Finally ... Romulus Reigns in Class A

March 23, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Romulus coach Nate Oats called it abnormal rather than rare for his players to show up at school at 6 a.m. this season to take extra shots before class. 

Point guard Wesley Clark made himself familiar with a few hills too as he took the extra steps necessary to avoid leaving Breslin Center again without a championship trophy. 

This weekend’s trip to Michigan State was the Eagles’ fourth in six seasons, and they played in their first championship game Saturday since finishing runner-up in 2005. But those early mornings and extra shots became all worth it when, in Oats’ words, “We finally got this thing done.”

Romulus led the Final from start to finish in defeating Detroit Southeastern 61-49 to claim its first Class A title since 1986 and cap one of the finest seasons by a Class A team in recent memory.

“As a junior, it was my first time being here to the Breslin, and I didn’t understand what type of feeling it was to lose at Breslin,” Clark said. “Coming into senior year, I knew I didn’t want to feel that again. So I took that on in the offseason and in the spring, ... just to make sure this wouldn’t happen again.”

Romulus finished 27-1, its only loss to Detroit Pershing – which the Eagles then avenged in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal. 

Of those 27 wins, all but six were by 10 or more points. 

“Our theme of the year was ‘dominate,’ and dominating is mainly just winning and winning by a large margin,” Clark said. “We took that on as a statement and challenge. That’s what we tried to do, is dominate.”

Oats broke it down Saturday much like his team broke down opponents all season.

It started with talent, and the Eagles obviously weren’t lacking. Oats called the Missouri-bound Clark the most competitive player he’s coached. Rhode Island recruit E.C. Matthews is one of the biggest “gym rats” he’s had, and Louisiana Tech signee Leonardo Edwards showed in spurts that he might’ve been the top big man in Michigan. Plus, “we played harder than everybody,” Oats said.  

“If you’re more talented than everybody, and played harder, you’re not going to lose most of the time,” he added. “If you’re not in our program, nobody has any idea how many hours these guys put in at the gym. … They’ve made themselves into really good players."

Matthews scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Final, giving him 86 points and 27 rebounds over three games this week. Edwards had 13 points and nine rebounds Saturday, and Clark had 12 points and five assists.

Similar to the Semifinal, Romulus jumped to a 7-0 lead off the opening tip. Southeastern got within four with a minute to play in the first half, but the Eagles led by double figures for all but 47 seconds of the second.

“They get the ball up the floor quickly, and they can shoot the basketball. They do it with precision. I said it (Friday), they do what they do probably better than anybody in the Midwest,” Jungaleers coach George Ward, Jr., said. “Is it unstoppable? Of course not. We just didn’t follow the game plan, so to speak. Once the heat of battle came, we kinda forgot about exactly what it was we really wanted to do to them defensively. And our frustrations really initiated off the fact that we didn’t score like we wanted to.”

Senior guard Jovone Haynes – whose last-minute steal made him the hero of Southeastern’s Semifinal win – led the Jungaleers again with 16 points and six steals. 

Junior forward Daryl Bigham had 10 points and senior guard Kwesi Williams had 10 points and six rebounds. But Southeastern made only 27 percent of its shots from the floor and only 16 percent from 3-point range.

Southeastern finished 21-6 and with a second runner-up finish in three seasons. The Jungaleers also advanced to the Final in 2011. 

“Toughness with some good talent is very important. Our guys showed mental toughness during the course of this season,” Ward said. “We always play a very good schedule, and if you just do things the right way, you’ll always be in position to win.

“Some kind of way, we always manage to win basketball games and get kids to college. … The toughness really can supersede some of the talent levels. We had some toughness, and that helped carry us.”

Click for a full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Romulus’ Wesley Clark (15) drives for two of his 12 points in Saturday’s Class A Final. (Middle) Mays and teammate Juwan Clark (3) form a shell over a driving Jovone Haynes. (Click to see more at

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

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

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.