Beecher Back in Breslin Center Form

March 26, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

EAST LANSING – Few high school teams have made a home of Michigan State University’s Breslin Center like Flint Beecher over the last decade. 

That’s what made last season’s just-miss of MHSAA Finals weekend so unsettling. And Beecher seemed to take out all of its disappointment on Hanover-Horton during the first half of Thursday’s Class C Semifinal.

Back at Breslin for the sixth time in eight seasons, Beecher scored the first 11 points to pull away almost immediately on the way to defeating the Comets 71-43. 

The Buccaneers’ 2013-14 season ended with a one-point Quarterfinal loss to eventual runner-up Pewamo-Westphalia. In its return to the semis, Beecher led by 20 at the end of the first quarter and 31 by halftime.

“I just wanted to get off to a quick start, start the team off fast. We wanted this bad,” Beecher senior guard Samuel Toins said. “Last year we suffered a heartbreak, and we didn’t want to feel that pain like we felt last year.” 

Top-ranked Beecher (25-1) will seek its sixth MHSAA title at 4 p.m. Saturday against Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian. A title would be the Bucs’ third in four seasons – they won back-to-back in Class C in 2012 and 2013.

They’ve had similar hot starts to Thursday, Toins said, “but this is the most important.” 

He had 11 points, with three 3-pointers, and all five starters scored as Beecher built a 23-3 advantage by the end of the first quarter.

Bucs coach Mike Williams said his only worry coming into Thursday was that his players might be distracted by their return. But again, they seemed right at home making 51 percent of their shots from the Breslin floor – including 56 percent of their tries from 3-point range. 

Beecher scored 27 points off turnovers and outscored Hanover-Horton on the break 11-0, taking advantage of 21 turnovers brought on in part by the defensive press.

That all has been part of the plan for getting back to Breslin – Williams puts his players through practices where they run to exhaustion first, and then scrimmage, to prepare for championship-caliber pace.

The Bucs set it Thursday. 

“There have been some days when … these guys wanted to strangle me,” Williams said. “But to get to this point, I told them if they can’t handle me in practice, when the pressure is on in games, they won’t be able to handle it. … I like to think that’s what got these kids over the top.”

Senior guard Cedric Moten added 18 points for Beecher, and sophomore forward Levane Blake had 11 and eight rebounds. 

Junior forward Preston Laketa had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Hanover-Horton (24-2), which did outscore Beecher 30-27 during the second half.

The Semifinal was the Comets’ first since 2003, and Beecher was the fourth ranked opponent they’d faced this tournament. Hanover-Horton, No. 8, beat No. 4 Hillsdale, No. 6 Jackson Lumen Christi and No. 9 Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central during the run.

“(The first half) was probably the worst half of basketball we’ve played, and I know they had a lot to do with it,” Hanover-Horton coach Chad Mortimer said. “We started off with turnovers, didn’t take a shot for a few minutes. … It was over quick. 

“We ran into some really good teams along the way in the tournament, but we ran into a buzz saw today that was on top of their game, and we weren’t.”

Click for the full box score and video from the postgame press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Beecher players celebrate their victory over Hanover-Horton and return to the Class C Final. (Middle) Beecher and Hanover-Horton players scramble for a loose ball Thursday.

South Christian Sails Into Latest Challenge, Earns Saturday Return

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

March 24, 2023

EAST LANSING – The Grand Rapids South Christian boys basketball team faced adversity when it lost standout sophomore Carson Vis to season-ending injuries in last week’s Regional Final.

The Sailors faced a different kind of adversity Friday in a Division 2 Semifinal, as they were tested for the first time since late January.

South Christian responded, and showed a steely resolve that put the team one step closer to a championship following a 40-35 overtime win over Romulus Summit Academy North at Breslin Center.

The Sailors will play Ferndale in Saturday’s Division 2 Final.

“We talk about adversity all the time, and we’re missing our 20 points a game star player, and so we’ve had some throughout the season,” South Christian coach Taylor Johnson said. “It builds character.”

Summit’s Dontez Scott Jr. works to get past the Sailors’ Nate Brinks.

South Christian had won 15 games in a row entering Friday, all by double digits. Summit gave the Sailors their closest game since losing to Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Jan. 24. 

“We’ve been on a run here, and even as a coach, I feel like I haven’t done enough because we haven’t been in these situations,” Johnson said. “What a battle, and that’s what it’s all about. Two great teams with a lot of great players, and we found a way.”

Senior Jake DeHaan, who led the Sailors with 14 points, said he embraces playing in these types of games.

“This is what our team talks about, adversity, and we want to play in the biggest moments,” DeHaan said. “As a competitor, that's what you want to do. You want to play on the biggest stage against the best teams, and that's what we like to do.”

In a defensive struggle with points hard to come by, the Sailors maintained the lead throughout.

The Sailors took a 19-13 advantage into the half, but the Dragons rallied and cut the deficit to 23-21 with a minute left in the third quarter.

Summit’s Dominic Krzesowiak drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to knot the score at 31-31 with 30 seconds remaining in regulation.

In overtime, Nate Brinks buried a 3-pointer for South Christian after Summit took its only lead of the game.

Junior Jake Vermaas, who finished with 12 points, then made 6 of 6 from the free throw line to keep Summit at bay.

“I just kept dribbling with my head up and knocking down free throws when we needed them,” Vermaas said. “Staying focused and locked in, and I think that’s a credit to being on a big stage like this in football and being comfortable.”

The Sailors, who won the Division 4 football championship in November, will search for their first basketball Finals title since 2005.

Summit Academy (25-3), which shot 35 percent (16-46) from the field, was playing in its first Semifinal.

“We expected it to be a defensive game and every possession to be tough,” Summit coach Mark White said. “We expected to be challenged to execute and to challenge them to execute.

“We knew it would come down to who executed the best and took advantage of their opportunities. We came to battle, and I’m very proud of our team and our program that we made it this far.”

James White led Summit with 13 points and seven rebounds. Krzesowiak finished with six points and six rebounds.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) South Christian’s Jake Vermaas (0) makes a move toward the basket during his team’s Division 2 Semifinal win. (Middle) Summit’s Dontez Scott Jr. works to get past the Sailors’ Nate Brinks.