Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 5

January 13, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

With the beginning of January comes the end of holiday basketball showcases and a switch in focus by MHSAA teams toward local opponents, conference races and the haul of the second half of the regular season.

The first week of 2015 saw the ranks of the undefeated decreased by 35 boys teams statewide to 64 remaining, with some listed below among those that caught my eye during the first days of the new year.

Class A

Alpena (6-0) – The Wildcats not only sit alone atop the Big North Conference standings as they look to repeat as champions, but avenged their two losses from last season – by 10 over Traverse City West before break and by 20 over Traverse City Central last week.  

Detroit East English (4-2) – The Bulldogs are early leaders in a Detroit Public School League East Division 1 that includes powers Pershing, Cass Tech, Martin Luther King and Southeastern; East English’s current three-game winning streak started with a big win over solid Southfield and includes a five-pointer over better-than-its-record Cass Tech from last week.  

Grand Ledge (5-0) – Last season’s somewhat-surprise Capital Area Activities Conference Blue runner-up isn’t sneaking up on anyone this winter; a strong backcourt has paced a fast start that’s included wins over Lansing Sexton on the first Friday of the season and much-improved Jackson by 15 last week.

Middleville Thornapple Kellogg (5-0) – The Trojans have bounced back from last season’s sub-.500 finish thanks in part to four wins by four or fewer points, including a 49-46 victory last week over Caledonia.

Class B

Detroit Henry Ford (7-0) – Ford is off to a strong start again this season after starting and ending strong a year ago; the Trojans look good to avoid the five-game losing streak they encountered at this time last year, although Cass Tech and Pershing are up next.

Dowagiac (4-1) – A one-point loss to Wolverine Conference West leader Paw Paw before break surely smarted a bit, but the Chieftains came back to start 2015 with a 58-55 win over rival Niles; they pick up league play Friday against Berrien Springs.

Flint Northwestern (5-0) – After struggling mightily the last two seasons, Northwestern has begun like the Northwestern of old, with a nine-point win over Midland and 37-pointer over Saginaw Heritage last week keeping the Wildcats among the undefeated.

Williamston (6-1) – Only a loss to Class A Dexter in the championship game of Coldwater’s holiday tournament has kept the Hornets from perfection – and also from beating all of their opponents by double figures as they did last week versus East Lansing and Fowlerville.  

Class C

Burton Bendle (6-0) – The Tigers are halfway to last season’s 12 wins and tied for first in the Genesee Area Conference Blue thanks in large part to a 72-67 overtime win last week over New Lothrop, last season’s league runner-up.

Detroit Loyola (5-2) – The newly-crowned Division 7 football champion has been pretty good at basketball too over the years – but has looked better than that early with its only losses by six or fewer points to much bigger Henry Ford and Detroit Renaissance.

Gwinn (4-2) – The Modeltowners have won four straight after two big losses to start and beat Houghton and Norway on back-to-back nights last week – they took the lead against Norway with 31 seconds to play on the way to winning 43-41.

Laingsburg (5-0) – The Wolfpack have made a smooth transition from coach Greg Mitchell (now at Hope College) to Dan Blemaster (formerly coach of Brown City). Laingsburg sits atop the Central Michigan Athletic Conference by a half-game over Fulton-Middleton (see below).

Class D

Fulton-Middleton (5-1) – The Pirates are right behind Laingsburg in the CMAC after having last week’s game against Bath postponed, but did open the week with a 55-53 victory over reigning Class C runner-up Pewamo-Westphalia – one of only three teams to beat Fulton during 2013-14.

Peck (5-1) – The 8-player football power is strong at basketball too, with its only loss to Class B Richmond, 45-41, on Jan. 3. The Pirates lost only once in 2013-14, to eventual Class D champion Southfield Christian in their Quarterfinal.

Morenci (3-1) – The Bulldogs are following their football success of the fall with a nice start to the winter including a one-point win last week over Whitmore Lake after a two-point win to kick off the new year against Gorham-Fayette (Ohio) on Jan. 3.

Onekama (4-0) – The Portagers sit atop the West Michigan D League standings in part because of a two-point win last week over reigning league champion Baldwin; Onekama followed up with another two-point win against Manistee.

PHOTO: Detroit East English defenders block the lane during their 75-70 win over Detroit Cass Tech last week. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public School League.) 

For Their Teams, For Each Other, St. Mary Seniors Team Up 2 More Times

By Tom Spencer
Special for

March 17, 2023

Shawn Bramer and Dylan Barnowski, as middle schoolers, attended the MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals every year.

Northern Lower PeninsulaLast year, they nearly played in the Division 3 title game – falling in a Semifinal but almost making a dream come true for the then-juniors and their Lake Leelanau St. Mary coach, Matt Barnowski, also Dylan’s father.

