By John Raffel
Flint Southwestern Academy has emerged after the first nine games of the season with an 8-1 record and is establishing itself as one of the top Class B boys basketball teams in the state.
"I was hoping for a start like this," said Southwestern Coach Jeff Whiteley. "I thought we'd have a good team. We lost two starters from last year. I didn't know what would happen. But I was hoping for a start like this."
Junior guard Anthony Crater is averaging 17 points per game and has already committed verbally to playing college hoops at Ohio State. Tyrone Ward, a junior forward, is averaging 14 points and 7.5 boards per game.
"We're not real big," Whiteley said. "We always have three guards on the court, sometimes four. We compete really hard. We're very quick."
Whiteley likes his team's future outlook.
"We've played probably the toughest part of our schedule," he said. "The game we lost we had a 13-point lead. We have a tough game with Saginaw coming up. Flint Powers is in our district and they're state ranked like we are."
Vestaburg hasn't had a lot of luck producing winning seasons in recent years. But the small school, located northwest of Lansing, is suddenly a league championship contender and hopes to have a long run in the state playoffs in March.
Vestaburg, halfway during the season, is 4-0 in the Mid-State Athletic Conference.
"I knew what we were capable of," said first-year coach Catherine Behnke. "They set their goals high. They want to be league and district champs. We're capable of beating our league teams again the second half of the season."
Top players for the Wolverines have been Carrie Butler, Ashley Shattuck and J.C. Penwell.
Josh Newman of Lakeview is one wrestler who doesn't believe wasting anytime in defeating an opponent.
In his school's home invitational recently, Newman pinned Chase Churchhill of Houghton Lake in seven seconds in the 160-pound weight class.
Newman's effort set a new school record for the fastest pin, breaking the previous effort of 11 seconds by Jeff Davis.
"I got the single leg, took him down and did what I had to do to pin him," Newman said. "My previous fastest pin was 11 seconds. I've been trying to get seven for awhile.
"I like this record, It's cool. It would be hard to break."
Miles Freed of Central Montcalm isn't going for the fastest pin record, but he's among the wrestlers who wouldn't mind ending the season as an undefeated state champ.
With a 27-0 record, which includes a win over Newman, Freed, a 152-pound junior who has wrestled at 160, is among the state's elite with an unbeaten mark.
"Being undefeated isn't a goal," Freed said. "I would like to think it's a matter of hard work paying off. But definitely winning the state championship is a goal."
Michigan has team state and individual state championships. For each, it goes from the district, regional and zone levels.