Grand Blanc Locks Down on D, Locks Up Historic Win

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

April 10, 2021

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.

Boys Basketball Division 1 Final

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. 

Click for the full box score.

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.)

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.)