Blogs > Burney's Bytes

Burney's Bytes will focus primarily on the local preps sports scene, but will also touch on some college and pro athletics, mostly in regards to athletes who hail and have played high school sports in Oakland County. My goal for the blog is to be conversational and anecdotal, a more relaxed and free formal take on high school athletics than you see in regular game day coverage.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Burney's All-County Girls BBall Team

All County Girls Basketball
First Team
G          Lyndsay Booker           North Farmington (sr)
            Consummate floor general
G          Gabby Yurik                 Stoney Creek (soph)
            High-scoring and clutch as can be
F          Lauren Robak             Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (jr)
            Pound-for-pound the best player in the entire Metro Detroit area
F          Jenna Bachrouche       North Farmington (sr)
            The perfect inside-outside combo
C          Madison Williams        DCD (sr)        
            Most dominant post player in the area over the last decade
2nd Team
G          Desyree Thomas         Waterford Mott (sr)
G          Troy Hambric              DCD (sr)                     
F          Kelsey Masserant        Novi (sr)
F          Sinclair Russell             Troy Athens (soph)
C          Caroline Johnson         Novi (sr)
3rd Team
G          Aerial Powers              DCD (soph)
G          Jasmine Harris            North Farmington (soph)
F          Stephanie Locke          Lakeland (jr)
F          Ava & Alexis Doetch   WOLL (fr/sr)
C          Amber McCann           Southfield-Lathrup (jr)
MVP – Lauren Robak  WOLL
MIP – Jasmine Harris  NFarmington
Coach of the Year – Steve Robak (WOLL)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Not So Fast

A little personal anecdote with some Oakland County-flavor about why you can never count a team out even when they're up against it the most – alas Michigan State's hoop squad  following losing Kalin Lucas.
The Set-Up:
Saginaw's very own, Draymond Green has been a masterful presence on the court and in the lockeroom for the MSU Spartans these past two tourney runs into the NCAA Final Four. Without Green's contribution and big time playmaking, Team Sparty would have probably wilted under the prospect of playing without their all-Big Ten floor-general, Kalin Lucas, down with a torn achilles since the first half of the team's second round win over Maryland. Green has been compared to Mateen Cleaves in the shape of a 240 pound, 6-7 beefy forward. I think that's an accurate comparison. They both have the hearts of a lion and the "x-factor/clutch-play" intangible that separates the special players from your just run of the mill good players.
Now, If you ever had the pleasure of seeing Green play his prep ball with the back-to-back Class A state champ Saginaw HS Trojans in 2007 and 2008, you shouldn't be surprised at what he's been able to do since joining Team Sparty two years ago. That goes two-fold for the Clarkston Wolves. Head coach Dan Fife and the Wolfpack had their hearts literally ripped from their bodies when they lost to Green's Trojans in the '08 Elite Eight. Just like a few weeks back when many around here were writing the Spartans' Final Four chances off due to Lucas' departure from the line-up, the Saginaw fans were starting to head to the turnstiles with when C-Town had a five point lead and forced a turnover to take possession of the ball with under 90 seconds remaining in OT. Many thought the game was over and Fife's Wolves were heading to the Final Four for the first time since the Tim McCormick-era. Those people didn't know what a true winner Draymond "The Dancing Bear" Green really was. They soon found out.
The Breakdown – aka… Burney himself plays into this story (very marginally mind you) and how that 08 quarterfinal showdown concluded.
Okay, so here's my own personal "its not over till its over" anecdote I promised at the beginning of this blog entry.
I was covering the Country Day-Powers Class B quarterfinal that night two years ago in North Branch when that game was taking place. In the lockeroom with the victorious Chargers, who upset the defending state champion, Yellowjackets, word began to spread that Clarkston was about to pull the upset. By the time, I made it to the media room, people were saying C-Town was going to win. I made it back to the OP HQ an hour later and asked what happened and to my great surprise, I was informed Saginaw had comeback to beat C-Town in double overtime. I was shocked. However, thinking back, I shouldn't have been because I knew what a super baller Green was. He willed the Trojans to victory. His free throw in the final seconds of the first OT forced the second OT and his slam dunk to start the second OT helped spark a 13-4 game ending run by Tha Sagnasty to garner the almost improbable contest-winning rally. Green finished the night with 14 points and 18 rebounds.
All that said, don't be surprised to see "The Dancing Bear" lead the Spartans to the National Title when the tourney's over next Monday night. And if he does, I'm sure Dan Fife will be watching somewhere smiling, knowing that Green had to first run through the gauntlet that was his own nails-tough Wolfpack to make it to the promise land he finds himself immersed in right now.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Team Sparty

