Performance: Unity's Noah Wiswary

March 22, 2019

Noah Wiswary
Hudsonville Unity Christian senior – Basketball

The 6-foot-1 senior point guard entered the final week of the season as Unity Christian’s fourth-leading scorer at 7.8 points per game. But Wiswary led the Crusaders in scoring in their Quarterfinal, Semifinal and championship game wins as the program won its first MHSAA Finals championship, earning Wiswary the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.” 

Wiswary had 15 points and eight assists in the Quarterfinal as Unity avenged an earlier two-point loss with a 71-45 win over Grand Rapids South Christian. He added 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting against Ludington in a 69-30 Semifinal win, and then 17 points again on 6-of-9 shooting as the Crusaders edged River Rouge 58-55 on Saturday. Wiswary also scored 11 points in Unity’s Regional Final win the week before over Benton Harbor, last season’s Class B champion. His final week of work raised Wiswary’s scoring average to 8.7 ppg for the season, to go with 4.5 assists per game. The varsity’s ball boy before high school, Wiswary finished his career either first or second all-time on Unity’s career assists list – the numbers are being tabulated – and the team was a combined 63-12 during his three seasons on varsity, including 26-2 this winter.

This was the second championship of this school year for Wiswary, a starting defensive back on the football team that won the Division 5 title in the fall. He also plays center field and pitches for the baseball team, and is hoping he’ll continue his basketball career at the college level. Wiswary is undecided where, but plans to study criminal justice in pursuit of a career in law enforcement.

Coach Scott Soodsma said: “If you wanted to look at one key individual who stepped up his game during the tournament run, there is one unanimous choice and it’s him. It’s not that he was always the best player, but where he came from to where he ended was sensational. The kid obviously led us through the tournament. I really was impressed with his hustle at both ends of the floor. He’s always been a pretty good offensive player, and he really turned it up defensively a lot. He’s capable of guarding almost everything, and his leadership, his will to win – he was willing to do whatever it took, and the urgency set in being a senior. … Just the expectation was there. Without an expectation, it’s a lot more difficult to win. When you expect to win rather than hope to win, you think you’ll win. The expectation we are going to win is a huge asset, and I think that’s exactly where he was at – he really believed we were going to win, and he played like that.”

Performance Point: “I just think we took the role as underdog. Last year we lost to Benton Harbor, so we were like, ‘This is our year.’ Nobody really looked at us because obviously there’s Benton Harbor, River Rouge, South Christian, and we were going to just shock the world – and that’s what we did. … I knew we had to turn it up a notch because (there were) only three games left in our season, and my teammates, they got me the ball in the right spots. When I have shooters that other people are worried about, it just got me open way more. I’ve got four shooters on the floor. I’m going to get them the ball. But the opportunity was there. I was open – I was going to shoot it.”

Winner’s mentality: “We’ve been here (to Finals in other sports) before, and nobody really cares – I play good, T.J. (VanKoevering) plays good, nobody really cares as long as we win. If I scored 40 points and we lost, we’d all still be really mad and I’d be mad, but all we wanted to do was win. We had that winning mentality of we just wanted to win. … I thought we could beat Benton Harbor, but I didn’t actually think it was going to happen. Once we beat Benton Harbor I was like, ‘All right, we can beat anyone now.’ We did not have an easy path. In our District we had to beat a good Holland Christian team, and we had to beat them three times in a year which is not easy to do. In the Regional we’ve got play Benton Harbor, which beat us last year by 15, and in the Finals we gotta play River Rouge, which is a historic program. Beating those three teams in a playoff run, and South Christian – who was on a 19-game winning streak – beating those teams on a playoff run, that’s unheard of.”

Multi-sport crossover: “That River Rouge game was physical; it was practically a football game out there half the time. Football prepares you for physicality and footwork and quick spurts on the floor. All three sports – the more experience you have in sports, the more experience you have being on a team and being able to be a leader. And (with) communication – communication is a big part of our team this year.”

Know your role: “Everybody just did their roles and nobody tried to do more than that. We had shooters, and if they were shooters they would shoot. Rebounders, they would rebound. Passers, they would pass. We just all did our roles, and it meshed really good. My role was to lead everyone. Get the ball to the shooters, if I had to score I’ll score, and push the ball in transition." 

Take the lead: “If my guys are hot and doing their thing, I’m just going to let them be. But if they’re struggling, I’m going to be like, ‘You’re still in it. You’re still good.’ I’m going to try to get them an open look as a point guard, get them an easy look under the basket, get their confidence going. Give them a little bump on the back, just try to pick them up. … My coach ever since sophomore year, when I came in (to varsity) he told me I would be a leader. I wasn’t really a leader sophomore or junior year, but he kept pushing on me that I’ve gotta step up, I’ve gotta be more confident in my guys. Senior year I just said hey, I’ve gotta do it now.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard recognizes a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Past 2018-19 honorees

