Clarkston Earns 1st Shot at Dream Finish

March 24, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

EAST LANSING – Dan Fife dreamed of playing for an MHSAA basketball championship at Jenison Field House while a student at Clarkston 50 years ago.

Thursday afternoon, the current Wolves made similar dreams come true – and offered their coach that opportunity he never was able to achieve as a player.

Clarkston’s 78-35 win over league rival West Bloomfield in Friday’s first Class A Semifinal earned the program its first appearance in an MHSAA boys basketball championship game.

The Wolves have had piles of success under Fife, the fourth winningest coach in state hoops history with 676 wins since taking over the program before the 1982-83 season. He’s led Clarkston to 30 District and 12 Regional titles, with Friday’s Semifinal the second during his tenure.

“Coach Fife, I don’t think he’ll admit how much it means to him. But it’s everyone’s goal at the beginning of every season; your ultimate goal is to finish out with a win,” Clarkston junior guard Foster Loyer said. “For Coach Fife, and the community of Clarkston, that would just mean the world to all of us, just motivate us to keep working even more.”

Clarkston (26-1), which entered the postseason tied for No. 3 in The Associated Press’ final regular-season Class A poll, will finish this season against Grand Rapids Christian at noon Saturday at the Breslin Center.

The Semifinal was the third ever in Wolves history. And the rare opportunity to advance to Saturday came with an even rarer opportunity to face a familiar opponent in this late round of the tournament.

Clarkston had beaten West Bloomfield (17-9) by 11 and seven during the regular season on the way to winning the Oakland Activities Association Red championship; the Lakers tied for third in the league.

And they knew what to expect from Loyer, a junior already committed to play at Michigan State. But it didn’t help much this time.

Loyer’s first shot of the game, an attempted layup, sailed over the rim. His second shot, a 3-pointer, touched nothing but net.

Making 10 of 17 shots from the floor and 5 of 8 3-pointers, Loyer finished with 32 points, to go with seven assists. Senior forward Dylan Alderson added 27 points, and sophomore center Taylor Currie had 10 points and 16 rebounds as Clarkston hit 57 percent of its shots from the floor – including an incredible 69 percent during a first quarter that ended with the Wolves carrying a 24-13 lead.

Clarkston took an 18-point advantage into halftime.

Senior guard Kevin McAdoo led the Lakers with 22 points, but as a team they made only 22 percent of their shots from the floor, and had just one steal as Clarkston had only four turnovers but 17 assists.

“It’s a tough one to swallow today, especially with the ride we were on to get here,” said seventh-year West Bloomfield coach Jeremy Denha. “What a fun, fun time to get here with the ups and downs and the way the kids battled. We hadn’t sniffed a District Final, let alone a District title, since I’d been here – we hadn’t won one since 2003. For us to make this magical run, get to Breslin, play Clarkston a third time … yeah, the outcome is disappointing, but it’s about the journey too.”

Fife has been on a lot of these trips. So he'd likely quickly agree with his OAA colleague. And especially with how this journey has a chance to end for the first time.

“I’m not worried about what it means to me. I have an expectation; I’ve always had one no matter what I’m doing. If I’m playing something, I’m going to compete,” Fife said. “The reality is, I dreamed of playing in the state championship when I was in high school. I wanted to get to Jenison. That was always my dream, and I’m just trying to instill in the kids to have the same dream – to play basketball and get to this point. They’ll remember this day the rest of their lives, and tomorrow’s game, regardless of what happens.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Clarkston’s Foster Loyer breaks past West Bloomfield defenders to get a shot up during Friday’s first Class A Semifinal. (Middle) The Wolves’ Tieler Houston (15) gets position on West Bloomfield’s Daniel Wrack.

'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.)