Glen Lake Hoops Ready to Make Impression

December 1, 2017

By Dennis Chase
Special for Second Half

MAPLE CITY – When the Glen Lake boys basketball team went on a team-building retreat, coach Rich Ruelas asked his players to pick a word that would be their mantra for the season.

Cade Peterson chose “footprint.”

“Coming into my senior year, it hit me,” the three-sport standout said. “This is my last go-around for every sport. I thought, what kind of legacy do I want to leave, that our team wants to leave? It’s like footprints in the sand. How do you want to be remembered? This is a journey. Depending on how we play, how we act, we can be remembered here for years and years and years. That’s a big thing to grasp.”

The Lakers return nine players, including four starters, off an 18-5 squad that reached the Class C Regionals.

They are not the only Glen Lake basketball team that wants to leave a footprint.

The girls return five of their top seven players off a team that went 23-4 and played in the MHSAA Semifinals.

Optimism is high.

“We have experience, and a deep bench,” senior Savannah Peplinski said, reflecting on the team’s strengths. “We’ve all improved our skills. We’re tougher, mentally and physically. We’re focusing on individual things that combined will make us more complex as a team.”

It promises to be an exciting winter on the hardcourt at this Leelanau County school, where basketball tradition runs deep.

Glen Lake won boys Class D state crowns in 1959 and 1977 and was runner-up in 1996. The 1977 team, which upset Detroit East Catholic in the Final, celebrated its 40th anniversary of that championship this summer. The reunion was organized by Hall of Fame coach Don Miller, who has returned to the sidelines as the JV coach.

The Lakers claimed a girls state championship in 1978 and lost a heartbreaker in the 1979 Finals. Glen Lake has produced two of the best players to ever come out of northern Michigan – Laura Wiesen and Liz (Shimek) Moeggenberg, now the JV coach. Wiesen, a math teacher at the high school, is among the all-time assist leaders at Northwestern University while Shimek is Michigan State’s third all-time leading scorer (1,780 points) and the leading all-time rebounder (1,130).

The girls team returned to the spotlight with last season’s tournament run, which ended with a loss to Pewamo-Westphalia in the Semifinals.

Coach Jason Bradford said that run made believers out of his players.

“I told the girls they had the capability to go that far,” Bradford, now in his 10th season, said. “But I don’t think they believed it until they actually did it. It was a confidence builder, making it down (to the Semifinals).”

Peplinski agreed.

“Last year really opened our eyes as to how much talent we do have and how much harder we have to push ourselves to reach our potential,” the 17-year-old said.

A District win over nemesis Traverse City St. Francis, which had played in the Class C Final the previous year, catapulted the Lakers.

“You still have people who think it was luck we made it down there (to the Breslin Center),” Bradford said. “It’s like, you always have to prove yourself. (Because) we made it down there, and return a lot, there’s pressure to repeat, but that’s what the girls want.”

Glen Lake, which tips off its season tonight at Elk Rapids, has a solid nucleus with returnees Peplinski, Jennifer LaCross, Kaitlyn Schaub, Allie Bonzelet and Lily Ewing. LaCross averaged 10.8 points per game a year ago while Peplinski was at 10.1. Schaub, a 6-foot junior, led the team with seven rebounds a game.

“Jennifer is a forward-center, but she can play any position,” Bradford said. “She handles the ball well. She’s hard to guard. Kaitlyn’s our post player. She’s an inside-outside (threat). She has a soft touch around the hoop, and she can step out for a shot. Savannah is going to have the ball in her hands, dictating. She’s a great passer. We’re going to be pushing the ball.”

LaCross, Peplinski, Bonzelet and Schaub all saw time on the varsity as freshmen, Bradford said.

“They’ve played a lot of minutes together,” he said. “It’s a fun group, very unselfish and very supportive of each other. They accept their roles. They want to be part of this team and that’s half of it, if not most of it.”

