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Holiday Hoops 2009

Game Results

DeWitt (52) vs. St. Johns (61)
Owosso (42) vs. Flint Powers (66)
Eaton Rapids (31) vs. Brighton (56)
Hartland (52) vs. Forest Hills Central (50)
Holt (58) vs. Grand Ledge(54)
Pewamo-Westphalia (51) vs. Fowler (48)


2009 Holiday Hoops Basketball Program
(3.8 MB download, PDF)

Basketball Team Photos

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Cheer Squad Photos

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Dance Team Photos

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Action Photos of the Games

  • Game 1 - DeWitt vs. St. Johns
  • Game 2 - Owosso vs. Flint Powers
  • Game 3 - Eaton Rapids vs. Brighton
  • Game 4 - Hartland vs. Forest Hills Central
  • Game 5 - Holt vs. Grand Ledge
  • Game 6 - Pewamo-Westphalia vs. Fowler

  • Most Outstanding Player

  • Jon Horford - Grand Ledge

  • All Tournament Team

  • Andrew Lerg - DeWitt
  • Dan Horvath - St Johns
  • DeMarco Sanders - Flint Powers
  • Andrew Niesman - Owosso
  • Jackson Armstrong - Brighton
  • Alex Gauna - Eaton Rapids
  • Darrin Nesby - Forest Hills Central
  • Matt Poches - Hartland
  • Jon Horford - Grand Ledge
  • Cole Darling - Holt
  • Kody Schueller - Fowler
  • Tyler Schmitt - Pewamo-Westphalia

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    Read the news articles about this year's Holiday Hoops!

    Team Capsules

    By Stephen Bell
    Bankhoops.com and Blog.mlive.com/highschoolbasketball


    Physicality, thy name is DeWitt, a team for which four of the starters were members of the Panthers' 12-1 football squad which made the Division 3 semifinals just last month. In the pivot there is Paul Jorgensen, a senior and future Northwestern University lineman who checks in at 6-foot-7 -- and 280 pounds. Next to Jorgensen is another football star turned power forward, 6-4 senior Joel Stiffler. It doesn't get exactly get light and airy away from the hoops, as senior guard Andrew Lerg, though the one who didn't play football, is equally rugged on the perimeter.

    "With his size, Paul gives us rebounding and defense, and he can score in the post," said DeWitt coach Ron Marlan, now in his seventh season. "Stiffler's the kind of guy who will get 8 points, 8 rebounds and take a charge. He's our glue guy."

    Lerg, who can power to the hoop or shoot from deep, is DeWitt's main perimeter scorer. Ironically, given DeWitt's opponent in the Meijer Holiday Hoops Invitational, Lerg began his career at St. Johns and is a fourth-year varsity player. Junior guard Jordan Johnson is also a good shooter, while senior point guard Brandon Wegenke is the Panther's quickest player and defensive stopper."

    Other key members of the rotation for DeWitt, which was 14-7 in the 2008-09 season, are senior point guard Jeff Zamiara and 6-5 senior Jeff Miller.

    St. Johns

    St. Johns has been a cradle of coaches in Michigan High School basketball. It's the alma mater of Don Palmer, the long-time Milford coach now in the BCAM hall of fame. Keith Haske won seven league titles at St. Johns before going to Charlevoix, turning that Northern Michigan school into a state power at the Class C level. Now in coach Caleb Miller's fourth season, and coming off a 4-17 2008-09 campaign, hopefully for the Redwings some of that historic hoops karma can rub off on them. Still, those four wins were twice as many as in 2007-08, so maybe St. Johns is headed in the right direction.

    "We're hoping to get to .500," Miller said.

    St. Johns has some experience. 6-foot-6 Mitchell Jewell, 6-2 Ed Peters and guard Travis Scott are all seniors and returning starters. Junior Scott Besko, the leading scorer for the Redwing's JV team last season, joins the starting lineup at point guard.

    St. Johns has good size. In addition to Jewell, there's 6-6 senior Kyle Parker and Zach Salander and Dan Horvath, both 6-3 seniors.


    Owosso was 7-15 last year for veteran coach Dave Owens, but is poised to rebound, returning the top eight players in its rotation.

    "We have some depth and talent, and that's made for some very competitive practices," Owens said. "I'm excited about the potential of this group.

