Class C: Buccaneers land in Finals again

March 22, 2012

EAST LANSING – When the buzzer sounded and long after subs filled the floor in Thursday’s first Class C Semifinal, Flint Beecher junior Monte Morris quietly pointed to the Breslin Center rafters, symbolically signing No. 1.

Beecher needs just one more win to finish in that top spot for the first time since 1987.

This was the Buccaneers’ third-straight Semifinal appearance. The first two ended in disappointments.

But they climbed step closer to forgetting those with a 65-45 win over reigning champion Schoolcraft to earn a first championship game berth since 2008.

 “Not too many teams get this opportunity we have right here. It’s just something special,” Beecher senior Antuan Burks said. “Monte’s a junior and might not get to go through this his senior year. We just want to go out physical, play hard, and bring that championship back home.”

The Bucs will face Traverse City St. Francis in Saturday’s noon Final.

Burks and Beecher (27-0) haven’t lost since last season’s Semifinal against McBain. Saturday’s Final will be Beecher’s fourth in 13 seasons. Two of those three championship game losses during the run were by just three points apiece.  

“All year long, I kept reminding these guys that the number one ranking means nothing,” Beecher coach Mike Williams said. “Schoolcraft had what we wanted, which was a state championship. I keep reminding our kids, we were ranked in the top two all last year. And that meant nothing. These kids have felt and dealt with disappointment.”

By the end of Thursday’s first quarter, they had to feel confident that this season’s good vibes would last at least two more days.

Taking advantage of Schoolcraft turnovers – and turning them into quick-strike points – Beecher rolled to a 12-2 run to finish the first quarter up 10 points. The Bucs extended that advantage to 36-19 by halftime, and for the game scored 29 points off Schoolcraft’s 23 turnovers.

“They’re quicker, and it’s hard for us to have that happen in practice to prepare for that,” Schoolcraft senior all-stater Luke Ryskamp said.

It also didn’t hurt that Beecher shot 49 percent from the floor. Burks made 67 percent of his shots and finished with a game-high 24 points. Morris, this season’s Associated Press Class C Player of the Year for the second straight, added 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

“Last year we did get off to a quick start (too), but this year we showed the maturity and wherewithal to sustain that lead and build on it,” Williams said. “We had miscues. We had mistakes. But we were able to overcome them.”

Ryskamp finished with 22 points and six rebounds. He was one of only two starters back from last season’s team – making it more impressive that the Eagles finished 22-5 and returned to East Lansing.

Senior Bryan Jones, the other returning starter, had seven points and a game-high nine rebounds in his final high school game.

“We’re an entirely different team this year,” Schoolcraft coach Randy Small said. “We’re not the prettiest team. We had to have a lot of guys do the dirty work, the behind-the-scenes stuff, the scratching, clawing, digging kind of stuff. The kids have done that real well.

“Last year we were probably a little more fun to watch. … But I’m proud of my guys for getting back here.”

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PHOTO: Beecher's Monte Morris attempts a shot in Thursday's Semifinal win. He finished with 18 points. (Photo courtesy of Terry McNamara Photography.)

St. Clair County Celebrates 1st Mr. Basketball Winner, PHN's Jamison

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

March 29, 2023

The Jamison family has spent plenty of time over the years driving long distances as Tyler chased his basketball dreams.

Bay & ThumbAfter the Port Huron Northern senior achieved one of the biggest ones, they had to put some more mileage on the family vehicle.

As the newly-crowned Mr. Basketball, Jamison was invited to a special presentation during the Boys Basketball Finals this past Saturday afternoon at the Breslin Center. It was an invitation Tyler and his family didn’t hesitate to accept, and the drive from Port Huron to East Lansing was nothing.

But it did cause a pretty big change to some other travel plans.

Tyler and his family were scheduled to fly to Florida on Friday for spring break. That flight had to be canceled, though, and instead, the family made the drive down later.

“There were some jokes about just leaving me and letting me find my own way down there,” Jamison said.

While they joke, there’s nowhere the Jamisons would have rather been Saturday than at the Breslin. As a true basketball family – Tyler’s dad Brian is also the coach at Northern, and his brother Alex was a standout freshman for the Huskies – they have a great appreciation for the Mr. Basketball Award and its significance.

