Inspired by Dad, Southland Sons Give Shores Hoops 2nd-Generation Boost

By Tom Kendra
Special for

March 3, 2021

Drew and Jake Southland now have to help their struggling father onto the basketball court at Mona Shores.

But they know it wasn’t too long ago that Scot Southland was carrying the load for the Sailors’ basketball program.

“People tell me all the time about how good he was,” Drew Southland said of his father, the all-time leading scorer in Mona Shores basketball history with 1,113 career points, who is now battling an even tougher opponent in multiple sclerosis.

“I try to live up to it. He is such an inspiration, with his positive attitude. I try not to complain about anything in my life, that’s for sure.”

Drew, a 6-foot-1 senior, and his team are having a difficult season so far, losing eight in a row before bolting out to a 38-6 halftime lead Tuesday and then cruising to a 64-41 win over visiting Grand Rapids Union. Drew scored a game-high 20 points for the Sailors (2-8).

Jake, a sophomore who is the same height as his brother at 6-1, is the leading scorer and rebounder for the Shores junior varsity, which evened its record at 5-5 on Tuesday, also with a win over GR Union. He scored a season-high 35 points in a loss against Whitehall on Feb. 20.

Win or lose, the Southland boys are always there for their dad, who turned 50 in January. Scot made first-team all-conference in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red as both a junior and senior, graduating in 1989. He was also a two-time Muskegon Chronicle All-Area selection and averaged better than 20 points per game his senior year.

The first signs of his MS showed up during college, but the symptoms of the progressive nerve disease have become more pronounced in recent years, preventing him from working and even walking on his own. Drew and Jake are always there to help him in and out of his wheelchair and into the family’s van.

“I don’t mind it one bit,” said Jake. “I know he would be taking care of me if it was the other way around. My dad is so good to me and so supportive in everything, so helping him around is really the least I can do.”

Family affair

The Southland family is a fixture at all of Mona Shores’ home games.

Scot is always there at the end of the bleachers on the baseline, with his high school sweetheart and wife, Steffanie, close by his side. Other regulars, when tickets are available with COVID-19 restrictions, are his daughter Mason, his mother Joanne Southland and his mother-in-law Mary Golin.

Mona Shores boys basketball 2Joanne has been going to games at Mona Shores for years as her three boys – Ted, Kip and Scot – worked their way through the system. Kip was a standout basketball player, but his best sport was baseball, as he went on to start at shortstop for Central Michigan University during the mid-1980s and later played in the San Francisco Giants farm system.

Scot started some varsity football games at quarterback, but of the three Southland boys, he was the one who left the biggest mark on the hardcourt.

He was a three-year varsity starter at a time when sophomores rarely started on the varsity, especially at a Class A school. As a junior, he led the Sailors to 13 wins and a rare District championship. As a senior, he became the first Mona Shores basketball player to score 1,000 points – a milestone that the humble, quiet standout wasn’t even cognizant of until after the fact.

“He is out there to set the best example he can,” then-Mona Shores coach John Adams told The Muskegon Chronicle in 1989 about Scot, his senior captain. “He is the All-American, apple pie kid. He’s the perfect role model for the program.”

The strong athletic genes run deep in the family, tracing back to Scot’s maternal grandfather Pete Petroskey, a welterweight boxer who won more than 180 professional fights. Petroskey went on to train some of the best boxers to ever come out of Muskegon, including Kenny Lane and Phil Baldwin, and was inducted into the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.

Scot’s athletic achievements continued after high school, as he led the Muskegon Community College basketball team to a runner-up finish at the junior college national tournament in 1990. He later walked on to the University of Arizona football team and made the roster as a backup quarterback.

Scot did some coaching when his kids were younger, but his disease has prevented him from coaching in recent years. He is now the No. 1 fan and encourager for Drew and Jake, as well as Mason, who is having a good year for the Mona Shores eighth-grade girls basketball team.

“The Southland family is very special to Mona Shores basketball,” explained Mona Shores varsity coach Brad Kurth, who missed two games after the death of his mother but returned to guide the Sailors to victory Tuesday night. “Drew and Jake are everything that you can ask for as a coach. They just compete. They go out and give you everything that they have.”

Different perspective

The Mona Shores athletic program has changed drastically since the late 1980s when Scot Southland was leading the Sailors in football and basketball.

Back then, the Sailors struggled to win any games on the football field, but were highly competitive with the likes of Muskegon and Grand Haven in basketball. Now, the Sailors rarely lose a football game and basketball has been looking up at those aforementioned programs over the past 10 years.

Mona Shores boys basketball 3Perhaps no single player has been more affected by the unsettled basketball program as Drew, who has had a different varsity head coach in each of his four years at the high school – as the program has had six head coaches over the past eight years.

“It’s been hard with the different coaches, but I hate making excuses,” said Drew, one of just four seniors on the Shores roster. “We can play much better than we have.”

Through it all, Drew has worked tirelessly to improve his game, waking up early to come in and shoot almost every morning, and still hopes to play college basketball.

Jake, who plays wide receiver and defensive back for the Shores football team and was moved up to the varsity for the team’s recent Division 2 championship run, hopes to be part of a basketball resurgence at Shores over the next two years.

The Sailors have plenty of height and youth on their front line in juniors Donovan Russell (6-8) and Ethan Krueger (6-6) and sophomore Parker Swartz (6-4). With Jake and many other talented players set to move up to the varsity full-time next year, he is hoping to engineer a basketball breakthrough – much like his father did during his junior year of high school.

Jake turned some heads when he got moved up to the varsity for Saturday’s game against Wyoming. In less than two minutes of action, he scored five points and grabbed two rebounds.

“Drew and Jake just love to be out on the basketball court,” said Mona Shores junior varsity coach Tyler VanBergen. “The love that their dad has for the game flows through the whole family.”

Love for the game of basketball, along with humility and a strong work ethic, are not the only gifts Scot has given to his children.

Watching their father handle his illness with grace and a positive attitude – while never wallowing in self-pity or taking his frustrations out on them – has given all three of them a perspective on life which most kids their age simply don’t have.

“I’ve learned from watching him that life isn’t fair,” Jake said. “I mean, I would love to be able to play 1-on-1 against him, but instead we have to do other things. We watch a lot of movies together and talk about them. Doing that with him has really given me a passion for movies, and I’d love to work in film or directing someday.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Muskegon Mona Shores’ Drew Southland works to get up a shot during a game against Muskegon last season. (Middle) Scot Southland was a standout for Mona Shores before graduating in 1989. (Below) Scot, as a member of the Sailors, and younger son Jake who is playing this season on junior varsity. (Top photo courtesy of Local Sports Journal; additional photos courtesy of Southland family.)

Ferndale Caps Winter Season with 1st Boys Hoops Title Since 1966

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

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.