    The Trojans may have already found that winning edge. In their season opener, they beat Chesaning 51-50 on a free throw from Justin Carsten with two ticks on the clock. A 6-foot-3 senior, Carsten is one of Owosso's main offensive threats. He averaged 11 points a year ago, while 6-2 senior Joe Blanchett, a fourth-year varsity player, and 6-2 junior Andrew Nieman both scored 12 a game.

    "Joe is a ball-handler and scorer, he'll play both guard positions," Owens said. "Andrew is a good scorer. He can shoot the three, drive and score in the open court. Carsten is an undersized post. He plays bigger though because he can jump, get rebounds, block shots."

    The other returning starers are 6-3 senior Collin McCreery and junior guard Brian Dennis.

    "Right now, everyone is feeling out their role," Owens said. "If we can get everyone to play their role, we'll give teams trouble."

    Another point of emphasis for Owosso is foul shooting. The Trojans shot just 50 percent from the line in their season opening win against Cheaning, and if they want to stay in the game against an elite team like Powers they can't give away points like that.

    Flint Powers

    The last time Flint Powers played at the Breslin Center, this past March, the Chargers beat Zeeland East 62-54 in the Class B state championship game to conclude a 26-2 campaign. A new season, and it's like Powers hasn't gone anywhere, literally or figuratively. The Chargers are back at Michigan State, and still one of the elite teams in Michigan, regardless of class and despite graduating leading scorer Shane Moreland.

    The Chargers return two all-state Patricks, 6-foot-3 senior Patrick O'Brien and junior point guard Patrick Lucas-Perry. O'Brien is a do-it-all player who can play inside and outside, shoot and pass. That versatile game was on full display in Powers' 2009-10 season opener, when O'Brien had 25 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in an 83-64 win over Flint Northwestern. Lucas-Perry is a jet-quick pure point guard who came of age during last season's state title run.

    Powers' third returning starter is senior guard Demarco Sanders. He's adept at creating his own shot, and is also a quick and physical defender. 6-2 junior Pierre Brackett is a blue-collar athlete with improving skill who is poised for a breakout season.

    Eaton Rapids

    This is Eaton Rapids' second straight appearance at the Meijer Holiday Hoops Invitational. And for one of the Greyhounds, it won't be his last game at the Breslin Center. 6-foot-9 senior Alex Gauna has signed to play with Michigan State. In his first Holiday Hoops performance, he took over in overtime to lead Eaton Rapids to a 66-59 win over Grandville.

    "He's a Mr. Basketball candidate," second-year Eaton Rapids coach Adam Trumpour said. "I think he's the best post player in the state. He's 6-9, 230 pounds, but he can bring the ball up the court and score wtih range to the three-point line. The biggest knock on Alex has been he doesn't always play with a sense of urgency. Sometimes it's hard to go from the tip to the horn when you have that much ability, but he's going to do that this year."

    "He's probably the most underrated of the (Michigan State recruiting class) as far as a kid that really has a chance to do some things," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said when Gauna signed. "I think his best basketball is ahead of him."

    Eaton Rapids has not one but two talented Alexes in the lineup. But fans might not recognize 6-4 senior Alex Archambeau from a year ago. He's evolved from inconsequential to the kind of long, bouncy wing that college coaches covet.

    "He's 10 times the player he was," Trumpour said. "He wasn't an athlete before, but now he can play ever position, and does it on both ends of the floor."

    Despite the versatility of those two, the less they have to handle the ball, the better sign it is for the Greyhounds. Junior Travis Wells is an improving point guard, while senior Jonathan Morgan is the defensive stopper on the perimeter and junior Derrick Morris is also in the perimeter rotation.

    Eaton Rapids lost its season opener, to a talented Lansing Sexton team, 66-60.


    As the 10-year head man on White Lake Lakeland's bench, Bob Brugger coached against Brighton nine years of that decade in the Kensington Valley Conference. One of the most memorable wins of that tenure gave Lakeland a Class A district championship over Brighton, at Brighton, in 2002.

    Now, those Bulldogs are Brugger's. Lakeland, which rarely had much size or talent but more than once had teams come close to maximizing their ability, was 36-8 his last two seasons. Brighton, an athletic powerhouse across the board that some have called a sleeping giant in boys' basketball, could be that successful as well. Almost by default, the new coach inherits the most talented team of his career. So far, so good -- Brighton won both its opening week games.

