EAST LANSING – There are many teams around the state that probably figured no recipe existed for dominating Flint Beecher in a boys basketball game.
They likely were taking notes Thursday while watching what Schoolcraft accomplished in the second Division 3 Semifinal at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.
Playing just about flawlessly on offense and defense, Schoolcraft advanced to its first Finals championship game since winning the Class C title in 2011 with a stunning 55-39 win over the reigning Division 3 champion.
“Five weeks ago, we just kind of overhauled our offense,” Schoolcraft coach Randy Small said. “We tried to play more inside-out and have more post-up action than what we had previously. I think that has helped us out overall offensively. It’s just given us more flow.”
It was a return trip to the Semifinals for the Golden Eagles, who fell 54-50 in overtime to Iron Mountain last year at Breslin.
The simplest explanation for what happened this time is that Schoolcraft (24-2) made its shots throughout – with an especially notable showing from 3-point range – while Beecher (22-3) did not find similar success.
Schoolcraft shot 9 of 12 from 3-point range and made 17 of 27 shots from the field overall, while Beecher made 5 of 19 shots from 3-point range and 15 of 46 overall.
But going a bit deeper, much of the credit for Schoolcraft’s shooting has to go to the way it handled any pressure Beecher threw at it, effectively creating a halfcourt game and patiently moving the ball on offense for good shots.
Schoolcraft turned the ball over a reasonable 12 times and rarely let Beecher speed the game up.
“I think the whole team handled it pretty well,” senior Ty Rykse said of Beecher’s pressure. “We knew they were going to pressure. The past couple of days, we had just been stressing to handle the ball pressure and I think we did.”
Defensively, Schoolcraft used its height advantage inside, employing a zone defense to pack in Beecher and force the Buccaneers to win from the perimeter.
“I just thought we did a pretty good job of controlling the paint and keeping them out of the paint,” Small said. “We had to give up some threes because they are quicker than we are. We didn’t want to spread ourselves too thin. I thought overall, we did a pretty good job of that.”
Schoolcraft made five of its first six shots from 3-point range in the first half and took a 28-17 lead into halftime.
The third quarter saw Schoolcraft continue to make it a halfcourt contest and shoot well from the outside. Schoolcraft grew its lead to 17 points at 41-24 with 55 seconds remaining in the third following a 3-pointer by junior Eli DeVisser.
A Beecher run never materialized, and the lead increased to 49-27 with 5:36 remaining and was never threatened the rest of the game.
“We had shots we missed; they had shots they made,” said first-year Beecher coach Marquise Gray. “I think we took some good, quality shots. You’ve got to give them credit.”
Sophomore Shane Rykse scored 21 points, senior Tyler DeGroote scored 13 and Ty Rykse added 12 points for Schoolcraft.
Senior Carmelo Harris scored 15 points and junior Robert Lee added 10 for Beecher.
PHOTOS (Top) Schoolcraft celebrates its Semifinal win Thursday afternoon at Breslin Center. (Middle) The Golden Eagles’ Tyler DeGroote (24) and Beecher’s Bryce Carr (32) reach for a loose ball. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)