Beaverton Legend Nearing Wins Record
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
January 18, 2017
Roy Johnston is three wins from tying and four from breaking the all-time wins record for boys basketball in Michigan.
But the longtime Beaverton coach isn’t interested in reflecting, at least not yet. That’s just not his style.
“During the season, you just concentrate on – at least I do – the games you’ve got coming up for the week,” Johnston said. “When you start reflecting on things, you’re not doing justice to what’s on hand.”
Johnston, who took over the Beaverton program in 1974 after short stints in Yale and Howell, has a career record of 725-301. Longtime River Rouge coach Lofton Greene holds the record for wins in the state at 728.
“There’s so much pride in our community,” said Shad Woodruff, Beaverton’s junior varsity boys coach and a former player of Johnston’s. “Beaverton basketball brings our community together. Beaverton basketball and Roy’s program brings our small-town community together. It’s a big feather in our cap, and we’re proud to have Roy and what he means – we understand that not every place has something like that.
“To really validate it with the all-time wins record, and be able to say our school has that – you can’t beat that.”
Building a program
Johnston graduated from Croswell-Lexington High School. He attended Adrian College for a semester, playing on the basketball team, before transferring to Eastern Michigan University. While there, he got his nose wet in coaching by helping in Ypsilanti.
He earned his first coaching win during the 1966-67 season at Yale. He was 13-24 with a District title in his two years at the St. Clair County school before he moved to Howell, going 5-28 in two seasons there.
After meeting with the Beaverton High School principal at a deer hunting cabin, he was on the move again – this time to the place he would make his home.
Johnston – who had been teaching high school classes – took a job as a fifth-grade teacher and JV coach in the fall of 1970. He took over the varsity program in 1974 and started winning immediately, going 16-8, 23-2, 18-3 and 22-2 in his first four seasons with three District titles, three conference titles and a Regional title during that stretch.
“Most of it was just discipline,” Johnston said. “I had to make sure the ballplayers got on the same page and that everybody had one common goal. So it was just a matter of making sure kids were disciplined, played with each other and did what you practiced.”
Eventually, players who entered the program knew what to expect and what was expected of them before they stepped foot on Johnston’s court.
“That takes a long time to create that environment,” Woodruff said. “He’s been there for 45 years, so it doesn’t happen overnight. But it does start to coach itself. When kids walk through the door knowing, ‘I have to bust my tail,’ part of that job is already accomplished for you. That’s what a program is. It’s no different than Alabama football.”
In his 42 seasons at Beaverton, the Beavers have won 20 conference titles, 15 District titles and five Regional titles. The team made a run to the Class C Semifinals in 1984.
More impressive, however, is the consistency. In his 42 seasons at Beaverton, Johnston has had just five losing seasons, and one of those still featured 10 wins.
“It has been stable,” longtime Beaverton public address announcer Scott Govitz said. “He is just a guy that is very disciplined in what he does and his coaching. It’s all about doing things right and repetitiveness. He doesn’t run dozens of offenses. He’s a stickler for defense. He just instills in every player that they’re going to have to work hard.”
Don’t mistake discipline for not having fun, however. Beaverton basketball games are an event.
“(Games are) a community gathering, especially on Fridays,” Govitz said. “You can see as many as 10 kids clamoring to be water boy, hear the pep band with a director that’s been around 30 years and after each game, the floor fills with community members having conversations while dozens of kids race to one end to shoot baskets before the call comes to put the balls away. It’s just a real tradition.”
Beaverton’s student section, the Bleacher Creatures, won the MHSAA’s Battle of the Fans contest in 2014.
The team gets into it, as well, as pregame introductions include the Beaver Shuffle and the Beaver Slide (see video below). The final player introduced makes a run through the student section and slides from about halfcourt into his teammates waiting near the bench.
Even Johnston has his own very visible tradition, wearing a red blazer for every game.
The fun offers a bit of a window into who the coach really is.
“Roy is a disciplinarian, and he’s demanding,” Woodruff said. “But I’ve said this for years, if you think you know Roy Johnston by sitting across the gym and watching him coach, you might have a different perception. If that’s all you know Roy from, you don’t know Roy.
“He loves his kids. He expects a lot of us, but he loves his kids and he loves his community.”