With Michigan State dancing its way into the NCAA Final Four this past weekend with a narrow win over the Big Orange Vols in the Elite Eight, I thought I would look back on the best prep hoopsters from the county in the last 20 years that headed off to East Lansing and did some damage with the Spartans on the college level. 
My Starting Line-Up
Kalin Lucas (OL St. Mary's) – Outstanding lead guard with the Eaglets in the mid-2000s. Lucas was named Class A all-state as both a junior (26 ppg) and senior (23 ppg), before going to the EL and tearing it up in the Big Ten. Last season as a sophomore, he was named Big Ten conference MVP and led the Sparties into the NCAA championship game. This year it was more of the same before getting hurt in the Tourney against Maryland.
Mat Ishbia (Birmingham Seaholm) – The definition of the words gritty and determined both in high school with the Maples and in college when he walked-on at MSU and made it to three final fours as a player and one as an assistant coach. Ishbia was the county's second leading scorer as a senior at Seaholm in 1998, averaging 24.5 ppg. As a junior, he helped lead the Maples to both conference and district championships.
Mike Chappell (Southfield-Lathrup) – One of the best players to come out of the OC in the 1990s. Chappell was a high-flying and high-scoring wingman with the Chargers before becoming primarily a 3-point specialist in the college ranks. After leading Lathrup on a miracle run through the 1996 state tournament which ended in a loss to Saginaw in the state championship game, he started his college career at Duke (leading the team in 3-point shooting his freshman year), prior to joining the Spartans in 1999 and being a major cog in a national championship in 2000 and a run back into the Final Four as a senior in 2001.
Dwayne Stephens (Ferndale) – A legend in the pantheon of Ferndale hoop greats and the best player at the school throughout the entire decade of the 1980s. Led the Eagles on numerous deep runs into the state tournament and was a two-time all-state selection ('88, '89). As a Spartan, he flourished early, earning playing time right away and scoring the game-winning bucket in the team's Big Ten championship-clinching win over Purdue on the last game of the regular season in 1990. As a junior in 1992, he was named the team's MVP, averging 10 points and 6 boards per game. Following his playing days, Stephens has become a coach, first as an assistant at Oakland University, then Marquette (where he went to a Final Four on Tom Crean's bench in 2003), and finally the past seven years under Tom Izzo in Spartyland.
Paul Davis (Rochester) – Very dominant high school player with some very average Falcons teams in the early-portion of the last decade. Davis won the ever-coveted Mr. Basketball Award his senior year in 2002. Went to East Lansing and started for most of his career for the Spartans. He helped lead MSU to the Final Four in 2005, in a tournament where he took home top rebounding honors for the entire affair. Drafted in the early-second round by the L.A. Clippers in 2006 and has also played on the Washington Wizards, before being cut in late-2009.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Diamond Dreaming

As much as Burney loves the high school hoops season, he also loves baseball and softball season in the spring. On that note, while I was overly-enjoying myself this weekend in my own personal cager nirvana at the BBall state championships at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, I sometime found myself day dreaming of the upcoming spring sports calender that is about to go into full swing over the next few weeks.
Here's a sample of some of the things I was day dreaming about in between games:
The outstanding hitting attacks of several top-echelon boys baseball teams in the county this year and the outstanding pitching rotations of several top flight girls softball squads.
RH Adams ead coach Chuck Van Robays and his super slugging bunch of Highlanders led by one of the area's top home run hitters in senior first baseman Nick Druzinski. (If Van Robay's team can find a consistent mound presence to replace all-state hurler, Andrew Wasack (MSU), they will have a very good shot to make a run into the Final Four in Cereal City, a place their skipper is quite familiar with since he went there as a player with Adams as both a junior and a senior back in te mid-90s)
Debating back-and-fourth to myslef in my head about whether DCD's Kevin Conway is going to be just as good or better than his big brother Matt Conway (Wake Forest), an all-state pitcher and first basemen at Brother Rice the past two years
Lakeland's Carlee Meek completing her unbeliably prolific prep career with a softball state championship in June
Speaking of "Coach Joe's" Eagles, the Krazy K Konnection of juniors Kelsey Cleary and Kelsey Johnson, are just too good, whether it be with the stick or in the field with their 'D'. Cleary is the best lead-off hitter in the area!
Troy Athens Jake Duzey blasting monster home runs
Senior Bobby Pardun's savvy and leadership for head coach Frank De Vito and the Troy Colts
Standout softballer Taylor Hassleback tcatching a number of gem outings from teammate Sara Altene and throwing out scores of runners from behind the plate for the C-Town Wolves
Junior hurler Nick Bradley giving quality outing after quality outing once again fthis season on the mound for the Rochester Falcons  

