Beecher Finishes Emotion-Filled Run with Title #9
By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com
April 10, 2021
EAST LANSING – Eight wasn’t enough for the Flint Beecher boys basketball team.
The Bucs won the program’s ninth MHSAA Finals championship Saturday with an impressive 75-47 victory over Iron Mountain in the Division 3 Final at the Breslin Center.
Beecher moved into a tie for second with Detroit Country Day and Muskegon Christian/Western Michigan Christian for all-time boys basketball championships won. River Rouge tops all schools with 14.
“We just wanted to come out and establish our defense,” Bucs coach Mike Williams said. “They prepared and fought, and they executed. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Beecher had last won a Finals title in 2017. The Bucs’ only loss this winter was to Division 1 contender Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the second game of the season.
This was an emotional title run for Williams, whose father passed away nearly a year ago to the championship game date from COVID-19.
Senior Keyon Menifield Jr. lost his grandfather the day after due to COVID-19 complications.
“It’s extremely special and these kids have been my therapy,” Williams said. “This has been a long year for me and my family, and we had some other kids deal with it as well. This is a part of the healing for me and the community and the people that have gone through this pandemic. I’m just glad we got to the finish line.”
Menifield Jr. scored a game-high 37 points – the ninth-most in an MHSAA Final. He was 17 of 27 from the field with only one 3-pointer and two free throws contributing to his total.
“We locked down our defense and we knew we had to get stops, close out and get rebounds,” Menifield Jr. said. “I had to attack, and I had to make sure I got in the lane and made shots. The team that makes the most shots wins the battle.”
Williams, whose team won its last 15 games with only two opponents coming within single digits, said Menifield Jr. hasn’t received the attention he deserves.
“I’ve been saying all along that he is either the most underrated player or the best player in the state of Michigan, period,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who wants to guard him, and I’ve talked to college coaches who have not recruited him and told them they were crazy.”
The Bucs also were able to contain Iron Mountain senior standout Foster Wonders, who scored more than 2,000 career points.
He was held to 13 points and didn’t score until the third quarter.
“The best compliment I can give a player is I would pay money to watch him play,” Williams said. “That kid can play, and we knew that we had to neutralize him one way or the other for us to have a chance to win.”
The Bucs held a commanding 38-19 at halftime. They led by as many as 34 in the second half en route to the decisive victory.
The Mountaineers simply couldn't match Flint Beecher’s size, speed and athleticism. The Bucs’ full-court pressure forced 20 turnovers
“All the credit goes to Flint Beecher,” Iron Mountain coach Harvey Johnson said. “They were tough, and they did to us what no other team could do completely. They’re quick, they’re fast and their press and ability to create off the dribble bothered us. He had his team well-prepared.”
Iron Mountain finished as Division 3 runner-up for the second time in three seasons, and Saturday’s loss was only the Mountaineers’ second over the last two seasons. They were 21-1 last year before the pandemic halted the postseason.
“These eight guys were outstanding, and we beat some great teams to get here,” Johnson said. “I think they represented themselves, our school, our community, and the entire Upper Peninsula with great class. They worked hard and overcame a ton of adversity like every other athlete in the state did to get here. Not many kids get to play here, and we were blessed to be able to do that.”
Jurgen Kleiman added 12 points and eight rebounds for Iron Mountain, while Dante Basanese chipped in 11 points.
PHOTOS: (Top) Beecher's Carmelo Harris makes his move toward the lane during Saturday's Division 3 Final. (Middle) The Bucs' Taylin Muldrew (13) gets a hand up as Iron Mountain's Foster Wonders looks to pass. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
For Their Teams, For Each Other, St. Mary Seniors Team Up 2 More Times
By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com
March 17, 2023
Shawn Bramer and Dylan Barnowski, as middle schoolers, attended the MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals every year.
Last year, they nearly played in the Division 3 title game – falling in a Semifinal but almost making a dream come true for the then-juniors and their Lake Leelanau St. Mary coach, Matt Barnowski, also Dylan’s father.
That dream began for some when the boys were coached by Matt as third graders, and they made serious strides last season. Before last winter, the last time the Eagles had won a Regional championship was 1950 – and no St. Mary boys basketball team had reached the Semifinals. Bramer and Dylan Barnowski – along with current seniors Jack Glynn, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar – had high hopes of making more history this winter.
