TEMPERANCE – The Bedford Mules are kicking up a special boys basketball season in southeast Michigan.
Temperance Bedford is off to a 10-1 start, the best for the school in a decade. Third-year coach Jordan Bollin is happy to bring a winner to his alma mater.
“Bedford has had good teams here and there and good players and coaches, but it never seemed to be anything that was sustained,” Bollin said. “I knew it was going to be a challenge.”
Bollin played varsity basketball at Bedford, graduating in 2006. He went into coaching almost immediately after high school and was named head coach at Dundee in 2015. After 68 wins in five seasons, Bollin was named head coach at Bedford.
“I talked it over with my wife, with the athletic director, with (assistant coach) Mark Hubbard,” Bollin said. “I always, in the back of my mind, thought that I would want to come back to Bedford and coach one day. I wanted to do it while I was still relatively a young coach who still had the passion for all of this. It’s the right time.
“I felt like, leaving Dundee, I had an opportunity to build something myself.”
Wrestling has been the winter sports king at Bedford for decades as the Mules spent years at the top of Class A/Division 1 wrestling circles. The boys basketball team has enjoyed its moments, such as a three-year span when it went 18-6, 18-5 and 14-8 across 2012-2014, but there have been down years, too. Various coaches have tried their hand at the helm, including former NBA player Dennis Hopson.
Bollin himself played for coach Bill Ryan, who led the boys team for seven years but has found ultra-success with Bedford’s girls basketball program.
Bollin knew that when he took over the varsity, he wanted to incorporate the entire program.
“No program is one coach,” he said.
He brought multiple assistants with him from Dundee, including longtime Monroe County coach Hubbard, a Bedford graduate, and former head coach in the county himself. The two have formed a bond.
“We talk every day on the phone before practice,” Bollin said. “We go to lunch once or twice a week. He’s a mentor and someone I talk to all the time.”
Bedford has posted wins over a variety of teams this season, from Southeastern Conference teams like Dexter and Monroe to Ottawa Lake Whiteford, Adrian Lenawee Christian and Stockbridge. Ten of the Mules’ final 11 games are against SEC schools, including two against 8-3 Saline.
Bollin knows the toughest is yet to come.
“We get Ann Arbor Huron at home,” he said. “We lost to them by three on the road. We had the ball, down two in the final seconds and had the ball and were called for a travel. It was close.”
Six-foot-7 Andrew Hollinger is the team’s top scorer and rebounder. Four years ago, he played five games on the varsity, then was a starter in Bollin’s first season. He’s now closing in on 1,000 career points and is one of the best rebounders in southeast Michigan.
“He’s phenomenal,” Bollin said. “He plays so hard, and he’s a great kid. He’s a 4.0 student and very humble. You’ll never hear him talk about himself; it’s always about the team.”
While he’s proven to be a great scorer and free throw shooter this season, Hollinger is also a relentless rebounder.
“I’ve always been one of the tallest out on the court, so I know that I can really use that to my advantage in order to rebound,” he said. “Once the shot goes up, I try to chase down the ball or box someone out in order to give my team the chance to get the ball back.”
Bollin said Hollinger’s intensity shows.
“I use him as an example to the other kids all of the time,” Bollin said.
Twice this season Hollinger has set the school record for most consecutive free throws made in a game. He went 15-for-15 once and 16-for-16 another time. Hollinger averaged a double-double last year at 18.2 points and 10.8 rebounds and has topped those numbers through 11 games this season.
Hollinger is one of eight seniors on the roster. Like Bollin, he’s a homegrown talent, having made his way up from the Bedford Community Education program in the fourth grade to middle school, JV and varsity.
“I fell in love with basketball when I played in the local community ed program,” he said.
Hollinger said all of the seniors had a feeling this was going to be a great season.
“I think the success from our team comes from how hard we play every game and how much experience we have,” he said. “We knew coming into the season that we were in pretty much every game the season before and just had to find a way to start winning games.”
Bedford won six games during the COVID-19 shortened 2020-21 season and four a year ago – losing several games that came down to the final minute. Bollin has matched the win total in those first two years at Bedford in two months.
Ironically, Bollin said, it was the 2020-21 season during which most of this year’s seniors learned to play varsity basketball.
“We had so many games where we had players out for COVID that we had to bring a lot of them up to the varsity to play,” he said. “A lot of the seniors this year got a ton of playing time that year.”
The other current seniors include Griffin Wolf, Tommy Huss, Jimmy Fackelman, Simon Eighmey, Caleb Kochendoerfer, Evan Campbell, and Leo Wagenhauser. They are complimented by a couple sophomores and juniors plus freshman Carsen Behnke.
