28-0 Surge Sends GR Catholic Central to Saturday

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

April 8, 2021

GRAND RAPIDS – At first glance, it might seem that the Grand Rapids Catholic Central boys basketball team had a relatively easy time in Thursday’s first Division 2 Semifinal against Ferndale.

It was anything but, and only came to fruition following a dominating fourth quarter that helped push the Cougars to an 81-55 victory over the Panthers at Van Andel Arena.

Catholic Central improved to a perfect 19-0 and will play either Pennfield or Bridgeport on Saturday at Breslin Center.

An up-tempo and competitive game turned into a lopsided ending as the Cougars scored an astounding 28 consecutive points in a span of seven minutes, six seconds from the end of the third quarter until late in the game.

“I thought our defense initiated a bunch of offense for us in that fourth quarter,” Catholic Central coach TJ Meerman said. “We rebounded a lot better, and coming out of half we knew they were going to make a push because that’s what they do. I’m proud of our guys, and our team defense and the way they shared the ball on offense tonight was a special thing.”

Catholic Central trailed 44-42 with 2:31 remaining in the third quarter, but scored the final six points of the quarter and opened the fourth with a 22-0 run.

Torrid outside shooting aided the spurt as the Cougars knocked down five consecutive 3-pointers at one point, including three from junior Jorden Brooks.

“We just came out and played hard in that fourth quarter on both ends,” said Brooks, who scored 14 of his 20 points in the second and was 6 of 11 from beyond the arc.

“I said to myself just keep shooting, and my teammates were setting me up for those 3-point shots.”

Brooks’ hot shooting helped Catholic Central on Monday in an upset of top-ranked Benton Harbor in the Quarterfinals. 

2021 D2 Boys Basketball Semifinal - GRCC

“His play speaks for itself, and he puts in a lot of time in the gym and it’s shown all season,” Meerman said. “He’s been doing this for us all season, and he had a fantastic run on the offensive end, but he made an impact on defense by keeping his guy in front of him.”

Catholic Central, which lost to Benton Harbor in the 2018 Class B Final, held a 35-25 advantage at halftime as sophomore Kaden Brown was the offensive catalyst by scoring 14 of his team-high 23 points. 

Ferndale, however, scored the first eight points of the third quarter to cut into the deficit and eventually grabbed the lead. 

“This team doesn’t get down on themselves,” said junior Jack Karasinski, who recorded 19 points and had five rebounds.

“We took a timeout, regrouped and we kept pushing forward. This is a dream because as a sophomore we got this opportunity taken away from us, and we’ve had the hardest route so far I believe with the teams we’ve gone through. I think it has built our confidence.”

The Cougars also received stellar overall play from freshman guard Durral Brooks, who stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, seven assists, five rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals.

“That’s what he does,” said Jorden Brooks, his older brother. “He’s a good defender, passer and finisher. He can do anything, and it’s crazy that he has three more years left. We just want to go out and hopefully give him his first state championship as a freshman.”

The fourth-ranked Eagles were making their first appearance in the Semifinals since 1985, and were hoping for a chance to win a championship for the first time since 1966.

Instead, they were unable to stop the offensive onslaught by the Cougars in the fourth quarter as they were outscored 33-11.

Ferndale led 44-42 at the start of Catholic Central’s run, then trailed 70-44 with 3:25 to play.

“I thought we did a poor job offensively, and we didn’t get back on defense,” Ferndale coach Juan Rickman said. “Brooks hit four or five threes, and I saw him do that against Benton Harbor. We didn’t execute in our transition defense and didn’t find him.

“The game just got away from us, and we gave up a lot of points to the three guys we wanted to keep from scoring. You never like to lose, so it’s just tough.”

Junior guard Jason Drake scored a game-high 27 points for the Panthers, but was held scoreless over the final eight minutes of the game.

Click for full box score

PHOTOS: (Top) Jack Karasinski dunks two of his 19 points for Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Thursday. (Middle) GRCC's Kaden Brown works to get upcourt. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

St. Clair County Celebrates 1st Mr. Basketball Winner, PHN's Jamison

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 29, 2023

The Jamison family has spent plenty of time over the years driving long distances as Tyler chased his basketball dreams.

Bay & ThumbAfter the Port Huron Northern senior achieved one of the biggest ones, they had to put some more mileage on the family vehicle.

As the newly-crowned Mr. Basketball, Jamison was invited to a special presentation during the Boys Basketball Finals this past Saturday afternoon at the Breslin Center. It was an invitation Tyler and his family didn’t hesitate to accept, and the drive from Port Huron to East Lansing was nothing.

But it did cause a pretty big change to some other travel plans.

