Boys Finals: Points A to B

March 22, 2012

Loaded expectations come with being the favorite for any MHSAA championship. 

But a pair of favorites and two groups of strong contenders make for loaded fields for both the Class A and B Boys Basketball Finals this weekend at Michigan State's Breslin Center.

In Class B, reigning champion Lansing Sexton is a heavy favorite, but 2011 runner-up Muskegon Heights and 2010 champion Detroit Country Day also are in the mix. And in Class A, top-ranked Saginaw and No. 2 Romulus both have reached the final weekend of the MHSAA winter season.

Below is a schedule for Friday's Semifinals and all four Saturday Finals. Tickets cost $8 per session, and parking at Michigan State is $5. All Semifinals will be streamed live at along with the press conferences after each, and the A Final will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit -- with Class B then broadcast on delay at 10:30 p.m. Saturday. Click for scores as they come in, and return to Second Half for coverage of all 12 games this weekend at Breslin.

Friday's Semifinals
Class A

Rockford (21-5) vs. Romulus (22-3) - 1 p.m.
Saginaw (24-2) vs. Macomb L'Anse Creuse North  (22-4) - 2:50 p.m.
Class B

Stevensville Lakeshore (23-2) vs. Muskegon Heights (20-6) - 6 p.m.
Detroit Country Day (21-5) vs. Lansing Sexton (25-1) - 7:50 p.m.

Saturday's Finals
Class A - 4 p.m.
Class B - 8 p.m.
Class C - Noon
Class D - 10 a.m.

Now, a look at this season's Class A and B Semifinalists (Click for previews of the Class C and D Semifinalists.):

Class A

22-4, unranked
League finish:
First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Jay Seletsky, 10th season (140-80)
Championship history:
Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins:
54-52 and 64-59 over Romeo, 51-50 over Fraser (Regional Semifinal), 43-41 over Detroit Denby (Regional Final).
Players to watch:
Tyler Conklin (6-3 jr. G – 12 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.0 apg), Robert Hopkins (6-3 jr. G – 9.5 ppg).
L’Anse Creuse North might be the biggest surprise of this weekend after finishing 10-11 a year ago and posting two sub-.500 records over the last three seasons. But Seletsky has led the team to three league titles in five seasons, and his team knows not only how to win, but how to win close games – eight wins this season were by three or fewer points, and two more were by four points.

21-5, unranked
League finish: Tied for first in O-K Red
Coach: Nick Allen, first season (21-5)
Championship history: One MHSAA title (2003).
Best wins: 62-55 over Class B honorable mention Grand Rapids Christian, 36-35 over Hudsonville, 43-32 over East Kentwood, 55-53 over Okemos (Quarterfinal).
Player to watch: Chad Carlson (5-9 jr. G – 13.2 ppg, 59 3-pointers).
Outlook: After a tough league race that ended with Rockford sharing the championship with both Hudsonville and East Kentwood, Rockford was plenty prepared for the tournament – and came back from 10 down in the second half to win the Quarterfinal. Carlson runs the point and is the player teams focus on most. But four more – 6-1 Alex Durkin, 6-3 Mitch Caywood, 6-1 Chase Fairchild and 6-6 Ivy Johnson – all average 5.5 points per game and help bring a physical edge.

22-3, No. 2
League finish: First in Western Wayne Athletic Conference
Coach: Nate Oats, 10th season (195-50)
Championship history: One MHSAA title (1986), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 67-62 over No. 5 Detroit Pershing (Quarterfinal), 76-62 over No. 10 Saginaw Arthur Hill, 83-67 over No. 9 Kalamazoo Central, 86-51 over Class B honorable mention Muskegon Heights, 60-59 over Class B No. 3 Detroit Country Day, 69-57 over Class B No. 9 Dearborn Heights Robichaud.
Players to watch: Elbert Matthews (6-4 jr. G – 13.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.3 apg), Raven Lee (6-3 sr. G – 12.7 ppg, 3.0 apg), Wesley Clark (6-0 jr. G – 12.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.4 spg, 37 3-pointers).
Outlook: Romulus regularly plays one of the state’s toughest regular-season schedules, and regularly drives deep into the Class A tournament. The Eagles’ run to a runner-up finish in 2005 was the first of five Regional and six District championships in the last eight seasons under Oats. Lee has committed to sign with Eastern Michigan.

