Buckley Rides Into Season Finale Again

March 22, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Buckley’s cart may have come before the horse earlier this season.

The horse arrived Thursday night at the Breslin Center.

Bears coach Blair Moss referred to the old saying to describe how his team – returning almost entirely intact from last year’s Class D runner-up run – got rolling a little slowly this winter.

But Buckley has found its stride – and hit it especially right with about seven minutes to play in Thursday’s 65-55 Semifinal win over Hillsdale Academy.

The Bears outscored the Colts 17-6 to pull away after trailing by 12 early in the third quarter.

“Last postseason, when we lost to Powers North (Central), I said we’d be back here,” said Buckley senior Austin Harris, noting the 78-69 defeat against the Jets in the 2017 championship game. “And I believed in my team and I knew. We got in the gym and worked really, really hard. I think our success in this, hard work really paid off. We believe in ourselves.”

Buckley (21-5) will face Southfield Christian in Saturday’s 10 a.m. championship game.

The Bears’ entire starting five returned this season from the team that fell just one win short of a first MHSAA boys basketball championship a year ago.

They started this season 3-3 – although those losses were to Kalamazoo Hackett, McBain and Frankfort, which all ended up winning at least 18 games.

“I think I put the cart before the horse. We knew where our goal was at, but we forgot we had 20 games in between,” Moss said. “I saw flashes of us, and I tried to pinpoint what we were doing and not doing right. So I told them before the tournament started, let’s not worry about records, let’s not worry about who’s scoring, let’s just play for each other.”  

Hillsdale Academy (19-7), making its first trip to the Semifinals after winning its first Regional title last week, got behind by eight points early in the second quarter. But the Colts, following the lead of 6-foot-7 senior Peter Kalthoff, launched a 15-3 run over the final two minutes of the first half and first two of the second to take a 43-31 lead. Kalthoff had six of his team-high 17 points during that stretch.

Buckley’s veteran lineup began chipping away. Harris had eight points including two 3-pointers, and the Bears hit four 3-pointers total over the final six minutes of the third quarter to take back a one-point lead. 

Harris started the closing run with another 3-pointer, and senior Joey Weber had seven of his 15 points over the final 4:25 of the game.

Weber also had nine rebounds, four assists and four steals, and senior forwards Denver Cade and Brock Beeman both added 11 points – Cade also dishing four assists.

Kalthoff added 11 rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots to go with his 17 points, and senior guard Michael Craig added 14 points and five assists.

“I’m proud of my guys and the way they battled, not just tonight, but in the other 27-some other games to get to this point,” Hillsdale Academy coach Tim Wells said. “Looking at some of the stats in preparation for tonight, these guys (four-year seniors Kalthoff, Craig and Nolan Sullivan) have won 74 games in four years – that’s fantastic. So by the time we got to now, we started talking about this moment, this is your reward.”

“As much as it stings to lose this game, look where we got to play. I know it’s bigger than that, (but) it was pretty incredible,” Sullivan added. “I knew we could do it. But to actually do it is something that’s absolutely incredible.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Buckley’s Joey Weber (5) and Hillsdale Academy’s Nolan Sullivan work for a loose ball during their teams’ Class D Semifinal. (Middle) Hillsdale Academy’s Peter Kalthoff takes a step toward the basket Thursday. 

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

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

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.