Ferndale Stays Course, Finds Way to Season's Final Day After 57-Year Wait
By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com
March 24, 2023
EAST LANSING – The third time was the charm for the Ferndale boys basketball team.
After back-to-back losses in Division 2 Semifinals, the Eagles got over the hump with a 65-60 win over Saginaw on Friday at Breslin Center.
Ferndale used a late 10-0 run to reach the Finals for the first time in 57 years. The top-ranked Eagles will have the opportunity to play for a long-awaited title Saturday against the winner of South Christian and Romulus Summit Academy.
Ferndale last won a boys basketball championship in 1966.
Trojans coach Juan Rickman said there was a different mindset this year compared to the prior two that ended in setbacks against Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
“This year they were way more locked in,” he said. “When we got here the first time during COVID, we were playing GRCC right around the corner from their school (at Van Andel Arena) and last year was our first year at the Breslin.
“I thought we had a lot of emotion last year and we weren't at our best, but this year they knew what to expect and they executed and it was business as usual. It was just another game for us on a bigger floor.”
Ferndale (20-8) started the season 1-5, but always knew its potential to make a tournament run.
“We never panicked throughout the season, and we always said as soon as we get somewhat healthy and as soon as we get our guard play together to play a lot smarter, then we are going to start winning,” Rickman said. “We were losing close games, but our ceiling was so high that I knew we could do that.”
Ferndale nearly squandered its chance for another game after leading by 10 early in the third quarter as Saginaw mounted a second-half rally.
The Trojans led 55-51 in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles scored 10 consecutive points to go up 61-55.
Senior Christopher Williams, who recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, had back-to-back buckets during the run.
“We just stayed the course, just like our season,” Rickman said. “We were up, and then they came back, but we stayed the course.”
Senior Caleb Renfroe led Ferndale with 16 points, while senior Cameron Reed finished with 12 and Jaden Hardiman had 10.
“Chris definitely got going, and when he has a motor he’s hard to stop,” Reed said. “They went on that run, but we knew we had to stay the course. Basketball is a game of runs, so we just had to stay the course and ride the roller coaster.”
The Eagles led 12-8 after a foul-filled first quarter and extended their advantage to 32-24 at the half. Ferndale took advantage of its opportunities from the free throw line and knocked down 12 of 16 in the first half.
The Trojans (21-7) forged a furious third-quarter surge and outscored Ferndale 22-12 to snare the momentum and the lead, 46-42.
Senior Javarie Holliday scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the third quarter and was 4 of 8 from beyond the 3-point line.
It was Saginaw’s first trip to the Semifinals since 2013.
“It was a hard-fought game, and Ferndale came out ready to play,” Trojans coach Julian Taylor said. “I thought we took their best punch in the first half, and we came out ready in the second half. Basketball is a game of spurts and I thought we made our run, but we just made a few mistakes down the line in the fourth quarter that really cost us the game.”
Junior Brandon McCune added 17 points for Saginaw. He knocked down five 3-pointers.
PHOTOS (Top) Ferndale’s Cameron Reed (0) pushes the pace as Saginaw’s DaRon Sherman (2) trails Friday. (Middle) The Eagles’ Christopher Williams dunks during his team’s Semifinal win.