Accomplished Official Also at Home in Huddle Guiding Vandercook Lake Comeback

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

January 11, 2022

JACKSON – Cory Ray is right where he is supposed to be.

The second-year Vandercook Lake boys basketball coach has the Jayhawks off to their best start in years, setting up a key Cascades Conference battle for tonight against another undefeated team, Napoleon.

After spending a decade as a basketball referee in southeast Michigan, Ray has thrown his passion into coaching. It’s been an interesting transition, but one he is thoroughly enjoying.

“I never thought I would switch over to being a coach,” Ray said. “It’s been crazy, but I’m enjoying it.”

Ray is a 2003 Vandercook Lake graduate. He played basketball for the Jayhawks but soon found his calling as an umpire in baseball and basketball official. He has climbed the ladder as an umpire; he worked the MHSAA Finals a few years ago, moved up to NAIA and Division III and now regularly is called for Division I college games. 

His basketball career took a turn when Vandercook Lake needed a junior high coach.

“I started talking to them about it,” Ray recalls. “I started doing that, and coaching just grew on me.”

When the Jayhawks varsity position opened in 2017, he applied, but didn’t get the job. He wasn’t discouraged.

“I didn’t get it because of a lack of experience,” he said. 

He kept coaching at the junior high level. Before the pandemic, he finally got his chance. 

Vandercook Lake basketball“I don’t want a varsity job anywhere but Vandercook Lake. I always figured if I am going to put that kind of investment and time into a head coaching position, I want it here, where I went to school, where my kids go to school,” he said. “If I’m going to do it, I want to do it in the place where I am from.”

Ray, 37, lives in the district and his wife Sarah is the Jayhawks cheer coach. One of their daughters is in the eighth grade. 

He’s thrown himself into the job and helped the Jayhawks taste success after a couple of down years. The 2017-18 team won only two games, and the 2019-20 team just four.

Last year Vandercook Lake went 9-9 in the shortened season, encouraging Ray about this winter. The seniors last year, he said, helped bring along the younger players.

“I had a great relationship with them,” he said. “They really set the foundation for this year’s team.”

The 6-0 start, however, is more than even Ray could have imagined. The 12-player varsity roster includes 11 seniors.

“I knew we could be good,” he said. “I wasn’t sure how good.”

One of the reasons Ray was confident about this season was the return of 6-foot senior Demarion Smith. “It’s always a good starting point when you have someone who averaged 21 points a game come back,” Ray said.

Smith’s presence gives opposing defenses plenty to think about. But he’s far from being the only scoring threat on the roster.

“We have shooters everywhere,” Ray said.

Anthony Jimenez has had some big games already. Jermaine Buckner is the true point guard who runs the show. Tyrell Showers and Avery Pierce are on the verge of breakout seasons.

Against Manchester last week, Buckner nearly recorded a triple-double with 26 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists and five steals. An earlier game, he hit four triples in the first half to keep the team close before the others got hot.

“Doing what he does really opens up the floor for Smith and Jimenez,” Ray said. 

Since Ray knew he had an offense to count on, he spent the summer and preseason focusing on defense.

Vandercook Lake basketball“We knew our focus had to be on the defensive end. We knew that had to be good. Plus, we do a nice job of crashing the boards,” he said. “If we can hold teams in the 30s and 40s, it’s going to be hard to lose. We have a couple kids on the verge of being big-time players for us. I see a lot of growth on the floor.”

The community has bought into the team, too, supporting the Jayhawks at every turn, from being in the stands to helping the team give back. 

“The thing that I’m most happy and impressed with is how the community has responded and supported,” he said. 

The transition from referee to coach gives Ray a different perspective. 

“Being a high school basketball coach has made me a better umpire,” he said. “Being on both sides, you can see the investment the coaches put in and why they care so much. It definitely gives you a different perspective. You start to see both sides of it. You get why the coaches are so intense, so into the games.”

It’s still early in the season, but tonight’s matchup between the Jayhawks (6-0) and Napoleon (6-0) has the makings of a beauty. It could be viewed as a possible changing of the guard in the conference, lately dominated by Hanover-Horton, which has won or shared league titles seven of the past eight seasons but is off to just a 2-4 start.

Vandercook Lake last won Cascades Conference titles in 2011 and 2012. Napoleon hasn’t won one since 2008-09.

“You love to see someone from your area, your conference, do well. But, at the same time, you like to see someone else give it a run,” Ray said. “We just have to continue to play with the same identity we’ve been playing.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Vandercook Lake coach Cory Ray huddles with his team during a timeout this season. (Middle) Ray and two of the community’s youth players show off championship hardware. (Below) Jayhawks fill a grocery cart during a Christmas shopping trip to benefit a local family. (Photos courtesy of the Vandercook Lake boys basketball program.)

Clarkston's Loyer Leaves All-Time Legacy with 25 Record Book Listings

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

September 22, 2023

Foster Loyer’s four-season career at Clarkston from 2014-15 through 2017-18 certainly must be considered among the most accomplished in state history as he led the Wolves to back-to-back Class A championships in 2017 and 2018 and is listed in the record book 25 times.

Among Loyer’s most notable entries were 2,325 career points (12th most), 272 career 3-pointers (tied for ninth), records of 119 consecutive free throws and 634 career free throws, a .921 free-throw percentage as a junior (tied for fourth) and .900 career percentage (second), 589 career assists (sixth), 278 career steals (15th) and 102 games played (tied for sixth).

Loyer went on to play at Michigan State and then Davidson.

See below for more recent record book entries for boys basketball.

