D2 Preview: Embrace the Unexpected

March 13, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Anything is possible during the basketball postseason, and this weekend's Division 2 bracket tells some of that story with at least a few surprises in contention for this season's championship. 

But there’s no debating this weekend’s contenders haven’t earned their ways to East Lansing.

River Rouge has looked like a contender all along after making the Semifinals in 2018. Harper Woods Chandler Park was one of three undefeated teams in Division 2 at the end of the regular season but still had to get by New Haven, which was tied for the top spot in the final Associated Press poll. Hudsonville Unity Christian got here in part by defeating Benton Harbor, the other No. 1-ranked team when the playoffs began. And Ludington has pulled off the improbable – which we’ll detail below.

Division 2 Semifinals – Friday
Ludington (14-10) vs. Hudsonville Unity Christian (24-2), 5:30 p.m.

River Rouge (22-2) vs. Harper Woods Chandler Park (21-0), 7:30 p.m.

Division 2 Final – Saturday, 6:45 p.m.

Tickets cost $10 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session (Divisions 3 and 2). All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a pay-per-view basis. The Divisions 2, 3 and 4 championship games will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit’s primary channel, while the Division 1 Final will be shown live on Fox Sports Detroit PLUS. All four championship games will be streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com and the FOX Sports app. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.

Below is a glance at all four semifinalists. Click on the name of the school to see that team’s full schedule and results from this season. (Statistics are through teams' Regional Finals.)

21-0, No. 7
League finish: First in Charter School Conference
Coach: James Scott, fourth season (69-20)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 53-51 over No. 1 New Haven in Quarterfinal, 61-60 (OT) over Detroit Henry Ford in Regional Semifinal, 89-40 over Ferndale in Regional Final.
Players to watch: Andre Bradford, 6-3 sr. G (17 ppg, 4.0 apg); Tyland Tate, 6-6 sr. F (15 ppg, 8.0 rpg).
Outlook: Chandler Park followed up its first Regional title by earning its first trip to the Semifinals, stunning New Haven on Tuesday in one of the rare times an undefeated team likely was the underdog. But the Eagles have won two straight league titles and bring a balanced attack to Breslin. In addition to Bradford and Tate noted above, senior Derrick Bryant Jr. (12 ppg, 10 apg), sophomore Jayland Randall (13 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.0 spg) and senior Josh Diggs (11 ppg) all average double figures scoring – Randall off the bench.

24-2, honorable mention
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Green
Coach: Scott Soodsma, 27th season (430-189)
Championship history: Class B runner-up 1973 and 1963.
Best wins: 71-45 over Grand Rapids South Christian in Quarterfinal, 63-54 over No. 1 Benton Harbor in Regional Final, 58-49 (District Semifinal), 69-64 and 63-42 over honorable mention Holland Christian.
Players to watch: T.J. VanKoevering, 6-5 sr. F (13.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.1 bpg); Chandler Collins, 6-5 sr. F (10 ppg, 3.1 rpg).
Outlook: Unity Christian will play in its first Semifinal since 1973 riding a 20-game winning streak, and after upsetting reigning Class B champion Benton Harbor and then avenging an earlier loss to South Christian. VanKoevering earned an all-state honorable mention last season and is one of six players averaging at least 6.2 points under longtime leader Soodsma. The Crusaders fill their roles well; senior Noah Wiswary averages four assists per game to go with his 7.8 ppg, while another senior Ryan Takens had made 44 3-pointers entering the week and sophomore Zac Velthouse scores 7.5 ppg with nearly 46-percent success from 3-point range.

14-10, unranked
League finish: Tied for third in Lakes 8 Conference
Coach: Thad Shank, 17th season (265-132)
Championship history: Class B runner-up 2017 and 1953. 
Best wins: 65-32 over Alma in Quarterfinal, 49-32 over Escanaba in Regional Final, 50-40 over Standish-Sterling in Regional Semifinal.
Players to watch: Joshua Laman, 6-4 sr. F (15.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 58 3-pointers); Jayden Hathaway, 6-4 sr. C (5.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg).
Outlook: In a tournament filled with surprises, Ludington might be the biggest after entering the postseason with a 9-10 record. The Orioles had lost five of six entering the playoffs, but defeated five teams all with at least 13 wins to get back to Breslin for the second time in three seasons. Laman earned an all-state honorable mention last season and is sure to draw the most defensive attention. Senior Nathan Lange and junior Brayden Porter both add just over six points per game.

22-2, No. 4
League finish: First in Michigan Metro Athletic Conference Blue
Coach: Lamonta Stone, seventh season (188-37)
Championship history: Fourteen MHSAA titles (most recent 1999), five runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 78-41 over Division 1 honorable mention Ypsilanti Lincoln, 66-61 over Division 3 No. 1 Flint Beecher, 83-64 over Division 4 No. 3 Southfield Christian.
Players to watch: Nigel Colvin, 6-1 sr. G (13 ppg, 50 3-pointers); Micah Parrish, 6-5 sr. G (12 ppg).
Outlook: Stone, who led River Rouge to the 1999 Class B title, returned this season for his third tenure as leader of the program and with experience also coaching for four college programs. His team has been driving hard after making the Semifinals a year ago, losing only to Benton Harbor and Detroit Martin Luther King and winning its five tournament games by an average of 23 points per. Senior Donavan Freeman adds 10 points per game, and senior Bralin Toney averages 4.8 assists and seven points per contest.

PHOTO: Ludington’s Nathan Lange gathers a loose ball during his team’s Quarterfinal win over Alma. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)