“I had said a while ago, ‘Hey, if we’re still in the tournament, we’ll be playing Friday,” Brian Jamison said. “I even mentioned that it would be a miracle, but Tyler could win Mr. Basketball. Now we’re eating plane tickets and driving down to Florida. But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we’re not missing this.”

Jamison was the overwhelming winner of the award, which is named after Hal Schram and given out by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan. He received 3,058 points in the vote to become its 43rd winner. Curtis Williams of Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (2,004 points), Kaden Brown of Grand Rapids Catholic Central (1,918), Sonny Wilson of Detroit U-D Jesuit (1,883) and Ryan Hurst of North Farmington (1,811) were the other finalists.

“It was just insane,” Tyler Jamison said. “I can’t even really put into words how I felt – it was just a dream come true, a culmination of all the hard work that’s been put in over the years. My mom was in the other room (when his dad called to tell him), and I just hugged her and we were kind of screaming. The dog was getting riled up. It was fun. There were a few tears shed.”

Jamison throws down a dunk.Jamison, who signed with Fairleigh Dickinson in December, finished the season averaging 26.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game. He was named the Macomb Area Conference White division MVP after leading Northern to the league title and a 20-4 overall record.

Even with all that, winning the most prestigious individual basketball award in the state didn’t seem like a reality.

“We purposely try to play a tough schedule, and we purposely got into some showcases because we wanted people to see, not only him play, but us play,” Brian Jamison said. “We had beaten Skyline and Hamtramck, and went up to Croswell-Lexington and won up there, and I thought, ‘OK, now he’s done it against some of the better teams.’ Up to that point, when we played those tougher teams, he’s always showed out well, but it’s different when you’re not winning them. But at that point, I thought he had a chance. Really, I was just hoping he would get on the list. To win it was kind of above and beyond what I had hoped for.”

On the court, Tyler’s impact on the program was pretty obvious and immediate.

He’s the program’s all-time leading scorer – a record he set as a junior – with 1,763 career points. He also holds Northern records for career rebounds (825), points in a game (59), rebounds in a game (28), career field goals made (638) and career free throws made (439). As a junior, he was named MAC Blue MVP.

Northern did not lose a league game in either of the past two seasons.

But Northern is likely to see future success because of Tyler’s non-statistical impact.

Leading a young team, including a group of star freshmen – his brother Alex, Cam Harju and Amir Morelan – was a major part of Tyler’s job this season.

Northern’s home games were must-see events this winter, as the Huskies were one of Division 1’s top teams, and Tyler was providing nightly highlights and must-see performances. Even in his final game, a loss against Macomb Dakota in the District Final, Jamison treated the standing-room crowd with a 46-point performance and a halfcourt shot at the third-quarter buzzer in a valiant effort.

“That’s the big thing, you want the students and the school community to support you, and they did an amazing job,” Tyler Jamison said. “We also had people from the community that wanted to support us and watch us play. Port Huron High had a really good season, too, and I think both schools in the city had that public support. That’s huge. It makes you feel like you’re playing for more than yourself.”

Among those crowds were the next generation of Huskies, some of whom were coached by Tyler in youth basketball. As he’s the first Mr. Basketball winner from St. Clair County, those kids now have a hometown example of someone who has reached the highest heights.

“I think interest gets sparked when the little kids come to the gym, like, ‘Hey, I want to do that,’” Brian Jamison said. “They want to play for Northern or (Port Huron) High. And with him winning Mr. Basketball, I think it gives kids a little bit of ‘Hey, why not me?’ I do think it helps motivate younger people. We’ve had great crowds at our games. I think the area is excited about basketball. It really is a great basketball area.”

With all of that excitement surrounding him, Tyler had one more challenge after the season – keeping the secret that he had won. He found out six days before the award was announced.

“It was terrible – especially when it’s something of that magnitude,” he said. “You want to tell everyone. You want to tell your friends and family. It was hard to be like, ‘No, I don’t know.’”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Tyler Jamison, second from left, with his parents and brother, stands with his newly-received Mr. Basketball Award trophy during the ceremony at the Detroit Free Press. (Middle) Jamison throws down a dunk. (Photos courtesy of the Jamison family.)