Edison Hangs On, Moves On to 1st Final

March 22, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Detroit Edison saw its 16-point lead disappear by the middle of the fourth quarter of Thursday’s Class C Semifinal against Grand Rapids Covenant Christian.

The Pioneers weren’t worried.

“I wasn’t really concerned at all,” Edison senior guard Pierre Mitchell, Jr., said. “We’ve been through this the whole season. We play in the PSL. It’s a whole bunch of tough battles every Tuesday and Friday. 

In fact, the Pioneers won the Detroit Public School League tournament this season. And that experience no doubt helped them earn the chance to play for their first MHSAA boys basketball championship.

Edison broke away over the final four minutes Thursday for a 55-43 win, launching a 14-1 game-ending run after the Chargers had come all the way back from the earlier double-digit deficit.

“I have seniors here, and these guys do a pretty good job of keeping guys focused on what we need to do and when we need to do it,” Edison coach Brandon Neely said. “I had confidence these guys were going to rise to the occasion.

“We were going to just maintain composure. We’ve been in a lot of tough battles this year, but we’re battle-tested. We’ve had teams come back on us before. We’ve lost some games that way. We’ve lost a game just about any way you could imagine. … (but) we always competed.”

Edison (16-10) will face Maple City Glen Lake in Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. championship game.

The Pioneers have won 10 of their last 11 games, which means they started 6-9 – and they finished fourth in their PSL division, which also included two Class A, a Class B and another Class C school.

But lessons learned from those defeats helped Edison weather Covenant Christian’s comeback and the momentum shift that could’ve come with it.

The Pioneers moved on with senior center Deante Johnson playing only 20 minutes because of foul trouble. They held on despite hitting only 35 percent of their shots for the game.

Instead of folding during Covenant’s comeback, Edison got help in the post from senior guard Gary Solomon, who finished with team highs of 15 points and 10 rebounds. And they climbed out of their cold shooting to make 5 of 11 tries from the perimeter during the fourth quarter, including 4 of 5 during the run to close out the game. Johnson came back to score the first five points of that final stretch.

“I work on (shooting) every day, and I had to come up big for my team,” Johnson said. “I was in foul trouble all throughout the game. I wasn’t the presence in the middle that I’d usually be. So I had to make it up somehow, some way in the fourth quarter for my team.”

As a team, Covenant Christian (22-5) shot a nearly identical 35 percent to the Pioneers, but made 9 of 13 attempts to knock down the 16-point deficit over the first 12 minutes of the second half.

But as the Pioneers closed on a roll, the Chargers finished making just 1 of 6 shots and turning the ball over twice.

“We knew we had to shoot it well today, and we didn’t in the first half and I thought that cost us,” Covenant Christian coach Tyler Schimmel said. “In the second half, we started playing Charger basketball.

“We changed a few things defensively (at halftime), but not many. For some reason, we were timid early on. We thought we were just as good as Edison, and they’re a good team. The shots just didn’t fall for us.”

Senior forward Carson Meulenberg led Covenant Christian with 12 points and 12 rebounds, and senior forward Trenton Koole also scored 12 points.

Mitchell added 13 points for Edison, and senior guard Keith Johnson was key off the bench with 10 points on 4 of 8 shooting over 14 minutes.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Edison’s Keith Johnson puts up a jumper during Thursday’s Class C Semifinal against Grand Rapids Covenant Christian. (Middle) The Chargers’ Nathan Minderhoud drives the baseline with Johnson defending.

Ferndale Caps Winter Season with 1st Boys Hoops Title Since 1966

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

March 25, 2023

EAST LANSING – One team was going to end a long championship drought in Saturday’s boys basketball Division 2 Final.

Ferndale’s was especially lengthy, and spanned more than five decades.

And now it is no longer.

The Eagles won their first Finals championship in 57 years with a 44-38 victory over Grand Rapids South Christian at Breslin Center.

Ferndale had last won a state title in 1966.

“The drought is over,” Eagles coach Juan Rickman said. “That’s big time, and the biggest part about making it down here was seeing how charged up the community was and the school was so charged up. It’s the greatest feeling to see how vested our community was in our success.”

Christopher Williams (13) tries to power past South Christian’s Sam Weiss (23) to the rim.Ferndale senior Christopher Williams led the way with 16 points and four rebounds.

“It feels great,” Williams said. “Especially since the past four years we’ve been to the same place and lost twice in a row to the same team, and now it feels like weight is lifted off my shoulders.

“We started off the season 1-5, and going till now we knew if we stayed together through adversity then we could do it. And it made it more impactful that it was our coach’s first state title, and that’s what we wanted to do.”

Added senior point guard Cameron Reed, who had a game-high seven assists: “It’s incredibly special. I wasn't born back then, my teammates weren’t born and my coaches weren’t born. It definitely rejuvenated the whole city and community.”

Ferndale led 8-4 at the end of the first quarter, and both teams shot poorly in the first half. The Eagles connected on a paltry 24 percent from the field, and South Christian on 35 percent of its attempts. Nate Brinks drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Sailors a 16-14 halftime lead. 

Junior guard Jake Vermaas opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer to make it 19-14, but Ferndale made a charge.

The Eagles sliced the deficit to one (25-24) on a 3-pointer by Trenton Ruth, and Cameron Reed tied it at 28-28 with an acrobatic layup.

“Our team was mentally strong, and I’m so proud of them for their accomplishment,” Rickman said. “Just so committed to the process and just being resilient.”

Cameron Reed (0) leads a break for the Eagles.An 8-2 spurt by Ferndale over the first three minutes of the fourth quarter made it 36-30.

“That was extremely important, and we always want to win the first four minutes,” Rickman said. “And we tried to open up the fourth quarter with what we call a kill; we want to get five straight stops and score on two or three of those possessions so we can build a lead. We did that fairly well against a good team.”

South Christian was attempting to win football and basketball Finals championships during the same school year, and was looking for its first basketball title since 2005.

“It was a really hard-fought game and I thought we played at our speed, but it got away from us a little bit,” first-year Sailors coach Taylor Johnson said.

“But it doesn’t take away from what we accomplished this year. We’ve been through it all, including three season-ending injuries, and to still make it to the state finals is an incredible feat.”

Senior Jacob DeHaan and Vermaas led the Sailors with 14 points apiece, while senior Sam Medendorp added seven points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Ferndale raises the Division 2 championship trophy Saturday night at Breslin Center. (Middle) Christopher Williams (13) tries to power past South Christian’s Sam Weiss (23) to the rim. (Below) Cameron Reed (0) leads a break for the Eagles.