A daunting district round serves as the first hurdle on the road to the Breslin Center, as local teams stare down rivalry games and playoff rematches in the opening rounds of play.
Grand Haven (13-7) will head to Reeths-Puffer to take on their Class A district draw, enjoying a first-round bye for an auto-bid to the semifinals. There, they will take on the winner of Reeths-Puffer (10-11) and Mona Shores (9-11) for a spot in the title game.
The Bucs trounced the Sailors in their season-opener, 67-31, and kicked off 2018 with a 69-43 win over Reeths-Puffer. Assuming those results hold, all signs point to a fourth-straight meeting with Muskegon (16-3) in the district finals. Although, without point guard Casey Constant, Grand Haven’s tournament team looks a little different than their regular season run.
The Big Reds will have to beat Northview in their opening-round matchup and the winner of Kenowa Hills vs. Grand Rapids Union in the semifinals to meet the Bucs. Muskegon has won district titles over Grand Haven in each of the last three seasons and eliminated the Bucs from the postseason every year since 2010 but the Bucs took this year’s regular season meeting, 59-50.
A solid final stretch of the regular season should give Grand Haven fans even more hope, as they won their final three O-K Red Conference contests before falling to a high-powered Forest Hills Central team in their final game of the season.
Class A at Reeths-Puffer High School
Monday: Reeths Puffer vs. Mona Shores, 7 p.m., Grand Rapids Union at Kenowa Hills, 7 p.m., Muskegon at Northview, 7 p.m.
Wednesday: Unions vs. Kenowa Hills winner vs. Muskegon-Northview winner, 6 p.m., Grand Haven vs. Reeths-Puffer- Mona Shores winner, 7:30 p.m.
Friday: District championship game, 7 p.m.
DARK HORSE: Grand Haven
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Willie Shanks (Muskegon) Eonte Tornes (Muskegon), Jarvis Walker (Mona Shores), Emcee Williams (Reeths-Puffer), Kellum Bridgeforth (Grand Haven)
TRIBUNE PREDICTION: Muskegon over Grand Haven
Spring Lake (16-4) is set to host their Class B district tournament as a trio of Muskegon-area contenders comes to town. The Lakers won't get any special treatment with a bye, as they are scheduled to take on Orchard View (9-11) in the opening round.
Barring a catastrophe, Spring Lake will face off with Montague (13-7) in the semifinals.
The Fruitport (2-18) boys occupy the other side of the bracket and will take on Whitehall (13-7) in the opening round. The winner will move on to face Oakridge (8-12) in the semifinals.
The Lakers serve as the favorite to advance to the regional tournament for the second-straight, and fifth of the last six years. Their non-conference schedule certainly prepared them for tough competition as they faced the likes of Rockford and Forest Hills Central, but Spring Lake hasn’t seen any of the teams they are likely to face in their district field this year.
Spring Lake does come into the postseason with some momentum, as they won their final two O-K Blue Conference games of the season and finished the year with an emphatic victory over Muskegon Heights.
Class B at Spring Lake High School
Monday: Whitehall vs. Fruitport, 6 p.m., Spring Lake vs. Orchard View, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday: Whitehall-Fruitport winner vs. Oakridge, 6 p.m., Spring Lake-Orchard View winner vs. Montague, 7:30 p.m.
Friday: District championship game, 7 p.m.
FAVORITE: Spring Lake
DARK HORSE: Whitehall
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sam Johnson (Spring Lake), Griffin Lorimer (Spring Lake), Jack VanWingen (Spring Lake), Brandon Rake (Whitehall), Cam Oleen (Fruitport)
TRIBUNE PREDICTION: Spring Lake over Whitehall
Western Michigan Christian (12-8) has the most intimidating playoff opener of the lot as they take on the Class C district tournament at Ravenna.
The Warriors have a manageable path to the regional tournament if they can get past undefeated Kent City (20-0) in the district semifinal round, as both teams received a first-round bye.
The Eagles have been on a tear since a 50-48 overtime defeat of Coopersville in their season-opener. Since, they have had just three games decided by single digits with a three-point win over Sparta, a five-point win over Kenowa Hills and a three-point overtime win over Morley Stanwood serving as their only close games of the year.
North Muskegon sits as the favorite in the other side of the bracket with expected wins over Holton and host Ravenna. If WMC manages the Eagles and earns a spot in the finals, they downed the Norsemen, 46-40 in their regular season matchup.
After falling to Ludington in their Lakes Eight Conference finale, the Warriors put together solid wins over Byron Center Zion Christian and Oakridge to round out their regular season. With momentum on their side, anything is possible in March.
Class C at Ravenna High School
Monday: North Muskegon vs. Holton, 6 p.m.
Wednesday: Western Michigan Christian vs. Kent City, 5:30 p.m., North Muskegon-Holton winner vs. Ravenna, 7 p.m.
Friday: District championship game, 6 p.m.
FAVORITE: Kent City
DARK HORSE: Western Michigan Christian
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Fraser Wilson (Kent City), Eli Carlson (Kent City), T.J. McKenzie (North Muskegon), Jesse Cook (North Muskegon), Tyler VanBeek (WMC)
TRIBUNE PREDICTION: Kent City over North Muskegon