Beaverton may not be Johnston’s hometown, but it certainly has become his home.
“I think that we have been very fortunate in Beaverton,” Johnston said. “We have had great teachers, we’ve had great administrators, and for the most part, we have had very good board members. I look at other places that go through a lot of turmoil, and we’ve been very fortunate.”
Johnston’s family has also been part of the tradition, including his wife Judy, who has served as his statistician. Two of his sons, and his three grandsons who grew up the district, have played for him. His daughter Jennifer (Northern Michigan) and son Jeff (Michigan Tech) each went on to play college basketball.
“I’ve had three grandsons live in the district, and I’ve had all three of them,” Johnston said. “Not too many guys have had that pleasure that I’ve had. It’s always been special, all along. I’m very lucky and very fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach those three.”
The youngest of the grandsons, Carter, is at the center of this year’s squad which is 7-1 and sure to push Grandpa over the all-time wins mark.
It’s this latest group, which has included grandsons Carter, Spencer and Grant, that has accelerated Johnston’s chase for the record.
Since the 2012-13 season, Beaverton is 94-10, giving Johnston his winningest stretch near the end of his storied career.
“He has had multiple generations that he’s coached, and he does a lot of the same things with the kids,” Beaverton athletic director Ryan Roberts said. “He’s really good with the kids, getting them involved. I have an 8-year-old boy who sits at the end of the bench, along with about a half dozen others.
“All of the kids and most of the people in the town here have the utmost respect for him, know what he’s doing and how he is.”
For Johnston, reaching out to multiple generations of high school athletes isn’t as complicated as some make it seem.
“They are different, but high school kids and kids at that age are going through the same things we all went through at that age,” Johnston said. “Yeah, they’ve got cell phones that we never had, but they’re still going through the transition of being a little kid and becoming an adult. It’s something that we’ve all gone through.
“If you were out of coaching and came back, I think you would see a difference. Whereas I haven’t been, so you kind of grow with it. Kids are kids, always have been.”
Whenever the record is broken, several generations of Beaverton players and fans will be on hand to watch it. The Beavers play their next three games on the road before settling in for four straight home games Feb. 1 through Feb. 10.
Johnston is trying not to focus on it, but even he admits breaking the record will be special.
“You have to be concerned about your players and how to get them ready for the next game,” Johnston said. “My JV coach is the one who worries about most of this stuff, more than I do. It’s just another step.
“It’s more than that, let’s face it. But it’s another step.”
Others have no problem admitting that it’s much more than that. Woodruff became emotional thinking about the moment and all that Johnston has meant to him throughout the years.
Govitz said the community is already starting to fill with anticipation of the milestone victory.
“We’re a small community, and in small communities you have to rally around whatever successes you have,” Govitz said. “In this community, there’s a huge love for our school system, and this is something that really shines a positive light on our school system. It’s a point of pride.
“I’m already seeing more people in the stands. There’s a buzz in the community. There’s a buzz in the other communities that surround us. There’s a lot of communities that can point to state championships on their signs. This is one of those markers for us that will be around a long time.”
Paul 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 firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Beaverton coach Roy Johnston, at right in 1984 and left more recently. The gymnasium at his schools bears his name. (Middle) Johnston, far left, celebrates an undefeated regular season with his 2014-15 team. (Photos courtesy of Stephanie Johnston.)
Breslin Bound: 2022-23 Boys Quarterfinal Preview
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
March 21, 2023
It finally feels like spring, at least here in East Lansing. And tonight, 32 teams will attempt to build into their spring breaks a trip to Breslin Center.
Below is a glance at all 16 of tonight’s Quarterfinals across four divisions, with all games tipping off at 7 p.m. unless noted. Winners advance to Thursday and Friday’s Semifinals, and we’ll detail the teams more then as we preview those concluding rounds of this year’s tournament.
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Ann Arbor Huron (23-2) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (25-1) at University of Detroit Mercy, 5:30 p.m.
After an early postseason exit last season, 2021 Division 1 runner-up Huron has put together another deep playoff run. Sophomore guard Macari Moore leads three players averaging double-digit scoring at 17 points per game. After winning its first Regional title last season since 1998, Cass Tech is back at the Quarterfinals for a second straight March. Darius Acuff is another super sophomore, also leading three double-digit scorers at 21.6 ppg to go with 5.8 assists per contest.