Boys Basketball

Four Onaway standouts were added for single-season and/or career records. Jager Mix, who graduated in 2022, was added for 92 steals last season and 225 over his four-season career. Kevin Pearson, a 2021 grad, was added for 81 steals as a senior and 247 over his career. Joe Sigsby, a 2016 grad, was added for 127 steals, and Jadin Mix was added for 124 in 2021-22. Their totals rank ninth and tied for 10th, respectively, on that all-time list. Jager Mix also was added for 967 career rebounds, and Onaway as a team was added for tying the record for most points in a quarter with 49 during the first quarter of a win over Fife Lake Forest Area on Feb. 3, 2022. Jager Mix is playing at Alpena Community College, and Jadin Mix is a senior this school year.

Uchenna Amene was added for 11 steals in a March 7, 2022, game against West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy and for 97 steals total over 25 games. He was a sophomore at Southfield Christian that season and now is a senior at Detroit Catholic Central.

Owen Franklin graduated from Oscoda in 2021 as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and nearly 44 percent of those 1,477 points came on 3-pointers. Franklin made the state career 3-pointers list with 216 over four seasons. He’s playing baseball at Northwood.

Traverse City Christian sophomore Reece Broderick became one of the state’s most accomplished long-distance shooters in just his second year of high school this past winter, drilling 104 3-pointers – good for third-most for one season all-time – over 23 games. He connected on 42 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

A pair of Rudyard four-year varsity standouts entered the record book after their graduations in 2022. Tate Besteman made the career rebounds list with 762 over 89 games, and EJ Suggitt made the career 3-pointers list with 215 over the same 89 contests. Besteman played this past season for Mid Michigan College, and Suggitt is playing baseball at Spring Arbor.

Success from 3-point range played a significant role in Mesick finishing 21-1 in 2021-22, as the team made 195 of its 578 attempts – with game highs of 15 twice in wins over Baldwin and Pentwater.

Then-senior Tristan McFolley earned the first listing under single-game rebounds since 2013 with 30 in Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy’s game with Hope of Detroit Academy on Dec. 8, 2022.

Tawas found its groove from long range Jan. 10 against Oscoda, drilling 22 3-pointers in an 86-31 win. The total tied for fifth-most in one game.

Although Norway felt just short, 40-37, in its District loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park on March 8, Alex Ortman kept the Knights close scoring 20 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to make the single-quarter scoring list. He’s now a senior.

Kobe Clark has listings in two MHSAA record books, with three for boys basketball joining those he earned for football during his Schoolcraft career. He was added in hoops for 531 career assists and 290 career steals over 94 games from 2016-17 through 2019-20, and also for 82 steals as a senior. Tyler DeGroote also was added to the record book, for scoring 20 points during the first quarter against Delton Kellogg during Schoolcraft’s Jan. 11, 2022, victory. Clark began at Saginaw Valley State for football and now plays basketball and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and DeGroote is continuing at Rockhurst (Mo.).

Past Detroit Cooley star Larry Fogle has added a seventh record book listing a half-century later. Fogle grabbed 33 rebounds on Jan. 18, 1972, during a win over Detroit Mackenzie. He went on to play at Louisiana and Canisius, and then briefly with the New York Knicks.

Trevon Gunter scored 42 points in Kalamazoo Central’s 84-56 win over Richland Gull Lake on Jan. 17, 2020, including 31 during the third quarter – second-most and just one shy of the record for points during one period. A senior that season, Gunter plays currently at Grand Valley State.

Mark Wittbrodt held the record for consecutive free throws at 70 until 2008, and that entry in the record book has been joined by several others from the Bay City Western star. He was added for his 192 3-pointers, 436 free throws, .842 free-throw percentage and 266 career steals over three seasons from 1991-93, as well as for six single-season accomplishments. He went on to play at Michigan Tech.

Ellsworth’s Jacob Jenuwine tied for 12th on the single-game 3-pointers list when he connected on 11 as part of scoring 39 points total in his team’s Feb. 14 win over Alanson. Jenuwine graduated this spring.

Bellevue senior Dawson Wing capped his three-season varsity career last winter with three entries in the record. He was added for 12 blocked shots in a 2021-22 game against Colon, 107 for the season last winter and 203 blocks over his career. Teammate Caleb Betz, a senior this fall, was added for 12 steals in a game against Athens.

Logan Mansfield capped his Morenci career in a big way last winter. The senior drilled 90 3-pointers over 24 games to earn his school’s first individual record book entry in boys hoops since the 1987-88 season, when John Craig had 132 blocked shots that would have been the second-most recorded at that time. They currently rank 13th.

New Haven earned a pair of record book entries during its March 10 win over Memphis. The Rockets bested their previous single-quarter school record with 41 points during the opening period, and they also made the statewide single-game 3-pointers list with 16.

Whitehall’s Camden Thompson, a junior this fall, earned his first record book entry last winter – and the first for his school in boys basketball. He grabbed 303 rebounds over 21 games.

Grand Rapids Wellspring Prep junior Zeekeal Jackson earned his school's first boys basketball record book entry this past season as well. He made the single-season steals list with 106, over 22 games, and just missed the single-game list with a high of 10.

Jonesville’s Brady Wright was among his team’s leading scorers during his three varsity seasons ending this past winter, but he also was a major contributor defensively. He made the records with a season-high 101 steals over 25 games as a senior, and made the career list with 232 steals over 61 games.

Sophomore Christopher McLavish Jr. made a memorable impact last season with a pair of record book entries. He made the single-quarter points list with 20 in a Feb. 21 game against Flint Powers Catholic, but even more memorable were his 97 3-pointers over 25 games for the season – tying him for 11th all-time on that list.

PHOTO Foster Loyer directs Clarkston's offense during its 2018 Class A Semifinal.