The Journey Ends: Milan falls to Wyoming Godwin Heights in Class B semi-final

Friday night’s Class B semi-final matchup between the Milan Big Reds and Wyoming Godwin Heights Wolverines pitted two 1st-year head coaches squaring off against each other. Godwin Heights was playing in their 2nd Final Four in 3 years, while Milan was trying to defend their state title. Unfortunately for the Big Reds, their journey ended one win short of the championship game, as they lost to the Wolverines 70-64.

Latin Davis (32) scored 17 points in Milan's loss to Wyoming Godwin Heights on Friday night. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Latin Davis (32) scored 17 points in Milan’s loss to Wyoming Godwin Heights on Friday night. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Despite having a better shooting percentage in the contest – 43 percent from the field compared to the Wolverines’ 32 percent – the Big Reds were doomed by the number of turnovers they committed. Milan turned the ball over 21 times on Friday night, allowing Godwin to score 17 points off of those turnovers.

The Big Reds kept the contest close throughout, trailing by four after the 1st quarter and three at the half. A 6-0 run in the third quarter gave Milan their first lead since the opening seconds of the game. Nick Perkins and Latin Davis aided the Big Reds to take a 47-44 lead with 1:47 left in the third.

Milan built their largest lead in the 4th, when a Garrett Gardette bucket put the Big Reds up 56-51 with 5:11 to go. Godwin began taking over when Leon Redd narrowed the Milan lead to 57-55 with 4:33 remaining. Following Redd’s basket, the Wolverines scored the game’s next seven points. Milan missed a one-and-one free throw opportunity and suffered three consecutive turnovers during that stretch. Godwin extended their lead to 62-57 when Redd hit a three-pointer with 2:03 left to play.

Milan was unable to close the gap, as four different Godwin players went a combined 7-for-9 from the free throw line over the last minute and a half. The Big Reds’ last hope came when Davis hit an NBA-range three-pointer to narrow the gap to 68-64 with 34 seconds remaining, but it would not be enough.

Nick Perkins (center) drives for a dunk. Perkins led all scorers with 21 points in the contest. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Nick Perkins (center) drives for a dunk. Perkins led all scorers with 21 points in the contest. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Perkins led the Big Reds in scoring on the night, netting 21 points. Davis had 17.

“I was hoping to do more, but it came to an end,” Davis said after the game, referencing the team’s run. “We all worked hard (to get here).”

Following the loss, Milan head coach Chris Pope praised his team’s effort. “I’m proud of the effort that my kids gave me in this game and throughout the whole year,” he said.

Regarding his team’s performance in the game, Pope acknowledged the struggles they faced. “We turned the ball over too much, and we didn’t do a good job of rebounding,” he said. “We knew (Godwin Heights) was athletic, but we didn’t do a good job on our end of playing the right way.

“I give (Godwin) credit. They were not scared and didn’t back down. They played a good game.”

Davis finished his career 2nd on the Milan all-time scoring list, scoring 1,492 points over four seasons. In two-and-a-half years with the Big Reds, Perkins scored 1,026.

Milan concluded their season with a 24-3 record.

 

 

 

 

Game Preview: Wyoming Godwin Heights vs. Milan, 3/27

Editor’s note: The coach’s name was incorrectly stated in the initial publishing of this preview. This has since been corrected.

The Milan Big Reds (24-2) mark their return to the Breslin Center in East Lansing on Friday night, playing the Wyoming Godwin Heights Wolverines (24-1) in the Class B semi-final game. The Big Reds also played at the Breslin Center last year, winning the state championship over Benton Harbor.

Latin Davis (32) has averaged 24.3 points per game in Milan's playoff run. (File photo by Paula Dotson)

Latin Davis (32) has averaged 24.3 points per game in Milan’s playoff run. (File photo by Paula Dotson)

First time for everything: This will be the first-ever matchup between Milan and Godwin Heights.

At stake: The winner of this matchup will face Cadillac or Detroit Henry Ford in the championship game on Saturday. Saturday’s game is set to begin at 6:30 p.m.

At the helm: Tyler Whittemore is in his first season as head coach of the Wolverines.

Talk about success: Godwin Heights has won 20-plus games in each of the last four seasons.

How the Wolverines made it: They defeated Wyoming Kelloggsville, Wayland Union, Alma, Charlotte and Spring Lake to reach the semi-final game.

Lone wolf: The only loss Godwin Heights has suffered this season was to Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian on Jan. 24.

