Lights-Out Loyer Leads Clarkston to Final

March 23, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Warm-ups don’t count, but it seemed like Foster Loyer couldn’t miss while getting ready for Friday’s first Semifinal at the Breslin Center. 

The last four seasons, that’s been a good sign for Clarkston.

The Wolves’ senior point guard went on to make 12 of 17 shots from the floor and score 42 points – becoming the fifth player ever to drop at least 40 in a boys basketball Semifinal – in leading reigning champ Clarkston back to the Class A Final with a 74-49 win over Warren DeLaSalle.

Loyer scored 17 of his team’s 23 first-quarter points, on 6 for 10 shooting, as the Wolves quickly built a double-digit lead that never fell below nine points the rest of the game.

“When he gets going, there are not a lot of people who can stop him,” Clarkston senior backcourt mate CJ Robinson said. “When he gets going like that, we try to key on getting him the ball. He knocks shots down for us, and it opens things up for others, and he does a good job of finding everybody.”

Clarkston (25-1) will attempt to finish a repeat at 12:15 p.m. Saturday against Holland West Ottawa.

Loyer drained seven 3-pointers among his 12 field goals and all 11 of his free throw attempts – against a DeLaSalle defense focused on slowing down the recently-named Mr. Basketball Award winner and Michigan State recruit.

“I don’t think in 31 years of being a varsity coach that anyone has remotely scored that many points,” Pilots longtime leader Greg Esler said. “I think about when we were here in (20)07, Manny Harris had 13. But the thing about Loyer that’s so good is he’s so deceiving – he reminds you of Cassius Winston in the fact that he’s not the most athletic guy, he might not be the fastest but all of a sudden he’s shooting the 25-footer and getting to the rim and making everybody on his team better. So there’s no question, he’s a winner.”

Those comparisons, of course, are high praise – Harris, who went on to star at Michigan, had 14 for Detroit Redford in a Semifinal win over the Pilots that season, and DeLaSalle saw its share as well of Detroit U-D Jesuit’s Winston, who’s currently running the point for MSU.

Longtime Clarkston coach Dan Fife extended the praise to include Robinson, who had nine points and five assists while sharing a game-high 31 minutes on the floor.

“When you’ve got two guards who can play like this, it makes it a lot easier to coach,” said Fife, who’s in his 36th season. “My first year coaching, we had a bunch of bigs, and our guards weren’t near like this, we played Flint Central and we just got tattooed because we couldn’t handle the pressure. These guys handle the pressure.

“The two of them feel comfortable, and it makes everybody else relax a little bit.”

As a team, it was a smooth performance. The Wolves had only 10 turnovers to 11 assists and made 53 percent of their shots from the floor.

“I think as a point guard, for both of us, it’s important that we’re in control of the pace of the game, that we play how we want to play,” Loyer said. “Just to come out and throw that first punch and get an early lead is very important for us.”

Of course, Clarkston has more than great guards – senior forward Taylor Currie, headed to Wisconsin after graduation, chipped in 16 points and 12 rebounds and had the first basket of the game. As a team, the Wolves outrebounded the Pilots 36-19.

Senior forward Luke Pfromm led DeLaSalle (19-8) with 17 points, while senior forward Jordan Winowiecki had 12 and senior forward Kole Gjonaj had 10. Senior guard Justin Fisher had nine assists.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Clarkston’s Foster Loyer launches a shot during Friday’s Semifinal win over Warren DeLaSalle. (Middle) DeLaSalle’s Justin Fisher had nine assists and four points for the Pilots.

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.