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Observations From Breslin

As my mind wanders during this championship Friday at the Breslin Center on the campus of MSU:
The word that best describes Ann Arbor Huron's full-court zone press, DESTRUCTIVE. Wow, do the River Rats run North Farmington head coach Todd Negoshian's defensive scheme to perfection. A couple more adjectives to describe Huron's defensive effort in its 76-64 win against Southfield in a Class A semi-final: menacing, stifling, frenetic, fast-paced, overwhelmingly-frustrating (just ask Carlton Brundidge and Pee Wee Barnes), havoc-causing, and most importantly MAD EFFECTIVE.
It's an outright travesty of epic proportions that DCD's Ray McCallum finished fourth in the voting for the state's 2010 Mr. Basketball Award. REALLY? Ray McCallum is the fourth best player in the state? There couldn't be a more absurd statement made in any sports or non-sports related vote this year than the one that sent this kid's dream of equaling his dad's accomplishment (Ray, Sr. won the award as a prepster in Indiana back in the late-70's)  crashing to the ground. Whoever voted in that poll should be ashamed of themselves. Oh, yeah, and just to shove it in their face, I personally guarantee that "Big Play" Ray is going to lead the Yellowjackets to the state title on Saturday night. He scored 22 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and dished out six dimes in his team's outright 72-47 stomping of Musekgon Heights in the semi's on Friday, including 10 in the pivotal third quarter which saw the 'Jackets run away with the game.  THERE IS NO DOUBT IN MY MIND (and this is with great admiration, respect, and love for Keith Appling's game) THAT RAY MCCALLUM, JR IS THE BEST PLAYER IN THE STATE BAR NONE!
I commend Southfield for its ability to withstand the onslaught that was that vicious AA Huron trapping 'D' and keep battling through the aggravation to cut its once 22 point deficit to just six with less than 2 minutes to play.
What about the play of DCD reserve guard Adam Zavadil on Friday? Since recently breaking into the playing rotation after starting the season on JV, Zavadil, a junior, has been giving solid contributions off the bench for coach Keener whenever he's been called upon to do so. And in the Final Four against Muskegon Heights, it was no different. Zavadil netted a season-high 8 points and played with passion, energy, and aggressiveness every time he made it on the floor. 
STAT OF THE DAY – The Keener Kage Krew….er…..the Birmingham Detroit Country Day Yellowjackets have won their seven state tournament games by an average of 26.5 points per game.
No disrespect to Kalamazoo Central's all-state wingman, Devin Oliver (Dayton), but I personally like his teammate, T.J. Buchanan better as an all-around ball player. Oliver scored 17 points and grabbed 10 boards in his squad's 68-49 drubbing of Detroit Denby in the other Class A semi, but I swear it could have been the quietest double-double in a big time game I have ever witnessed. Buchanan put up a game-high 24 points, to go along with six rebounds, and four assists.
DCD big fellas, Amir "The Big Dandy" Williams continued getting his mad hoop on through the state tourney in his team's beat down of Muskegon Heights on Friday by collecting another double-double (this guy stacks double-doubles like their cheeseburgers and his name is former Kansas head football coach Mark Mangino) of 11 points and 16 rebounds. He also added 6 blocked shots to go with his highly-proficient outing and once again displayed the type of aptitude in his game that has college recruiters from across the nation salivating at the thought of bringing him onto their respective campuses in the fall of 2011.

Friday, March 26, 2010

OC Represent

It was nice to see a little Oakland County and Metro Detroit flavor in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen on Thursday night. Four players with local ties – two of them who played in THA OC in recent times – did the region proud with their performances under the spotlight on national television. Not that it needs to be said, but the presence of this quad of top-notch local athletes getting serious court time on the biggest of stage in college bball, tells you all you need to know about the consistent level of quality of hoops being played in Southeast Michigan. We sometimes take it for granted because we see this type of talent before our eyes every game, season-in and season-out, yet make no mistake this area is the definition of a "HOTBED of HOOP ACTIVITY."
Mark Coury and Da'Shonte Riley, both of Birmingham Detroit Country Day, saw some critical clockage in their teams respective Sweet Sixteen Games. Coury, a senior forward at Cornell, who played his first two seasons of college ball at Kentucky and Colgate, respectively, grabbed two rebounds in the Big Red's loss to his former team, the Kentucky Wildcats. Riley, a freshman center at number one seeded-Syracuse, collected two rebounds and two assists in the Orangemen's loss to Butler. Riley, a member of the Yellowjackets state championship team in 2007, has seen spot minutes for head coach Jim Boheim. His best game of the year just happened to be against our hometown Oakland University Golden Grizzlies back in December when he scored four points and hauled down 3 rebounds in a Big Orange beatdown of the Summit Conference champ.
Standout Oak Park senior guard Jalen Crawford's big brother Jordan Crawford was repping  'The D' to the fullest this whole year with the X-Men of Xavier. After scoring 10 ppg at Indiana as a freshman back in 2008, Crawford came to the 'Natti and onto the Musketeers' roster with unbridled passion and precision in his game this year, scoring 20 points, grabbing five boards, and dishing 3 dimes a game. In the NCAA Tourney, Crawford, who played at Detroit CMA and whose other older brother, Joe (state title at Detroit Ren), played at Kentucky, averaged 29 point per outing. He dropped 32 on Thursday night, hitting a number of huge shots on an array of highlight-worthy moves, in his team's double OT loss to Kansas State. Crawford's teammate, Brad Reford, a sophomore sniper from Frankenmuth, banged home a pair of trifectas in the Musketeers defeat.  Guess who was Crawford's asst coach back in his days as a Hoosier at IU? answer - none other than UofD-Mercy head coach Ray McCallum, Sr. Jalen can play some ball too now, don't forget. The youngest of the Crawford boys, averaged 22 ppg this season for Oak Park and is currently getting looks from a number of college programs.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Great Burnzini - The Final Four

