EAST LANSING – As a sophomore on Southfield Christian’s one-win team two seasons ago, Gavin Toma didn’t spend much time dreaming an about MHSAA championship.
And although the Eagles improved to 11-10 last season, they still seemed a long way from what they finished Saturday.
Two seasons after winning one game, Southfield Christian won its first MHSAA title, downing Climax-Scotts 76-44 in the Class D Final at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.
“This season has been the greatest basketball we’ve ever played,” Toma said. “SCS hasn’t been a basketball school, until this year, so to win it for SCS is great. We put in so much work. It’s unbelievable.”
Both teams made their first MHSAA championship game appearance Saturday. Southfield Christian entered the postseason ranked No. 7, while Climax-Scotts was No. 5.
The Eagles put on one of the most incredible shooting performances in MHSAA Finals history. They tied the 2007-08 Saginaw team with a championship game record 12 3-pointers, including eight in the first half when they connected on 53 percent of their shots from behind the arc.
Southfield Christian (24-2) shot 46 percent from 3-point range for the game, a few ticks higher than its 43 percent from the floor as a whole.
“This is one of the best shooting teams I’ve ever coached. Obviously, (Chris) Dewberry is the best shooter I’ve ever coached, Southfield Christian coach Josh Baker said. “Hopefully we take good shots, and they’re naturally great shooters and put in a lot of time to be that way.”
The Eagles student section sang “Happy Birthday” to Dewberry during warm-ups .That, on its own, might’ve made for an unforgettable moment.
But the now 18-year-old senior also had a game-high 30 points, including six of those 3-pointers, on 10 of 13 shooting from the floor.
“My team, we talk about it all the time in practice. The coach says it. They say I’m one of the best shooters in the state, so we’ve got to get me the ball,” Dewberry said. “So when they had me open, or when I got myself open, or when there was a pick to get me open, they got me the ball. And I capitalized on it.”
Senior Lindsey Hunter III added 15 points and eight rebounds and Toma had 13 points. Hunter is 6-1 and Toma 6-2, and with Dewberry they took advantage of a few inches in elevation on the Panthers’ defenders.
“Their athleticism once they’re in person … We’ve got big guards, fast guards, and they’ve played defense all year long,” Climax-Scotts coach Steve Critchlow said. “(But) Dewberry had six 3-pointers for a 6-foot-2 guard, and that’s a tough matchup for us. We hoped to make our bigs the tough matchup. And their defense was just phenomenal in the paint.”
Southfield Christian contained 6-7 juniors Malachi Satterlee and Aaron Cook to a combined nine points and six rebounds, and the Panthers to 21 percent shooting from the floor as a team. Senior Jacob Hinga led his team with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Climax-Scotts finished 26-2 and will graduate five seniors – although three starters this season were juniors, including the all-stater Satterlee.
“We didn’t even realize what’s going on, because we were focused on the next game. But now we have time, back in the locker room, to sit and reflect on what they just did,” Critchlow said. “We had a lot of talent we haven’t had … but the hard work we put in with that talent, and the good attitude, that’s something we have to reflect on and say this is how we’ve got to get to the next step.”
“I think the highlight, honestly, was … the end, when the crowd stood up and supported us even when we lost,” Hinga added. “They were all there. Just to look around and see we made it to Breslin; we didn’t win, but we’re second place. That’s a pretty good feeling.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Lindsey Hunter III (11) and Ben Cookinham lead a championship celebration with Southfield Christian’s student section after Saturday’s Class D Final. (Middle) Chris Dewberry launches a 3-pointer over Climax-Scotts’ Brandon Eshuis. (See more at Terry McNamara Photography.)
We've got a long way to go before the stories of this season conclude with four MHSAA boys basketball champions crowned March 15 at Michigan State University's Breslin Center.
But the first week of the 2023-24 regular season gave us plenty to fill our first installment of “Breslin Bound” – our official tip-off to following more than 700 boys basketball teams through those final buzzers in East Lansing.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 46, Flint Beecher 44 This was their first meeting since January 2022 and it provided a memorable start as the Cavaliers downed the reigning Division 3 champion.
2. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 75, Ferndale 66 These two both have several new contributors, but big things will be expected again as well as Brother Rice regularly contends in Division 1 and Ferndale is the reigning Division 2 champion.
3. Lansing Waverly 58, Detroit Martin Luther King 57 Waverly took major strides last season doubling its win total from 2021-22 and could be on the verge of more coming off this impressive victory at the Detroit Douglass Tip-Off Classic.