Record/rank: 24-2, No. 1
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League
Coach: Julian Taylor, first season (24-2)
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recently 2008), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 88-76 and 66-62 (District Final) over No. 10 Saginaw Arthur Hill, 71-62 over No. 2 Romulus, 73-59 over Bay City Western.
Players to watch: Travontis Richardson (6-2 sr. G – 15 ppg), Julian Henderson (6-2 jr. F – 12 ppg).
Outlook: Like Romulus, Saginaw annually plays a strong regular-season schedule featuring not only tough competition from the Saginaw Valley, but also many of the best from the Detroit area and beyond. Those two losses this season were by five to Arthur Hill – a loss which Saginaw later avenged – and late, by a point, to No. 9 Kalamazoo Central. Five other players average at least eight points per game behind solid backcourt duo Richardson and Henderson.

Class B

21-5, No. 3
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Kurt Keener, 34th season (653-176)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA titles (most recently 2010), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 89-52 over Harper Woods Chandler Park (Regional Final), 110-75 over Class D No. 7 Southfield Christian, 65-55 over Class A No. 10 Saginaw Arthur Hill.
Players to watch: Robert Puleikis (6-9 sr. C – 12.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Jodan Price (6-7 sr. F – 11.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.1 apg), Austin Price (6-3 jr. G – 10.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.9 apg).
Outlook: All eight of Country Day’s championships have come under Keener, and the Yellowjackets face a familiar opponent to start this potential run – Sexton, which Country Day beat in the 2010 Final and lost to in a 2011 Semifinal. Puleikis earned an all-state honorable mention this week and is one of a number of sizable Yellowjackets – the team also brings 6-6 and 6-3 players off the bench.  

25-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Blue
Coach: Carlton Valentine, sixth season (122-25)
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recently 2011), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins:  56-37 over No. 9 Dearborn Heights Robichaud (Quarterfinal), 66-56 over No. 4 Lansing Catholic (District Final), 80-71 over Class A No. 9 Kalamazoo Central, 70-57 and 93-80 over Class A honorable mention East Lansing, 72-60 and 75-58 over Class A No. 3 Lansing Eastern,
Players to watch: Bryn Forbes (6-3 sr. G – 18 ppg, 44 3-pointers), Anthony Clemmons (6-1 sr. G – 15 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 4.1 apg), Denzel Valentine (6-6 sr. G – 14.2 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 8.4 apg), Jalen Hayes (6-7 jr. F – 12.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg).
Outlook: Despite a one-point loss to Detroit Pershing during the season’s first half, it’s fair to argue Sexton is the state’s top squad, regardless of class. Four starters are back from last season, and all will play at the Division I college level – Valentine was named Associated Press Class B Player of the Year this week and has signed with Michigan State, while Clemmons has signed with Iowa, Forbes with Cleveland State and Hayes has a number of offers. The team’s top two guards off the bench last season also are back, and 6-9 freshman Trevor Manuel mans the middle.

20-6, honorable mention
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Keith Guy, ninth season (189-39)
Championship history: Six MHSAA titles (most recently 1979), eight runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 51-44 over No. 8 Cadillac (Quarterfinal), 64-51 over Rockford, 84-78 over Class A honorable mention Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills, 67-54 over Class C No. 7 Shelby
Players to watch: Juwon Martin (6-5 jr. F – 15.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Deshaun Thrower (6-0 soph. G – 11 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.4 apg), Mike Davis (6-4 soph. F – 10.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg).
Outlook: Although Muskegon Heights is seeking its first championship in more than three decades, few teams are more regular guests at Breslin Center. The Tigers are reigning runners-up and also finished runners-up in 2005. They’ve won their District every season under Guy, and also five Regionals including their last three. And this could be just the start on that next championship – the team has just three seniors, but six sophomores including two who start and Davis, a big contributor off the bench.