Grand Blanc (24-2) vs. Rochester Adams (17-8) at Lake Orion
Last season’s runner-up is two wins away from playing for another title, but this time the Bobcats are led by first-year coach Tory Jackson. Seniors Tae Boyd (15.4 ppg) and RJ Taylor (14.3) are a strong 1-2 punch. Adams is coming off its first Regional title in this sport, with junior 6-foot-7 football standout Brady Prieskorn among top contributors for a Highlanders hoops team that has won seven of its last nine games.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (14-10) vs. Warren De La Salle (17-8) at University of Detroit Mercy
These Detroit Catholic League Central rivals will meet for the third time, with St. Mary’s winning the first matchup by 17 on Jan. 10 and the reigning Division 1 champion Pilots taking the rematch by 12 on Jan. 31. Sophomore Trey McKenney is a force at 25.5 points and 11.1 rebounds per game for the Eaglets, while Phoenix Glassnor is another sophomore standout leading De La Salle at 18.4 ppg.
Muskegon (24-2) vs. East Lansing (16-9) at Caledonia
East Lansing has won six straight and 12 of its last 14 games, with three of those wins over opponents responsible for four of their losses this winter. Only one starter is a senior, and sophomore Cameron Hutson leads the way at 19.3 ppg. Muskegon is in the midst of a ninth 20-win season over the last decade and earned its first Regional title since 2015. Senior Jordan Briggs (18.7 ppg) has qualified for the MHSAA single-season record list with 84 3-pointers, connecting on nearly 40 percent of his tries from beyond the arc.
Cadillac (22-4) vs. Saginaw (20-6) at Alma
The Trojans are seeking their first Semifinal appearance since 2013 and have lost only to Division 1 opponents this season, with guard Javarie Holliday leading a mostly senior-powered lineup at 15.8 ppg. Cadillac also won its Regional last season and is seeking to return to the Semifinals for the first time since 2015, with 6-6 junior Charlie Howell the leading scorer (15.3 ppg) and rebounder (7.4 rpg).
Ferndale (18-8) vs. Goodrich (22-4) at Lake Orion, 5:30 p.m.
The Eagles are working to reach Breslin and the Semifinals for a third-straight season and have won 13 of their last 14 games while navigating a power-packed schedule again this winter. Senior Chris Williams leads a balanced lineup at 13.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Goodrich is a combined 93-20 over the last five seasons and playing to make the Semifinals for the first time with senior Jack Locey (18.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.0 spg, 45 3-pointers) among those filling the stat sheet.
Hudsonville Unity Christian (18-9) vs. Grand Rapids South Christian (23-3) at Calvin University
These rivals will be filling Calvin for a rematch after South Christian won the regular-season meeting 58-50 on Dec. 16. The bad news for the Sailors is they lost leading scorer Carson Vis (17.7 ppg) to injury in the Regional Final, but senior Jacob DeHaan (13 ppg) leads three others averaging at least 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Unity has won 11 of its last 12 games, with two-point upsets of Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Grand Rapids Christian along the way. Juniors Trayton Fisher and Colin Neiuwenhuis both average about 11.5 points per game and have combined for 97 3-pointers.
Chelsea (21-5) vs. Romulus Summit Academy (24-2) at Milan
These are two more teams looking to reach the Semifinals for the first time, Summit having played in a Quarterfinal as recently as 2021 and Chelsea’s last trip to the season’s final week in 2000. Juniors Jacob Stephens (22.7 ppg) and Joseph Cabana (22.2) set a strong pace for the Bulldogs. The Dragons have doubled up all four of their postseason opponents so far and done the same in 16 wins total this winter.
Detroit Loyola (25-1) vs. Flint Beecher (21-4) at Waterford Mott
A 67-58 loss to Division 1 Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Jan. 29 remains the only defeat on Loyola’s list this winter. All five starters are seniors, with Dashawn Martin (15.1 ppg) leading three averaging double-figure scoring. Beecher’s losses were to Division 1 and 2 opponents, including three playing tonight. Robert Lee leads a senior-dominated lineup at 24.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game as the Bucs attempt to make the Semifinals for a third-straight season.
