Defenders Rise Again at Breslin

March 21, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Wyoming Tri-unity Christian on its own has been plenty to contend with for Class D opponents over the last two decades.

At Michigan State University’s Breslin Center, the Defenders have been nearly unbeatable – which wasn’t good news for first-timer Powers North Central on Thursday.  

The top-ranked Defenders – champions on this floor only two seasons ago – improved to 12-4 in playoff games on MSU’s home court with a 51-36 Semifinal win over the Jets. Tri-unity will face reigning champion Southfield Christian at 10 a.m. Saturday in one more Breslin game to finish the season.

“It’s going to give me a little bit of an advantage,” said Tri-unity senior Joey Blauwkamp, who also started on Defenders’ 2011 championship team. “It gives me just a feel for what’s coming.”

Tri-unity (25-2) has four titles over the last 17 years, and coach Mark Keeler’s recipe is proven – the Defenders haven’t had a losing season since 1992.

Once again this winter, Tri-unity played about one third of its regular-season games against Class A and B schools, and in the process built an edge that likely contributed to a deciding fourth-quarter run in this Semifinal.

“Those are the games that really make it so when we go here, we’re ready for this atmosphere,” said Keeler, who is finishing his 26th season. “And this game will help Powers next year. You’ve got to be in it to experience, carry it out. That’s just the way it is for us.”

For playing its first tournament game at Breslin – and coming off its first Regional title in 29 years – No. 10 North Central (23-4) didn’t show any signs of being uncomfortable in the cavernous surroundings.

The teams were tied 27-27 into the final seconds of the third quarter.  

But that was despite North Central scoring only one field goal in the period. Blauwkamp dropped in a basket at the quarter buzzer to give the Defenders a two-point lead, and it seemed to get the ball rolling for a big Tri-unity fourth quarter.

“It was a little bit deflating, especially because we were struggling offensively at the end of the third quarter as well,” Jets coach Adam Mercier said. “If we got that one stop, we get the ball coming out of the fourth quarter and maybe make a run. That was a little blow to us mentally.”

Tri-unity held the North Central to only one field goal in the fourth quarter as well, and it didn’t come until 1:19 remained in the game. Meanwhile, Defenders senior Daniel Cole scored 11 of his game-high 18 points as his team pulled away.

Blauwkamp added 10 points and 14 rebounds for Tri-unity. Most impressive, it was the 15th time this season the Defenders held an opponent to 40 or fewer points.

“We rely so much on good defense. We trust one another, and we’ve been playing with one another since … seventh grade at the latest,” Tri-unity senior Evan Przybysz said. “So we know one another. We’ve got each other’s backs. And we know how to get stops when we have to.”

Junior forward Rob Granquist led Powers North Central with 13 points, and junior center Trevor Ekberg had eight and seven rebounds.

But here’s the kicker: The Jets won’t graduate anyone from this season’s roster, allowing them the opportunity to build off some of the experience Tri-unity uses so well to its advantage.

“It was the first end-of-the-season speech where I didn’t see any tears. They’re hungry for more,” Mercier said. “If we do the right things in the offseason, individually pick it up and get better, I hope the kids will be back in the same position next year. This was a great experience for our kids to be here against a great team … and they’ve got a hunger in their eyes.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Wyoming Tri-unity's Daniel Cole drives between Powers North Central defenders Rob Granquist (15) and Trevor Ekberg (40) on Thursday. (Middle) Tri-unity's Joey Blauwkamp prepares to shoot against the Jets' Travis Vincent. (Photos by 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.)