South Christian Sails Into Latest Challenge, Earns Saturday Return
By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com
March 24, 2023
EAST LANSING – The Grand Rapids South Christian boys basketball team faced adversity when it lost standout sophomore Carson Vis to season-ending injuries in last week’s Regional Final.
The Sailors faced a different kind of adversity Friday in a Division 2 Semifinal, as they were tested for the first time since late January.
South Christian responded, and showed a steely resolve that put the team one step closer to a championship following a 40-35 overtime win over Romulus Summit Academy North at Breslin Center.
The Sailors will play Ferndale in Saturday’s Division 2 Final.
“We talk about adversity all the time, and we’re missing our 20 points a game star player, and so we’ve had some throughout the season,” South Christian coach Taylor Johnson said. “It builds character.”
South Christian had won 15 games in a row entering Friday, all by double digits. Summit gave the Sailors their closest game since losing to Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Jan. 24.
“We’ve been on a run here, and even as a coach, I feel like I haven’t done enough because we haven’t been in these situations,” Johnson said. “What a battle, and that’s what it’s all about. Two great teams with a lot of great players, and we found a way.”
Senior Jake DeHaan, who led the Sailors with 14 points, said he embraces playing in these types of games.
“This is what our team talks about, adversity, and we want to play in the biggest moments,” DeHaan said. “As a competitor, that's what you want to do. You want to play on the biggest stage against the best teams, and that's what we like to do.”
In a defensive struggle with points hard to come by, the Sailors maintained the lead throughout.
The Sailors took a 19-13 advantage into the half, but the Dragons rallied and cut the deficit to 23-21 with a minute left in the third quarter.
Summit’s Dominic Krzesowiak drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to knot the score at 31-31 with 30 seconds remaining in regulation.
In overtime, Nate Brinks buried a 3-pointer for South Christian after Summit took its only lead of the game.
Junior Jake Vermaas, who finished with 12 points, then made 6 of 6 from the free throw line to keep Summit at bay.
“I just kept dribbling with my head up and knocking down free throws when we needed them,” Vermaas said. “Staying focused and locked in, and I think that’s a credit to being on a big stage like this in football and being comfortable.”
The Sailors, who won the Division 4 football championship in November, will search for their first basketball Finals title since 2005.
Summit Academy (25-3), which shot 35 percent (16-46) from the field, was playing in its first Semifinal.
“We expected it to be a defensive game and every possession to be tough,” Summit coach Mark White said. “We expected to be challenged to execute and to challenge them to execute.
“We knew it would come down to who executed the best and took advantage of their opportunities. We came to battle, and I’m very proud of our team and our program that we made it this far.”
James White led Summit with 13 points and seven rebounds. Krzesowiak finished with six points and six rebounds.
PHOTOS (Top) South Christian’s Jake Vermaas (0) makes a move toward the basket during his team’s Division 2 Semifinal win. (Middle) Summit’s Dontez Scott Jr. works to get past the Sailors’ Nate Brinks.