Data Dig Continues for Hoops Histories
March 7, 2017
By Ron Pesch
Special for Second Half
There is a list – well actually two – that sit, unfinished, among the “1,001 Projects I’d Like to Complete Before I Die.”
I became the caretaker of these lists back when I inherited the title “Historian for the MHSAA” in 1993.
The original lists contained the scores of all MHSAA Quarterfinal, Semifinal and Final round games for the MHSAA boys and girls basketball tournaments since their origin.
From the 1930s into the late 1960s, the MHSAA tournament game-day program was generally nothing more than a single sheet document, containing tournament brackets and team rosters for the qualifiers.
In 1969, the program saw a redesign by Lansing sports personality Tim Staudt and premiered at the MHSAA Tournament. Sold for 50 cents, it included a list of “Past Michigan State Champions” containing the names of the winning teams and those schools’ basketball coaches for each of the four classes. The publication also included a couple of articles from Dick Kishpaugh, the author of the champions list. Kishpaugh was identified as “Sports Information Director at Kalamazoo College and … perhaps the most knowledgeable historian on Michigan high school basketball.”
With the start of the Girls Basketball Tournament in 1973, a similar program design was followed.
Those lists were faithfully updated and published in the game-day programs in the same format until the 1987-88 school year, when the souvenir publications were expanded. For the first time, a list containing opponents and final scores of the boys and girls championship games was now available to the general public.
Among the first tasks I chose to approach when I assumed the duties of MHSAA historian was to chase more information.
Since Kishpaugh’s lists had game scores for the three final rounds of the tournament, and names of the championship coaches, I thought I would try to leave my mark. I began chasing down the names of coaches for the runner-up, as well as final win-loss records for both schools. And while I was at it, I decided to see what I could find for teams that made the Quarterfinals and Semifinals.
Hundreds of hours have gone into adding to and maintaining the lists, and much progress has been made. Yet, some 20+ years later, I’m still trying to fill holes in the data.
The Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan helped spread the word, notifying its membership of the project. Web pages were created for both the boys and girls to show teams still missing information.
The pursuit has led to friendships, and fascinating stories, documents and images. The late Walter Michael, who had attended the MHSAA Finals for more than 60 years, donated a cache of MHSAA tournament programs from the 1940s through the 1960s that filled in the names of many high school coaches. Del Newell, a sports writer from the Kalamazoo Gazette, knocked out most of the Kalamazoo schools early in my search. Bill Khan, then of the Flint Journal sports department, filled in a large number of missing names and records from the Flint area. The recently retired “Son of Swami,” better known as Mick McCabe, contributed by including the win-loss records of the quarterfinalists in his annual tournament prognostication columns for the Detroit Free Press.
Numerous coaches around the state sent e-mails and letters with the names and records for their predecessors. Prep basketball fans and former players sent along offerings. Rob Madsen from Mt. Pleasant became a huge contributor, and sent regular updates to both lists. He focused on some of the state’s smallest schools, including many from the Upper Peninsula.
Leon Westover sent the win-loss record for little Marlette, 1951 Class C runner-up, as well as one of my favorite photos from that golden era of prep sports. Marlette had “waltzed through the Mid-Thumb League and district, regional and quarter-final tournament games,” wrote Fred J. Vincent of the Port Huron Times-Herald. Marlette slipped past Stanton 41-37 to advance to the Class C title game against unbeaten Detroit St. Andrew.
“Just one game too many …,” continued Vincent, writing from East Lansing’s Jenison Field House following the title game. “That just about explains the one-sided beating Marlette absorbed in the state class C high school basketball final here Saturday afternoon. The final score was 52-26. … One of the smallest teams, physically, in the tournament, it seemed that the Raiders were just worn out.”
Yet, that night, the team was celebrated like the hometown heroes they really were.
Westover’s photo shows the Red Raiders on the night of the Final, gathered at Teale’s Restaurant in Marlette. The clock indicates its 11:30. The owner, George Teale, has opened up his restaurant for the team to cook them steaks in honor of their achievement. Coach Nieland "Tommy" Thompson and his 22-2 squad look happy, ready to celebrate a long season.
At tournament time, these lists help answer media requests that arise.
Question: When was the last time two undefeated teams met for an MHSAA Finals championship?
Answer: 2003-Class A for the girls. Detroit Martin Luther King topped Flint Northern 58-53. 1971-Class C for the boys. Shelby downed Stockbridge 71-57.
Question: What coach had the longest span between championship game appearances?
Answer: Eddie Powers, coach of Detroit Northern, went 34 years between his Class A championship team in 1930 and his runner-up squad in 1964. The mark is asterisked, however, as the Detroit Public School League chose to stop participation in the annual state tournament from 1931 through 1961. Saginaw’s Larry Laeding went 20 years between winning the 1942 Class A championship and his squad’s 1962 Class A title. Maple City Glen Lake coach Don Miller went 19 seasons between the school’s 1977 Class D title and its 1996 runner-up finish, also in Class D.
For the girls, both Mary Cicerone at Bloomfield Hills Marian and Carl Wayer at Ashley went 16 seasons between appearances. While Cicerone’s Marian teams have made seven visits to the Finals and have won six Class A titles, 16 years elapsed between Marian’s 1998 and 2014 Class A championships. Marian then captured a second consecutive title in 2015. Coach Wayer advance two teams to the title game. Ashley finished as runner-up in Class D in 1980 and again in Class D in 1996. The loss in 1996 came in overtime, and was the only defeat for Ashley that season.
Michigan’s high school basketball tournaments are an experience shared, mostly unchanged, since their beginnings. At the end of the regular season, everyone qualifies for the madness. Yet in the end, only four teams finish as champions. The path mimics the magical trail taken by fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers. Qualifying for the Quarterfinals is still a huge triumph, as the round brings together only 32 teams from a field of more than 700 boys teams and more than 650 girls teams.
In my eyes, these lists emphasize that remarkable, undiluted achievement. In a world consumed with trophies and the number “1,” perhaps it is time to step back and celebrate this rare journey.
Click for Ron Pesch's data "Needs Lists" for girls basketball and boys basketball.
Ron Pesch has taken an active role in researching the history of MHSAA events since 1985 and began writing for MHSAA Finals programs in 1986, adding additional features and "flashbacks" in 1992. He inherited the title of MHSAA historian from the late Dick Kishpaugh following the 1993-94 school year, and resides in Muskegon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas for historical articles.
PHOTOS: (Top) Marlette's 1951 boys basketball team gathers for dinner at a local restaurant after the Class C Final. (Middle top) The 1969 Boys Finals saw the addition of updated tournament programs. (Middle below) The 1977 Girls Finals program told of the teams that would meet at Jenison Field House. (Below) The 1947 Boys Finals program was among many that helped fill in data gaps from the early years of the tournament. (Photos provided by Ron Pesch.)
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.
After 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, 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 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@example.com 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.)