Bonzelet is one of the top defenders on a team that prides itself on defense.

The Lakers will need to replace leading scorer Kelly Bunek and center Sarah Carney.

“It’s going to be tough to fill those holes,” Peplinski said. “But we’re working at it and building our confidence back up. I think it will be a good season.”

Sophomore Karrigan LaCross and freshman Hailey Helling are stepping in to provide the Lakers with added depth.

Glen Lake, which has won 32 consecutive Northwest Conference games, will be challenged by Kingsley and Benzie Central, which both opened the season with double-digit wins over teams from the larger Big North Conference. Frankfort is traditionally strong, too.

“It’s going to come down to the end,” Bradford said. “We have Frankfort, Benzie and Kingsley to finish the season. That’s a nice way to end it.”

As for the boys, Ruelas challenged his team over the summer. The Lakers competed in tournaments at Benzie Central. Traverse City West, Ferris State and Grand Valley State.

“We wanted a challenge so we got put in the top brackets at Ferris and Grand Valley,” Ruelas said.

Glen Lake won its bracket at Grand Valley and was runner-up at Ferris State.

The Lakers return four starters in seniors Peterson and Nick Apsey, junior Xander Okerlund and sophomore Reece Hazelton. Okerlund averaged 17.5 points and 4.8 rebounds a year ago, while Peterson was at 15.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per contest.

“We have balance, inside and out, length and leadership,” Ruelas said.

Peterson, who has committed to play football at Grand Valley, is 6-5, as is Hazelton. Okerlund measures 6-4.

The Lakers also welcome back 5-7 senior point guard Peyton McDonough, who missed most of last season with a torn meniscus.

“We’re very athletic,” McDonough said. “We can run the floor. We have good shooters - we can drive and kick. We’re a well-rounded team.”

Glen Lake did not win the Northwest Conference last season. That honor went to Buckley, which ran the table. The Bears, who reached the Class D Final, return all five starters. Frankfort also has its top talent back.

“(Our players) know we have great teams in our conference,” Ruelas said. “We don’t throw that in their face. It’s motivation for us to work hard, do the right things and take it step by step.

“If we work together, work hard, have fun and are connected as a team, that’s my goal. I want us to get better every day.”

Connected was the word Ruelas chose at the retreat.

“It’s a we – not a me – mentality,” he said. “We’re trying to live that day in and day out. It’s easy to say, but if we can live it they know the sky’s the limit.”

Peterson said chemistry is one of the Lakers’ strengths.

“We’re more unselfish, more together,” he said.

“Everyone’s really positive and excited for the challenge,” Okerlund added.

McDonough. Peterson and Okerlund are the captains, and all bring something different to the table.

“Peyton’s the vocal leader,” Ruelas said. “He’s challenging everybody to get better every day, even if it’s one percent. Cade brings that competitiveness to the team. He wants his senior class to go out the right way, not have any regrets. Xander leads by example. He works his tail off.”

Glen Lake opens its season Tuesday against St. Francis – the start of a near four-month journey.

“We’re not going to lose sight of the important things,” Ruelas said. “Of course, we want to win the conference, the District, and so on. Every good team wants that.

“But basketball is like every other sport. On any given night, maybe the ball doesn’t fall, things don’t go your way. (Our season) could end in the state championship game or in a District Final. Whenever it ends, we want to look back and say we worked hard, had fun, respected each other and enjoyed the journey. If we walk away knowing that, I can’t think of a reason we would have any regrets. That’s what matters.”

Dennis Chase worked 32 years as a sportswriter at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, including as sports editor from 2000-14. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Savannah Peplinski (left) and Peyton McDonough are among those expected to contribute to strong Glen Lake basketball teams this winter. (Middle) Jennifer LaCross defends against Frankfort last season. (Below) Max Lerchen goes to the basket last winter against Leland. (Girls photos courtesy of Robert Ewing; boys photos courtesy of Don Miller.)

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.)