23-2, No. 7
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Sean Schroeder, 10th season (164-70)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 44-35 over Sturgis (Regional Semifinal), 65-55 over No. 10 Otsego (Regional Final), 58-48 over honorable mention Grand Rapids Christian (Quarterfinal), 69-63 over Class A No. 9 Kalamazoo Central.
Players to watch: Austin Kaiser (sr. G – 10.1 ppg, 36 3-pointers), Loren Johnson (sr. G – 10 ppg, 3.4 apg).
Outlook: Lakeshore has won 16 straight and lost only to Kalamazoo Central and Niles this season. The Lancers won their second Regional title and third District and league titles in six seasons. Balance is key – seven players average between six and 10 points per game, with senior Ryan Avery also among three at 10 ppg.

PHOTO: Lansing Sexton senior guard Anthony Clemmons (right) is back trying to lead the Big Reds to a second-straight Class B championship.

Ferndale Caps Winter Season with 1st Boys Hoops Title Since 1966

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

March 25, 2023

EAST LANSING – One team was going to end a long championship drought in Saturday’s boys basketball Division 2 Final.

Ferndale’s was especially lengthy, and spanned more than five decades.

And now it is no longer.

The Eagles won their first Finals championship in 57 years with a 44-38 victory over Grand Rapids South Christian at Breslin Center.

Ferndale had last won a state title in 1966.

“The drought is over,” Eagles coach Juan Rickman said. “That’s big time, and the biggest part about making it down here was seeing how charged up the community was and the school was so charged up. It’s the greatest feeling to see how vested our community was in our success.”

Christopher Williams (13) tries to power past South Christian’s Sam Weiss (23) to the rim.Ferndale senior Christopher Williams led the way with 16 points and four rebounds.

“It feels great,” Williams said. “Especially since the past four years we’ve been to the same place and lost twice in a row to the same team, and now it feels like weight is lifted off my shoulders.

“We started off the season 1-5, and going till now we knew if we stayed together through adversity then we could do it. And it made it more impactful that it was our coach’s first state title, and that’s what we wanted to do.”

Added senior point guard Cameron Reed, who had a game-high seven assists: “It’s incredibly special. I wasn't born back then, my teammates weren’t born and my coaches weren’t born. It definitely rejuvenated the whole city and community.”

Ferndale led 8-4 at the end of the first quarter, and both teams shot poorly in the first half. The Eagles connected on a paltry 24 percent from the field, and South Christian on 35 percent of its attempts. Nate Brinks drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Sailors a 16-14 halftime lead. 

Junior guard Jake Vermaas opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer to make it 19-14, but Ferndale made a charge.

The Eagles sliced the deficit to one (25-24) on a 3-pointer by Trenton Ruth, and Cameron Reed tied it at 28-28 with an acrobatic layup.

“Our team was mentally strong, and I’m so proud of them for their accomplishment,” Rickman said. “Just so committed to the process and just being resilient.”

Cameron Reed (0) leads a break for the Eagles.An 8-2 spurt by Ferndale over the first three minutes of the fourth quarter made it 36-30.

“That was extremely important, and we always want to win the first four minutes,” Rickman said. “And we tried to open up the fourth quarter with what we call a kill; we want to get five straight stops and score on two or three of those possessions so we can build a lead. We did that fairly well against a good team.”

South Christian was attempting to win football and basketball Finals championships during the same school year, and was looking for its first basketball title since 2005.

“It was a really hard-fought game and I thought we played at our speed, but it got away from us a little bit,” first-year Sailors coach Taylor Johnson said.

“But it doesn’t take away from what we accomplished this year. We’ve been through it all, including three season-ending injuries, and to still make it to the state finals is an incredible feat.”

Senior Jacob DeHaan and Vermaas led the Sailors with 14 points apiece, while senior Sam Medendorp added seven points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Ferndale raises the Division 2 championship trophy Saturday night at Breslin Center. (Middle) Christopher Williams (13) tries to power past South Christian’s Sam Weiss (23) to the rim. (Below) Cameron Reed (0) leads a break for the Eagles.