Class A
Southfield v AA Huron - 1 pm Breslin Center
This one is going to be a classic! Both squads are hungry, hella-talented and ultra-aggressive, and I would be shocked if this game didn't go down to the final shot. Carlton Brundidge and Pee Wee Barnes will be Carlton Brundidge and Pee Wee Barnes, but the difference in this one will be the Blue Jays frontcourt of juniors, Patrick Onwenu, Jaylon Floyd and Landan Atterberry. These guys will be to active and athletic for the River Rats to handle. Don't forget about seldom-used reserve center, David Dawson, who came out of the team's Elite Eight win over Warren De La Salle with 10 points and six rebounds and could be a force to be reckoned with on Friday afternoon. "The Money Man" Pat...aka "Mucho Dinero"  ]Onwenu puts back a Brundidge miss in the lane with under 5 secs left to win this one for Southfield.
Southfield 67, AA Huron 65
Class B
DCD v. Muskegon Heights - 6 pm Breslin Center
Amir Williams, the Yellowjacket's mammoth post presence will dominate the paint and that will open things up for Ray McCallum, Lee Bailey, and Mahesh "The Rifleman" Umansekar on the outside. Muskegon Heights couldn't have picked a worse time to playing with less than a fully-loaded arsenal - all-state center, Julian Plummer has been hampered with an ankle injury the past two games. DCD's "Big Dandy" aka "Big Deal" er......Williams will exploit this weakness in the Tigers attack. This is not to say that Muskegon Heights wont test the ' Kage Krew on Friday. Jamil Thornton, Dante Williams and Deontay Hudson will alll pick up the slack for Plummer, who will suit up, but it won't be enough. "The Riflemen" nails another 4 triples, Williams goes for 20/20, and Keener and Country Day is on their way to playing for the prorgam's 8th state championship.
DCD 76, Muskegon Heights 67 

Dropping Knowledge

Here are a few things that all you OC hoop heads should know about the pair of non-area opponents – Ann Arbor Huron and Muskegon Heights – waiting for local squads, Southfield and Birmingham Detroit Country Day, in the MHSAA Final Four this Friday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Ann Arbor Huron (set to face Southfield at 1:00 in a Class A semi-final)
·         Took out North Farmington handily in the regional semi-final at Hartland.
·         Runs same defensive sets as head coach Tom Negoshian and the North Farmington Raiders – Negoshian taught Huron head coach Waleed Samaha how to install and teach the defense at Samaha's request back in 2007.
·         Samaha and the River Rats overcame a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter to eventually go on to defeat Maurice "Pookie" Jones (USC) and Saginaw Arthur Hill 63-53 in the quarterfinals.
·         Huron is 22-4 and led by guard A.J. Mathew, who scored 17 points in the Elite Eight, Kyle Baker, who grabbed the game-securing rebound and subsequent game-clinching free throws, and Dante Williams, who netted 14 points in the historic River Rats victory. 
Muskegon Heights (set to face DCD at 6:00 in a Class B semi-final)
·         Picked up an exhilarating OT win in the quarters again Petoskey on Deontea Hudson's buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
·         Muskegon Heights is 21-4 and coached by Keith Guy.
·         The Tigers beat fellow Class B Final Four participant Lansing Sexton earlier in the season.
·         Julian Plummer, the Tigers best player and a recent 1st team all-state selection, suffered a sprained ankle in the regionals and was limited to just 8 points in the Elite Eight.
·         Besides Plummer, a big fella with style and grace, Muskegon Heights gets big time contributions from Hudson and Jamil Thornton.
·         The last time Muskegon Heights won a state championship was in 1979 and the last time the Tigers were in the Final Four was 2005.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Road To The Final Four

