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. 

'Invaluable' Hancock Nearing Half-Century of Service to Cheboygan Athletics

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

December 2, 2022

When Cheboygan hosts Ogemaw Heights next week to kick off a new boys basketball season, those attending will see something special.

And really, for Cheboygan and its opponents, it’s nothing new. It’s been going on for five decades.

The special part? Scott Hancock, junior varsity coach and assistant varsity coach, is starting his 47th year coaching at the school. Forty-five of those years have been in the same role he has this season.

“It really just means I’m getting old, but I feel very fortunate to be able to do something that I love for this long,” Hancock, himself a Cheboygan product of 1976, reflected on his tenure. “To be honest, I never really thought about how long I would do it. It’s just something I love doing, so I never really put a number on how long I would do it.”

As the campaign starts, though, he has thoughts of coaching high school basketball for six and possibly seven decades before he hangs it up. He has coached his sons — Nick, who owns the Cheboygan career steals record; and Brian, the leader in career made 3-pointers — and now he’s looking forward to the possibility of coaching his two grandchildren, Landon Gahn and Lincoln Hancock.

“Well, all I can say is I have a grandson that is 3 years old, and I would love to hang around coaching until he graduates,” Hancock said of how long he thinks he’ll stay in coaching. “I have loved every year. 

“I have coached with a lot of great coaches who are all great friends to this day.”

Included among those coaches are his two sons, who served as assistants for Cheboygan, and Jason Friday, the current varsity coach who also played for Hancock during the early 1990s – a time when Hancock briefly stepped in to fill a varsity coaching vacancy after the sudden departure of the previous head coach.

Friday, who also serves as the school’s athletic director, is not at all surprised his former coach is still in the game. It became a factor in Friday’s decision to take over the boys program three years ago.

“If you're a boy who grew up in Cheboygan, there's a good chance that Scott coached you in something,” Friday said. “He has a grandson who is in eighth grade, and he wants to coach him.

“So yes, I knew he was going to be around for several more years.”

And next week, Friday will be thrilled to have Hancock alongside him on the court as Cheboygan opens up with the Falcons.

“Today, I don't look at Scott as one of my former varsity coaches — he's a friend,” Friday said. “We're friends more than anything, and that makes coaching even more fun for me.   

“Most importantly, having someone on the bench that you can trust is invaluable.”

Hancock, second from left, confers last season with assistant Matt Mylnarchek, head coach Jason Friday and player Dylan Balazovic. Hancock, who was helping with the boys program when Friday was coaching the Cheboygan girls team, began expecting to coach with his former player some time ago.

“I was very fortunate to have both my sons be assistant coaches for our varsity program,” said Hancock, who also has served decades coaching baseball and keeping stats for the football program. “But as far as being head coach, I always thought Jason would take over at some time.

“It’s awesome to have a former player running our program, but it is no surprise,” he continued. “Jason has always been a student of the game and is very detailed, and what he does, our program is in great hands.”

The mutual trust the coaches share has really benefited the Cheboygan student-athletes.

“I think it is important to have a JV coach who the head coach can trust that he has bought in to all of the beliefs of the head coach’s program,” Hancock noted. “Being loyal to your varsity coach and doing what’s best for your program is the most important aspect of JV coaching.

“And, getting kids to buy in to what it takes to play the game the right way.”

That’s one of the strengths Hancock brings to the basketball program, Friday singled out.

“Coach Hancock does a tremendous job teaching the fundamentals, but also does a great job communicating with the boys, making each one feel valued, even those who don't play as much,” Friday said. “He's at every practice.

“If there's an emergency and I need to step out for a minute and put my AD hat on, he can run practice and we don't miss a beat,” Friday continued. “He has a tremendous knowledge of the game and is a coach anyone would love on their bench.”

Hancock, who assists another former player, Kevin Baller, coaching the baseball team, has no thoughts of getting back into a varsity coaching position.

“I have no plans to coach at the varsity level, and the reason is because I have the best of both worlds by coaching JV,” said Hancock, who sees the 3-point shot as the biggest change in the game during his tenure. “Every coach that I have worked for lets me be involved with the varsity, so really I get to be involved in both.”

Friday recalls wishing as a player that Hancock had stayed at the helm when he took over temporarily. But, he loves having him coach with him today.

“After our junior season, we were told he was going back to JV,” Friday said.  “We tried to convince him to stay for one more year, but he wanted to go back.

“There's no way I could be varsity basketball coach and athletic director without having a JV coach like Scotty.”

Off the court successes in life are just as importance as athletic endeavors, Hancock indicated. In fact, those give him the most pride.

“Probably helping kids with off-the-court issues makes me feel better than anything,” he said. “Also hearing from the kids that I’ve coached after they graduate and how much they enjoyed their JV year.”

There aren’t many – if any – parent, player or community member names on a complaint list from Hancock’s first five decades, and there’s not likely to be any more in however many years are ahead.

“When you’ve coached in the same small town for nearly 50 years, you’d expect to have a few people upset with you, but not Scotty,” said Friday. “You can’t find a person who says something bad about him. 

“He’s extremely well-respected,” he continued. “You absorb his passion and love of the game just by being around him, and all of Cheboygan should be thankful (for) how much he's done for our community.”

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 tomspencer@chartermi.net 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) Cheboygan assistant boys basketball coach Scott Hancock offers some pointers during a scrimmage last week. (Middle) Hancock, second from left, confers last season with assistant Matt Mylnarchek, head coach Jason Friday and player Dylan Balazovic. (Photos courtesy of Jared Greenleaf/Cheboygan Daily Tribune.)