    "I really believe this is one of the under-the-radar teams in the state, but I know we haven't done anything to deserve getting publicity yet (the Bulldogs were 8-13 last year)," Brugger said. "I think we're going to be good."

    He has the luxury two fourth-year seniors, forward Bryan Bollin and guard Jack Armstrong. Bollin, who in the summers played for one of Nike's flagship national travel programs, The Family, is 6-foot-6, 215 pounds and averaged 13.5 points per game as a junior. Armstrong scored 10.5 a game.

    Brugger sees first-hand why Bollin is a college prospect.

    "Bryan's very coachable, he's a sponge," Brugger said. "He's played more outside, but he's learning post moves. He can score inside and outside, and score off the drive. Armstrong (who is 5-11) is very quick and a good shooter. But he's got to be under control."

    After Bollin and Armstrong, the Bulldogs' next key player is 6-3 junior Nick Schroeder. He was their leading scorer against Grosse Pointe South.

    "He can play inside our outside depending on the matchup," Brugger said.

    Forest Hills Central

    The Rangers played in the Meijer Holiday Hoops Invitational six years ago, and have been consistently good for a long time. They are one of the premier programs in the Grand Rapids area as coach Ken George begins his 16th season. For the last decade, they've won an average of 17 games per season. In the past eight years alone, they five league, three district and three regional championships. But as luck would have it, Forest Hills Central returns to the Breslin Center with more question marks than it has had in years. The Rangers lost four senior starters from a year ago, including the school's all-time scoring leader, Derek Dennis. But he's not the only one who could put it in the hole -- Forest Hills Central graduated 90 percent of last year's points.

    But if you have a lone starter returning, it's nice when he's a senior point guard, and that's just what Forest Hills Central has in Kory Banner.

    "Our other kids who are back have played sparingly," George said. "We have to see if they can be the ones making the plays."

    Those most likely to be in the mix are senior guard Darrin Nesby and 6-3 senior Craig Cline. Three sophomores have also been called up to the varsity, including the highly regarded 6-5 Marquise Mondy.


    Like Forest Hills Central, Hartland isn't quite sure what to expect. The Eagles lost an eight-man strong senior contingent from last season, including point guard Vonn Jones who dominated the ball for the last two years. And Hartland coach Frank Leppek said his team is rebuilding. But whereas Forest Hills Central isn't yet sure who are the heirs to carry on that program's success, Hartland knows where's the ball is going. 6-foot-4 junior Matt Poches, who already has NCAA Division I scholarship offers, is an all-state guard in waiting. A third-year varsity player, Poches is coming back from an ankle injury. If he's approaching 100 percent, the Breslin Center fans are in for a treat.

    "Matt's such a high-intensity, competitive player," Leppek said. "He's a good driver, he's working on his shot and he really knows the game. He's become a very good ballplayer."

    Hartland's key players in the frontcourt are 6-5 senior Jake Webb and 6-7 senior Trever Braun. Junior Kevin Hughes is the point guard.

    "He's pretty quick and has good court awareness," Leppek said.

    Poches may have an understudy in guard Steven Milarch, a freshman already up on the Eagles' varsity.

    Grand Ledge

    It's no secret that Grand Ledge underachieved in the 2008-09 season. The Comets had two seniors now playing college ball and one of the state's elite big men in 6-foot-9 Jon Horford, but could only muster an 11-9 record.

    "The chemistry just didn't seem to be there," said Grand Ledge coach Tony Sweet, now in his 14th season.

    This team will belong to Horford, now a senior, the younger brother of Atlanta Hawks star Al Horford. At last year's Meijer Holiday Hoops Invitational, he had a breakout performance against Detroit Country Day's talented big men, in a losing cause.

    "We're still trying to figure out what we have, Jon's really the only one with experience, but this group gets along well and understands he needs the ball," Sweet said. "Jon has a good shot, he's working on his post moves and he's become a better post defender."

    Grand Ledge has good size to complement Horford. 6-foot-5 junior Jason Morrall is a good shooter, while 6-6 senior Nathan Fernandez has grown eight inches since being cut earlier in his high school days and will surprise people. The Comets have turned to a sophomore to handle the point guard duties, Jordan Loredo. He's joined in the backcourt by junior Dalton Reust.