Just as Burney himself predicted just two days ago on this very blog, the boys hoop squads at both Birmingham Detroit Country Day and Southfield punched their tickets to the MHSAA Final Four on Tuesday night with relatively-comfortable wins in their respective state quarterfinal match-ups. Are we at all surprised that the Great Burnzini picked these games correctly? I didn't think so!
ATTENTION CITY OF BRIGHTON: Please don't be alarmed by those loud reverberations you heard banging throughout the sky during the night, it's was just the aftershock tremors from the pair of rim-rattling dunks (among a few others) thrown down by DCD's Ray McCallum and Amir Williams at the local high school, in the Yellowjackets runway victory in the Class B Elite Eight.
Captain Amazing To The Rescue Again
With Southfield haven given up its second half lead and tied with Warren De La Salle in the 4th quarter of a Class A quarterfinal game, the Bluejays looked to none other than their...favorite comic book super star player, Carlton "Captain Amazing" Brundidge.
Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's……CAPTAIN AMAZING. Brundidge scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half and Southfield made its way to the school's first Final Four since 1982.
And don't get me started on Captain Amazing's running mate, my boy, Pee Wee Barnes. CAN U SAY BEST BACKCOURT IN THE STATE! CAN U SAY TOP 5 BACKCOURTS IN THE ENTIRE MIDWEST! Barnes played his typical "James Worthy" role to CB's "Magic" on Tuesday in the Jays' 67-57 defeat of De La Salle. His buzzer-beating jumper to conclude the third quarter gave the 'Jays momentum for the stretch run. After Brundidge drained a free throw break a 47-47 tie in the early fourth quarter, he knocked down a 3-pointer to give Southfield a two-possession advantage it would not give back the rest of the way. My boy, Pee Wee is playing he's way right up the latter from small time D1 to mid-major D1 and rising. Prediction, if Pee Wee keeps his ballhawking ways up, he could find himself in a Big Ten uniform come the fall of 2011.
The Mad Bomber       
My main Yellowjackets homeboy and master marksman, Mahesh Umansekar, got nice on Tuesday night in his teams "Get Back" win over nasty nemesis, Flint Powers, by busting off four crucial 3-balls in the second half, as Country Day sprinted away for a 63-47 win. That's funny because I recall writing something about guaranteeing Umansekar banging home at least four triples in a DCD victory on a blog the other day. So on that note, let me shout out to my homeboy Mahesh for getting my back and getting crazy busy from the outside on Tuesday. Furthermore, let me bestow on Mahesh his brand new nickname. From here on out, Mahesh Umansekar will be known simply as "The Riflemen", cause this kid can shoot the lights out from anywhere on the court, anytime you leave him open. THAT'S A FACT,JACK!!!
Let's get back to my other two primetime razzle-dazzle 'Jacket homeboys, Ray McCallum and Amir Williams, to finish this blog entry off. McCallum scored 17 points in the second half of his team's win, on his way to a game-high 24 points, while Williams got loose for an eye-popping double-double of 18 points and 17 rebounds. Wow! And you wonder why I call this kid, "The Dandy"! CAN U SAY BEST INSIDE-OUTSIDE TANDEM IN THE NATION RIGHT NOW!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ryan's Hope

Stoney Creek High School doesn't have a rich prep hoops tradition because of the fact that it's only had a varsity basketball team for less than a decade. The crown jewel of the Cougars limited hoop heritage is Ryan Nelson, arguably the best boys player to ever suit up for the Stoney Creek cage program.
Nelson is doing the county mad proud out in the land of the Georgia Peaches down south at Valdosta State, finishing off his college playing career this month as a senior guard for the blistering-hot Blazers in the DII NCAA Tourney, aka "The Little Dance."
Currently ranked number four in the nation, Valdosta State (27-4) will face off with number two-ranked Indiana (PA) in the Elite Eight in Springfield, Massachusetts on Wednesday night. To say Nelson, a two year captain, has been a major reason why the Blazers won their conference title and have accumulated the second most wins in school history this season would be a vast understatement. In the tournament's Round of 32, Nelson scored eight points, grabbed seven rebounds, and blocked four shots in V-State's 72-60 defeat of number one in the nation and pre-tourney favorite, Arkansas Tech. Last weekend in the Sweet Sixteen, he scored eight points and handed out six assists in a victory over Rollins. This kid is the glue that keeps the Blazers together and well.....blazing!
A 2006 grad of Stoney Creek, where he was four year varsity performer and a two-time OAA Blue Division MVP, Nelson started his college playing days at D3 Kennesaw State and then spent time at the University of Arkansas-Monticello before finally finding a home with the Blazernation down in Georgia. As a senior prepster with the Cougars, he averaged 16 points and 14 rebounds per game, while leaving the school as its all-time leading scorer, rebounder, and assist man.
Ryan would have been proud of his Cougars this season, as the squad put together a more than respectable 17-4 season before bowing to a streaking-Lake Orion squad in upset fashion in the first round of the MHSAA state tournament.
Here's to hoping that my main homeboy Ryan, brings home that national title for V-State, and comes by the Oakpress offices on his summer break to show off his new "bling bling" championship ring.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Great Burnzini - Quarterfinals Picks