So close a season ago: The Wolverines nearly made it to the Breslin Center last year, losing to Benton Harbor in the deciding game.

The (Big Red) streak: Milan has won their last 16 games.

How ’bout that: A win over Godwin Heights on Friday would tie the Big Reds’ all-time single-season win record of 25, which was set last year.

Last year’s semi-final: In the 2014 semi-final game, Milan pulled off a come-from-behind 51-50 victory against Detroit Douglass.

Trailing 42-34 heading into the 4th quarter, Nick Perkins started the Big Red rally by scoring six quick points to help erase the deficit. After Milan tied the game at 45, the lead changed hands five times before Douglass tied the game again with 23 seconds to go.

Garrett Gardette, then a freshman, hit a free throw with 5.1 seconds left to decide the game. It was his only point in the contest.

“The guys won the game and never quit,” said then-head coach Josh Tropea after the game. “They made big play after big play.”

Godwin Heights links: Twitter / Facebook / Athletics page / Roster

For game stories from earlier in the season and more information on the Wolverines, head here.

Back to the Breslin: Milan returns to East Lansing with win over Otsego

All season long, one goal was on the mind of Milan head coach Chris Pope: returning to the Breslin Center in East Lansing. He’d guaranteed a repeat of the state championship in April, much to the surprise of the Big Red faithful, but his faith in the team never wavered.

It turns out the first-year head coach of the program was right to believe.

Latin Davis (left) and Nick Perkins combined for 43 of Milan's 69 points in the Big Reds' victory over Otsego on Tuesday night. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Latin Davis (left) and Nick Perkins combined for 43 of Milan’s 69 points in the Big Reds’ victory over Otsego on Tuesday night. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

The Big Reds advanced in the state playoffs on Tuesday night, defeating the Otsego Bulldogs 69-60 in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Marshall High School.

Nick Perkins had an excellent night for Milan, recording 25 points and 15 rebounds against 7-foot center Seth Dugan, a Mr. Michigan Basketball candidate and future Western Michigan Bronco. “Nick did what he was supposed to do (tonight),” Pope said after the game. “He wanted to show that he’s one of the best big men in Michigan.”

Perkins was one of three Big Reds in double figures, with Latin Davis (18) and Thomas Lindeman (11) providing as well. Adding to a list of accomplishments Tuesday night, Perkins became the sixth Big Red to cross the 1,000-point barrier, ending the night with 1,004 career points.

Milan and Otsego played a tale of two different quarters in the opening half. The Big Reds jumped out to a 16-5 lead five minutes in, on 7 points in the paint by Perkins and three-pointers by Davis and Lindeman. Otsego then outscored Milan 17-9 over the remainder of the half, with Michael Williams and Dugan assisting the Bulldogs.

Perkins found himself in foul trouble midway through the second quarter, heading to the bench with 5:07 to play following two quick fouls.  The undersized Big Reds had no answer for Dugan during that stretch, as the big man scored six of his 20 points against the smaller Milan crew. The Big Reds held a 25-22 lead at the break.

“We didn’t do a good job in the first half because of (three starters being) in foul trouble,” Pope said, reflecting on the half. “We wanted to pick up the pace, and every chance we got, we wanted to fastbreak.”

Nick Perkins (34) drives for a bucket against Otsego's Seth Dugan (42). Perkins ended the night with 1,004 career points, becoming the 6th Big Red to accomplish the feat. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Nick Perkins (34) drives for a bucket against Otsego’s Seth Dugan (42). Perkins ended the night with 1,004 career points, becoming the 6th Big Red to accomplish the feat. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Otsego started the third quarter on a tear, taking a 30-27 lead – their first of the game – on a three-point play from Williams with 6:29 left in the period. The Bulldogs extended their lead to five on free throws by Soloman Barwegen and Pope promptly called a timeout. “I told the kids to just relax and make one stop,” said the Milan head coach. “It was only a two possession game. (Our captains) didn’t blink when we got down five. I give those kids credit; it’s just the fight in our team.

“They were able to get some easy baskets because we didn’t communicate on defense. That was the one thing we had to do. When we communicate, we’re a better team. We were able to clean up some of the mistakes we made.”

After the Big Reds closed the gap to a 40-39 deficit with 1:51 remaining in the frame, Milan went on a 13-0 run over the next four minutes of the contest, taking a 52-40 lead with 6:07 left in the final stanza. Perkins contributed six points during the run, while Davis added four points and two steals.

“One of our gameplans was to push the pace because (Otsego) didn’t play that many kids,” Pope said. “We could tell they were getting tired. We figured that we could speed them up and play to our advantage.”

