postseason preview: Road to the Breslin Center begins Monday with MHSAA girls basketball districts
The MHSAA postseason begins on Monday for high school girls 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: The River Rats won this district last year before advancing to the state semifinals. But their road to this year’s district title includes an exhausting district draw. After an opening-round game against Ypsilanti, Huron will play a Pioneer team that recently had its roster boosted with the return of starting point guard, Emily Turner, before a likely finals matchup against SEC White champion Dexter.
The Dreadnaughts, meanwhile, have things easier with a game against Skyline (7-13), and if it wins, a game against Pinckney (2-17). But priority one is shaking off one of its worst outings of the year Friday, when it put up just 19 points in a loss to Huron.
“We can’t let this affect how we play Monday and give someone an opportunity to knock us off,” Dexter coach Mike Bavineau said.
Despite their tough draw, the River Rats have shown an ability to close out close games throughout the year, and should be lifting their second straight district title trophy.
X-Factor: Pioneer point guard Emily Turner helped lead her team to a 5-0 start. Without her, the Pioneers went 3-9 and scored 15 fewer points per game. But Turner’s return could provide a boost for the Pioneers, who lost by just seven at Huron Feb. 8.
AnnArbor.com pick: Huron.
District Outlook: A small district has three legitimate contenders in Temperance Bedford, Saline and Lincoln, if the regular season is any indication: Saline split its season series with Bedford, and beat Lincoln by three on Feb. 5.
Bedford should find its way to the final with little problem, facing two-win Milan and four-win Monroe. Saline and Lincoln, meanwhile, will have to duke it out in a Wednesday semifinal match to advance to Friday's final.
Since a surprising Feb. 8 home loss to Skyline, the Hornets finished the regular season with three straight wins, including a buzzer-beating finale over a strong Ypsilanti team. The Railsplitters, meanwhile, finished the regular season on a 2-3 streak.
X-Factor: Lincoln started the regular season 10-2, and features a pair of scorers in Dominique Foley (12.9 points per game) and Arie Cargor (12 ppg). If it can recapture some of that early season magic, it could be celebrating the school’s first district title.
AnnArbor.com Pick: Saline.
District Outlook: Father Gabriel Richard got the best draw in this crowded seven-team district: it’s the only team with a first-round bye, and will be off until Wednesday.
Gabriel Richard will likely face Detroit Community come Wednesday, a winnable matchup. But the winning the final will prove more difficult.
X-Factor: The Fighting Irish’s Catholic League schedule features a pair of strong teams in Riverview Gabriel Richard and state-ranked Notre Dame Prep. That may have the Irish prepared for postseason play.
AnnArbor.com Pick: Livonia Ladywood.
District outlook: The Chelsea High School girls basketball team will travel to the far off regions of Lenawee County to participate in a district packed full of unfamiliarity. The Class B district at Onsted High School has teams from Jackson, Ingham, Lenawee and Washtenaw County and the Capital Area Activities Conference, Lenawee County Athletic Association, Cascades Conference and Southeastern Conference.
Chelsea hasn’t played a single team in its district this year and head coach Todd Blomquist couldn’t be happier about it. In Blomquist’s opinion being unfamiliar with the opponents from all over is far better than a situation like in the Class A district at Huron where five of the six teams are from the SEC and Huron and Dexter could potentially play for the third time in a month.
“I like seeing some new people in districts,” Blomquist said. “If I was in a situation like (Huron coach) Steve (Vinson) and (Dexter coach) Mike (Bavineau), that’d be annoying.
“Playing the same team over and over again, that’s not very fun.”
Going from playing a majority Class A schedule to a Class B district has boded well for Chelsea in previous years and Blomquist believes this year could be the same. Blomquist believes with seven returning players from last year’s district championship team, this year's has what it takes to make a run.
It will likely need to get by Lenawee County Athletic Association champions Onsted to do so. The Wildcats have won three straight league titles, but haven't been able to translate it to postseason success, mostly because of Chelsea.
X-Factor: Onsted’s Lexi Johnson. Last year’s Adrian Daily Telegram’s Player of the Year ended the regular season with games of 34 and 30 points. If Johnson gets hot, she can take over a game.
AnnArbor.com pick: Chelsea.
District outlook: Manchester has lost just a single game all season and is ranked No. 3 in Class C by the Associated Press and Arbor Prep, at 16-4, is ranked No. 9.
Friday’s district final was voted the AnnArbor.com Game of the Week presumably because people believe it will be a clash between two of the area’s best teams.
Greenhills put together a nice season and double-double machine, Jackie Oestrich, is one of the area’s best players, but as evidenced by Arbor Prep’s 74-34 win over the Gryphons, they're not quite at the level of Arbor Prep or Manchester.
Arbor Prep coach Rod Wells believes his backcourt of sophomore Zakiya Wells (13.3 points per game) and freshman Nastassja Chambers (13 ppg) is the best in the state, and its tough to argue otherwise. They’re fast, talented and fearless in running Prep’s breakneck paced system.
But they’re also young. Prep is a second-year program absent seniors and any playoff experience. Manchester is the opposite, led by all-state player McKenna Erkfritz (15 ppg) and sisters Taylor and Jessie Manders, who average 14 and 10 points respectively.
This Manchester senior class has been special, taking incremental steps along the way and with conference and district titles already to its credit, a trip to the Breslin Center is really the only thing left to accomplish. The Dutch need to get by Arbor Prep first.
X-Factor: Pace. If Arbor Prep is able to control the tempo, Manchester might wear down. If Manchester can slow the game down to a half court game, Erkfritz and the Manders sisters can take over.
AnnArbor.com pick: Arbor Prep.
District outlook: There's not much mystery in to this district with every team either having either played each other or having common opponents galore.
If the regular season games have taught us anything, it's that Washtenaw Christian and Rudolf Steiner are the cream of the crop in this district.
Steiner won both times the teams met in the regular season with an average margin of victory of 19 points, but the last time the teams met Washtenaw Christian led after the third quarter before being outscored by 12 in the final frame.
It's hard to beat a team three times and leading after three quarters may have proved to the Wildcats they can beat Steiner.
X-factor: Experience. Steiner is defending district champs and in Anika Sproull and Tessa Belanger has experience while Washtenaw Christian is led by middle schooler, Jurnee Tipton.
AnnArbor.com pick: Rudolf Steiner.
-- Kyle Austin contributed to this article.