Mid-January always is something of a transition time in boys basketball season, and this week’s “Breslin Bound” report reflects that change of focus as we near the midway point.
We highlight top matchups from events honoring Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend, the last showcases for many teams this season as they move into the league schedule grind. And we dive into some of the early conference action as well as that becomes the next chapter for most over the next seven weeks.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Ferndale 63, Flint Beecher 52 Playing many of the state’s best, Ferndale has been much better than its 3-5 early record – and this win at its Horatio Williams Foundation MLK Freedom Classic, handing Beecher (8-1) its only loss, says a lot.
2. Warren Michigan Collegiate 64, Detroit Renaissance 55 Another Freedom Classic matchup saw Michigan Collegiate (8-1) add another impressive victory to its first-half run with Renaissance (9-4) having won nine straight heading into the weekend.
3. Muskegon 50, Warren Lincoln 45 The Big Reds (8-0) also earned a big win at the Freedom Classic, as Lincoln (6-3) has been among eye-openers during the season’s first half.
4. Cadillac 68, Petoskey 65 (OT) The reigning Big North Conference co-champ Vikings (7-1) got a major boost with Petoskey (7-3) another favorite this winter.
5. Clarkston 50, Troy 48 – Both stand 8-2 after this matchup, and both could end up Oakland Activities Association champs in their respective divisions.
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Grand Ledge (7-1) Handing Okemos its first loss, 50-47 on Friday, was a big step in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue – but just the latest of a strong bounce-back from last year’s 9-14 finish. The Comets’ lone loss was in overtime at Petoskey, and Grand Ledge picked up a nice overtime road win two weeks later at Mount Pleasant. Blue co-leader Lansing Waverly comes to Grand Ledge on Thursday.
Grand Rapids Northview (9-1) The Wildcats picked right back up where they left of reaching last season’s Division 1 Semifinal, with their only loss this winter to still-undefeated Detroit Cass Tech. Northview has impressed with some close wins, early by two points over Grand Rapids South Christian, later by three over East Grand Rapids and Saturday by one in overtime over Chicago Hyde Park (15-4) at the Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills MLK Day Hoops Classic.
Big Rapids (6-1) The Cardinals won the last two Central State Activities Association Gold titles and could be lining up for a third-straight championship with the CSAA back to one division this winter. Big Rapids has a nonleague win over Reed City, which is looking like another possible CSAA contender, and defeated former league rival Fremont after splitting with the Packers last season. Big Rapids’ lone loss was to still-undefeated Hart.
Olivet (9-0) The Eagles have gone from five to 13 to 19 wins over the last three seasons, respectively, and they’re on their way again with five wins over teams with winning records. Olivet handed Onsted its only loss, 59-42, on Dec. 29 at Spring Arbor’s Shot Clock Classic, and also avenged one of its two losses from last season with a 67-61 win over Battle Creek Harper Creek.
Detroit Loyola (9-0) Six of the Bulldogs’ nine wins have come against teams with winning records, highlighted by a 69-51 victory over Romulus Summit Academy at the Motor City Roundball Classic that remains Summit’s lone loss. Wins over Division 1 Grosse Pointe South, Fenton and Livonia Franklin also stand out among the notable, and a matchup with Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Jan. 28 at Cass Tech could be another indication of Loyola’s potential in March.
Jonesville (8-1) After starting last season 0-4 before rebounding to 13-8, Jonesville started this season 5-0 with wins over three of the teams that defeated the Comets during the 2021-22 opening string. Jonesville’s only loss this time has come to Reading in the Pat Patterson Classic Pool A final. Jonesville shared the Big 8 Conference title last season with Concord, and it sees the Yellow Jackets for the first time Thursday.
Genesee Christian (7-1) The Soldiers are off to another solid start coming of last year’s trip to the Division 4 Semifinals. The only loss this winter came in mid-December to Division 2 Flint Hamady, and right after Genesee Christian opened with an impressive 60-57 win over Saginaw Nouvel. A strong finish to December included victories over Division 2 Lake Fenton and Division 1 Fenton and Port Huron.
Taylor Trillium Academy (7-0) After finishing 17-4 and just missing a Regional title last season with a four-point loss to Southfield Christian, Trillium is making plenty of noise again. The only single-digit game was a 46-44 win over Division 2 Redford Union at the Mitten Recruit Christmas Classic, and the remaining schedule is filled with mostly Division 2 opponents with Division 1 Detroit Mumford up next today.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – Grand Haven (9-0) at East Kentwood (6-2) – The Buccaneers have an early one-game edge at the top of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red, but East Kentwood certainly is among contenders as well.
Wednesday – New Haven (9-1) at Port Huron Northern (8-0) – This could turn into one of the season’s most notable wins for whichever comes out on top, and a great momentum builder as both chase Macomb Area Conference division titles.
Thursday – Croswell-Lexington (8-2) at Richmond (8-1) – Croswell-Lexington was first and Richmond second in the Blue Water Area Conference last season, and they are the only teams still without a loss in league play this winter.
Saturday – Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (9-1) vs. Kalamazoo Central (7-0) at East Kentwood – This matchup of top Division 1 teams is arguably the headliner of the Gotta Get It Hoops Classic.
