December will prove tough for basketball champs

Photo Joel Dotson Senior guard Latin Davis (32) is expected to be a floor leader for the Big Reds this season.

Photo Joel Dotson
Senior guard Latin Davis (32) is expected to be a floor leader for the Big Reds this season.

By Joel Dotson

 

‘Anyone, any time, anywhere.’ For the last few seasons, the Milan Big Reds have used that mantra as a philosophy for scheduling basketball games. Their notion – that they will take on anyone, any time, and anywhere – is a key to developing a top-tier program.

The Big Reds had a difficult non-conference schedule in 2013, and each of the team’s three losses was at the hand of their non-conference opponents. This helped mold the team for their championship run a season ago. In this year’s opening month of games, their non-conference schedule should prove to be a greater challenge.

Milan begins the 2014 season with a home opener against Monroe on Tuesday, Dec. 9. The Big Reds and Trojans squared off in last season’s opener, and Monroe’s defeat of Milan in that matchup proved to be a key point in the maturation of a young squad.

On Saturday, Dec. 13, Milan will host the Winter Breakout tournament. The showcase, run by TJ Kelley of IPS Sports, will highlight eight of the best teams in the state. The teams playing in the event are Ann Arbor Pioneer, Ann Arbor Skyline, Arbor Prep, Grand Rapids Union, Lenawee Christian, Lincoln, Melvindale ABT, and Milan. Milan will square off against former SEC rival Lincoln in the nightcap at 7:45 p.m.

The Big Reds will play a home match against Lenawee Christian on Tuesday, Dec. 16. The game will be played on Team Mason Night, in which the team will honor Mason Farmer, a 2-year-old who passed away last year after a battle with cancer.

On Thursday, Dec. 18, the Big Reds will open Huron League conference play with a match against the Flat Rock Rams. Milan begins this season with a 41-game win streak in conference play. The Big Reds will continue their pursuit of the all-time Huron League record of 43 consecutive victories and their fourth straight conference title. Milan has not lost a conference game since dropping their Huron League opener at New Boston on Jan. 10, 2012.

December will conclude with two non-conference matchups on the road, with the Big Reds facing Romulus on Saturday, Dec. 20 and Harper Woods the following Saturday.

Chris Pope, the Big Reds’ new coach, sees the opening month as an opportunity for the future. “This is going to be a challenge for us,” he said. “But the kids love to play basketball. For us, the measuring stick is to see how good we are. To go out and do that, we need to play (teams like) Romulus and Lincoln.

“We want to challeange our kids, for them to see different styles (of play). That way, when the tournaments come, we’re better prepared for them. We need to see some adversity, to be able to play well on the road. (December) will show a lot about who we are as a team.”

 

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