Arius Richmond scored seven points in Milan's win over Otsego. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Arius Richmond scored seven points in Milan’s win over Otsego. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

A key bucket during the fourth came from an unlikely source. Arius Richmond, the Belleville transfer who has been primarily a defensive replacement for Milan this season, hit a 3-pointer with 4:58 to go that put the Big Reds up 57-42. Richmond also drove to the basket for a layup 33 seconds later, extending Milan’s lead to 17 and all but ending the Bulldogs’ chances.

From then on, the Big Red lead never crossed the double-digit mark until a buzzer-beating three by Otsego.

Awaiting Milan on Friday night will be Wyoming Godwin Heights (24-1). The contest will be the first-ever meeting between the Big Reds and Wolverines, who were ranked as top teams in Class B by the Michigan Associated Press throughout the season. Godwin Heights defeated Spring Lake to advance to the semi-final game.

Pope is not deterred by the challenge. “I tell (the kids) every day that there are no days off,” he said. “We’re not sneaking up on anybody this year. We’re defending Class B state champions.

“We have to be prepared every time we step on the court. There’s no tomorrow; you’re one-and-done. We embrace it. This is second-nature for these kids. I’m proud for their effort (tonight) and to be a part of this.”

Friday’s matchup will begin at 6 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game Preview: Milan vs. Otsego, 3/24

The Milan Big Reds (23-2) return to basketball action on Tuesday, facing off against the Otsego Bulldogs (22-3) in Marshall. The contest is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

Latin Davis prepares to shoot a free throw as the Milan student section looks on. Davis scored 31 points in Monday night's 68-50 win over Onsted. (File photo by Paula Dotson)

Latin Davis prepares to shoot a free throw in Wednesday’s game against Onsted, as the Milan student section looks on. Davis scored 31 points in the 68-50 Big Red victory. (File photo by Paula Dotson)

A first: Tuesday will be the first-ever matchup between the two schools.

How Otsego got to Marshall: The Bulldogs defeated South Haven, Allegan, Paw Paw, Battle Creek Harper Creek and Benton Harbor to reach the quarterfinal game.

The win over Benton Harbor secured Otsego’s first regional title since 1984.

Deja vu, of sorts: Last year, Otsego also played Paw Paw, Battle Creek Harper Creek and Benton Harbor in the playoffs, losing to the eventual Class B championship game foes of the Big Reds.

Check the map: Otsego is northwest of Kalamazoo, and would be a drive of just over 2 hours from Milan if you took I-94.

On fire: The Bulldogs have an 11-game win streak heading into Tuesday night’s contest. Their last loss was to Wyoming Godwin Heights on Feb. 10.

(Godwin Heights is one of the final 8 teams remaining in Class B.)

Who leads the ‘Dogs: Otsego is coached by Josh Holmes. Holmes has been the Bulldogs’ head coach since 2010-11, compiling a 95-18 record in his tenure. Otsego has won 20 or more games in three of his five seasons as the lead man (2011-12, last year and this year).

These guys are good: Otsego’s worst season since 2009-10 was Holmes’ first year as head coach, when the Bulldogs went 14-5.

Buck up: Otsego features a 7-foot junior center, Seth Dugan, who will play in the near future for Western Michigan. Dugan, a candidate for the Mr. Basketball award this season, has averaged 19 points per game.

Dugan, a three-star recruit (according to Rivals.com), received more than 15 scholarship offers, including Oregon, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin.

Dugan cited a desire to stay near his family as the main reason he chose to sign with the Broncos. “(Staying close to home) was big,” Dugan told MLive’s Justin Dacey.

More information on Otsego basketball can be found here.

Regional Champs Again: Milan takes down Onsted for second straight regional title

The Milan Big Reds returned to Chelsea High School on Wednesday night, playing in the regional final for the third straight year. Their opponents, the 19-4 Onsted Wildcats, featured a highly-touted college prospect in 6-foot-10 junior forward Austin Davis. In the end, the Big Reds came out on top for their second straight regional championship, defeating Onsted 68-50.

Latin Davis (right) drives for a basket in Milan's 68-50 win over Onsted on Wednesday night. Davis scored 31 points in the victory, leading the Big Reds to their second straight regional title. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Latin Davis (right) drives for a basket in Milan’s 68-50 win over Onsted on Wednesday night. Davis scored 31 points in the victory, leading the Big Reds to their second straight regional title. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Despite one Davis receiving quite a bit of attention, it was the other Davis – Milan star senior point guard Latin – who shined when it mattered. Latin led all scorers with 31 points, 19 of them coming in the second half.

