Beecher Pulls One Win Closer to Repeat

March 21, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Monte Morris returned to the Breslin Center on Thursday for the start of his fourth and final trip as a member of the Flint Beecher basketball program.

The group on the court with him was, for the most part, different than the one that last season won the MHSAA Class C championship. But the Buccaneers’ level of motivation hasn't changed a bit.

Beecher may not be seeking to end a title drought this time after last season's was its first since 1987. But Morris and another group hungry to make history pulled one more win closer to doing so with a 73-55 win over Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central. 

Beecher will finish this season against Laingsburg in Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. championship game.

“Last year, any one of these guys could’ve stepped in and started like they do now. They were just getting ready,” Morris said. “They put the work in during the offseason. They just waited their turn. Now it’s their year, and they’re cherishing the moment.”

And it’s been another memorable week for the Bucs (26-1).  

On Monday, the Iowa State-bound Morris was named Mr. Basketball by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan. On Tuesday, Beecher edged Detroit Consortium 46-44 to earn its return trip to East Lansing.

Morris and his teammates were aware that his award would serve as additional motivation for the teams it would see this week. The Bucs used that as an opportunity to focus their collective mindset even more.

“We’re still hungry,” Beecher coach Mike Williams said. “We’ve got 32 minutes left, and we’re going to learn from history. We know what happened the last time Beecher was here trying to repeat. We’ve got to put in 32 minutes Saturday to bring it home.”

That season, 1988, Beecher returned to the Semifinals but lost in overtime 68-64 to eventual champion Grand Rapids South Christian.

The potential for that kind of situation faded quickly Thursday.

Just 18 seconds in, junior Emmanuel Phifer dunked two of Beecher’s eventual 23 fastbreak points. Senior Markell Lucas’ basket six minutes later gave the Bucs a lead it would not relinquish.

St. Mary senior guard Kevin Woodson scored seven points over 1:22 to help cut what grew to a 23-point lead down to 52-39 with 2:27 to play. But the Falcons (23-3) got no closer than 11 of the lead.

“It was just a great opportunity for our kids,” St. Mary coach Randy Windham said. “We’ve been knocking at the door. Two years ago we lost to Schoolcraft (in the Quarterfinal), and last year we went to the Regional and lost to River Rouge. This year, their will and character just showed. They refused to lose to Schoolcraft this time (again in a Quarterfinal).

“This is something these young men will remember the rest of their lives.”

Morris led Beecher with 29 points and eight assists, while Phifer had 14 points and senior Eric Cooper added 12.

Woodson led four Falcons in double figures with 15 points. Senior Chinedu Nwosu, junior Bradley Sherman and sophomore Bryce Windham all scored 10 points, and Nwosu and Sherman both grabbed eight rebounds.

Click for a full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Flint Beecher's Eric Cooper (12) and Emmanuel Phifer (10) defend Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central's Bradley Sherman (40) during Thursday's Semifinal. (Middle) St. Mary's Chinedu Nwosu and Beecher's Markell Lucas go up for the opening tip. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Ferndale Stays Course, Finds Way to Season's Final Day After 57-Year Wait

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

March 24, 2023

EAST LANSING – The third time was the charm for the Ferndale boys basketball team.

After back-to-back losses in Division 2 Semifinals, the Eagles got over the hump with a 65-60 win over Saginaw on Friday at Breslin Center.

Ferndale used a late 10-0 run to reach the Finals for the first time in 57 years. The top-ranked Eagles will have the opportunity to play for a long-awaited title Saturday against the winner of South Christian and Romulus Summit Academy.

Ferndale last won a boys basketball championship in 1966. 

Trojans coach Juan Rickman said there was a different mindset this year compared to the prior two that ended in setbacks against Grand Rapids Catholic Central. 

“This year they were way more locked in,” he said. “When we got here the first time during COVID, we were playing GRCC right around the corner from their school (at Van Andel Arena) and last year was our first year at the Breslin.

The Eagles’ Christopher Williams dunks during his team’s Semifinal win.

“I  thought we had a lot of emotion last year and we weren't at our best, but this year they knew what to expect and they executed and it was business as usual. It was just another game for us on a bigger floor.”

Ferndale (20-8) started the season 1-5, but always knew its potential to make a tournament run.

“We never panicked throughout the season, and we always said as soon as we get somewhat healthy and as soon as we get our guard play together to play a lot smarter, then we are going to start winning,” Rickman said. “We were losing close games, but our ceiling was so high that I knew we could do that.”

Ferndale nearly squandered its chance for another game after leading by 10 early in the third quarter as Saginaw mounted a second-half rally.

The Trojans led 55-51 in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles scored 10 consecutive points to go up 61-55.

Senior Christopher Williams, who recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, had back-to-back buckets during the run.

“We just stayed the course, just like our season,” Rickman said. “We were up, and then they came back, but we stayed the course.”

Senior Caleb Renfroe led Ferndale with 16 points, while senior Cameron Reed finished with 12 and Jaden Hardiman had 10.

“Chris definitely got going, and when he has a motor he’s hard to stop,” Reed said. “They went on that run, but we knew we had to stay the course. Basketball is a game of runs, so we just had to stay the course and ride the roller coaster.” 

The Eagles led 12-8 after a foul-filled first quarter and extended their advantage to 32-24 at the half. Ferndale took advantage of its opportunities from the free throw line and knocked down 12 of 16 in the first half.

The Trojans (21-7) forged a furious third-quarter surge and outscored Ferndale 22-12 to snare the momentum and the lead, 46-42.

Senior Javarie Holliday scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the third quarter and was 4 of 8 from beyond the 3-point line.

It was Saginaw’s first trip to the Semifinals since 2013. 

“It was a hard-fought game, and Ferndale came out ready to play,” Trojans coach Julian Taylor said. “I thought we took their best punch in the first half, and we came out ready in the second half. Basketball is a game of spurts and I thought we made our run, but we just made a few mistakes down the line in the fourth quarter that really cost us the game.”

Junior Brandon McCune added 17 points for Saginaw. He knocked down five 3-pointers.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Ferndale’s Cameron Reed (0) pushes the pace as Saginaw’s DaRon Sherman (2) trails Friday. (Middle) The Eagles’ Christopher Williams dunks during his team’s Semifinal win.