Godwin Heights Caps Long Trip to Top

March 28, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – The final seconds of Friday night at the Breslin Center were about relief for Wyoming Godwin Heights senior Delaney Blaylock, after he led the Wolverines to their first MHSAA championship game berth. 

Relief turned into disbelief Saturday – and satisfaction for a community that started this trip nearly 90 years ago.

Godwin Heights defeated Detroit Henry Ford 85-68 in the final game of this season to earn its first MHSAA title, 86 years after its first trip to the final week.

Grand Rapids Godwin made its first MHSAA Quarterfinal in 1929 and finished runner-up in 1950 and then as Wyoming Godwin in 1960. The Wolverines played in four more Semifinals – including in 2013 – and then fell in the Quarterfinals again in 2014.

“I was just thinking I can’t believe we’re here,” Blaylock said Saturday night. “I just didn’t want to be comfortable being in the state championship, but (wanted) to win the state championship.” 

Like Powers North Central did in winning Class D earlier Saturday, Godwin Heights (26-1) capped a three-year run that will go down among the most successful in MHSAA history.

The Wolverines were a combined 74-5 over the last three seasons, which tied them for the ninth-most wins over a period of that length. 

And the last of those wins was more or less decided by halftime.

Henry Ford scored the first basket of the game and never led again, as Godwin Heights build a lead as large as 23 points during the second quarter while shooting 55 percent from the field and making 8 of 11 3-point shots during the first 16 minutes. 

The Wolverines led 50-29 at the break and never by fewer than 14 points during the final two quarters.

“I don’t think I ever saw a team shoot like that in the Breslin,” Henry Ford coach Kenneth Flowers said. “The craziest part about it, they didn’t shoot the ball well yesterday (33 percent from the floor, 26 from 3-point range). They came out today on fire. … They played like state champions.” 

The Godwin Heights basketball community had to struggle through sadness at the end of summer. Junior-to-be Ta’Carhri Richardson – who played for first-year Wolverines coach Tyler Whittemore on the junior varsity in 2013-14 – was shot and died Aug. 3. 

Whittemore, a 2005 graduate, was promoted to the varsity job after coaching in the program at various levels for eight seasons. 

“Toughness is what defines them,” Whittemore said of his players. “It’s tough to go through what they did, have that tragedy happen (during) the summer before the basketball season was going to start. We had one of our games on his birthday, the second game against Holland (on Dec. 16). The guys rallied around each other. They were playing hard for one another, getting loose balls for one another … not for themselves.”

Blaylock led five scorers in double figures Saturday, with 19 points, and he also grabbed 10 rebounds. Freshman guard Lamar Norman came off the bench for 17 points, while senior forward Michael Williams and junior guard Leon Redd both scored 13 and junior forward Richard Major had 12. Williams also grabbed nine rebounds and had four assists. 

Detroit Henry Ford, playing in its first Final after also playing in and winning its first Semifinal on Friday, finished 21-6.

Senior forward Joshua Davis had 16 points and 11 rebounds and junior point guard James Towns had 15 points and six assists. They were the leading scorers this season as the Trojans bounced back from two straight sub-.500 seasons to also make their first Quarterfinal since 1984.

“I was telling them I know it hurts, and they’re crying their eyes out right now too,” Flowers said. “But they took Henry Ford High School to a place it’s never been before. These guys are the foundation of good things to come.”

Click for the full box score and video from the postgame press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Godwin Heights players celebrate the first MHSAA title in program history. (Middle) Henry Ford guard Antaun Carter is surrounded by Wolverines defenders in the lane.

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.