D2 Preview: Formidable Foursome Expected to Make for Memorable Matchups

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 23, 2022

This weekend’s final four contenders for the Division 2 boys basketball championship make up a high-echelon group, to say the least.

On one side of the bracket, reigning champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Ferndale will meet in a Semifinal rematch after both played many of the state’s best on the way to East Lansing. On the other side? Just the only two undefeated teams playing at Breslin Center this weekend.

Additionally, Ferndale's Treyvon Lewis (Loyola of Chicago signee) and Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Jack Karasinski (William & Mary) were two of four finalists for the Mr. Basketball Award this week. 

DIVISION 2 Semifinals – Thursday
Grand Rapids Catholic Central (24-1) vs. Ferndale (21-3), 5:30 p.m.
Williamston (25-0) vs. Freeland (25-0), 7:30 p.m.
FINAL  Saturday 6:45 p.m.

Tickets for this weekend’s games are $12 for both Semifinals and Finals and are available via the Breslin Center ticket office. All Semifinals will be broadcast and viewable with subscription to MHSAA.tv, and all four Finals will air live Saturday on Bally Sports Detroit, with the Division 4 and 1 games on BSD EXTRA and the Division 3 and 2 games on BSD’s primary channel. All four will be broadcast live as well as on the BSD website and app. Audio broadcasts of all Semifinals and Finals will be available free of charge from the MHSAA Network.

Here’s a look at the four Division 2 semifinals (with rankings by MPR at the end of the regular season, and statistics through Regional Finals):

Record/rank: 21-3, No. 4
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Juan Rickman, fourth season (62-26)
Championship history: Class A champion 1966 and 1963.
Best wins: 68-55 over No. 12 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in Quarterfinal, 60-55 over No. 18 Detroit Country Day in District Final, 57-46 over Division 1 No. 9 Muskegon, 63-52 over Division 1 No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, 56-49 over Division 1 No. 13 North Farmington, 63-52 and 58-47 over Division 1 No. 14 Oak Park.
Players to watch: Jason Drake Jr., 6-2 sr. G (16.8 ppg, 6.7 apg); Treyvon Lewis, 6-5 sr. F (22.4 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, 2.1 bpg); Chris Williams, 6-5 jr. F (10.2 ppg, 9.8 ppg).
Outlook: After making the Semifinals last season for the first time since 1985, Ferndale is making the trip for the second season in a row after navigating one of the strongest schedules in the state. Four of five starters are back from the team that lost 81-55 to Grand Rapids Catholic Central last year at Breslin, with junior guard Cameron Reed (9.1 ppg, 4.9 apg, 2.9 spg) joining Drake, Lewis and Williams. Drake made the all-state second team last season, and Lewis earned an honorable mention. The Eagles’ losses this season were all to Division 1 teams that won Regional titles – Grand Blanc, Warren De La Salle Collegiate and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.

Record/rank: 25-0, No. 14
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference 10
Coach: John Fattal, third season (49-15)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 67-47 over Cadillac in Quarterfinal, 55-52 (OT – Regional Semifinal), 68-47 and 69-57 over Alma, 82-59 over Flint Hamady in Regional Final, 63-57 over Division 3 No. 17 Pewamo-Westphalia.
Players to watch: Josh Elliott, 6-3 sr. F (18.5 ppg, 70 3-pointers); Bryson Huckeby, 6-4 sr. F (14.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 6.4 apg); Alex Duley, 6-4 sr. C (13.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.4 apg).
Outlook: After winning its first Regional title since 1971, Freeland will make its first trip to the Semifinals and after playing only three single-digit games during this season’s undefeated run. Huckeby earned an all-state honorable mention last season and guides a high-scoring offense that’s gone over 80 points in three of five postseason games. In addition to the three double-digit scorers, junior Cullum LeBaron added 8.3 points per game and had 63 3-pointers entering the week. Both he and Elliott connect on 44 percent or better of their attempts from beyond the arc, with Elliott nearing 50 percent.   

Record/rank: 24-1, No. 6
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold
Coach: TJ Meerman, ninth season (141-64)
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2021, Class B runner-up 2018.
Best wins: 86-60 over No. 9 Benton Harbor in Quarterfinal, 69-44 (Regional Final) and 48-45 over Grand Rapids Christian, 68-48 over No. 2 Hudsonville Unity Christian in District Final, 64-59 over Division 1 No. 8 Grand Blanc, 80-66 over Division 1 No. 1 Detroit U-D Jesuit.
Players to watch: Jack Karasinski, 6-6 sr. F (16.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.1 ppg); Kaden Brown, 6-0 jr. G (21 ppg, 65 3-pointers, 4.2 apg); Durral Brooks, 6-2 soph. G (14.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.5 apg).
Outlook: The reigning Division 2 champion has lost just one game over the last two seasons – to 2021 Division 3 champion Flint Beecher, 75-69 on Jan. 8. Otherwise it’s been all wins despite a loaded schedule, but with four starters back from last season’s undefeated title earner. Karasinski made the all-state first team last season, while Brown made the second and Brooks earned honorable mention, and senior Jorden Brooks (11 ppg, 59 3-pointers) joins them as a returning starter. No opponent, including previously-undefeated Unity Christian, has come closer than 11 points since the Beecher loss.

Record/rank: 25-0, No. 7
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference White
Coach: Tom Lewis, sixth season (record N/A)
Championship history: Lower Peninsula Class C champion 1940.
Best wins: 70-54 over No. 20 Detroit Edison in Quarterfinal, 57-38 over No. 3 Onsted in Regional Semifinal, 66-29 over Chelsea in District Final, 66-37 over Division 1 No. 7 East Lansing, 49-32 over Division 1 No. 13 North Farmington.
Players to watch: Jacob Wallace, 6-4 sr. G (13.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg); Mason Docks, 6-0 sr. G (16.2 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.8 spg); Max Burton, 6-10 sr. F (13.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg).
Outlook: Williamston will be playing in its first Semifinal since 2016, led by a pair of 1,000-point career scorers in Wallace and Docks. The Hornets have had one single-digit game all season, against Lansing Everett, and they’ve won their five postseason games by an average of 27.2 points per. Wallace made the all-state second team last season, and with Docks and Burton is part of a group of 10 seniors.

PHOTO Freeland, including Alex Duley (42), defends the lane during Tuesday’s Quarterfinal win over Cadillac. (Photo courtesy of the Freeland athletic department.)

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.)