Class A
Southfield (20-5) v. Warren De La Salle (21-4) at UofD-Mercy Tuesday night – This game will come down a few deciding factors that play to Southfield's advantage, the most important of which is the simple fact that the Bluejays have Carlton Brundidge and Pee Wee Barnes and the Pilots don't. Southfield's speed and athleticism will prevail in the end although I'm quite certain this game will be no walk in the park for the promising and potent young 'Jays. De La Salle head coach Greg Esler is a master tactician and he'll have his squad ready to match blows with Brundidge, Barnes and co. come Tuesday at Calihan Hall. Senior guard Trey Ware knocks down the game-winning 'J' from just above the foul line on a kick-out from Captain Amazing….er…Brundidge in OT and Southfield makes its way into the Class Final Four for the first time since the Mike McCaskill and Ralph Walker-era in the early-80s
Southfield 77, De La Salle 73 OT
Class B
Birmingham Detroit Country Day (23-2) v. Flint Powers (22-3) at Brighton Tuesday – The third time will be the charm for the Keener Kage Krew this season as the Ray McCallum-led Country Day Yellowjackets will slip past Powers and into the program's first Final Four in three years. "Big Play Ray" is too good to let the 'Jackets lose this year and he won't let Powers end his school's season for the third year in a row. It's not going to be easy to bump off the defending state champs, so Keener and Country Day will need some timely performances from one or two of its role players in order to come out of Tuesday night victorious. No problem, says junior marksman Mahesh Umansekar, who will drill at least four trifectas in the 'Jackets win. Oh, and one more thing, McCallum and junior big fellas, Amir "The Big Dandy" Williams, will both register at least double-doubles in the highly-anticipated showdown.
DCD 72, Flint Powers 65

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Robak Redemption

One of the coolest and probably most-overlooked parts – at least to the outside public – of Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes Class D girls basketball state championship was the redemption starters Lauren & Lexie Robak were able to get for their family's………coaching staff's past tourney heartbreaks. And there were quite a few.  
Here's a little Robak Family Hoops History for those of you that don't already know the 411 on Waterford's first family of the hardwood:
First a character key to keep up with this confusing Robak lineage:
Steve Robak – dad
Lauren Robak – daughter
Lexie Robak – daughter
Paul Robak – brother
Sue Ann Robak – sister
Theresa – sister
Patti – sister
Lakers 3rd year head coach Steve Robak, who people tell me is 43, but I swear this dude doesn't look a day older than 33, was quite a player in his day for WOLL and his undefeated senior season in 1985 ruined by Detroit Country Day in the district finals. Steve made all-state as hot shooting guard that year and kicked off what has been a 20 year plus run over Robak family hoop prowess at the school.
That brings us to Sue Ann, a 1991 grad of WOLL who went on to star at Aquinas College and is her big brother's assistant. As a sophomore during the 1989 season, she played on a Lakers hoop team with her two sisters, Patti (then a senior) and Theresa (a freshman), that made it all the way to the Class D Final Four before suffering a devastating overtime loss to Portland St. Patricks in the semi-finals. Up a point with less than 10 seconds on the clock, a St. Pat's player threw up a prayer from almost underneath the basket that propelled them to the win. Theresa made it to the free throw line for a 1-and-1 opportunity with 3 seconds remaining but couldn't convert. Both Theresa and Patti went onto play college ball, with Theresa ending up at Lake Superior State (where he brother Steve also played some ball) and Patti starring at Oakland University.
Finally, there's my main homeboy, Paul, the family's baby bro and a mean competitor on the floor in his own right. Paul is my main homeboy because we played against each other in high school back in the mid-90s and had two classic match-ups on the court (one in which he sank a 40-foot buzzer beater to upend my team in the season opener my sophomore year, and the second in which my squad got revenge the next year by holding him in check and beating him and the Lake Show in the Pontiac NDP Christmas Tournament semi-finals) and because he was such a super hooper primetime party shooter as a prepster…AKA ALL STATE his JUNIOR & SENIOR seasons. His junior season was the centerpiece of his brilliant career as a ultra-hot shooting Paul and the Lakers made a magical run all the way into the Final Four in 1993. Unfortunately, in the semi-finals Paul went a bit cold and WOLL lost. In the end it was all good though as he went onto have a stellar playing career at the next level playing for legendary coach Garth Pleasant and Rochester College in the late-90s.
So to conclude, Burney thinks it's pretty awesome that Lauren (19 points, 9 boards in the state final) and Lexie (10 points in the state final) got their bloodline's back and brought home (LITERALLY) the SHIP in an overall testament to Robak hoop supremacy. Could we be in for back-to-back titles this time next season? Burney feels it's a distinct possibility and will even go out on a limb right now and say its gonna happen!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bonus Bytes - Stonebreakers