    The Rams were 19-6 in 2008-09. Expectations for this season are such that a repeat of that mark would be considered a disappointment.

    "We're more talented than last year's team," Holt coach Matt Essel said. "All the pieces fit so well together, we could take a jump to the next level."

    Holt's star player is 6-foot-7 senior Cole Darling, who signed early with Wright State.

    "Cole averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds, so his numbers may not increase too much, but he's taken the next step and become a better player," Essel said. "He's more athletic and explosive."

    As good as Darling is, the player whose name has become synonymous with Holt basketball in recent years is senior point guard Donlunto Jackson.

    "Donlunto's a four-year starter who could leave here having more varsity wins than any other player," Essel said. "He's a good shooter and defender, very coachable and a great captain."

    While Darling and Jackson are the standouts, there are enough good role-players in place that the Rams can be considered a legitimate Class A state title contender. Senior Dominick Todd is the defensive stopper on the perimeter; 6-2 senior Nick Schmidt is an undersized post player; 6-2 senior Taylor Beauchnau is coming off a knee injury but will be relied on; Essel is high on 6-2 sophomore Jordan Herron; and senior Cameron Gibson is good ball-handling option.


    Fowler returns only two starters from 2008-09, when the Eagles went 13-10. They are 6-foot-4 senior Bryce Simon and senior guard Kody Schueller. He didn't start, but he played as a freshman, and not it looks like 6-foot-3 sophomore Corey Hungerford is ready to break out. He had 22 points and 10 rebounds in Fowler's second game, as the Eagles improved to 2-0 on the young season.

    "He can play everything from the 2 to the 5," third-year Fowler coach Paul Hungerford.

    Other key players for Fowler are junior guard Devon Feldspausch, senior swingman Zach Birchmeier and junior guard Jacob Dell.


    With three sophomores up on varsity and some key veterans injured and unable to practice, Pewamo-Westphalia doesn't look like a candidate to peak early. But with a 64-42 season-opening win over Ovid-Elsie, the Pirates may be ahead of schedule. Landon Spitzley had 21 points and 11 rebounds in that one. The 6-foot-2 junior guard could emerge as one of the top small-school players in Mid-Michigan.

    "Landon has super athleticism," Pewamo-Westphalia coach Luke Pohl. "I mean, super athleticism."

    When P-W gets its main interior threat, 6-4 senior Tyler Schmitt, back from its shoulder injury, it will have good balance with the perimeter contingent of Spitzley, senior Brad Winans and junior point guard Dominic Schneider. With Schmitt out, 6-3 sophomore Alton Schneider has stepped up in his stead.

    Game previews

    By Stephen Bell
    Bankhoops.com and Blog.mlive.com/highschoolbasketball

    11:00 a.m. – DeWitt vs. St. Johns

    On paper, this would appear to be a mismatch. DeWitt has a successful program and experienced players. Actually, St. Johns has experienced players as well, it's just that successful thing that has eluded it.

    "I like our team play thus far, we're ahead of where we've been the past couple seasons," St. Johns coach Caleb Miller said.

    "We'd like to get up-and-down, but with Paul (Jorgensen, DeWitt's 6-foot-7, 280-pound senior center), it might be hard," DeWitt coach Ron Marlan said. "But either way, we want to get high-percentage shots, running or in the half-court getting it inside to Paul. That will open up shots for Andrew Lerg and Jordan Johnson."

    12:30 p.m. – Owosso vs. Flint Powers

    Nine months ago, Flint Powers walked onto the Breslin Center court and proceeded to beat previously undefeated Zeeland East for the Class B state title. Owosso isn't Zeeland East. But it is a solid, veteran club.

    "We want teams to be tired when they're done playing us," Owosso coach Dave Owens said. "We want to get up and down the floor and not let the defense rest."

