EAST LANSING – Sometimes, there’s just no substitute for experience.
Such was the case in Thursday’s second Division 4 Boys Basketball Semifinal between Wyoming Tri-unity Christian and Genesee Christian at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.
While Tri-unity Christian was in the Semifinals for a second-straight year and fourth time in the last seven years, Genesee Christian was playing on the stage for the first time.
Tri-unity Christian’s familiarity with Breslin and overall skill won out, as the Defenders reached another championship game with a 77-33 win.
The Defenders (20-6) will attempt to win their first Finals title since 2011 at 10 a.m. Saturday when they play Ewen-Trout Creek.
“If you haven’t been there, it can be pretty intimidating,” Tri-unity coach Mark Keeler said of playing in a final four game. “Last year, we came here. It helped us for this year.”
The big quarter for Tri-unity Christian was the second, as the Defenders went on a 12-0 run to start the quarter and take a 26-12 lead with 5:54 remaining until halftime.
Tri-unity Christian ended up outscoring Genesee Christian in the second quarter, 25-7, to take a 39-19 lead at the break.
The Defenders continued to grow their lead in the third quarter, going on an 8-0 run to move ahead 53-23 with 1:11 remaining in the third.
The game featured a matchup of two of the state’s top point guards in Division 4, Tri-unity Christian senior Brady Titus and Genesee Christian junior Trenton Boike.
Titus entered the game averaging just under 30 points a game, while Boike was averaging over 23 points a contest.
Titus finished with a game-high 21 points on 9 of 17 shooting for the Defenders, while Boike had seven points for the Soldiers (21-5).
Now, Titus and the Defenders can try and earn some redemption after a loss to Detroit Douglass in last year’s championship game.
“Last year was tough,” Titus said. “We came up short. But I think it will impact the want to win. That’s really what it is. Just having the drive to win the next game.”
Tri-unity Christian shot 58.3 percent from the field for the game and outrebounded Genesee Christian by a 41-19 margin.
Junior Tyler Chapman led Genesee Christian with 10 points.
Despite the loss, it was obviously a memorable and historic season for Genesee Christian.
“For the guys, I felt so proud of them,” Genesee Christian coach Dan Chapman said. “With COVID and everything the last couple of years, we kind of looked forward to this group. To do it with all the seniors that I’ve coached since fifth grade, it was everything you’ve dreamed of.”
More good news for the Soldiers is that Boike and Chapman will headline a nice crop of juniors that will be back next year.
“Just the experience part will help a lot,” Boike said. “It will help us next year when we get back here.”
PHOTOS (Top) Tri-unity Christian’s Brady Titus (25) works to get up a shot over Genesee Christian’s Jonah Derderian (24) during Thursday’s Semifinal. (Middle) Teammates watch in anticipation as the Defenders’ Stephen Bouslog (24) attempts a 3-pointer. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
A review of Harbor Light Christian’s boys basketball rosters over the last couple of decades would show a lot of familiar names.
That would be especially true of the coaching slots.
Or are the players now coaches?
The coaches’ names are extremely familiar, and nothing much has changed – except some of the former players are now coaches, and the head coaches have returned to assist the program.
Today, the head coach is Jason Roussin. He’s in his 12th season at the helm of the Swordsmen. Jeff Jakeway, who was the head coach during Roussin’s junior and senior seasons at Harbor Light, is back on the Swordsmen’s staff as an assistant coach. Roussin is also assisted by long-time coach William Henagan and previous head coach Clark Hewitt.
Hewitt also serves as the Harbor Light junior varsity coach. The JV squad went 19-1 this season and 18-2 the year before.
“In 38 years, really there’s been three consistent coaches and then Pat Collins who had done one year when the program started, and now we’re all back on the sidelines working together,” Roussin said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
The facilities Collins, Hewitt and Jakeway coached in are nothing like the Swordsmen have today – the newly-built Solid Rock Center in Harbor Springs. In fact, they used to play on a cement floor. A year ago, the Swordsmen played their first game in their new home.
A walk around the facility, five years in the making, provides the feeling of more like a small college program’s setup. Along with the new gym, the Solid Rock Center was equipped with a cafe and concession area, locker rooms, a film lounge and hangout area for the players, an upper-level full track around the gym, and three classrooms for art, music, science and more.
Jakeway served as project manager on the building — fully funded and debt-free through community support. He was the head coach of the Harbor Light girls basketball team when the facility opened.
Harbor Light’s boys suffered a 76-74 loss to hot-shooting Pellston in the facility’s first game Jan. 20, 2023, but haven’t been doing much losing since. The Swordsmen started this season 2-2, and after a heart-breaking loss to Traverse City Christian on Dec. 8 went on to share the Northern Lights Conference title with Alanson and have built that record to 20-4 heading into tonight’s District Final against St. Ignace.
The title game will be played at the Solid Rock Center. Another Jakeway, Jeff Jakeway’s son and freshman point guard Landon, will be getting his second chance to lead the Swordsmen to a District championship. He was the point guard as a seventh grader when Harbor Light won the District title two years ago. (Small schools like Harbor Light may request, for most sports, an MHSAA Executive Committee waiver to play eighth-grade students if the school’s enrollment is less than 125 and seventh-graders if the enrollment is less than 75. Harbor Light’s enrollment count for this school year is 61.)
Landon Jakeway is the team’s leading scorer, contributing 15 points per game. He scored 25 to lead the Swordsmen to a 67-31 win over Mackinaw City in Wednesday’s District Semifinal. That was Harbor Light’s third win this season over its league rival, allowing the Swordsmen to keep the Mack Light Ball, which goes to the winning team’s school after each victory in the rivalry. Wins over Mackinaw have been hard to come by in previous seasons.
David Chamberlin, at 13 points per game, and Corin Palus, scoring nine per contest, are the other leading scorers. Jakeway adds seven assists and four steals per game. Chamberlin kicks in seven rebounds per game, and Jackson Mesner and Kirk Rose contribute eight and five rebounds, respectively.
Chamberlin, Paulis, Mesner and Rose are all seniors.
“The team goal was really to ‘put the team before me’ mentality,” Roussin said. “We were going to work as a team, be loyal, be committed to one another and battle together.”
The Swordsmen also entered the season with their eyes on the Mack Light Ball, a conference championship and a long postseason run.
“We wanted to chase the conference and to battle for a District,” Roussin noted. “Obviously, we knew St. Ignace is in there and they are the favorite team.”
Senior leadership has been one of the keys to Harbor Light’s finishing atop the conference for the first time in more than a decade.
“We want to show up and play the best basketball you can to make your team the best they can,” Roussin said. “That’s what has been awesome with the leadership we’ve had on this team.
“Through all the guys is ‘it is not about me,’” Roussin continued. “It is about ‘what can I do to make the team better?’”
St. Ignace brings a 16-6 record into the Solid Rock Center. The Saints will have a chance to view some NBA history in addition to playing the final.
Above the main gym resides a mini court containing the Detroit Pistons floor from the Pontiac Silverdome. Before moving to The Palace of Auburn Hills, and most recently Little Caesars Arena, the Pistons played at the Silverdome from 1978-88.
Jeff Jakeway was able to get the court to Northern Michigan through connections in Novi.
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Harbor Light’s Vaughn Henagan (23) gets to the basket during a 59-39 win over Kinross Maplewood Baptist on Dec. 21. (Middle) David Chamberlin (22) elevates over a Pellston defender as the Swordsmen work toward a 75-20 victory Jan. 19. (Photos by Billy Mac Photos.)