Jergens, Howardsville Driven to Go Far
December 4, 2018
By Wes Morgan
Special for Second Half
Its entire student body can fit in a single bus with room to spare.
Yet Marcellus Howardsville Christian is now regarded as a boys basketball giant with senior scoring point guard Dylan Jergens fueling a historic run.
Last year the Eagles fought all the way to the Class D Quarterfinals, and with most of that roster still intact, they expect nothing less than earning a final-four spot at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center come March.
Finishing with a 20-6 record last winter, Howardsville Christian made history when it defeated Bellevue 58-46 for a Regional championship. Faced with a considerable size mismatch in the Quarterfinals versus Hillsdale Academy — a 66-38 defeat — the last chapter of the 2017-18 season was a letdown after a remarkable story otherwise.
Jergens and Co. are determined to prove last year’s success wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
“I’m excited for this season and the opportunities we have ahead of us,” he said. “Towards the end of the season we kind of had it going. It was an amazing feeling. Winning Districts and then winning Regionals for the first time in history was amazing. We were disappointed because we didn’t complete our goal of making it to Breslin, but we had a lot of fun.
“We came out a little overconfident (against Hillsdale Academy), thinking we were only one game away. We thought, ‘We’ve made it this far; we don’t think we can lose.’ We should have prepared more for their big guy; he really killed us on the boards and got layups. Looking back, we could have had a better game plan of how to guard him. But they were a good team, so give them credit.”
A junior-heavy class last winter soaked in everything it could in order to apply that experience to 2018-19.
“We’re definitely going to be ready for it and anything that is thrown at us,” Jergens said. “It’s going to be difficult. Last week we opened up against Mendon and really struggled. We know every team wants a piece of us after that run. They want to be able to come at us. It’s going to be more challenging because everyone wants to knock us off.”
As a junior, the 6-foot-4 Jergens averaged 32.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 3.2 steals per contest. He shot 58 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3-point land. At the free throw line, he knocked down 76 percent of his shots.
Though he certainly has been the catalyst of the Eagles’ success the last two years and a key player since joining the varsity squad as a freshman, the two-time Associated Press and Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan all-state first team selection is surrounded by an unselfish cast of players he’s shared the court with most of his life.
Fellow seniors Logan Cornwell (forward), David Cripps (guard), Colton Fair (small forward) and Reece Herschbach (center) all return, and exciting sophomores Jason Jergens (shooting guard) and Josh Parks (guard) bring long-range marksmanship to the table after seeing meaningful minutes as freshmen. Junior forwards Zach Grandlinard and Joe Nagel, and sophomore forward Ethan Johnson and sophomore guard Michael Cripps fill out a capable bench.
“The biggest strengths of our team this year are we have experience, and we have talent,” Howardsville Christian coach Tim Jergens said. “We return five starters from last year, and they have played together since elementary school. The team as a whole has great basketball I.Q., and we have players that have put the time in to be really good.”
None more than Dylan Jergens, whose effort over the years resulted in a scholarship offer from Central Michigan University, where he remains verbally committed. It’s a reminder that college programs will find talent no matter where it resides, even if it is at a school of only 32 students.
“Ever since I was little I wanted to play Division I basketball, not knowing if it would happen or not,” he said. “I just fell in love with the game and worked at it my whole life, every day. Last summer I felt like I was getting a lot better and thought good things were coming and could play at the next level.”
Though he’s certainly aware of the areas of his game he’d like to improve this year in order to have a better chance of seeing the floor sooner in Mount Pleasant next season, he’s not letting his future plans become a distraction.
“I don’t feel special,” Jergens said. “Everybody means something at our school, and everybody looks out for one another. It’s a super small classroom, and I’ve grown close to everyone in my class. None of it would be possible without my teammates and coaches and the school rallying around me. We’re hoping we can just do what we know we can do.”
Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and ESPNChicago.com, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of JoeInsider.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Howardsville Christian’s Dylan Jergens lines up a free throw during last season’s Quarterfinal against Hillsdale Academy. (Middle) Jergens and his teammates hold up a piece of the hardware they won during last season’s historic run. (Photos courtesy of JoeInsider.com.)
Ferndale Caps Winter Season with 1st Boys Hoops Title Since 1966
By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com
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.”
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.”
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.
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.