PUT IT IN STONE – Burney's sources are telling him that it's a lock, Birmingham Detroit Country Day All-American point guard, Ray McCallum, Jr., one of the country's most highly-touted prep floor generals, will be singing his National Letter of Intent with the University of Detroit-Mercy come next month. Here's to hoping "Big Play Ray" helps his papa (UofD head coach, Ray McCallum, Sr.) resurrect the Titans hoops program in the very near future. REMEMBER, YOU HEARD IT HEAR FIRST!
In some other local recruiting news, it looks like DCD's junior QB Josh Harris is about to get his first D1 offer from new head coach Dan Enos and Central Michigan. Speaking of the Chips and area football talent, on the heels of an offer from Toledo, Southfield's junior sparkplug running back Dae'von Robinson also recently got an offer from Enos and his staff.
Who's a better softball hurler, Lakeland's sparkling senior ace, Carlee Meek or Troy's terrific twirler, senior Jordan Wheatley? TOUGHEST QUESTION EVER!
Crazy-large shout outs to my former BH Andover Baron homeboy Joe Prepolec, who in his sophomore year at Kalamazoo College playing for the Hornets hoop squad, just got named to the All-Conference team. Way to go, Prep! Let us not forget with the dawning of the recent spring weather and thoughts of warn nights down at the COPA this upcoming summer creeping into of all of our minds, that Big Prep was also a stellar fire-throwing relief pitcher for the Barons diamond cutters back in his day.
It's pretty obvious by now that DCD's Madison "The Big Classy" Williams has a thing about playing under the white hot spotlight…..a thing as in GOES BONKERS IN EVERY BIG GAME SHE PLAYS IN. Williams followed up her sixth triple-double of the season in the Yellowjackets defeat of Marine City in the Class B quarterfinals, with her seventh of the campaign (12 points, 11 boards, 10 blocks) in Country Day's 71-31 decimation of Kingsford in the state semi-finals. Oh yeah, she had a triple-double in the state finals last season too.
The Lady Jackets might be the ones that have the girl named, "The Big Classy", but I think it's fair to say that Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes junior juggernaut of a scoring machine, Lauren Robak, is the classiest, single most-humble superstar I have ever watched play. Robak is the consummate professional both on and off the court.
On the subject of the Lakers and awesome bball players named Robak, I've decided to give my main homegirls, WOLL's pair of fantastic freshman, "The Twin Terrors" of Lexie Robak and Ava Doetch both individual nicknames. First, because both have earned a super nickname with their knockout plays this whole season, especially in the team's most recent run into the Class D state championship game. Okay, so Lexie, is now going to be known as "The Rainmaker", because believe me this young lady can make it rain from downtown. She might actually already be a better 3-point shooter than her All-State big sis. And finally, Ava, is "Lady Gaga,", because the young Ms. Doetch is the ultimate "Lady" off and on the court and her play makes you go "GAGA.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fab Frosh

Some 18 years ago the University of Michigan's much-ballyhooed Fab Five – five young and hip all-american bball players that took the Wolverines to the NCAA title game as a freshman starting five back in 1992 – hit the local sports scene and instantly became a national phenomenon.
Fast forward almost two decades later and Oakland County has its own Fab Five at Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes. The Lady Lakers hoop squad, on the verge of a Class D state championship after a 54-33 demolishing of Ontonagon in the semi-finals on Thursday night, has five formidable freshmen in its playing rotation. And trust me, these girls play at a level way beyond their young age.
First, there's the frontline: WOLL's "Tantalizing Twin Terrors" of Ava Doetch and Lexie Robak, who both start for the 21-5 Lake Show. Doetch, an inside-outside threat and ace defensive stopper, registered a double-double in the Thursday's semi-final win, scoring 13 points and corralling 10 rebounds. She also completely shut down the Gladiators all-state "point forward" Janele Linna, not letting her make a single field goal and holding her to a mere one point on the night. What was interesting about that match-up was that Doetch is just 15 years old and had never played on the big stage before and Linna was leading Ontonagon into its second straight Final Four.
Robak, an expert marksman from long distance range, scored 7 points and dished four assists, in the victory. Often overshadowed this year by her big sis, Lauren (30 points in the semi's), Lexie is a no-nonsense player in her own right who is as tough as nails on the court and has the potential to equal her older siblings accomplishments when it's all said and done. In the Catholic League Finals back in late-February, Lexie scored 13 points, dished five assists, and grabbed five rebounds in the Lakers win over arch-rival MC Cardinal Mooney.
And please, let us not forget the squad's other three talented frosh, Jessica Parry, Hailey Howell, and Kaleigh Meloni. These girls all get spot duty for WOLL in key reserve roles and do all the little things when they're in there that don't always make it into the stat sheet. All three will be names you will be reading quite a lot of about in the future, that I assure you.
Ava's big sis, Alexis, is also a starter on the team. The only senior on the squad, Alexis holds it down for the Lakers in the paint and is the team's vocal leader on the floor. She scored 4 points and hauled down 10 boards in the semi-finals. A three year starter, Alexis was thrilled to welcome her younger sister into the fold.
"I was waiting three years for a chance to get to play with my sister and Lexie Robak, who's like a little sister to me, and it's been an unbelievable experience,", she said in the press conference following the game. "They both bring so many attributes to the table on the basketball floor, how could I have not been excited? I think tonight each showed what they can do and that they can play against anyone, no matter what age."
The younger Doetch and Robak have being playing basketball together for almost as long as they can remember, so it's only natural that they would both play so well together on the court this season.
"We've played together since the third grade and we know each other's games inside and out," said Ava."Both Lexie and myself have been playing against older girls our whole lives, so coming onto varsity and playing with Lauren and Alexis, who we've both been playing with forever, was really an easy transition for everybody"
"The chemistry has been there from the start with us (the two pairs of sisters) and it flows over onto the team," added Lexie. "Neither Ava or I are afraid out there. We play like we've been there before even though we haven't.  It's important for us to get this next win for Alexis. She's our leader and she deserves to go out with a state championship."
Now that they've gotten a taste of a deep tournament run, the "twin terrors" are hungry for more.
"This has been an amazing couple of weeks and I don't want it to end," Ava said. "I think whatever happens, this whole experience is going to stay with us for the next three years after this. Hopefully, we can get back here a couple more times and do it all over again."
"I Know that's what I intend to do," Lexie remarked in response to her teammates comments.
"Me Too!" said Ava. And with that the "Twin Terrors" went into the lockeroom to celebrate with the rest of team - an experience this writer is positive these two will be repeating a great bit over the next few years.
WOLL plays for the school's first state title in girls basketball on Saturday morning against Cinderella squad, Adrian Lenawee Christian, which upset Number One in the state-Central Lake in the night's other semi-final game, at 10 AM. If the Lakers come home with the win, they will be only the second Class D school in Oakland County history to capture a state championship in either boys or girls hoops, and the first since 1992 when the AH Oakland Christian girls team did it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's a Mad Mad World