The dream ended Wednesday night with a Regional Final loss to Frankfort, which St. Mary had defeated 54-41 during the regular season. This time, the Eagles were faced with a large number of K-12 students succumbing to illness – with all five of its starters at least somewhat sick – as nearly a third of the school’s tiny enrollment was out of school the day after the loss to the Panthers.
But you won’t hear any of the players or coaches making excuses. They give all the credit to Frankfort, and they’re ready to move on. And many in the LSM family know reaching the Regional Finals this season and Breslin Center in 2022 had absolutely no probability had Bramer and Barnowski not made an iron-clad agreement last summer.
The two friends vowed to help each other despite their personal, opposing challenges.
Barnowski and Bramer, through LSM’s cooperative agreement with Suttons Bay, went 3-for-3 playing in 8-Player Division 1 Football Finals during their first three years of high school. But through last summer Barnowski, who quarterbacked the Norseman, had no interest in football.
Bramer, meanwhile, had been nursing a quad tendon injury since his sophomore football season and battling two bad knees but was thinking he could suffer though football and sit out the basketball season to recover. The all-state running back experienced training difficulties and even had his strength training severely hampered.
Football was king for Bramer, and he also loved basketball too. Basketball is number one to Barnowski. The longtime friends decided cut a deal to help each other — and their teammates — out.
“I was kind of on the edge,” said Bramer, who plays with braces on both knees. “After talking to each other, we both ended up just playing.
“I really shouldn’t be playing sports, but I couldn’t miss out playing with my friends,” he continued. “We just figured it was our last season so we might as well just do it.”
Barnowski had been considering ending his football days immediately after the Norse fell short in their third-straight trip to the Finals, at Superior Dome in Marquette in Fall 2021. That loss was at the hands of Adrian Lenawee Christian 31-20.
The Norseman graduated most of their offensive and defense lines last spring and expected to be small in numbers. Until this fall, they had lost only one regular-season game on their way to three straight title game appearances. This year they finished 3-5.
The big linemen losses — Barnowski’s protection — was forcing him to weigh his injury risk against having a senior basketball season.
“We did it for each other,” Barnowski said. “I talked with Shawn, and we knew we had a big community behind us and it would be hard for them if we just quit.
“I knew we weren’t going to have the same powerhouse team we had,” he continued. “We weren’t very good this year, but we still had a blast.”
This week’s loss put an end to the possible Breslin championship finish, but it left the friends happy with the decision to play both sports. The Eagles finished 20-4.
Barnowski led St. Mary in scoring. He averaged better than 20 points a game with more than seven rebounds and five assists. Bramer averaged just under 15 points per game, and almost 10 rebounds.
The two big men each scored 11 in the season-ending loss. Thompson scored 14. This year’s senior-dominated team likely will be remembered for its basketball success for some time. Barnowski, Bramer and Glynn experienced only one loss in District play over their four seasons.
“It’s a really special groups of kids,” Coach Barnowski said. “These kids kind of transformed St. Mary’s basketball.
“They’ve really built the program,” he continued. “It’s been a roller coaster ride.”
Bramer and Dylan Barnowski also played baseball in the past for the Eagles, but that likely won’t happen this spring. Barnowski plans to golf, and Bramer expects to sit the spring season out and heal.
“We’ll never forget these last four years of varsity we played,” Barnowski said. “I‘ve decided to go a more relaxing route, and I’m going for some golf.”
With their Breslin dream over, the friends are ready to enjoy the St. Mary’s community support and move on. They’re bummed so many were sick in the end but won’t use it as an excuse.
“Hats off to Frankfort,” Barnowski said. “They did an incredible job of shutting us down.”
“They just played their game better than we did,” he said. “They took the lead at the end of the third quarter, and it was a battle from there.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at email@example.com with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) St. Mary’s seniors Dylan Barnowski, left, and Shawn Bramer hold up the team’s District championship trophy last week. (2) Eagles coach Matt Barnowski, center, and assistant Sander Scott coach up their team during last week’s Regional Semifinal win over Mesick. (3) Dylan Barnowski and Bramer also teamed up during successful football careers. (4) St. Mary’s seniors, from left: Shawn Bramer, Jack Glynn, Dylan Barnowski, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar. (Sideline photo by Tom Spencer; player photos by Emmerson Lamb Photography.)