By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – “Living this dream.”
Iron Mountain coach Bucky Johnson put special emphasis on those words Thursday afternoon.
He may have been pointing out the present tense of “living” after his Mountaineers ended the season for 2018 Class C champion Detroit Edison. Or maybe the “dream” as his team earned a shot to play for its first MHSAA boys basketball championship since winning the Upper Peninsula-only bracket in 1939.
Iron Mountain faced a tall task in the day’s first Division 3 Semifinal, even for a team that hasn’t tasted defeat this season. But the Mountaineers held off Edison 60-57 in their first Semifinals appearance since 1994.
“There’s not a lot of U.P. teams that get to come down here and experience this,” Iron Mountain junior guard Foster Wonders said. “To come down here and win too is something special. We take pride in that. It’s been unbelievable.”
Iron Mountain (27-0) will face also-unbeaten Pewamo-Westphalia in Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. championship game.
The Mountaineers have enjoyed quite a visit to East Lansing. On Wednesday, they spent an hour with 1973 graduate Tom Izzo, then watched his Michigan State team practice Thursday morning.
And all of that set up the Semifinal they weren’t necessarily expected to win – despite the perfect record they brought downstate. Edison (18-9) had more losses than all but one team making the trip to Breslin this weekend, but all seven to in-state opponents had come against Division 1 and 2 teams, and the Pioneers had just toppled top-ranked Flint Beecher in their Quarterfinal.
Edison then led most of the first quarter, carrying a seven-point advantage into the second.
“In the U.P. you don’t really see any athletes like that, with the length and athleticism they had,” Iron Mountain junior guard Marcus Johnson said.
But he and his teammates had a few surprises for Edison as well.
First was a game plan to attack the paint, which resulted in two first-quarter fouls for Pioneers’ 6-foot-6 junior Bryce George. He ended up limited to only 15 minutes for the game, with eight points and six rebounds that could’ve been a lot more with more time on the floor. He had four points and four rebounds before picking up that second foul 5:11 into the game.
Next, Iron Mountain played only six players, and four all 32 minutes. Edison had 12 players with at least four minutes of action, but couldn’t wear the Mountaineers down.
Not surprising was how Iron Mountain won. Johnson was averaging 23.3 points per game entering this week, and sophomore guard Foster Wonders was averaging 23.9. Wonders had 28 on Thursday, making nearly half his shots from the floor and 9-of-10 free-throw tries. Johnson had 23 points, with five 3-pointers and perfection on six free-throw attempts.
“One thing we knew about this team is they were winners. If a team has gone all season not losing a basketball, game, you have to respect them to the utmost,” Edison coach Brandon Neely said. “These guys play six guys, and one guy played four minutes. The thing about this team is they play so well as a team because they know where guys are. Teams like that are a great example to learn from.
“They played like champions.”
Sophomore guard Ralph Johnson came off the bench to lead Edison with 14 points, and senior forward Brian Taylor was held to 11 points and seven rebounds. Taylor, the team’s leading scorer coming into this week, was also its lone senior this season.
Edison shot a game-high 47 percent from the floor during the fourth quarter and got within 45-44 with 3:26 to play. But Iron Mountain’s “makers” – as Bucky Johnson called them, spinning off the “shooters shoot” phrase – had connected on 64 percent of their shots during the third quarter and made 50 percent during the fourth, including both shots from the floor and 10 straight free throws after Edison pulled within a point.
“Coach Izzo told us some people like it, some people love it and some people live it,” Marcus Johnson said. “And we want to live it. It’s an awesome feeling to get to the championship, and we want to get it home.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Iron Mountain celebrates Thursday its first Semifinal win since 1939. (Middle) Jake Dumais (32) battles Edison’s Brian Taylor for a loose ball.
Foster Loyer’s four-season career at Clarkston from 2014-15 through 2017-18 certainly must be considered among the most accomplished in state history as he led the Wolves to back-to-back Class A championships in 2017 and 2018 and is listed in the record book 25 times.
Among Loyer’s most notable entries were 2,325 career points (12th most), 272 career 3-pointers (tied for ninth), records of 119 consecutive free throws and 634 career free throws, a .921 free-throw percentage as a junior (tied for fourth) and .900 career percentage (second), 589 career assists (sixth), 278 career steals (15th) and 102 games played (tied for sixth).
Loyer went on to play at Michigan State and then Davidson.
See below for more recent record book entries for boys basketball.
Four Onaway standouts were added for single-season and/or career records. Jager Mix, who graduated in 2022, was added for 92 steals last season and 225 over his four-season career. Kevin Pearson, a 2021 grad, was added for 81 steals as a senior and 247 over his career. Joe Sigsby, a 2016 grad, was added for 127 steals, and Jadin Mix was added for 124 in 2021-22. Their totals rank ninth and tied for 10th, respectively, on that all-time list. Jager Mix also was added for 967 career rebounds, and Onaway as a team was added for tying the record for most points in a quarter with 49 during the first quarter of a win over Fife Lake Forest Area on Feb. 3, 2022. Jager Mix is playing at Alpena Community College, and Jadin Mix is a senior this school year.
