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.
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.
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.
Foster Loyer’s four-season career at Clarkston from 2014-15 through 2017-18 certainly must be considered among the most accomplished in state history as he led the Wolves to back-to-back Class A championships in 2017 and 2018 and is listed in the record book 25 times.
Among Loyer’s most notable entries were 2,325 career points (12th most), 272 career 3-pointers (tied for ninth), records of 119 consecutive free throws and 634 career free throws, a .921 free-throw percentage as a junior (tied for fourth) and .900 career percentage (second), 589 career assists (sixth), 278 career steals (15th) and 102 games played (tied for sixth).
Loyer went on to play at Michigan State and then Davidson.
See below for more recent record book entries for boys basketball.
Four Onaway standouts were added for single-season and/or career records. Jager Mix, who graduated in 2022, was added for 92 steals last season and 225 over his four-season career. Kevin Pearson, a 2021 grad, was added for 81 steals as a senior and 247 over his career. Joe Sigsby, a 2016 grad, was added for 127 steals, and Jadin Mix was added for 124 in 2021-22. Their totals rank ninth and tied for 10th, respectively, on that all-time list. Jager Mix also was added for 967 career rebounds, and Onaway as a team was added for tying the record for most points in a quarter with 49 during the first quarter of a win over Fife Lake Forest Area on Feb. 3, 2022. Jager Mix is playing at Alpena Community College, and Jadin Mix is a senior this school year.
Uchenna Amene was added for 11 steals in a March 7, 2022, game against West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy and for 97 steals total over 25 games. He was a sophomore at Southfield Christian that season and now is a senior at Detroit Catholic Central.
Owen Franklin graduated from Oscoda in 2021 as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and nearly 44 percent of those 1,477 points came on 3-pointers. Franklin made the state career 3-pointers list with 216 over four seasons. He’s playing baseball at Northwood.
Traverse City Christian sophomore Reece Broderick became one of the state’s most accomplished long-distance shooters in just his second year of high school this past winter, drilling 104 3-pointers – good for third-most for one season all-time – over 23 games. He connected on 42 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
A pair of Rudyard four-year varsity standouts entered the record book after their graduations in 2022. Tate Besteman made the career rebounds list with 762 over 89 games, and EJ Suggitt made the career 3-pointers list with 215 over the same 89 contests. Besteman played this past season for Mid Michigan College, and Suggitt is playing baseball at Spring Arbor.
Success from 3-point range played a significant role in Mesick finishing 21-1 in 2021-22, as the team made 195 of its 578 attempts – with game highs of 15 twice in wins over Baldwin and Pentwater.
Then-senior Tristan McFolley earned the first listing under single-game rebounds since 2013 with 30 in Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy’s game with Hope of Detroit Academy on Dec. 8, 2022.
Tawas found its groove from long range Jan. 10 against Oscoda, drilling 22 3-pointers in an 86-31 win. The total tied for fifth-most in one game.
Although Norway felt just short, 40-37, in its District loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park on March 8, Alex Ortman kept the Knights close scoring 20 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to make the single-quarter scoring list. He’s now a senior.
Kobe Clark has listings in two MHSAA record books, with three for boys basketball joining those he earned for football during his Schoolcraft career. He was added in hoops for 531 career assists and 290 career steals over 94 games from 2016-17 through 2019-20, and also for 82 steals as a senior. Tyler DeGroote also was added to the record book, for scoring 20 points during the first quarter against Delton Kellogg during Schoolcraft’s Jan. 11, 2022, victory. Clark began at Saginaw Valley State for football and now plays basketball and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and DeGroote is continuing at Rockhurst (Mo.).
Past Detroit Cooley star Larry Fogle has added a seventh record book listing a half-century later. Fogle grabbed 33 rebounds on Jan. 18, 1972, during a win over Detroit Mackenzie. He went on to play at Louisiana and Canisius, and then briefly with the New York Knicks.
Trevon Gunter scored 42 points in Kalamazoo Central’s 84-56 win over Richland Gull Lake on Jan. 17, 2020, including 31 during the third quarter – second-most and just one shy of the record for points during one period. A senior that season, Gunter plays currently at Grand Valley State.
Mark Wittbrodt held the record for consecutive free throws at 70 until 2008, and that entry in the record book has been joined by several others from the Bay City Western star. He was added for his 192 3-pointers, 436 free throws, .842 free-throw percentage and 266 career steals over three seasons from 1991-93, as well as for six single-season accomplishments. He went on to play at Michigan Tech.
Ellsworth’s Jacob Jenuwine tied for 12th on the single-game 3-pointers list when he connected on 11 as part of scoring 39 points total in his team’s Feb. 14 win over Alanson. Jenuwine graduated this spring.
Bellevue senior Dawson Wing capped his three-season varsity career last winter with three entries in the record. He was added for 12 blocked shots in a 2021-22 game against Colon, 107 for the season last winter and 203 blocks over his career. Teammate Caleb Betz, a senior this fall, was added for 12 steals in a game against Athens.
Logan Mansfield capped his Morenci career in a big way last winter. The senior drilled 90 3-pointers over 24 games to earn his school’s first individual record book entry in boys hoops since the 1987-88 season, when John Craig had 132 blocked shots that would have been the second-most recorded at that time. They currently rank 13th.
New Haven earned a pair of record book entries during its March 10 win over Memphis. The Rockets bested their previous single-quarter school record with 41 points during the opening period, and they also made the statewide single-game 3-pointers list with 16.
Whitehall’s Camden Thompson, a junior this fall, earned his first record book entry last winter – and the first for his school in boys basketball. He grabbed 303 rebounds over 21 games.
Grand Rapids Wellspring Prep junior Zeekeal Jackson earned his school's first boys basketball record book entry this past season as well. He made the single-season steals list with 106, over 22 games, and just missed the single-game list with a high of 10.
Jonesville’s Brady Wright was among his team’s leading scorers during his three varsity seasons ending this past winter, but he also was a major contributor defensively. He made the records with a season-high 101 steals over 25 games as a senior, and made the career list with 232 steals over 61 games.
Sophomore Christopher McLavish Jr. made a memorable impact last season with a pair of record book entries. He made the single-quarter points list with 20 in a Feb. 21 game against Flint Powers Catholic, but even more memorable were his 97 3-pointers over 25 games for the season – tying him for 11th all-time on that list.
PHOTO Foster Loyer directs Clarkston's offense during its 2018 Class A Semifinal.