Manton, Buckley Prepped for Final Week

March 17, 2017

By Dennis Chase
Special for Second Half

TRAVERSE CITY – History repeated itself Wednesday night.

Down four midway through the fourth quarter, Manton rallied for an edge-of-your-seat 47-46 win over Boyne City in the MHSAA Class C Regional Final at Houghton Lake.

It was Manton’s first Regional title since 1998, when the Rangers topped Boyne City, also at Houghton Lake.

“It’s interesting how things work out,” said Manton coach Ryan Hiller, who was a star player on that 1998 squad.

The Rangers next will face Negaunee on Tuesday in Petoskey.

Manton is one of two Wexford County teams marching on to the Quarterfinals. Unbeaten Buckley upended Suttons Bay 56-37 for a Class D Regional crown at Traverse City Central.

It was Buckley’s first Regional championship since 2010. The Bears will meet Wyoming Tri-unity Christian on Tuesday in Cadillac.

“Let’s do it,” said Bears coach Blair Moss, who starts five underclassmen. “This is fun. I told the kids, ‘This is something you’ll remember the rest of your lives. Let’s not waste it.’ I’m not worried about next year because you never know what will happen next year. Let’s do it right now.”

While Manton players, coaches and fans were basking in the glow of victory in Houghton Lake, Hiller was relieved to be moving on. The Rangers won despite shooting 26 percent from the field – 23 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. In Monday’s Regional opening win over Maple City Glen Lake, the Rangers were 1-of-11 behind the arc in the first half.

“We just don’t shoot well in that gym,” said Hiller. “We’re a 42 percent 3-point shooting team. We had a stretch of five games this season where we hit over 10 3s (in each game).

“These were the two worst shooting nights we’ve had all year. That was my fear (coming into the Final). If we don’t hit our 3s, it’s a dogfight. And that’s exactly what happened.”

It forced Manton to rely on other parts of its game.

“Free throws and defense won the game for us,” said junior guard Hunter Ruell after the title-clinching victory. “We got some big stops at the end – our coaches had a good gameplan for us – and we hit our free throws. That’s what got us the win.”

The Rangers were 14 of 18 from the charity stripe, 9 of 10 in the fourth quarter. On Monday night, they finished 17 of 19, 9 of 11 over the final eight minutes.

Ruell led the way Wednesday with 13 points, but Jayden Perry, Wyatt Baker and Trever Salani all made key shots down the stretch.

“It’s amazing,” said Ruell. “(A tournament run has) been our dream since day one. Our first goal was to get past McBain (in the District). Since then, we’ve been playing it game by game and it’s been working out.”

“For the players and coaches, who have all worked hard and put the time in, this is rewarding,” added Hiller. “And it’s great for our community. Our community needed something like this. I think our whole town was watching or listening to the game tonight.”

The tournament door swung open for the 20-4 Rangers when they beat unbeaten and top-ranked McBain in the District Final, 54-48. McBain had beaten Manton twice during the regular season, 57-55 and 61-45. The Ramblers also had sent the Rangers to the exits in the last two Districts with down-to-the-wire 46-43 and 49-48 triumphs.

“We’ve been so close,” said Hiller. “We’ve been in so many battles with them.”

This time the Rangers won that battle, and now their journey will take them to Petoskey, where they opened the season with wins over Class A Regional finalist Traverse City West 76-72 and the host Northmen 52-48 in the Petoskey Invitational.

Oh, by the way, the Rangers shot 48 percent beyond the arc in those games.

“Our kids should have confidence playing in that gym,” said Hiller.

There’s actually a Petoskey connection at work for the Rangers this season. Former Northmen standout Trevor Huffman, who led Kent State to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2002 and then played 12 years of professional basketball, is helping out, although now it’s “from afar” since he’s been in the Caribbean a good chunk of the season.

“We have good, hard-working, nice kids,” said Hiller. “He (Huffman) formed a bond with them. He said, ‘Hey, I’d love to help as much as I can.’ He’s been helping all season.”

Huffman started working with the team in practice, but left for the Caribbean around the first of the year, Hiller said. Still, he analyzes film for his friend after each Rangers game.

Hiller loads the film on Hudl, allowing Huffman instant access to it.

