Class B Final: They leave as champions
March 24, 2012
EAST LANSING – Lansing Sexton coach Carlton Valentine described Saturday night how every one of his four senior starters fit into a puzzle the last three seasons.
All could star for most teams. But they each contributed a few outstanding skills that together pushed the Big Reds to one of the most dominating runs in MHSAA history.
Together one last time, they combined for a memorable closing performance in the Class B Final at the Breslin Center.
In its third-straight title game appearance, Sexton won its second-straight championship, downing Stevensville-Lakeshore 67-32 in the last game of the winter season.
“Not just winning, but winning with these guys, playing with these guys, is like a blessing,” Sexton senior Anthony Clemmons said. “To have guys around me chasing the same dream as me … I think everybody sacrificed something to win. And to have a winning coach too, you can’t forget him, having him (to) put us through a lot. We deserved it.”
The Big Reds finished 27-1 this season. On its own, that’s impressive enough. But consider:
Sexton’s 74 wins over three seasons is tied for sixth-most in MHSAA history for that long of a stretch.
The Big Reds went undefeated as the only Class B team among all Class As in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue, arguably the strongest league in the state this season.
They won all of their games by at least eight points, taking down Class A Semifinalist Romulus, highly-ranked Lansing Eastern twice, Class A Quarterfinalist Okemos twice and Class A reigning champion Kalamazoo Central, plus No. 4 Lansing Catholic and No. 3 Detroit Country Day during the postseason.
That only loss was by one, 81-80, to Detroit Pershing. The Doughboys were ranked No. 1 in Class A at the time.
“These guys have endured just so much pressure, being number one all year, being the number one team in the state of Michigan, regardless of class,” Sexton coach Carlton Valentine said.
“This was the number one basketball team in the state of Michigan.”
That the Big Reds would finish tops in Class B was well-established midway through the second quarter. Sexton rattled off 14 straight points and ended the first half on a 20-2 run that made the score 32-10.
And the Big Reds did so with the Iowa-bound Clemmons playing only 11 minutes because of a back injury suffered in the second quarter. Mr. Basketball runner-up Denzel Valentine capped a four-year varsity career with 15 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. He’ll next suit up for Michigan State. Senior Bryn Forbes, who has signed with Cleveland State, scored a game-high 19 points. Junior forward Jalen Hayes, who has emerged as the team’s star-in-waiting over the last two seasons, had 12 points.
“That’s one of the best high school basketball teams I’ve seen in the state of Michigan,” Lakeshore coach Sean Schroeder said. “For us to compete at a better level tonight, we had to make some shots. When you shoot 23 percent for the ball game, it’s difficult to compete with a team that good.”
Lakeshore (24-3) entered the tournament ranked No. 7 and was playing in its first MHSAA Final.
“I think what I’ll remember about this team the most is we always played tough no matter what game it was. We never gave up today,” Lancers senior Loren Johnson said. “I’ll always remember making it to Breslin, the championship game. And I’ll always remember this loss too. It’s not a good feeling. But I’m glad we made it here.”
Sexton finished its first trip to Breslin of this recent string with a loss to Detroit Country Day in the 2010 Final.
The Big Reds have won four games at MSU since – but will try to come back next season without Denzel Valentine, Clemmons, Forbes and Jeff Cain, those four starters who have played together since elementary school.
“I think we’re pretty good. I don’t know about the greatest ever. But we put a lot of hard work in,” Forbes said. “These guys have been grinding ever since I met them, 11 years ago. But yeah, I think we’ll go down as one of the greatest.”
Click for box score or to watch the game and press conferences at MHSAA.tv.
PHOTOS: (Top) Sexton players pose for photos after receiving their medals and trophy for winning the Class B championship. (Middle) Big Reds freshman Trevor Manuel slammed down two of his five points. (Bottom) Bryn Forbes led Sexton with 19 points, including two on this dunk. (See more at Terry McNamara Photography.)
Ferndale Stays Course, Finds Way to Season's Final Day After 57-Year Wait
By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com
March 24, 2023
EAST LANSING – The third time was the charm for the Ferndale boys basketball team.
After back-to-back losses in Division 2 Semifinals, the Eagles got over the hump with a 65-60 win over Saginaw on Friday at Breslin Center.
Ferndale used a late 10-0 run to reach the Finals for the first time in 57 years. The top-ranked Eagles will have the opportunity to play for a long-awaited title Saturday against the winner of South Christian and Romulus Summit Academy.
Ferndale last won a boys basketball championship in 1966.
Trojans coach Juan Rickman said there was a different mindset this year compared to the prior two that ended in setbacks against Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
“This year they were way more locked in,” he said. “When we got here the first time during COVID, we were playing GRCC right around the corner from their school (at Van Andel Arena) and last year was our first year at the Breslin.
“I thought we had a lot of emotion last year and we weren't at our best, but this year they knew what to expect and they executed and it was business as usual. It was just another game for us on a bigger floor.”
Ferndale (20-8) started the season 1-5, but always knew its potential to make a tournament run.
“We never panicked throughout the season, and we always said as soon as we get somewhat healthy and as soon as we get our guard play together to play a lot smarter, then we are going to start winning,” Rickman said. “We were losing close games, but our ceiling was so high that I knew we could do that.”
Ferndale nearly squandered its chance for another game after leading by 10 early in the third quarter as Saginaw mounted a second-half rally.
The Trojans led 55-51 in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles scored 10 consecutive points to go up 61-55.
Senior Christopher Williams, who recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, had back-to-back buckets during the run.
“We just stayed the course, just like our season,” Rickman said. “We were up, and then they came back, but we stayed the course.”
Senior Caleb Renfroe led Ferndale with 16 points, while senior Cameron Reed finished with 12 and Jaden Hardiman had 10.
“Chris definitely got going, and when he has a motor he’s hard to stop,” Reed said. “They went on that run, but we knew we had to stay the course. Basketball is a game of runs, so we just had to stay the course and ride the roller coaster.”
The Eagles led 12-8 after a foul-filled first quarter and extended their advantage to 32-24 at the half. Ferndale took advantage of its opportunities from the free throw line and knocked down 12 of 16 in the first half.
The Trojans (21-7) forged a furious third-quarter surge and outscored Ferndale 22-12 to snare the momentum and the lead, 46-42.
Senior Javarie Holliday scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the third quarter and was 4 of 8 from beyond the 3-point line.
It was Saginaw’s first trip to the Semifinals since 2013.
“It was a hard-fought game, and Ferndale came out ready to play,” Trojans coach Julian Taylor said. “I thought we took their best punch in the first half, and we came out ready in the second half. Basketball is a game of spurts and I thought we made our run, but we just made a few mistakes down the line in the fourth quarter that really cost us the game.”
Junior Brandon McCune added 17 points for Saginaw. He knocked down five 3-pointers.
PHOTOS (Top) Ferndale’s Cameron Reed (0) pushes the pace as Saginaw’s DaRon Sherman (2) trails Friday. (Middle) The Eagles’ Christopher Williams dunks during his team’s Semifinal win.