GRCC Earns 1st Final with Size, Surprise

March 23, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s victory celebration had a championship feel Friday night.

The Cougars hadn’t locked down their first MHSAA boys basketball title yet. But it was impossible to not understand their heightened excitement.

Leading from start to finish, GRCC eliminated New Haven with a 69-53 Class B Semifinal win at the Breslin Center, in the process ending the reigning champion’s 52-game winning streak.

And if that was at all a surprise, how the Cougars got there was just as stunning.

Junior guard Austin Braun, carrying a 7.8 points-per-game average heading into the week, scored 31 while Mr. Basketball finalist Marcus Bingham, Jr., watched the final five minutes from the bench after fouling out.

“I got a couple buckets early and my teammates just really got me going, just getting me hyped on the bench,” Braun said, “and just telling me, ‘If they don’t stop you, just score the ball.’

“It helps when you have two bigs and Darrell (Belcher) and Devin (Boyd) were great players around me. It just opens up a lot for me.”

Grand Rapids Catholic Central (24-2) will play for that first championship against Benton Harbor at 6:45 p.m. Saturday in the final game of this boys basketball season.

Those bigs – the 6-foot-11 Bingham and 6-8 senior Jacob Polakovich – were plenty effective in a number of ways Friday.

Bingham had 11 points and 13 rebounds, and Polakovich had eight points and eight rebounds. But their larger impact came defensively. Bingham had six blocks, and together the tandem played a significant role in New Haven’s 30-percent shooting from the floor.

The Rockets’ 6-7 junior star Romeo Weems put together a solid line with 20 points, eight rebounds and seven steals. But even he was off his usual sharpness, making only 7 of 25 shots from the floor.

New Haven (26-1) as a team entered the week making 49 percent of its shots, with Weems connecting on 53 percent.

“We adjusted our shots. We saw it on film and we went to attack them,” New Haven coach Tedaro France II said. “We wanted to jump stop and pump fake. (But) they changed our shot selection a lot, disrupted our shots in the paint with some of their size.”

Braun, meanwhile, was just about perfect offensively. He made 8 of 9 shots from the floor, including his lone 3-point try, and 14 of 16 free throw attempts. He also had three assists and three steals.

The first of those steals came between buckets as he scored the game’s first four points. The free throw shooting came in handy at the end, as Braun drilled nine over the final five minutes to help the Cougars extend an 11-point lead to 18 after Bingham’s night was done.

“I knew he could score like that,” Polakovich said. “It’s just always been a matter of having a lot of mismatches inside with me and Marcus and being able to crash. … (But) a lot of people don’t realize he’s capable of doing that every single night. He’s a lot more than just a really great passer.”

Bingham did finish with 11 points despite a tough 3-of-11 shooting night as well, and grabbed 13 rebounds with six blocked shots. Weems was followed by senior guard Tavares Oliver, Jr., with 15 points and senior forward Ashton Sherrell with 12 points and seven rebounds.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Marcus Bingham, Jr., gets a hand on Romeo Weems’ shot Friday at the Breslin Center. (Middle) GRCC’s Austin Braun puts up a shot with Ronald Jeffrey III defending.

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.)