postseason preview: Boys basketball districts begin Monday, are any Washtenaw County teams Breslin bound?
The MHSAA postseason begins on Monday for high school boys basketball teams across the state. Washtenaw County is represented in six district tournaments in Class A, B, C and D.
Which local team's will win district championships and take the first step toward the Breslin Center? Here's a breakdown of each district:
District outlook: For years Huron and Pioneer have beaten up on each other all year long, then had both of their seasons come down to an inevitable third meeting in district play. Even when the teams met in the early rounds, the third act in the rivalry has acted as the de facto district final.
But with Ypsilanti now in the district and with Skyline nipping at the heels of the local powers, this district can no longer be considered the Huron-Pioneer and everyone else district.
Skyline managed to get close with its cross-town rivals during the year, even losing by just one against Huron at home in their last meeting in a year defined by close losses for the Eagles.
"We’re almost numb to it," Skyline coach Mike Lovelace said following the Huron loss. He said he hopes the close losses motivate his team to make a final step toward being on par with area's best programs.
Speaking of the area's best programs, Southeastern Conference White Division power Ypsilanti has always been in that discussion, but has normally been on the other side of the bracket needing to play Detroit-area teams come playoff time.
Not the case this year, as the Phoenix give this district a third team with historical success. But having won five of its last six games by 33 points or more and not having a game decided by less than 20 points in a month, while Huron and Pioneer have been in battles to decide the SEC Red, it begs the question if Ypsilanti will be prepared for playoff atmosphere.
Recent history has favored the River Rats, winners of four straight district titles, but this year seems much more ripe for a changing of the guard than previous seasons.
X-Factor: Ypsilanti's size. The Phoenix have height and length and know how to use it and could exploit Pioneer and Huron's shortcomings in that department.
AnnArbor.com pick: Pioneer.
District Outlook: Ypsilanti has moved out of this district to the Skyline district, making the road to the title a bit easier for the other five teams. But SEC Red champion Temperance Bedford still stands in the way for the three Washtenaw County teams.
On the other side of the bracket side sits 19-1 Milan. The Big Reds built up an impressive record in the Huron League, but now move up from mostly Class B and C competition to a tough Class A district. How they respond to that is always a question mark at this time of year, and their semifinal matchup against Saline should be closer than records might indicate.
The Kicking Mules, though, have only one loss to a Michigan team this year -- at Pioneer last month -- and with Jackson Lamb looking all but unstoppable, should be tough to beat on their own floor.
X-Factor: Saline finished 3-9 in the SEC Red, but proved itself capable of hanging with the big boys, with single-digit losses to Huron, Pioneer and Skyline in its last four games. With a combination of big man Max Recknagel working inside while Reece Dils and Michael Hendrickson get hot from outside, an upset could be in the works.
AnnArbor.com pick: Temperance Bedford.
District Outlook: The Fighting Irish’s road to the championship game of this district couldn’t be much better.
Gabriel Richard has a first-round bye, then will face the winner of Livonia Clarenceville and South Lyon East, two teams with a combined five wins.
On the other side of the bracket, though, sits a Detroit Community team that comes into the tournament on a four-game winning streak, the most recent Friday at Willow Run. And while the Hurricanes have seven losses, one of them was to Pershing, the top ranked Class A team in the state at 20-0, by two points back in December.
X-Factor: Gabriel Richard may have lost four of five to end the regular season. But it’s proven all year that it can score. Only one of its losses in the last month has been by double digits, as the Fighting Irish have routinely put up 70 or more points, led by 21 points per game from forward Jason Houle.
AnnArbor.com pick: Detroit Community
District outlook: The good news for the Chelsea High School basketball team is that it doesn't have to play any more Class A schools the rest of the season. The bad news is that it may not be playing many more games, period.
The season has been a struggle to say the least for the Bulldogs under first-year coach Rourke Skelton. Chelsea lost its final eight games of the regular season including a one-point heartbreaker against the last team it beat (Adrian) on Feb. 21, and a 48-point morale-breaker in its regular season finale against Ypsilanti.
Not exactly the district tuneup Skelton and the boys were hoping for.
The Class B district at Napoleon High School has teams unfamiliar with each other as four counties and five conferences are represented, but the one team the Bulldogs have played (Columbia Central), beat the Bulldogs 76-60 on Feb. 12.
X-Factor: Chelsea has ability from beyond the 3-point line, especially Logan Brown. If the Bulldogs can get hot from distance, maybe they could go on an unlikely run.
AnnArbor.com pick: Lumen Christi.
District Outlook: Greenhills hasn’t won a district title since 2002. But a 17-1 regular-season record changes expectations.
“It’s kind of different because this is the first time I don’t feel like an underdog, so it’s more scary,” Greenhills coach Andrew Wright said.
Senior Andrew Khouri, who overcame a stress fracture in his lower back that kept him out four games, averaged 21.4 points per game in the regular season. With a solid cast around him, the Gryphons have a good chance of ending their district title drought.
But their road is anything but easy. After starting with a Whitmore Lake team that improved down the stretch, the Gryphons would play Arbor Prep, a team it beat Feb. 26.
On the other side of the bracket is Willow Run, which has won eight of 11 to finish the season, and a 16-2 Clinton team.
But for the first time since its opener, Greenhills got all 13 of its players healthy down the stretch.
“That’s a great feeling,” Wright said.
X-Factor: The Flyers are the defending champions of this district, and after a 1-8 start to the year finished strong and seem to be playing their best basketball of the year. And never underestimate a program that will cease to exist after it loses. The Flyers could be looking to go out with a bang.
AnnArbor.com pick: Greenhills.
District outlook: It's not looking good for Washtenaw County's representation in the Class D district at Washtenaw Christian High School.
Of the area's four teams in the district, Rudolf Steiner has proved the strongest all season long. Unfortunately for Steiner, it goes up against Livingston Christian in the opening round, a team it lost to twice during the regular season by 17- and 20-point margins
X-Factor: Rudolf Steiner played Livingston Christian fresh off of winter break the first time they played and coach Nick Sherwood said his team was at its best. It's hard to beat a team three times and if Livingston Christian gets caught looking past the Storm, Steiner may be able to pull off the first-round upset.
AnnArbor.com pick: Livingston Christian.
-- Pete Cunningham contributed to this article.