Laingsburg (25-0) vs. Ecorse (19-4) at Ypsilanti Lincoln
The Wolfpack’s closest game this season was seven points, its Regional Semifinal win against Jonesville, as it attempts to reach Breslin for the first time since 2013. Junior Zander Woodruff is averaging more than a point per minute of playing time, leading at 24.4 ppg. Ecorse is seeking a return trip to the Semifinals and has won 17 of its last 18 games. Senior guard Malik Olafioye also is putting the finishing touches on a high-scoring career.
St. Ignace (22-4) vs. Traverse City St. Francis (22-4) at Gaylord
St. Ignace is playing in its first Quarterfinal since 2001, seeking to reach the Semifinals for the first time since 1983. Junior Jonny Ingalls (22.4 ppg) leads three Saints averaging at least 13, plus he’s dishing 5.4 assists per game. St. Francis has won 11 of its last 12 games with that lone loss to Cadillac (see above) in overtime in the regular-season finale. Senior Wyatt Nausadis has paced the scoring at 20.1 ppg after quarterbacking the football team to a Division 7 runner-up finish in the fall.
Pewamo-Westphalia (19-6) vs. Niles Brandywine (24-2) at Portage Central
Brandywine has reached the final week for the first time with its first Regional title, and its only losses this season remain against Division 2 Benton Harbor. Junior Jaremiah Palmer leads a lineup with four players averaging at least 9.7 ppg at 12.9 per game. P-W is making its second-straight Quarterfinal appearance after edging North Muskegon by three and then Grandville Calvin Christian by two last week. Senior Jamison Eklund is averaging 22.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Painesdale Jeffers (25-1) vs. Munising (24-1) at Negaunee
The Upper Peninsula is guaranteed to send a one-loss team downstate to the Division 4 Semifinals, and for both programs it would be a first-time trip. Jeffers is playing its first Quarterfinal, and Munising its first since 1954. Junior Levi Frahm leads four Jets scoring in double digits at 20.5 ppg, while senior Kane Nebel is surrounded by a similar balanced attack and leads four double-digit scorers at 15.8 ppg.
Taylor Trillium Academy (21-3) vs. Marine City Cardinal Mooney (15-11) at West Bloomfield
Trillium is another first-time Regional champion, taking this step after falling just a four-point loss shy of reaching the Quarterfinals a year ago. Senior DaMaryon Fishburn is averaging 22.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game for the Wildcats, and junior Keymarryon Fishburn adds 15.3 ppg. Cardinal Mooney has won seven of its last nine games to reach the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 and after falling in Regional Finals the last two seasons – avenging the 2022 loss to Genesee Christian to advance. Senior Trent Rice leads three double-digit scorers at 12.9 ppg.
Frankfort (17-8) vs. Hillman (22-4) at Gaylord, 5 p.m.
Frankfort is another team on a nice streak with eight wins over its last nine games including 50-44 over 2022 semifinalist Lake Leelanau St. Mary in last week’s Regional Final. Senior Emmerson Farmer and sophomore Carter Kerby supply the backcourt with between 10-11 ppg apiece. This will be Hillman’s fourth Quarterfinal over the last nine seasons as the Tigers seek their first Semifinal trip. Trenton Taratuta is a big-time scorer averaging 27.4 ppg with 60 3-pointers but also 9.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 5.2 steals per game.
Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (20-6) vs. Kalamazoo Phoenix (17-2) at Richland Gull Lake
This is a familiar spot for Tri-unity Christian, the reigning Division 4 champion. All five starters average between 6-13 ppg and four have high games of at least 20 points this season; senior Roy Fogg tops both lists at 13 ppg and 25, respectively. This is new territory for Phoenix, which won one game just two seasons ago but has won 10 in a row heading into this week. Senior Cameron Lewis-Atkins (19.9 ppg) leads five players averaging 11 or more points per game. Phoenix avenged one of its losses, to Eau Claire, in the Regional Semifinal.
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PHOTOS (Top) A fan holds up a sign supporting Painesdale Jeffers between the third and fourth quarters of last week’s Regional Final win over Stephenson. (Middle) Tri-unity Christian’s Roy Fogg pulls in a loose ball during his team’s Regional championship victory over Lansing Christian. (Top photo by Cara Kamps; middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)