Cougars Cap Winter with Long-Anticipated Celebration

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

April 10, 2021

EAST LANSING – The Grand Rapids Catholic Central boys basketball team was heartbroken when it lost in overtime by a single point to Benton Harbor in the 2018 Class B Final.

A second-half push Saturday guaranteed there wouldn't be any stressful final moments this time around at Breslin Center.

The Cougars secured the program’s first MHSAA Finals championship with a 77-54 win over Battle Creek Pennfield in the season's closing game, the Division 2 finale. 

Catholic Central finished 20-0 and erased the disappointing memories of three years ago.

“A lot of guys from that (2018) team sent us a lot of messages over the last couple days about finishing what they started,” Cougars coach T.J. Meerman said. “So that was our mission tonight.”

Former Catholic Central star and current Michigan State player Marcus Bingham was in attendance to root his alma mater on.

“This is amazing,” said junior Jack Karasinski, who scored 18 points as one of four Cougars scoring in double figures.

Boys Basketball Division 2 Final“To see Marcus, and how it ended for him, we just wanted to get it done for our guys. I want to give praise to our coach. Sometimes I don’t think he sleeps. He walks in with an energy drink every day, so he wanted this one bad. I’m glad we got it done for him.”

Sophomore Kaden Brown sparked the Cougars and finished with a game-high 25 points. Freshman Durral Brooks had 10 points and 11 rebounds, while junior Jorden Brooks chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds.

 “I love my guys and the coaches and it feels great to be able to come out and finish the season like this,” Brown said. “This was our goal from the start, and it feels great to come out and finish it how we wanted.”

An entertaining first half included seven lead changes and seven ties.

The score was 13-13 at the end of the first quarter, and a pair of free throws from Pennfield’s Aiden Burns with one second left in the second quarter knotted the game again at 31-31. 

The Panthers took a 34-33 lead before Catholic Central used its trademark spurt to retake the lead and pull away.

Over a span of four minutes, the Cougars went on a 14-2 run and snared a 48-36 lead they never relinquished.

“I thought our guys bounced back in the second half with a lot of energy and a lot of fight,” Meerman said. “We were able to outlast them, and that’s been our motto all year. Defend, rebound and run, and that took over in the second half for us.”

Pennfield coach Nate Burns, whose team was making its first trip to the Finals, was mindful of Catholic Central’s ability to score in bunches quickly.

“Looking at film on them, they live off of their spurts,” Burns said. “And we knew coming in that we had to try and limit the damage of those spurts. They just happen so fast, and we thought we could withstand it, but then all of a sudden they are up by 10 and you try to regroup and they come with another wave.

“They have been doing that to everyone all year and we were hoping to be the exception tonight, but they got us.”

Junior guard Luke Davis helped the Panthers (21-3) stay close in the first half and finished with 17 points and four assists.

Senior Ryne Petersen added 11 points, and Aiden Burns had nine points and four rebounds.

“This group, led by our three captains, did everything they needed to do this season,” Nate Burns said. “This is the best team in school history.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Durral Brooks (10, with ball) works into the lane with Pennfield’s Aiden Burns (10), Shawn Gardner (24) and Ryne Petersen (23) defending. (Middle) The Panthers’ Gavin Liggett (3) gets a hand up on a shot by Catholic Central’s Jorden Brooks (23). Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)