Beecher Survives on Last-Second Shot

March 24, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – There wasn’t much for Flint Beecher coach Mike Williams to enjoy as he watched Detroit Loyola shred his team’s 15-point lead over the final 14 minutes of Thursday's Class C Semifinal.

But there was one thing he could applaud; his players stayed up when another team, a much less accomplished or experienced team, might have lost its edge.

Junior Malik Ellison believed the reigning MHSAA champ would still end up advancing to Saturday. And he backed it up with the season on the line.

With the Bucs trailing by two points and five seconds to play, Ellison took a handoff from a teammate of an inbounds pass, and with no way to get to the basket, drilled a 3-pointer from five feet behind the arc to give Beecher a 60-59 win as the final second ticked off the clock.

“In practice we run that play all the time,” said Ellison, who also started on last season’s championship team. “(Coach) gives us a situation, like we’re down two and we’ve got to get a bucket. At first on my pump fake, I was like, should I pass? Then I saw (the defender) jump, got a little angle with my arm, and knew it was going in. I felt it.

“Every day I go in the gym, either the Y or I stay after practice, and it’s shots like that just for times like this. I just pulled it through today.”

Beecher (24-2), ranked No. 2 heading into the postseason, will take on Grandville Calvin Christian in Saturday’s Final at 4:30 p.m.

But the Bucs’ attempt to win a fourth Class C title in five seasons looked to be done when Loyola added the final two points of a 24-8 run on sophomore Pierre Mitchell’s two free throws with 47 seconds remaining. 

They made the score 59-55 in the Bulldogs’ favor, and junior Jordan Roland’s bucket with 26 seconds left drew Beecher to only within two. Loyola then missed a pair of free throws with 12 seconds to play, but on the ensuing possession managed to deflect Beecher’s first pass after reaching midcourt out of bounds – setting up the dramatic final five seconds.

After receiving the handoff from senior Aquavius Burks on the wing to the left of the basket, Ellison took one dribble left before jutting back right – he had to a shoot a 3-pointer, as Mitchell gave him no opening to the basket and time was nearly gone. Tilted a bit to the right, Ellison floated a shot that dropped as the clock expired.

“What can I say? Wow. What an incredible ending,” Williams said. “I thought we got a little complacent once we got the lead, and that’s the first time we’ve turned the ball over as many times (18) as we did all year. 

“But one thing about this team and what it’s shown all season, is resiliency, poise and composure in the face of elimination. … I wasn’t proud that we gave up the lead, but after we gave up the lead it was all positive in the huddle. (And) Malik said, ‘We’ve got this.’”

Beecher had trailed Flint Hamady by five points with 40 seconds to play in the District opener before winning 68-62. The Bucs then trailed Southfield Christian by 13 points with nine minutes to play in the Regional Final before coming back for a 78-65 victory.

So trailing late wasn’t new, and neither was the atmosphere at Breslin Center, Beecher’s late-season home most of this decade.

“It helps with the coaching staff, and it helps with the players,” Williams said. “I remember coming here back in 2003, and one of the first things I noticed is the ball bounced a little different on this floor. The atmosphere is a little different than playing in a gym. When you come down here for the first time … you noticed in the first half that Loyola had a hard time adjusting to shooting the basketball. They were shooting the basketball a whole lot better once they got adjusted to the depth perception.”

In fact, Loyola did shoot 29 percent from the floor during the first half and 42 percent during the second, while Beecher was more consistent and finished at 48 percent for the game.

Bulldogs senior Ernest Adams and sophomore Keith Johnson especially found their shots over the comeback run, Adams making all three of his 3-pointers and scoring 11 of his team-high 15 points during the stretch and Johnson making both of his 3-pointers over the final 4:10.

“The bigger thing is what has happened all year for us; these guys played for each other,” Loyola coach John Buscemi said. “Once a few (shots) went, everyone got energized – the guys in the game, the guys on the bench. We love each other, we’re a family, and we just feed off of that. And I think we did tonight."

Adams also had 10 rebounds for Loyola (21-6) and Johnson finished with 10 points. Senior Romari Ennis had 12 points.

Burks had a game-high 22 points for Beecher making 6 of 7 shots from the floor and all seven of his free throws. Ellison had 11 points and senior Jamari Thomas-Newell had 12 points.

Click for the full box score.

The Boys Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System. 

PHOTO: Beecher players embrace Malik Ellison after his game-winning shot Thursday. (Middle) Loyola’s Pierre Mitchell works to get a shot up while surrounded by Beecher defenders.

St. Clair County Celebrates 1st Mr. Basketball Winner, PHN's Jamison

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

March 29, 2023

The Jamison family has spent plenty of time over the years driving long distances as Tyler chased his basketball dreams.

Bay & ThumbAfter the Port Huron Northern senior achieved one of the biggest ones, they had to put some more mileage on the family vehicle.