Tyler and his family were scheduled to fly to Florida on Friday for spring break. That flight had to be canceled, though, and instead, the family made the drive down later.

“There were some jokes about just leaving me and letting me find my own way down there,” Jamison said.

While they joke, there’s nowhere the Jamisons would have rather been Saturday than at the Breslin. As a true basketball family – Tyler’s dad Brian is also the coach at Northern, and his brother Alex was a standout freshman for the Huskies – they have a great appreciation for the Mr. Basketball Award and its significance.

“I had said a while ago, ‘Hey, if we’re still in the tournament, we’ll be playing Friday,” Brian Jamison said. “I even mentioned that it would be a miracle, but Tyler could win Mr. Basketball. Now we’re eating plane tickets and driving down to Florida. But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we’re not missing this.”

Jamison was the overwhelming winner of the award, which is named after Hal Schram and given out by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan. He received 3,058 points in the vote to become its 43rd winner. Curtis Williams of Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (2,004 points), Kaden Brown of Grand Rapids Catholic Central (1,918), Sonny Wilson of Detroit U-D Jesuit (1,883) and Ryan Hurst of North Farmington (1,811) were the other finalists.

“It was just insane,” Tyler Jamison said. “I can’t even really put into words how I felt – it was just a dream come true, a culmination of all the hard work that’s been put in over the years. My mom was in the other room (when his dad called to tell him), and I just hugged her and we were kind of screaming. The dog was getting riled up. It was fun. There were a few tears shed.”

Jamison throws down a dunk.Jamison, who signed with Fairleigh Dickinson in December, finished the season averaging 26.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game. He was named the Macomb Area Conference White division MVP after leading Northern to the league title and a 20-4 overall record.

Even with all that, winning the most prestigious individual basketball award in the state didn’t seem like a reality.

“We purposely try to play a tough schedule, and we purposely got into some showcases because we wanted people to see, not only him play, but us play,” Brian Jamison said. “We had beaten Skyline and Hamtramck, and went up to Croswell-Lexington and won up there, and I thought, ‘OK, now he’s done it against some of the better teams.’ Up to that point, when we played those tougher teams, he’s always showed out well, but it’s different when you’re not winning them. But at that point, I thought he had a chance. Really, I was just hoping he would get on the list. To win it was kind of above and beyond what I had hoped for.”

On the court, Tyler’s impact on the program was pretty obvious and immediate.

He’s the program’s all-time leading scorer – a record he set as a junior – with 1,763 career points. He also holds Northern records for career rebounds (825), points in a game (59), rebounds in a game (28), career field goals made (638) and career free throws made (439). As a junior, he was named MAC Blue MVP.

Northern did not lose a league game in either of the past two seasons.

But Northern is likely to see future success because of Tyler’s non-statistical impact.

Leading a young team, including a group of star freshmen – his brother Alex, Cam Harju and Amir Morelan – was a major part of Tyler’s job this season.

Northern’s home games were must-see events this winter, as the Huskies were one of Division 1’s top teams, and Tyler was providing nightly highlights and must-see performances. Even in his final game, a loss against Macomb Dakota in the District Final, Jamison treated the standing-room crowd with a 46-point performance and a halfcourt shot at the third-quarter buzzer in a valiant effort.

“That’s the big thing, you want the students and the school community to support you, and they did an amazing job,” Tyler Jamison said. “We also had people from the community that wanted to support us and watch us play. Port Huron High had a really good season, too, and I think both schools in the city had that public support. That’s huge. It makes you feel like you’re playing for more than yourself.”

Among those crowds were the next generation of Huskies, some of whom were coached by Tyler in youth basketball. As he’s the first Mr. Basketball winner from St. Clair County, those kids now have a hometown example of someone who has reached the highest heights.

“I think interest gets sparked when the little kids come to the gym, like, ‘Hey, I want to do that,’” Brian Jamison said. “They want to play for Northern or (Port Huron) High. And with him winning Mr. Basketball, I think it gives kids a little bit of ‘Hey, why not me?’ I do think it helps motivate younger people. We’ve had great crowds at our games. I think the area is excited about basketball. It really is a great basketball area.”

With all of that excitement surrounding him, Tyler had one more challenge after the season – keeping the secret that he had won. He found out six days before the award was announced.

“It was terrible – especially when it’s something of that magnitude,” he said. “You want to tell everyone. You want to tell your friends and family. It was hard to be like, ‘No, I don’t know.’”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Tyler Jamison, second from left, with his parents and brother, stands with his newly-received Mr. Basketball Award trophy during the ceremony at the Detroit Free Press. (Middle) Jamison throws down a dunk. (Photos courtesy of the Jamison family.)