cranbrook edged out Detroit Loyola 54-52.

Damon Bozman and Isaac Williams, Madison Heights Madison (Boys)
Bozman had a game high 20 points while Williams poured in 19 of his own helping Madison improve to 14-1 with their 65-52 win over Fraser.

Jenecia Jenkins, Ferndale (Girls)
The junior standout had perhaps the best game of any player in the county on Friday and quite possibly the top performance of the season, scoring 17 points, hauling in a ridiculous 25 rebounds and also grabbing 10 steals for a triple double as Ferndale beat Royal Oak 55-45.

Allison Bicknell, Waterford Kettering (Girls)
Bicknell, like she’s done for most of this season continues to be a steady source of offense for the Captains as her 13 points helped Kettering move to a county best 16-0

Cherrish Willis, Farmington (Girls)
Willis, who scored a game-high 19 points for Farmington, helping lead a 13 point second half comeback win over Bloomfield Hills Lahser helping Farmington remain a perfect 11-0 in the OAA Blue.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

At The Top

A quick run down some of the top girls teams in Oakland County.

Waterford Kettering
Somehow, some way, the Captains continue to win, now boasting a 14-0 record after their 43-35 win over Lakeland on Monday night. The win now clinches at least a share of the KLAA North title and at this rate the division will be won outright by the Captains pretty soon. Led by junior Allison Bicknell, the Captains have proven all season long that they can be one of the top scoring teams in the county while also doing the job on defense.

Birmingham Detroit Country Day
Like most years, the Yellowjackets are right back on top in Oakland County, using one of the most balanced attacks around as they have gotten out to a 13-0 record. Country Day may have their toughest test of the season coming later on this week as they take on state power Inkster. Another game to keep an eye on that should catch plenty of attention for Country day comes on February 16th when they play one-loss Auburn Hills Avondale.

The Wildcats have proven that they are far and away the top team in the KLAA Central division, getting out to a 12-1 start with their only blemish coming at the hands of the Cental’s second place team Plymouth Salem. Novi has gotten it done all year with stellar defense, holding their opponents at or under the 30 point mark in seven of their 13 games this season. At this point, it looks like the Wildcats could be on a collision course with Kettering, a match-up that could happen if both teams make it to the KLAA league finals.

Auburn Hills Avondale
Led by their all everything junior forward Hannah Little, the Yellowjackets now have a 12-1 record of their own after their dominating 40-18 win over Southfield on Monday night. The only loss that the Avondale squad has suffered came all the way back in November, their first game of the season where they were edged out by Waterford Kettering, 52-46.  The Yellowjackets only have four seniors on their team this season, so expect them to be right back in this spot come next season.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Catching Fire

With the basketball season now past it's midway point, there are some teams throughout the county that seem to coming together at the right time.

Walled Lake Central
The Vikings have gotten off to an impressive start in divisional play this season going 7-1 in the KLAA North Division with their only one mishap coming at the hands of rival Walled Lake Northern last Tuesday. The Vikings may not be the prettiest team on the floor but one thing is for certain, the Vikings come to play every night, grinding out wins like they have been known to do over the last couple of years. The Vikings just flat out get the job done, game in, game out.

West Bloomfield
The Lakers have been one of the pleasant surprises this season and even though they fell at the hands of Clarkston, West Bloomfield has been one of, if not the most dangerous team in the county. Led By Spencer Parker who has just flat out dominated most of the competition he has faced, the Lakers are not a team that anybody wants to see down the road this season or especially in the playoffs. These guys are for real.

After struggling early on this season, the Wolves have run off three straight wins, all against top opponents, starting with their drubbing of North Farmington, followed by knocking off the red-hot West Bloomfield and finally edging out Southfield in a 56-54 nail-biter. It seems like Dan Fife and the Wolves have figured out any early season questions and as always, are back to being one of the dominant teams in the county.

Led by sophomore sensation James Young, the Colts have been on a roll as of late, proving that they can score with the best, as they have gone over the 70 point mark four times this season while getting the job done on the defensive end as well, holding Rochester Adams to just 26 points just a couple of weeks ago. If the Colts can keep up this kind of balance on both ends, like they have as of late, they'll be impossible to beat. Period.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Some Optimism for Wednesday

Well, from the looks of it as we stand now, the day the day that many high school athletes, coaches and parents cherish most in the athletic scene may be postponed or even cancelled. With one of the biggest snow storms we've encountered over that last few years on it's way targeting Tuesday night and lasting throughout Wednesday, we may have to wait for the much anticipated signing day or in some cases just have to do without for this year, as we are looking at not one snow day on Wednesday but perhaps another on Thursday.
However, I'd like to stay as optimistic as possible when looking ahead to Wednesday, I'll look at some interesting story lines to look at for Wednesday (or Thursday/Friday).

Troy Athens
Excitement should be running deep throughout Athens as they plan to have as many as 12 athletes signing off on where they'll spend their next four years. The Red Hawks 2011 class is headlined by receiver Jake Duzey who is expected to make it official on Wednesday by officially becoming an Iowa Hawkeye.

Bryan Bell, Walled Lake Central
Bell's decision on where he'll play at the next level is still in the works, but it should be an exciting day for head football coach Bob Meyer and the rest of Walled Lake Central. Bell, a Division 2 All-State selection projects as a guard at the next level is rumored to be mulling over offers from Central Michigan as well as Western Michigan.

Allen Robinson, Orchard Lake Saint Mary's
Robinson has long had his verbal commitment in to go and join former teammate and quarterback Rob Bolden at Penn State. The two made for one of, if not the best quarterback/Wide receiver tandems in the state as they led the Eaglets to the Division 3 state finals in 2009.

Central Michigan University Football
The Chippewas have already grabbed a number of verbal commitments from the top players in the County including defensive tackle Shafer Johnson from Southfield Christian, linebacker Tim Hamilton from Brother Rice, running back Anthony Garland from Ferndale, defensive back Stefon Armstead from Southfield-Lathrup and speedy wideout Jason Wilson from Farmington. It should be interesting to see how many more Oakland County recruits Dan Enos and company can get to play their college ball in Mount Pleasant.