As the newly-crowned Mr. Basketball, Jamison was invited to a special presentation during the Boys Basketball Finals this past Saturday afternoon at the Breslin Center. It was an invitation Tyler and his family didn’t hesitate to accept, and the drive from Port Huron to East Lansing was nothing.

But it did cause a pretty big change to some other travel plans.

Tyler and his family were scheduled to fly to Florida on Friday for spring break. That flight had to be canceled, though, and instead, the family made the drive down later.

“There were some jokes about just leaving me and letting me find my own way down there,” Jamison said.

While they joke, there’s nowhere the Jamisons would have rather been Saturday than at the Breslin. As a true basketball family – Tyler’s dad Brian is also the coach at Northern, and his brother Alex was a standout freshman for the Huskies – they have a great appreciation for the Mr. Basketball Award and its significance.

“I had said a while ago, ‘Hey, if we’re still in the tournament, we’ll be playing Friday,” Brian Jamison said. “I even mentioned that it would be a miracle, but Tyler could win Mr. Basketball. Now we’re eating plane tickets and driving down to Florida. But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we’re not missing this.”

Jamison was the overwhelming winner of the award, which is named after Hal Schram and given out by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan. He received 3,058 points in the vote to become its 43rd winner. Curtis Williams of Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (2,004 points), Kaden Brown of Grand Rapids Catholic Central (1,918), Sonny Wilson of Detroit U-D Jesuit (1,883) and Ryan Hurst of North Farmington (1,811) were the other finalists.

“It was just insane,” Tyler Jamison said. “I can’t even really put into words how I felt – it was just a dream come true, a culmination of all the hard work that’s been put in over the years. My mom was in the other room (when his dad called to tell him), and I just hugged her and we were kind of screaming. The dog was getting riled up. It was fun. There were a few tears shed.”

Jamison throws down a dunk.Jamison, who signed with Fairleigh Dickinson in December, finished the season averaging 26.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game. He was named the Macomb Area Conference White division MVP after leading Northern to the league title and a 20-4 overall record.

Even with all that, winning the most prestigious individual basketball award in the state didn’t seem like a reality.

“We purposely try to play a tough schedule, and we purposely got into some showcases because we wanted people to see, not only him play, but us play,” Brian Jamison said. “We had beaten Skyline and Hamtramck, and went up to Croswell-Lexington and won up there, and I thought, ‘OK, now he’s done it against some of the better teams.’ Up to that point, when we played those tougher teams, he’s always showed out well, but it’s different when you’re not winning them. But at that point, I thought he had a chance. Really, I was just hoping he would get on the list. To win it was kind of above and beyond what I had hoped for.”

On the court, Tyler’s impact on the program was pretty obvious and immediate.

He’s the program’s all-time leading scorer – a record he set as a junior – with 1,763 career points. He also holds Northern records for career rebounds (825), points in a game (59), rebounds in a game (28), career field goals made (638) and career free throws made (439). As a junior, he was named MAC Blue MVP.

Northern did not lose a league game in either of the past two seasons.

But Northern is likely to see future success because of Tyler’s non-statistical impact.

Leading a young team, including a group of star freshmen – his brother Alex, Cam Harju and Amir Morelan – was a major part of Tyler’s job this season.

Northern’s home games were must-see events this winter, as the Huskies were one of Division 1’s top teams, and Tyler was providing nightly highlights and must-see performances. Even in his final game, a loss against Macomb Dakota in the District Final, Jamison treated the standing-room crowd with a 46-point performance and a halfcourt shot at the third-quarter buzzer in a valiant effort.

“That’s the big thing, you want the students and the school community to support you, and they did an amazing job,” Tyler Jamison said. “We also had people from the community that wanted to support us and watch us play. Port Huron High had a really good season, too, and I think both schools in the city had that public support. That’s huge. It makes you feel like you’re playing for more than yourself.”

Among those crowds were the next generation of Huskies, some of whom were coached by Tyler in youth basketball. As he’s the first Mr. Basketball winner from St. Clair County, those kids now have a hometown example of someone who has reached the highest heights.

“I think interest gets sparked when the little kids come to the gym, like, ‘Hey, I want to do that,’” Brian Jamison said. “They want to play for Northern or (Port Huron) High. And with him winning Mr. Basketball, I think it gives kids a little bit of ‘Hey, why not me?’ I do think it helps motivate younger people. We’ve had great crowds at our games. I think the area is excited about basketball. It really is a great basketball area.”

With all of that excitement surrounding him, Tyler had one more challenge after the season – keeping the secret that he had won. He found out six days before the award was announced.

“It was terrible – especially when it’s something of that magnitude,” he said. “You want to tell everyone. You want to tell your friends and family. It was hard to be like, ‘No, I don’t know.’”

Paul CostanzoPaul 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 [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Tyler Jamison, second from left, with his parents and brother, stands with his newly-received Mr. Basketball Award trophy during the ceremony at the Detroit Free Press. (Middle) Jamison throws down a dunk. (Photos courtesy of the Jamison family.)