4. Norway 49, Munising 48 After the Knights gave Munising a tough final regular-season test last season, the Mustangs went on to claim the Division 4 championship. Norway will attempt to build off back-to-back 15-7 seasons starting with this win.
5. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 64, Grandville Calvin Christian 44 These two combined to finish 46-9 a season ago, when Calvin defeated Tri-unity 63-42 in the regular-season finale (although the Defenders rebounded to finish Division 4 runners-up).
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Rochester Adams (2-0) The Highlanders provided one of the best late-breaking stories of last season, reaching the Division 1 Quarterfinals after finishing fourth of five teams in a strong Oakland Activities Association Red that also featured North Farmington and Ferndale. The momentum started rolling again with wins last week over Milford 52-48 and Macomb L’Anse Creuse North 74-59.
Utica (2-0) Last season’s co-champion in the Macomb Area Conference Blue defeated MAC White reigning champion Port Huron Northern 68-49 in their opener and then Utica Eisenhower 56-41 at the MAC Champions of Champions event at Center Line. Utica improved to 15-7 last season after finishing 7-14 in 2021-22.
Dundee (2-0) After holding its own last season in a strong Lenawee County Athletic Association and finishing 13-12 overall, Dundee is hoping to turn a fast start last week into a climb up the standings with league play starting Friday. The Vikings doubled up East Jackson 52-26 and downed Milan 67-37 to start things off.
Goodrich (1-0) A 22-5 finish last season included a shared championship in the Flint Metro League Stars and a run to the Division 2 Quarterfinals, where the Martians fell by only five to eventual champion Ferndale. The second-to-last of those five losses came to Flint Beecher, 70-55, but Goodrich avenged it Friday with a 58-55 win over the Bucs.
Hillsdale (2-0) The Hornets finished just 4-19 last season, their second sub-.500 in a row. But the turnaround may be starting. Hillsdale is halfway toward last year’s win total after defeating Union City 53-45 and Jonesville 50-40 – and after losing to Union City 52-36 and Jonesville 39-23 last season, with Jonesville going on to finish 19-6.
Royal Oak Shrine Catholic (2-0) This is another team well on its way to bettering last season’s success by Jan. 1. After going 3-19 last winter, Shrine defeated Bloomfield Hills Roeper 48-30 and Utica Ford 55-52 in overtime last week. Ford had defeated the Knights 63-50 last season, and the 55 points Shrine scored this time would have been their second-highest total of 2022-23.
Adrian Lenawee Christian (2-0) Lenawee Christian finished last season on an 11-5 run after a 2-7 start, and might be rolling that right into this season as well after opening with a 74-60 win over Blissfield and 73-58 overtime victory over Hanover-Horton. Blissfield was among teams to deal the Cougars a loss during last season’s tough early stretch. Lenawee Christian is playing in the Tri-County Conference this winter after playing previously as an independent.
Wakefield-Marenisco (2-0) The Cardinals were a solid 13-10 last season, with the final week including a third win over Bessemer as they faced off in a District Semifinal, followed by a third loss to Ironwood in the District championship game. This season’s first week saw the same schedule, but a better outcome – Wakefield-Marenisco edged Bessemer 60-57 and this time defeated Ironwood 48-30. Ironwood was first and W-M third last season in the Copper Mountain Conference Porcupine Mountain.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – River Rouge (1-0) at Ferndale (1-1) – As noted above, Ferndale was last season’s Division 2 champion, and defeated Rouge 72-60 in last winter’s meeting.
Friday – Kalamazoo Central (0-0) at Battle Creek Central (0-0) – These longtime rivals finished first and third, respectively, in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East last season.
Saturday – Detroit Cass Tech (0-0) at Holt (1-0) – The Rams host the reigning Division 1 champion Technicians in the 4:30 p.m. game of the Moneyball Classic.
Saturday – Grand Rapids South Christian (0-0) vs. Rockford (1-0) at Calvin University – This will be the 10 a.m. opener of The Invite at Calvin University, with the reigning Division 2 runner-up Sailors taking on a Rockford team coming off an 18-win season.
Saturday – Grand Rapids Catholic Central (0-0) vs. Grand Rapids Northview (1-0) at Calvin University – This will cap off The Invite tipping approximately 7:35 p.m. and pitting last season’s Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold co-champion and White outright champion, respectively.
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PHOTOS (Top) A Westland John Glenn player gets to the basket during U-D Jesuit's season-opening 83-48 win over the Rockets. (Middle) Bath defenders surround a Charyl Stockwell player during the Sentinels' 63-55 victory. (Top photo by Olivia B. Photography; middle photo by Click by Christine McCallister.)