Milan jumped out to an early 9-2 lead in the game as Latin Davis made two 3-pointers, then scored three the old-fashioned way following a steal by Lance Lewis with 5:18 to play in the first quarter. Onsted fought back to take the lead with two buckets in the final five seconds, a dunk by Austin Davis and a steal-and-layup by Dallas Heidbreder. Heidbreder’s stolen in-bounds pass and subsequent basket gave the Wildcats a 17-16 lead at the break.

A turning point in the game occurred in the second quarter. With Onsted leading 23-20 following two Austin Davis free throws, Milan went on a 10-2 run and held the Wildcats scoreless for over four minutes. The Big Reds regained the lead after a Nick Perkins layup put Milan up 24-23 with 3:26 to go in the half. The next Wildcat score came by way of two Austin Davis free throws with 18 seconds remaining. The Big Reds led at halftime, 30-25.

Milan stepped up the defensive pressure in the third quarter, expanding the lead to 45-31 with 2 minutes to go in the frame. Latin Davis and Thomas Lindeman both recorded a steal and lay-up during the stretch, and both hit key three-pointers late in the period. The Big Reds led 53-35 heading into the final quarter. Davis scored 12 of Milan’s 23 points in the stanza.

Nick Perkins (34) battles Onsted's Austin Davis (51). Perkins had a double-double in the contest, finishing the game with 17 points and 11 rebounds. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Nick Perkins (34) battles Onsted’s Austin Davis (51). Perkins had a double-double in the contest, finishing the game with 17 points and 11 rebounds. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

The duo continued to set the tone in the fourth, as Milan expanded the lead to 63-43 with 2:35 to go. The Big Red starters were taken out of the contest with 1:25 remaining and Milan holding a 66-45 lead. The Big Red supporters cheered the players as they were replaced.

Milan head coach Chris Pope had plenty to say about his team following the victory.

“I’m proud of their effort, I’m proud to be a part of this, but I give the kids more credit than ever,” Pope said after the game. “It’s awesome (because) we’ve had a target on our back from day one. I’m going to give my team credit for being able to work through the challenges, all the hard games, and to be able to still come up and play a game like they did tonight.”

Pope, who became the new record holder for single-season victories by a first-year Milan coach after Monday’s win against Flat Rock, was not shy to compliment his star point guard. “There’s a whole bunch of great guards in the state of Michigan, but pound for pound, I think I have the best point guard in the state,” he said, referring to Latin Davis. “Latin is just a flat-out winner.”

Milan players, coaches, and fans celebrate following the Big Reds' regional championship victory. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Milan players, coaches, and fans celebrate following the Big Reds’ regional championship victory. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Pope also had praise for Perkins, who finished the game with a double-double. “I think Nick did a great job on (Austin Davis), and Austin had a great game as well,” the coach said. “This is just what you wanted to see – two bigs going after each other, and I think they played well.”

Perkins concluded the night with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Lindeman was the third Milan player in double-digit figures, scoring all 13 of his points in the second half of the game.

The Wildcats were led in scoring by Austin Davis, who netted 18 points.

The Big Reds (23-2) advance to the Class B quarterfinal after the victory, and will play Otsego (22-3) in Marshall on Tuesday, March 24. Next Tuesday’s matchup will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The contest will be played at 6:30 p.m.

The motivation for where Milan is headed is clearer than ever. “I’ve got eight seniors, and we always talk about what (their) legacy is going to be when they leave here,” Pope said. “They want their legacy to be back-to-back state championships.”

 

 

Game Preview: Onsted vs. Milan, 3/18

The Milan Big Reds (22-2) continue their season against the Onsted Wildcats (19-4) in the regional final at Chelsea High School on Wednesday. The championship game is set to begin at 7 p.m.

Latin Davis scored 25 points in the regional semi-final against Flat Rock on Monday night. (File photo by Paula Dotson)

Latin Davis (32) scored 25 points in the regional semi-final against Flat Rock on Monday night. (File photo by Paula Dotson)

Look out for Onsted: Since starting the season 3-2, the Wildcats have gone 17-2 since.

Who they feature: Onsted’s roster consists of one sophomore, seven juniors and four seniors.

Onsted has their own Big Man: The Wildcats’ Austin Davis is 6-foot-10 and 270 pounds. The junior and three-star prospect had University of Michigan coach John Beilein scouting him on Monday night. Northwestern coach Chris Collins and Toledo coach Ted Kowalczyk were also in attendance Monday.

