By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Benton Harbor is wearing the weight of history, with the last name of Don Farnum across the chests of the team’s warm-up T-shirts.
But this season’s Tigers have been aiming to add to their school’s long legacy of boys basketball success – and become its first MHSAA champion in the sport since Farnum led the team to back-to-back titles in 1964 and 1965.
Benton Harbor earned another championship opportunity Friday at the Breslin Center with a 60-49 Class B Semifinal win over River Rouge.
The victory sent the Tigers back to the title game for the 11th time and first since 2014.
“It’s a lot of weight, but we don’t let it get to our heads,” Benton Harbor senior guard Dennie Brown said. “We know this is a great group. We’ve had chemistry since back in middle school. So we knew coming into the season it would be something magical if we’d play the way we’ve been playing our whole lives.
“So it’s not much weight, just motivation.”
Benton Harbor will face Grand Rapids Catholic Central in Saturday’s 6:45 p.m. finale.
The Tigers (26-1) fell to New Haven 78-49 during last season’s Semifinals, as the Rockets went on to win their first Class B title.
A number of Benton Harbor’s players are the same this time around, but this is a new team.
Senior guards Shawn Hopkins (18 points, 13 rebounds) and Elijah Baxter (17 points) and sophomore forward Carlos Johnson (nine points, nine rebounds, six blocks) also started last season and set the tone Friday.
“It’s been a dream season. We’ve gone 27-1, and we had a bad half against Hazel Park – we should be undefeated,” said Benton Harbor coach Corey Sterling, noting his team’s lone loss 77-70 to the Class A Vikings. “But we want that ring tomorrow.
“This senior group earned it. They worked hard in the offseason. We lost last year … and they did everything I asked them to do. And they’re great character kids off the court with high GPAs; I’m so proud of them.”
Facing 14-time champ River Rouge, Benton Harbor saw another team both rich in history and also back at the Semifinals for the second straight season. But Rouge brought only one returning starter to East Lansing.
“It was a great experience to be here, especially as I have a young team,” River Rouge coach Mark White said. “After coming here last year and losing a lot of key players, just the magnitude of experiences, it was great for us. It was great for us, a great achievement to make it here, to play a really good team.”
White then added: “I’m not in the excuse-making business, but I’m looking forward to our guys being seniors.”
White’s young squad kept up with Sterling’s veterans for a half, and the score was deadlocked 25-25 at the break. But starting with a Johnson basket with 2:49 to play in the third quarter, the Tigers put together an 11-4 run to run out the quarter with a 10-point lead. The advantage got as large as 14 but no smaller than eight the rest of the way.
Junior guard Nigel Colvin led River Rouge (23-2) with 15 points, six rebounds and three steals while coming off the bench. Junior guard Donovan Freeman added 12 points, and freshman forward Legend Geeter added eight points and nine rebounds in 14 minutes of sub time.
Brown added eight points and four assists for the Tigers, and senior guard Devan Nichols had six points and five rebounds as the starting five scored all but two of the team’s points.
The “Farnum Boyz” shirts worn by the Tigers are more a dedication to their home court, the Don Farnum Gymnasium, than to the man himself. But a first championship in more than a half century surely would bring a lot of pride to the building and the many who have shined playing in it.
“Coming in, we just knew we had to stay focused,” Baxter said. “We have a goal, and we’ve had this goal since we were young. Coming into this game, we wanted to prove a point we didn’t prove last year.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Benton Harbor’s Carlos Johnson gets past three defenders on the way to the basket Friday. (Middle) Johnson (11) gets a hand up as River Rouge’s Nigel Colvin drives.
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.