    On the other end, Owosso will pressure the ball. The problem for the Trojans is, Powers has junior point guard Patrick Lucas-Perry. He's more than willing to get up and down the floor, and unlikely to tire. Powers' one apparent weakness would be its interior play, as 6-foot-7 Rodney Anderson graduated, matriculating to Saginaw Valley State. And, though Owosso's starting lineup averages about 6-2, there's no one over 6-3. One of those, Justin Carsten, is the one most likely to play Powers' 6-3 all-stater, senior Patrick O'Brien, and that could be the key matchup because Carsten is good in his own right. Conversely, Powers' will have to keep two senior perimeter standouts, Joe Blanchett and Andrew Nieman, from getting going, although both would may have to get hot for there to be an upset.

    2:00 p.m. – Eaton Rapids vs. Brighton

    The lone future Spartan in the field, Eaton Rapids' 6-foot-9 senior Alex Gauna will obviously have the eye of many area fans. But he'll also have the attention of Brighton's defense, including 6-6 senior Bryan Bollin. He'll have help, though, as Brighton, though not strikingly tall, has good overall size on its roster. Maybe just as importantly, Bollin -- like Gauna, an inside-outside scorer -- will make the big man work on the other end of the court, as well.

    While Eaton Rapids has Gauna, a Mr. Basketball candidate, and another college prospect in 6-4 senior Alex Archambeau, the bigger school, Class A Brighton, has the superior depth.

    "We have 12 guys who can play, 12 athletes," Brighton coach Bob Brugger said. "There's a lot of versatility and depth We can press, we can go big, we can go small."

    Despite the star power in the pivot, there may not be too many offensive fireworks in this one. Brighton scored 47 points in its season opener with Grosse Pointe South ... and won. That pace wouldn't faze the Greyhounds.

    "We emphasize man-to-man defense," Eaton Rapids coach Adam Trumpour said. "We'll take opportunities to run with we can, but if a game is in the 50s we can play that way."

    4:00 p.m. – Forest Hills Central vs. Hartland

    The only difference between FHC and another Westside power, Rockford, is that Rockford's recent Division I star, Michael Redell, was a point guard, the kind of player who can lead a team to a high school championship and he did; while Forest Hills Central's big-time talent was a project big man, Kyle Visser, who didn't really catch his stride until he was a college senior at Wake Forest. If Forest Hills Central is able to get the personnel in place to carry it out, there are few surprises in how the Rangers want to play -- nose-in-your-shoulder, full-court defense, aesthetics-be-damned Class A basketball.

    "The past 10 years, when teams were done playing us, they were beat up, complaining about hand-checks and they knew they'd been through a war," Forest Hills Central coach Ken George said.

    The onus will be on Forest Hills Central's defense to slow down a more talented, though also unproven, Hartland team, featuring 6-foot-4 all-state junior guard Matt Poches.

    "We're going to try and get it up the floor," Harland coach Frank Leppek said. "If we play our small lineup, we have a bunch of quick kids."

    6:00 p.m. – Grand Ledge vs. Holt

    This meeting is between two members of the best league in Michigan, the CAAC-Blue. Holt is a top 10 team in Class A. Both teams have senior Mr. Basketball candidates, 6-foot-7 Cole Darling for Holt and Grand Ledge's 6-9 Jon Horford. Though Horford, with offers from the likes of Alabama, Florida, Michigan and Providence, is the a more highly regarded prospect, it's Darling, who signed early with Wright State, who may be the better actual player right now, because he does so much away from the ball, on both ends of the court, to help his team win.

    "We're really good defensively," Holt coach Matt Essel said. "Cole fixes a lot of mistakes in the middle. He, Donlunto Jackson and Dominick Todd are three of the best defenders I've ever coached. When you're best players are getting after it on defense, the others buy in."

    "Holt is there, and we want to get there," Grand Ledge coach Tony Sweet said.

    8:00 p.m. – Fowler vs. Pewamo-Westphalia

    For the second year in a row, this CMAC rivalry game is the nightcap of the Meijer Holiday Hoops Invitational. Fowler will try to close the gap, as last year it fell to Pewamo-Westphalia, 56-31.

    Despite being the Class D school, Fowler actually has a size advantage, particularly if Tyler Schmitt, the Pirates' 6-foot-4 senior, is still hampered by a shoulder injury. But regardless, Pewamo-Westphalia will have the most talented player on the floor, 6-2 junior Landon Spitzley.

    "We have good athleticism and like to run," Fowler coach Paul Hungerford said. "We need to improve when it slows down and becomes a halfcourt game, but we do have good overall size."