Some of my favorite moments of March Madness in THA OC thus far
The vicious alley-oop slam dunk my main hoopszcrazy homeboy Patrick "The Money Man"Onwenu has thrown down every game for his hot-streaking Southfield Bluejays – usually on a pass from either one of my other two cagetastic homeboys, Carlton "Captain Amazing" Brundidge or Desmond "Pee Wee" Barnes – since the boys state tournament kicked-off last week.
The unbelievable backcourt play of Brundidge and Barnes over the past two weeks – Captain Amazing dropped 25 and Pee Wee The Great put in 19 as the 'Jays upended Clarkston for the programs first regional crown in 28 years.
The undaunted determination displayed by county Cinderella squads, Birmingham Brother Rice, MH Bishop Foley, and Walled Lake Northern.
My primetime-dual-threat-homeboy Jeremy Mims (Michigan Tech for football) of Novi picking up the slack for fallen teammate Samier Ozier in a major way for the Wildcats in the regionals this week
The fact that some of the county's most underrated floor generals like Wateford Kettering's Ryan Dingman, Clarkston's Tyler Scarlett, Brother Rice's Adam Gorski, Bishop Foley's David Leffler, FH Harrison's Ray Hall, and DCD's Lee Bailey (alright he's not exactly a point guard, but u get the picture) were/are playing their best ball of the year in March.
Academy of Oak Park and its "fire and brimstone" head coach Bobby Thompson making another long run in the state tourney! Way to go "Coach T," you got things moving in the right direction over in RamLand.
North Farmington's Kyle "The Natural" Vinales getting his Boom Boom Pow on to the tune of a career-high 47 points (his 5th 40-plus night of the season) in the Raiders' opening round win against West Bloomfield.
"Mrs. Fourth Quarter" herself, Lauren Robak going all LAUREN ROBAK!!!!! For 32 points and 10 rebounds in WOLL's defeat of Deckerville in the Class D Elite Eight.
Madison Williams, the OC's very own "Big Classy", going all BIG CLASSY!!!! For a bone-tingling triple-double of 18 points, 13 boards, and 10 blocks in Birmingham Detroit Country's comeback win over Marine City in the Class B Elite Eight.
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep and my main Fighting Irish homeboys, Danny Dulapa, Joey De Martis, Charles Hayden, BLofay, the Sassack Boyz, Ross Lindeman, and Kellen McCormick getting the job done and winning a Class B district crown on the same floor Burney won his second straight district title as a prepster back in the mid-90s.
The remarkable and inspirational job first year-Lake Orion boys head bball coach Mike Shafkalis did with the Dragons leading them into a Class A district final against Clarkston deep in enemy territory and coming within minutes of pulling off the upset.
Brother Rice's fabulous two-sport stud, Kevonte Martin-Manley, getting nice for 29 points in the Warriors thrilling upset of district favorite-Birmingham Seaholm in a second round state tournament game played at Birmingham Groves.
The Mark Jackson-shimme shake dance that Birmingham Roeper ace point guard Ryan Zinser did after a breathtaking steal, hoop and foul late in the second half of the Roughriders' defeat of arch rival AH Oakland Christian in the regional semi-finals Monday night.
Pontiac's Anthony "The Ant" Adams doing his THANG in the district finals against Waterford Kettering for 19 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and six steals in a Phoenix 'W.'
BH Cranbrook's Alec Shimke getting his Michael Jordan on by dropping in a game-winning jumper at the buzzer in the first round of a Class C district to keep a magical Cranes' season alive