Hollinger is hopeful the first-half success will continue.
“We all believed in each other in the offseason, and that belief still continues through the start of the season,” he said, deflecting any attention from himself. “I love how basketball is a team game and how you need the whole team to be playing hard in order to win. It’s not just about one person, but it’s about everyone.”
Bollin said he could sense this summer that this season had the makings of being something special.
“I thought we’d have a nice season, but, no, I wasn’t expecting 10-1,” he said. “But, in the summer, I knew when everyone was there and together, we were tough to beat.”
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 DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Bedford’s Andrew Hollinger works for an opening while surrounded by Monroe defenders last season. (Middle) Bedford boys basketball coach Jordan Bollin. (Below) Hollinger brings the Mules up court during a 63-43 win Friday. (Action photos by Tom Hawley and Mike Doughty, respectively, and courtesy of the Monroe News.)
Aaron Fernald isn’t going to complain about his Cass City boys basketball team’s 13-1 start.
He’s happy that his players are finding ways to win games against solid competition.
But, with six of those wins having been decided during the final seconds, he wouldn’t mind if his team didn’t make it so stressful.
“I think the kids get more confident as you win those games, but as a coach, I don’t know if I get more confident,” Fernald said with a laugh. “We do practice situations, we get the clock out, and we’ve been doing that almost every week since the beginning of the season. But I really don’t have a great answer on all of it.”
There may not be an answer to why it’s happening, but the results are eye-opening.
It started Dec. 13, when junior Carter Patrick hit a 3-pointer with just under four seconds to play, giving the Red Hawks a 45-42 win against Millington.
Late 3s to win games are fun, and when they happen in December are typically a footnote to a season, and not the start of a trend. This, however, was the latter.
On Dec. 20, Patrick again scored the go-ahead points with a pair of free throws in the final seconds of a 55-54 win against Saginaw Nouvel.
Patrick struck again Jan. 4, hitting a go-ahead basket with five seconds to play in a 51-50 win against Saginaw Valley Lutheran.
On Jan. 18, Mike Ferland hit a buzzer-beater after a save under the basket by Tyler Cumper in a 47-45 win against Caro.
Trent Patrick had the most dramatic one nine days later, on Jan. 27, when he hit a 3-pointer from just inside halfcourt to defeat Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker 44-43.
Then Feb. 1, Carter Patrick again hit a game-winner, this time on a backdoor cut in the final seconds of a 46-45 victory against Bad Axe.
“I like to think it’s really good, because we’re figuring out how to win in key moments,” Carter Patrick said. “But we need to start getting a lead so we don’t have this pressure in games. I do think it’s preparing us for (the postseason) a lot, actually. If we get the ball at the end of a game, any game, I think the other team might get nervous themselves knowing that we’ve done this.”
Whether or not that’s the case, it’s pretty clear that Cass City won’t be nervous.
“The first couple, I was really nervous down the stretch,” Michael Ferland said. “A lot of other teammates were, too. But I think we’ve all got a lot more comfortable in those situations.”
Having three players who have scored game-winning baskets is a luxury for Cass City. But it goes well beyond that.
“We’ve got a team that kind of keeps hanging around and making a play,” Aaron Ferland said. “To get a buzzer-beater, we’ve had other guys not mentioned much that made plays to get us to that point. It’s kind of been a team effort that’s come from a lot of different people.”
Coming into the season, Aaron Ferland admitted he didn’t think this team could get to this point. He did think there would be improvement from recent years, however, as there were some key players back including Carter Patrick and Michael Ferland, who were each entering their third year on the varsity team.
Both of them, however, did think special things were on the horizon.
“This summer, I did,” Patrick said. “We were at team camp, and I thought this would be a better year for us. We had a really good chemistry, and we got along. We have a lot more fun together.”
That chemistry has been built over the course of several years, as many of the Red Hawks’ players have been playing together since they were kids.
The trust built through that, Patrick said, has helped in those clutch moments.
“We’ve all been friends for a really long time,” he said. “We’ve played a lot with each other, and I think we’ve gained a lot of trust. And if we miss the shot, nobody is going to get mad at each other.”
That group of friends has created some incredible memories already this season, the type that get talked about in town for years. But they’re looking for more – the type of memories that get put up on banners.
“It’s been special, but we haven’t really accomplished anything yet,” Michael Ferland said. “It would make it way more special if we can win some accolades along with it.”
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) Cass City’s Carter Patrick, right, looks for an open teammate during a matchup with Laker. (Middle) Michael Ferland brings the ball up court. (Below) Laker fans watch as Trent Patrick sends up his game-winning shot Jan. 27. (Photos by Tom Greene/Huron Daily Tribune.)