Saturday – Romulus (7-1) at Saginaw (10-2) – Few have had more combined success at the statewide level over the last 20 years, and both are off to big starts again.
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PHOTOS (Top) Flint Beecher’s Robert Lee (22) works to find an opening with Ferndale’s Cameron Reed (0) defending Saturday. (Middle) Otsego’s Nicholas Lopez tries for a reverse lay-up during his team’s 63-36 win over Plainwell on Friday. (Photos by Terry Lyons and Gary Shook, respectively.)
A review of Harbor Light Christian’s boys basketball rosters over the last couple of decades would show a lot of familiar names.
That would be especially true of the coaching slots.
Or are the players now coaches?
The coaches’ names are extremely familiar, and nothing much has changed – except some of the former players are now coaches, and the head coaches have returned to assist the program.
Today, the head coach is Jason Roussin. He’s in his 12th season at the helm of the Swordsmen. Jeff Jakeway, who was the head coach during Roussin’s junior and senior seasons at Harbor Light, is back on the Swordsmen’s staff as an assistant coach. Roussin is also assisted by long-time coach William Henagan and previous head coach Clark Hewitt.
Hewitt also serves as the Harbor Light junior varsity coach. The JV squad went 19-1 this season and 18-2 the year before.
“In 38 years, really there’s been three consistent coaches and then Pat Collins who had done one year when the program started, and now we’re all back on the sidelines working together,” Roussin said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
The facilities Collins, Hewitt and Jakeway coached in are nothing like the Swordsmen have today – the newly-built Solid Rock Center in Harbor Springs. In fact, they used to play on a cement floor. A year ago, the Swordsmen played their first game in their new home.
A walk around the facility, five years in the making, provides the feeling of more like a small college program’s setup. Along with the new gym, the Solid Rock Center was equipped with a cafe and concession area, locker rooms, a film lounge and hangout area for the players, an upper-level full track around the gym, and three classrooms for art, music, science and more.
Jakeway served as project manager on the building — fully funded and debt-free through community support. He was the head coach of the Harbor Light girls basketball team when the facility opened.
Harbor Light’s boys suffered a 76-74 loss to hot-shooting Pellston in the facility’s first game Jan. 20, 2023, but haven’t been doing much losing since. The Swordsmen started this season 2-2, and after a heart-breaking loss to Traverse City Christian on Dec. 8 went on to share the Northern Lights Conference title with Alanson and have built that record to 20-4 heading into tonight’s District Final against St. Ignace.
The title game will be played at the Solid Rock Center. Another Jakeway, Jeff Jakeway’s son and freshman point guard Landon, will be getting his second chance to lead the Swordsmen to a District championship. He was the point guard as a seventh grader when Harbor Light won the District title two years ago. (Small schools like Harbor Light may request, for most sports, an MHSAA Executive Committee waiver to play eighth-grade students if the school’s enrollment is less than 125 and seventh-graders if the enrollment is less than 75. Harbor Light’s enrollment count for this school year is 61.)
Landon Jakeway is the team’s leading scorer, contributing 15 points per game. He scored 25 to lead the Swordsmen to a 67-31 win over Mackinaw City in Wednesday’s District Semifinal. That was Harbor Light’s third win this season over its league rival, allowing the Swordsmen to keep the Mack Light Ball, which goes to the winning team’s school after each victory in the rivalry. Wins over Mackinaw have been hard to come by in previous seasons.
David Chamberlin, at 13 points per game, and Corin Palus, scoring nine per contest, are the other leading scorers. Jakeway adds seven assists and four steals per game. Chamberlin kicks in seven rebounds per game, and Jackson Mesner and Kirk Rose contribute eight and five rebounds, respectively.
Chamberlin, Paulis, Mesner and Rose are all seniors.
“The team goal was really to ‘put the team before me’ mentality,” Roussin said. “We were going to work as a team, be loyal, be committed to one another and battle together.”
The Swordsmen also entered the season with their eyes on the Mack Light Ball, a conference championship and a long postseason run.
“We wanted to chase the conference and to battle for a District,” Roussin noted. “Obviously, we knew St. Ignace is in there and they are the favorite team.”
Senior leadership has been one of the keys to Harbor Light’s finishing atop the conference for the first time in more than a decade.
“We want to show up and play the best basketball you can to make your team the best they can,” Roussin said. “That’s what has been awesome with the leadership we’ve had on this team.
“Through all the guys is ‘it is not about me,’” Roussin continued. “It is about ‘what can I do to make the team better?’”
St. Ignace brings a 16-6 record into the Solid Rock Center. The Saints will have a chance to view some NBA history in addition to playing the final.
Above the main gym resides a mini court containing the Detroit Pistons floor from the Pontiac Silverdome. Before moving to The Palace of Auburn Hills, and most recently Little Caesars Arena, the Pistons played at the Silverdome from 1978-88.
Jeff Jakeway was able to get the court to Northern Michigan through connections in Novi.
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Harbor Light’s Vaughn Henagan (23) gets to the basket during a 59-39 win over Kinross Maplewood Baptist on Dec. 21. (Middle) David Chamberlin (22) elevates over a Pellston defender as the Swordsmen work toward a 75-20 victory Jan. 19. (Photos by Billy Mac Photos.)