Davis has drawn offers from Central Michigan and Toledo, with interest from Michigan and Michigan State.

How Onsted got here: The Wildcats defeated Chelsea, Tecumseh and Eaton Rapids en route to the championship game.

What’s at stake: The winner of this contest will play either Benton Harbor or Otsego in Marshall on Tuesday, March 24 in the Class B quarterfinal game.

All-time: The Big Reds are 5-6 all-time against the Wildcats. The two teams have not matched up since the 2010-11 regular season, which was a Milan victory.

A familiar name: Onsted’s head coach is Brad Maska, who was a one-time teacher and basketball coach at Milan Middle School. He has been the Wildcats’ head coach since at least the 2009-10 school year*. In that time, Maska has coached the Wildcats to a 124-41 record.

*Records before that season were unavailable.

*  *  *

Interesting factoids…

  • Of the 13 teams Milan played this season, 6 have won district titles. Of those 6 teams, four are still alive (Romulus, Detroit Jesuit and Warren DeLaSalle in Class A, SMCC in Class C).
  • Four teams in the final Associated Press Class B rankings are still in contention for the state title (Milan, New Haven, Wyoming Godwin Heights and Goodrich).

*  *  *

Onsted links: Twitter / Student section Twitter / Coach Maska Twitter / LenConnect.com profile on Austin Davis

Milan advances to regional final with dominant win over Flat Rock

The Milan Big Reds played their regional opener at Chelsea High School on Monday night against a familiar rival. For the third time this season, the Big Reds battled against the Flat Rock Rams. Milan completed the season sweep in dominant fashion, winning the playoff contest 79-42.

Latin Davis (left) drives for a basket as Dan Jablonski sets a screen in Milan's 79-42 victory over Flat Rock on Monday night. Davis led all scorers with 25 points. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Latin Davis (left) drives for a basket as Dan Jablonski sets a screen in Milan’s 79-42 victory over Flat Rock on Monday night. Davis led all scorers with 25 points. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

The Big Reds controlled the first half. Milan got baskets from four different players while grabbing a fast 9-0 start, using that run for a 19-8 lead after the first quarter. Thomas Lindeman scored all 9 of his points in the opening frame, all on three-pointers.

The second quarter was where the Big Reds shined brightest. Five different players scored as Milan stretched the lead to 28-12 midway through the quarter. Latin Davis hit two deep 3-pointers, contributing 8 points in a 10-2 run over the last 2:40 of the stanza. Milan outscored Flat Rock 22-11 in the period, resulting in a 41-19 lead at the half.

After the Rams recorded two quick buckets to start the third period, Davis again ignited a run. This time, it was a 14-2 Milan run over three minutes, as the lead was extended to 55-25. The Big Red point guard scored eight points during that stretch. Nick Perkins excited the crowd with a dunk with 25 seconds to play in the period. Milan led 59-35 after three quarters.

Nick Perkins prepares to shoot a free throw. Perkins contributed a double-double in the contest, scoring 11 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Nick Perkins prepares to shoot a free throw. Perkins contributed a double-double in the contest, scoring 11 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Davis and the rest of the starters left the game with 5:21 to go in the fourth, with the Big Reds holding a 66-38 lead. Davis led all scorers with 25 points in the contest. Korbin Gephart led the reserves with five points in the frame. The bench closed the game with a 13-2 run.

Perkins was the other Big Red to score in double-digits, netting 11 points while also grabbing 11 rebounds. On the night, 12 Milan players contributed to the team’s scoring.

After the game, Milan head coach Chris Pope had plenty of praise for his team. “I was real proud of our effort tonight and how we came out to start the game. Latin dictated the game tempo tonight,” he said. “Thomas had a great start for us and played with great energy. Nick was unselfish with the ball and passed the ball well.

“Overall, it’s great to see the joy the kids have in pulling for each other. They play like a family,” Pope said. “We talked at half-time about sharing the basketball and the kids made the adjustment and did that.”

Korbin Gephart (right) battles against a Flat Rock player. Gephart scored 5 points in the fourth quarter of the contest. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

Korbin Gephart (right) battles against a Flat Rock player. Gephart scored 5 points in the fourth quarter of the contest. (Photo by Paula Dotson)

The Big Reds (22-2) will play the Onsted Wildcats (19-4) in the regional final on Wednesday night. Onsted defeated Eaton Rapids 61-58 to advance to the championship game.

Wednesday’s contest is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start.