EAST LANSING – The Grand Blanc boys basketball team spends 45 minutes each practice focusing on defense.
In the end, it was extra time well spent.
A strong defensive effort helped propel the Bobcats to a 45-36 win over Ann Arbor Huron in Saturday’s Division 1 Final at the Breslin Center.
It was the first Finals championship in school history for Grand Blanc, which ended the River Rats’ bid for a perfect season and their first championship.
“They hate it, but that’s what happens when you spend that much time on defense,” said Grand Blanc coach Mike Thomas, who guided Kalamazoo Central to Class A crowns in 2010 and 2011.
“We do it every day for games like this because our shots are not going to fall all the time, so we have to be able to rely on our defense to stay in games – and it happened for us today.”
The Bobcats (15-2), who were Class B runners-up in 1952 the only other time they played in a championship game, averaged nearly 80 points per game this season, but struggled to knock down shots Saturday. They shot less than 30 percent from the field and beyond the 3-point line.
Despite their shooting woes, Grand Blanc’s defense shined and allowed only 12 second-half points in holding Ann Arbor Huron to its lowest scoring output of the season.
“We had to make sure we were locked in, and I thought our guys did a really good job of not giving up lay-ups and not making mistakes defensively,” Thomas said. “We didn’t do a good job of limiting them to one shot in the first half, but we made the correction and really focused on rebounding at the half.”
Sophomore RJ Taylor was the catalyst on offense in the first half and finished with 15 points, while Timonte Boyd came off the bench to add 12 points and seven rebounds.
“It’s one game at a time for us and we didn’t treat today like a championship game,” Taylor said. “We treated it like just another game, and I’m proud of how we overcame adversity and all obstacles this season.”
Junior Ty Rodgers played 31 minutes and contributed nine points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.
He said he was thrilled to help bring home a Finals title for the three departing seniors.
“It hasn't sunk in that we won a state championship and just all the hours we put in and the hard work,” Rodgers said. “I'm really proud of our seniors. There were 15 guys when they were freshmen and only three left. They stuck through the storm, and this is the outcome. We’re super excited to bring something like this to the community.”
One of those seniors, Josh Rechsteiner, knocked down a key 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter to give the Bobcats a 35-34 lead and ignite a 10-2 run to close the game.
“He’s struggled the last couple games, but I kept telling him to be ready,” Thomas said. “That was a big shot, and it’s a prime example of being ready when your number is called.”
The River Rats’ struggles included making only 3 of 21 3-point attempts and missing 10 free throws. They also committed 14 turnovers.
“This is a great group of seniors who are winners, and it would’ve been nice to see them go out the right way,” Ann Arbor Huron coach Waleed Samaha said. “We’re disappointed, obviously, in the outcome, but we know that we gave it everything we had out there and it was a great effort all the way through.
“We struggled with execution at times and struggled staying out of foul trouble. I think that threw us off a little bit most of the game.”
Senior Devin Womack paced Ann Arbor Huron (20-1) with 18 points, while senior Kingsley Perkins had six points and 14 rebounds.
PHOTOS: (Top) Ty Rodgers dunks for two of his nine points for Grand Blanc during Saturday’s Division 1 Final. (Middle) Ann Arbor Huron’s Brandon Rawls (23) keeps the pressure on Jacob Carlson. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
We've got a long way to go before the stories of this season conclude with four MHSAA boys basketball champions crowned March 15 at Michigan State University's Breslin Center.
But the first week of the 2023-24 regular season gave us plenty to fill our first installment of “Breslin Bound” – our official tip-off to following more than 700 boys basketball teams through those final buzzers in East Lansing.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 46, Flint Beecher 44 This was their first meeting since January 2022 and it provided a memorable start as the Cavaliers downed the reigning Division 3 champion.
2. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 75, Ferndale 66 These two both have several new contributors, but big things will be expected again as well as Brother Rice regularly contends in Division 1 and Ferndale is the reigning Division 2 champion.
3. Lansing Waverly 58, Detroit Martin Luther King 57 Waverly took major strides last season doubling its win total from 2021-22 and could be on the verge of more coming off this impressive victory at the Detroit Douglass Tip-Off Classic.
4. Norway 49, Munising 48 After the Knights gave Munising a tough final regular-season test last season, the Mustangs went on to claim the Division 4 championship. Norway will attempt to build off back-to-back 15-7 seasons starting with this win.
5. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 64, Grandville Calvin Christian 44 These two combined to finish 46-9 a season ago, when Calvin defeated Tri-unity 63-42 in the regular-season finale (although the Defenders rebounded to finish Division 4 runners-up).
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Rochester Adams (2-0) The Highlanders provided one of the best late-breaking stories of last season, reaching the Division 1 Quarterfinals after finishing fourth of five teams in a strong Oakland Activities Association Red that also featured North Farmington and Ferndale. The momentum started rolling again with wins last week over Milford 52-48 and Macomb L’Anse Creuse North 74-59.
Utica (2-0) Last season’s co-champion in the Macomb Area Conference Blue defeated MAC White reigning champion Port Huron Northern 68-49 in their opener and then Utica Eisenhower 56-41 at the MAC Champions of Champions event at Center Line. Utica improved to 15-7 last season after finishing 7-14 in 2021-22.
Dundee (2-0) After holding its own last season in a strong Lenawee County Athletic Association and finishing 13-12 overall, Dundee is hoping to turn a fast start last week into a climb up the standings with league play starting Friday. The Vikings doubled up East Jackson 52-26 and downed Milan 67-37 to start things off.
Goodrich (1-0) A 22-5 finish last season included a shared championship in the Flint Metro League Stars and a run to the Division 2 Quarterfinals, where the Martians fell by only five to eventual champion Ferndale. The second-to-last of those five losses came to Flint Beecher, 70-55, but Goodrich avenged it Friday with a 58-55 win over the Bucs.
Hillsdale (2-0) The Hornets finished just 4-19 last season, their second sub-.500 in a row. But the turnaround may be starting. Hillsdale is halfway toward last year’s win total after defeating Union City 53-45 and Jonesville 50-40 – and after losing to Union City 52-36 and Jonesville 39-23 last season, with Jonesville going on to finish 19-6.
Royal Oak Shrine Catholic (2-0) This is another team well on its way to bettering last season’s success by Jan. 1. After going 3-19 last winter, Shrine defeated Bloomfield Hills Roeper 48-30 and Utica Ford 55-52 in overtime last week. Ford had defeated the Knights 63-50 last season, and the 55 points Shrine scored this time would have been their second-highest total of 2022-23.
Adrian Lenawee Christian (2-0) Lenawee Christian finished last season on an 11-5 run after a 2-7 start, and might be rolling that right into this season as well after opening with a 74-60 win over Blissfield and 73-58 overtime victory over Hanover-Horton. Blissfield was among teams to deal the Cougars a loss during last season’s tough early stretch. Lenawee Christian is playing in the Tri-County Conference this winter after playing previously as an independent.
Wakefield-Marenisco (2-0) The Cardinals were a solid 13-10 last season, with the final week including a third win over Bessemer as they faced off in a District Semifinal, followed by a third loss to Ironwood in the District championship game. This season’s first week saw the same schedule, but a better outcome – Wakefield-Marenisco edged Bessemer 60-57 and this time defeated Ironwood 48-30. Ironwood was first and W-M third last season in the Copper Mountain Conference Porcupine Mountain.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – River Rouge (1-0) at Ferndale (1-1) – As noted above, Ferndale was last season’s Division 2 champion, and defeated Rouge 72-60 in last winter’s meeting.
Friday – Kalamazoo Central (0-0) at Battle Creek Central (0-0) – These longtime rivals finished first and third, respectively, in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East last season.
Saturday – Detroit Cass Tech (0-0) at Holt (1-0) – The Rams host the reigning Division 1 champion Technicians in the 4:30 p.m. game of the Moneyball Classic.
Saturday – Grand Rapids South Christian (0-0) vs. Rockford (1-0) at Calvin University – This will be the 10 a.m. opener of The Invite at Calvin University, with the reigning Division 2 runner-up Sailors taking on a Rockford team coming off an 18-win season.
Saturday – Grand Rapids Catholic Central (0-0) vs. Grand Rapids Northview (1-0) at Calvin University – This will cap off The Invite tipping approximately 7:35 p.m. and pitting last season’s Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold co-champion and White outright champion, respectively.
MHSAA.com's weekly “Breslin Bound” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTOS (Top) A Westland John Glenn player gets to the basket during U-D Jesuit's season-opening 83-48 win over the Rockets. (Middle) Bath defenders surround a Charyl Stockwell player during the Sentinels' 63-55 victory. (Top photo by Olivia B. Photography; middle photo by Click by Christine McCallister.)