Jets face Hillman in quarterfinals

POWERS — The two-time defending state champion North Central Jets have apparently been on the minds of the Hillman Tigers.

Gunnar Libby scored 22 points and Brandon Banks added 16 as Hillman defeated Pellston 72-42 for its second Class D regional title in three years.

The unbeaten Jets (25-0) and Hillman (24-1) will collide at 7 p.m. EDT on Tuesday at Sault Ste. Marie High School in the state quarterfinals. In this same location two years ago, North Central downed Hillman 63-51.

“We just had to come out and hustle, give it our best shot,” Banks told The Alpena News. “We all had our nerves and everything, but we knew we just had to come out and take care of business and do everything to get to Powers.”

The Tigers, who lost in last year’s district finals, are motivated to make a long tournament run.

“Two in three years and last year obviously getting upset in the district final like we did by one, it helped for this year,” said Hillman coach Eric Muszynski. “It stung really bad last year, but it was our motivation in the summer and we carried that throughout the summer and carried it into the season.

“It’s just awesome. We’ve only won two (regionals) in our school history and we got one in ’15 and one in ’17. It’s a sweet feeling.”

Hillman also throttled Cedarville 78-50 in a regional semifinal.

“We have a ton of momentum right now and I’m not going to let them down and they’re not going to let me down,” Muszynski said. “We’ve had a sour taste in our mouth since last year and I think what everyone’s seeing right now is a hungry team that is determined to play as good as they can.”

Libby was an All-North Star League first-team pick. Teammates Banks and Kory Henigan earned second team and honorable mention honors, respectively.

Jason Whitens, a candidate for Michigan’s Mr. Basketball award, scored 32 points in the Jets’ 95-51 rout of Rapid River in the regional finals.

Whitens has several Division II college basketball offers and there’s also a couple from Division I programs.

In an MLive article, Division II GLIAC schools Grand Valley State, Northern Michigan, Michigan Tech and Lake Superior State were listed. He also could be a preferred walk-on at Division 1 Michigan State and Central Michigan.

Whitens will make a decision when the high school season concludes.

Bob Kleiman’s 27 points helped the Jets hold off upset-minded Dollar Bay 75-73 in the regional semifinals.

North Central-Hillman winner will meet Southfield Christian (20-5) or Fowler (17-7) in the state semifinals Thursday at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.

The other quarterfinals Tuesday pit Benton Harbor Dream Academy (10-5) against Lansing Christian (18-6) and Wyoming Tri-Unity Christian (16-8) against Buckley (24-0).

In Class C state quarterfinals Tuesday, Negaunee (20-4) faces Manton (20-4) at Petoskey. The winner plays in the state semifinals Thursday.

The quarterfinals will live-streamed on the website.