Constantine Looks to Build on Comeback
By Wes Morgan
Special for MHSAA.com
December 7, 2015
On one of the last summer days in town before leaving for college, Joey Steiner and Cody Ley spotted some youngsters on the east side of Constantine playing basketball in the street on a portable hoop. They stopped and played 2-on-4 with the boys.
The group of eighth-graders talked about how they were going to keep a reignited Falcons basketball program burning hot. That legacy Steiner and Ley, two outgoing seniors who helped fuel the Falcons to an unimaginable turnaround in 2014-15, and their classmates left behind means more than being named Associated Press Class C all-state honorable mentions.
“They told us that they were going to keep it going and they were going to go further than we did,” said Ley, a post player who developed a dangerous inside-outside game over the last two seasons and earned a scholarship at Lake Michigan Community College. “We were like, ‘You guys better, and we’ll be there to work with and support you guys, too.’ That’s one of my biggest things I’m proud of.”
Constantine had just one win in 2013-14, but head coach Chuck Frisbie knew he had a group of dedicated players that was going to surprise folks in 2014-15.
The Falcons did just that, finishing with a 21-3 record after a loss to New Buffalo in the MHSAA Regional Semifinals.
Constantine looks this winter to replace Ley’s 16 points and 12 rebounds per game, as well as the 14 points and four assists per contest by Steiner, who now plays at Goshen College.
Frisbie, last year’s Associated Press Class C Coach of the Year, knows this year’s team will look quite a bit different as it transitions from the now-defunct Kalamazoo Valley Association to the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Different isn’t bad, however.
The Falcons return seniors Anthony Bontrager, Tyler Shank, Noah Beegle, Travis Brown, Brian Doering and Devin Knight. Juniors Evan Herschbach, Anthony Evilsizor, Charles Hamilton, Bryce Corte and Ryan Miller join the varsity fold, and 6-foot-4, springy freshman Seth Wright is expected to make an immediate impact.
Of those players, 10 are 6-foot-1 or taller — a pretty big lineup compared to recent Constantine squads.
“I think we can protect the basket,” Frisbie said. “I think we’re young. (Defense) is my biggest concern this year. Travis, Tyler and Brian can really play defense. I think we can put a crew out there that can play defense, although I don’t know if it is necessarily our best offensive group. We’re going to try to find that right mix.”
Frisbie isn’t putting too much pressure on rookie Wright, but the freshman has tremendous size for a guard and the skills to match.
“Seth is one of those kids that could be a special kid,” Frisbie said. “Honestly, if he’s open, we’re going to let him shoot. He’s the kind of kid that can go to the basket and dunk pretty easily, too. He has to learn how to play defense. More than anything, he has to be able to get wider, rebound and play good defense. If he can do those things, he’s going to be hard to get off the floor.”
Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and ESPNChicago.com, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of JoeInsider.com. He can be reached at email@example.com with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Anthony Bontrager (11) looks to get to the baseline during a game last season. (Middle) Constantine secures a rebound in a game against Kalamazoo Christian. (Photos courtesy of JoeInsider.com.)
South Christian Sails Into Latest Challenge, Earns Saturday Return
By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com
March 24, 2023
EAST LANSING – The Grand Rapids South Christian boys basketball team faced adversity when it lost standout sophomore Carson Vis to season-ending injuries in last week’s Regional Final.
The Sailors faced a different kind of adversity Friday in a Division 2 Semifinal, as they were tested for the first time since late January.
South Christian responded, and showed a steely resolve that put the team one step closer to a championship following a 40-35 overtime win over Romulus Summit Academy North at Breslin Center.
The Sailors will play Ferndale in Saturday’s Division 2 Final.
“We talk about adversity all the time, and we’re missing our 20 points a game star player, and so we’ve had some throughout the season,” South Christian coach Taylor Johnson said. “It builds character.”
South Christian had won 15 games in a row entering Friday, all by double digits. Summit gave the Sailors their closest game since losing to Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Jan. 24.
“We’ve been on a run here, and even as a coach, I feel like I haven’t done enough because we haven’t been in these situations,” Johnson said. “What a battle, and that’s what it’s all about. Two great teams with a lot of great players, and we found a way.”
Senior Jake DeHaan, who led the Sailors with 14 points, said he embraces playing in these types of games.
“This is what our team talks about, adversity, and we want to play in the biggest moments,” DeHaan said. “As a competitor, that's what you want to do. You want to play on the biggest stage against the best teams, and that's what we like to do.”
In a defensive struggle with points hard to come by, the Sailors maintained the lead throughout.
The Sailors took a 19-13 advantage into the half, but the Dragons rallied and cut the deficit to 23-21 with a minute left in the third quarter.
Summit’s Dominic Krzesowiak drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to knot the score at 31-31 with 30 seconds remaining in regulation.
In overtime, Nate Brinks buried a 3-pointer for South Christian after Summit took its only lead of the game.
Junior Jake Vermaas, who finished with 12 points, then made 6 of 6 from the free throw line to keep Summit at bay.
“I just kept dribbling with my head up and knocking down free throws when we needed them,” Vermaas said. “Staying focused and locked in, and I think that’s a credit to being on a big stage like this in football and being comfortable.”
The Sailors, who won the Division 4 football championship in November, will search for their first basketball Finals title since 2005.
Summit Academy (25-3), which shot 35 percent (16-46) from the field, was playing in its first Semifinal.
“We expected it to be a defensive game and every possession to be tough,” Summit coach Mark White said. “We expected to be challenged to execute and to challenge them to execute.
“We knew it would come down to who executed the best and took advantage of their opportunities. We came to battle, and I’m very proud of our team and our program that we made it this far.”
James White led Summit with 13 points and seven rebounds. Krzesowiak finished with six points and six rebounds.
PHOTOS (Top) South Christian’s Jake Vermaas (0) makes a move toward the basket during his team’s Division 2 Semifinal win. (Middle) Summit’s Dontez Scott Jr. works to get past the Sailors’ Nate Brinks.