That dream began for some when the boys were coached by Matt as third graders, and they made serious strides last season. Before last winter, the last time the Eagles had won a Regional championship was 1950 – and no St. Mary boys basketball team had reached the Semifinals. Bramer and Dylan Barnowski – along with current seniors Jack Glynn, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar – had high hopes of making more history this winter.

The dream ended Wednesday night with a Regional Final loss to Frankfort, which St. Mary had defeated 54-41 during the regular season. This time, the Eagles were faced with a large number of K-12 students succumbing to illness – with all five of its starters at least somewhat sick – as nearly a third of the school’s tiny enrollment was out of school the day after the loss to the Panthers.

But you won’t hear any of the players or coaches making excuses. They give all the credit to Frankfort, and they’re ready to move on. And many in the LSM family know reaching the Regional Finals this season and Breslin Center in 2022 had absolutely no probability had Bramer and Barnowski not made an iron-clad agreement last summer. 

Eagles coach Matt Barnowski coaches up his team during last week’s Regional Semifinal win over Mesick.The two friends vowed to help each other despite their personal, opposing challenges.

Barnowski and Bramer, through LSM’s cooperative agreement with Suttons Bay, went 3-for-3 playing in 8-Player Division 1 Football Finals during their first three years of high school. But through last summer Barnowski, who quarterbacked the Norseman, had no interest in football.  

Bramer, meanwhile, had been nursing a quad tendon injury since his sophomore football season and battling two bad knees but was thinking he could suffer though football and sit out the basketball season to recover. The all-state running back experienced training difficulties and even had his strength training severely hampered.

Football was king for Bramer, and he also loved basketball too. Basketball is number one to Barnowski. The longtime friends decided cut a deal to help each other — and their teammates — out.

“I was kind of on the edge,” said Bramer, who plays with braces on both knees. “After talking to each other, we both ended up just playing. 

“I really shouldn’t be playing sports, but I couldn’t miss out playing with my friends,” he continued. “We just figured it was our last season so we might as well just do it.”

Dylan Barnowski and Brammer also teamed up during successful football careers. Barnowski had been considering ending his football days immediately after the Norse fell short in their third-straight trip to the Finals, at Superior Dome in Marquette in Fall 2021. That loss was at the hands of Adrian Lenawee Christian 31-20.

The Norseman graduated most of their offensive and defense lines last spring and expected to be small in numbers. Until this fall, they had lost only one regular-season game on their way to three straight title game appearances. This year they finished 3-5.

The big linemen losses — Barnowski’s protection — was forcing him to weigh his injury risk against having a senior basketball season.

“We did it for each other,” Barnowski said. “I talked with Shawn, and we knew we had a big community behind us and it would be hard for them if we just quit. 

“I knew we weren’t going to have the same powerhouse team we had,” he continued. “We weren’t very good this year, but we still had a blast.”

This week’s loss put an end to the possible Breslin championship finish, but it left the friends happy with the decision to play both sports. The Eagles finished 20-4.

Barnowski led St. Mary in scoring. He averaged better than 20 points a game with more than seven rebounds and five assists. Bramer averaged just under 15 points per game, and almost 10 rebounds.

The two big men each scored 11 in the season-ending loss. Thompson scored 14. This year’s senior-dominated team likely will be remembered for its basketball success for some time. Barnowski, Bramer and Glynn experienced only one loss in District play over their four seasons.

“It’s a really special groups of kids,” Coach Barnowski said. “These kids kind of transformed St. Mary’s basketball.  

St. Mary’s seniors, from left: Shawn Brammer, Jack Gwynn, Dylan Barnowski, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar. “They’ve really built the program,” he continued. “It’s been a roller coaster ride.”

Bramer and Dylan Barnowski also played baseball in the past for the Eagles, but that likely won’t happen this spring. Barnowski plans to golf, and Bramer expects to sit the spring season out and heal.

“We’ll never forget these last four years of varsity we played,” Barnowski said. “I‘ve decided to go a more relaxing route, and I’m going for some golf.”

With their Breslin dream over, the friends are ready to enjoy the St. Mary’s community support and move on. They’re bummed so many were sick in the end but won’t use it as an excuse.

“Hats off to Frankfort,” Barnowski said. “They did an incredible job of shutting us down.”

Bramer agreed.

“They just played their game better than we did,” he said. “They took the lead at the end of the third quarter, and it was a battle from there.”

Tom SpencerTom 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 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) St. Mary’s seniors Dylan Barnowski, left, and Shawn Bramer hold up the team’s District championship trophy last week. (2) Eagles coach Matt Barnowski, center, and assistant Sander Scott coach up their team during last week’s Regional Semifinal win over Mesick. (3) Dylan Barnowski and Bramer also teamed up during successful football careers. (4) St. Mary’s seniors, from left: Shawn Bramer, Jack Glynn, Dylan Barnowski, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar. (Sideline photo by Tom Spencer; player photos by Emmerson Lamb Photography.)