Uchenna Amene was added for 11 steals in a March 7, 2022, game against West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy and for 97 steals total over 25 games. He was a sophomore at Southfield Christian that season and now is a senior at Detroit Catholic Central.
Owen Franklin graduated from Oscoda in 2021 as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and nearly 44 percent of those 1,477 points came on 3-pointers. Franklin made the state career 3-pointers list with 216 over four seasons. He’s playing baseball at Northwood.
Traverse City Christian sophomore Reece Broderick became one of the state’s most accomplished long-distance shooters in just his second year of high school this past winter, drilling 104 3-pointers – good for third-most for one season all-time – over 23 games. He connected on 42 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
A pair of Rudyard four-year varsity standouts entered the record book after their graduations in 2022. Tate Besteman made the career rebounds list with 762 over 89 games, and EJ Suggitt made the career 3-pointers list with 215 over the same 89 contests. Besteman played this past season for Mid Michigan College, and Suggitt is playing baseball at Spring Arbor.
Success from 3-point range played a significant role in Mesick finishing 21-1 in 2021-22, as the team made 195 of its 578 attempts – with game highs of 15 twice in wins over Baldwin and Pentwater.
Then-senior Tristan McFolley earned the first listing under single-game rebounds since 2013 with 30 in Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy’s game with Hope of Detroit Academy on Dec. 8, 2022.
Tawas found its groove from long range Jan. 10 against Oscoda, drilling 22 3-pointers in an 86-31 win. The total tied for fifth-most in one game.
Although Norway felt just short, 40-37, in its District loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park on March 8, Alex Ortman kept the Knights close scoring 20 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to make the single-quarter scoring list. He’s now a senior.
Kobe Clark has listings in two MHSAA record books, with three for boys basketball joining those he earned for football during his Schoolcraft career. He was added in hoops for 531 career assists and 290 career steals over 94 games from 2016-17 through 2019-20, and also for 82 steals as a senior. Tyler DeGroote also was added to the record book, for scoring 20 points during the first quarter against Delton Kellogg during Schoolcraft’s Jan. 11, 2022, victory. Clark began at Saginaw Valley State for football and now plays basketball and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and DeGroote is continuing at Rockhurst (Mo.).
Past Detroit Cooley star Larry Fogle has added a seventh record book listing a half-century later. Fogle grabbed 33 rebounds on Jan. 18, 1972, during a win over Detroit Mackenzie. He went on to play at Louisiana and Canisius, and then briefly with the New York Knicks.
Trevon Gunter scored 42 points in Kalamazoo Central’s 84-56 win over Richland Gull Lake on Jan. 17, 2020, including 31 during the third quarter – second-most and just one shy of the record for points during one period. A senior that season, Gunter plays currently at Grand Valley State.
Mark Wittbrodt held the record for consecutive free throws at 70 until 2008, and that entry in the record book has been joined by several others from the Bay City Western star. He was added for his 192 3-pointers, 436 free throws, .842 free-throw percentage and 266 career steals over three seasons from 1991-93, as well as for six single-season accomplishments. He went on to play at Michigan Tech.
Ellsworth’s Jacob Jenuwine tied for 12th on the single-game 3-pointers list when he connected on 11 as part of scoring 39 points total in his team’s Feb. 14 win over Alanson. Jenuwine graduated this spring.
Bellevue senior Dawson Wing capped his three-season varsity career last winter with three entries in the record. He was added for 12 blocked shots in a 2021-22 game against Colon, 107 for the season last winter and 203 blocks over his career. Teammate Caleb Betz, a senior this fall, was added for 12 steals in a game against Athens.
Logan Mansfield capped his Morenci career in a big way last winter. The senior drilled 90 3-pointers over 24 games to earn his school’s first individual record book entry in boys hoops since the 1987-88 season, when John Craig had 132 blocked shots that would have been the second-most recorded at that time. They currently rank 13th.
New Haven earned a pair of record book entries during its March 10 win over Memphis. The Rockets bested their previous single-quarter school record with 41 points during the opening period, and they also made the statewide single-game 3-pointers list with 16.
Whitehall’s Camden Thompson, a junior this fall, earned his first record book entry last winter – and the first for his school in boys basketball. He grabbed 303 rebounds over 21 games.
Grand Rapids Wellspring Prep junior Zeekeal Jackson earned his school's first boys basketball record book entry this past season as well. He made the single-season steals list with 106, over 22 games, and just missed the single-game list with a high of 10.
Jonesville’s Brady Wright was among his team’s leading scorers during his three varsity seasons ending this past winter, but he also was a major contributor defensively. He made the records with a season-high 101 steals over 25 games as a senior, and made the career list with 232 steals over 61 games.
Sophomore Christopher McLavish Jr. made a memorable impact last season with a pair of record book entries. He made the single-quarter points list with 20 in a Feb. 21 game against Flint Powers Catholic, but even more memorable were his 97 3-pointers over 25 games for the season – tying him for 11th all-time on that list.
PHOTO Foster Loyer directs Clarkston's offense during its 2018 Class A Semifinal.