“It’s awesome to see the game from his eyes,” said Hiller. “He sees things I don’t.  He’s so competitive, and his reports are so detailed. He tells me, ‘You get that game on right after you win and I’ll watch it.’ He’s enjoying the coaching part of it.”

Huffman is also able to leave individual comments on the videos for players to review.

“He promised the kids if they made it to the Breslin he would fly back for the games,” said Hiller. “He’s sticking with it.”

On his Twitter account Wednesday, Huffman congratulated the Rangers on their Regional triumph.

“Proud of their team and what they have put into playing together, on and off the court,” he wrote. “There is nothing better than winning championships with your best friends. Congrats fellas! Enjoy the moment and back to work.”

It’s also back to work for Buckley.

The 24-0 Bears broke Wednesday’s Regional Final open in the third quarter, outscoring Suttons Bay 20-10 to stretch their lead to 15. It was still a 27-22 game when junior Austin Harris nailed a 3-pointer for Buckley. He was fouled after the shot, giving the Bears the ball back. Harris then hit another triple, and Buckley was on its way.

“This team is one of a kind,” said Harris. “We work really hard. We have depth and we have skill. But the biggest thing we have is heart.”

Buckley reached the Regional Finals a year ago, but turnovers in the final couple minutes proved costly in a loss to Bellaire.

“I thought we had them (Bellaire) on their heels,” said Moss, “and then we threw it away the last three or four possessions. We said then we wanted to get back here because we felt we left something on the court. We didn’t take care of the ball, and when you play like that against a good Bellaire team it comes back to haunt you and it haunted us all summer.”

The Bears vowed to improve in crunch time, but so far they rarely have been tested.

Of the 24 wins, 22 are by double digits. Only Glen Lake (63-60) and Manton (77-73) have put the heat on. Manton hit 13 3-pointers in their late February matchup.

Moss’ message to his team after that game?

“Just a hand up is not good enough,” he said. “You have to get a hand in their face.”

Buckley put added emphasis on defense this season, and the results tell the story. The Bears have held the opposition to under 40 points in 13 games.

Perhaps the best individual defensive effort came Wednesday night when sophomore Ridge Beeman shadowed Suttons Bay’s leading scorer Thomas Hursey, limiting the junior to three points.

“Keep a hand in the chest, stay in front of him and don’t let him shoot,” said Beeman. “That’s what Coach told me to do.”

He then proceeded to carry out the orders.

“Unbelievable,” said Moss, who was still conducting interviews about 30 minutes after the game ended. “I’ve got to go in and shake that kid’s hand. To hold Hursey to three points – and that was on a long desperation shot before half – that was huge. Kudos to him. I told him I don’t care if you don’t score any points at all, you make sure you lock that kid (Hursey) down because he has range, he can score from anywhere.”

Denver Cade hit his average, scoring 21 points for the Bears. Harris added 15, Beeman eight and Joey Weber seven.

“It was a good team win,” said Beeman. “It was a low scoring game for us, but we grinded it out.”

And it kept Buckley’s ultimate goal – a trip to Michigan State’s Breslin Center – in play.

“Our first goal was to win the conference championship, and we accomplished that,” said Cade. “Then it was the District championship, and we accomplished that. The Regional? We just accomplished that. Now our goal is to get to the Breslin.”

The run has also helped Moss get through a difficult time. His mother passed away earlier this month.

“I was very close with my mother,” he said. “That’s been on my mind. I’ve got a heavy heart.”

March, in Michigan basketball circles, is known as a memory-maker month, and Moss is determined to get the best efforts out of his players.

His message?

“Play hard, give me everything,” he said. “Don’t leave anything on the floor because if you do you’ll regret it forever – forever.”

Dennis Chase worked 32 years as a sportswriter at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, including as sports editor from 2000-14. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Manton’s Trevor Salani works to get around a defender. (Middle top) Buckley celebrates Wednesday’s Regional Final win. (Middle below) Manton’s Wyatt Baker and Hunter Ruell lock down a Boyne City player working toward the basket. (Below) A Buckley player battles for a rebound against Suttons Bay. (Manton photos by Jeannie Christensen; Buckley photos courtesy of Buckley High School.) 

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.)