March 14: Cam Peel, Spring Lake swimming - Read
March 7:
Jordan Hamdan, Hudson wrestling - Read
February 28:
Kevon Davenport, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling - Read
February 21:
Reagan Olli, Gaylord skiing - Read 
February 14:
Jake Stevenson, Traverse City Bay Reps hockey - Read
February 7: Molly Davis, Midland Dow basketball - Read
January 31:
Chris DeRocher, Alpena basketball - Read
January 24:
Imari Blond, Flint Kearsley bowling - Read
January 17: William Dunn, Quincy basketball - Read
November 29:
Dequan Finn, Detroit Martin Luther King football - Read
November 22: Paige Briggs, Lake Orion volleyball - Read
November 15:
Hunter Nowak, Morrice football - Read
November 8:
Jon Dougherty, Detroit Country Day soccer - Read
November 1:
Jordan Stump, Camden-Frontier volleyball - Read
October 25:
Danielle Staskowski, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep golf - Read
October 18:
Adam Bruce, Gladstone cross country - Read
October 11: Ericka VanderLende, Rockford cross country - Read
October 4:
Kobe Clark, Schoolcraft football - Read
September 27: Jonathan Kliewer, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern soccer - Read
September 20: Kiera Lasky, Bronson volleyball - Read
September 13: Judy Rector, Hanover-Horton cross country - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Unity Christian's Noah Wiswary (1) looks for an open teammate during Saturday's Division 2 championship game against River Rouge. (Middle) Wiswary brings the ball upcourt during the Semifinal win over Ludington.

Harbor Light Building on Rock-Solid Foundation in Bringing Success to New Home

By Tom Spencer
Special for

March 1, 2024

A review of Harbor Light Christian’s boys basketball rosters over the last couple of decades would show a lot of familiar names.

Northern Lower PeninsulaThat would be especially true of the coaching slots.

Or are the players now coaches?

The coaches’ names are extremely familiar, and nothing much has changed – except some of the former players are now coaches, and the head coaches have returned to assist the program.

Today, the head coach is Jason Roussin. He’s in his 12th season at the helm of the Swordsmen. Jeff Jakeway, who was the head coach during Roussin’s junior and senior seasons at Harbor Light, is back on the Swordsmen’s staff as an assistant coach. Roussin is also assisted by long-time coach William Henagan and previous head coach Clark Hewitt.

Hewitt also serves as the Harbor Light junior varsity coach. The JV squad went 19-1 this season and 18-2 the year before.

“In 38 years, really there’s been three consistent coaches and then Pat Collins who had done one year when the program started, and now we’re all back on the sidelines working together,” Roussin said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

The facilities Collins, Hewitt and Jakeway coached in are nothing like the Swordsmen have today – the newly-built Solid Rock Center in Harbor Springs. In fact, they used to play on a cement floor. A year ago, the Swordsmen played their first game in their new home.  

A walk around the facility, five years in the making, provides the feeling of more like a small college program’s setup. Along with the new gym, the Solid Rock Center was equipped with a cafe and concession area, locker rooms, a film lounge and hangout area for the players, an upper-level full track around the gym, and three classrooms for art, music, science and more.

Jakeway served as project manager on the building — fully funded and debt-free through community support. He was the head coach of the Harbor Light girls basketball team when the facility opened.

David Chamberlin (22) elevates over a Pellston defender as the Swordsmen work toward a 75-20 victory Jan. 19.Harbor Light’s boys suffered a 76-74 loss to hot-shooting Pellston in the facility’s first game Jan. 20, 2023, but haven’t been doing much losing since. The Swordsmen started this season 2-2, and after a heart-breaking loss to Traverse City Christian on Dec. 8 went on to share the Northern Lights Conference title with Alanson and have built that record to 20-4 heading into tonight’s District Final against St. Ignace.

The title game will be played at the Solid Rock Center. Another Jakeway, Jeff Jakeway’s son and freshman point guard Landon, will be getting his second chance to lead the Swordsmen to a District championship. He was the point guard as a seventh grader when Harbor Light won the District title two years ago. (Small schools like Harbor Light may request, for most sports, an MHSAA Executive Committee waiver to play eighth-grade students if the school’s enrollment is less than 125 and seventh-graders if the enrollment is less than 75. Harbor Light’s enrollment count for this school year is 61.)

Landon Jakeway is the team’s leading scorer, contributing 15 points per game. He scored 25 to lead the Swordsmen to a 67-31 win over Mackinaw City in Wednesday’s District Semifinal. That was Harbor Light’s third win this season over its league rival, allowing the Swordsmen to keep the Mack Light Ball, which goes to the winning team’s school after each victory in the rivalry. Wins over Mackinaw have been hard to come by in previous seasons.

David Chamberlin, at 13 points per game, and Corin Palus, scoring nine per contest, are the other leading scorers. Jakeway adds seven assists and four steals per game. Chamberlin kicks in seven rebounds per game, and Jackson Mesner and Kirk Rose contribute eight and five rebounds, respectively. 

Chamberlin, Paulis, Mesner and Rose are all seniors.

“The team goal was really to ‘put the team before me’ mentality,” Roussin said. “We were going to work as a team, be loyal, be committed to one another and battle together.”

The Swordsmen also entered the season with their eyes on the Mack Light Ball, a conference championship and a long postseason run.

“We wanted to chase the conference and to battle for a District,” Roussin noted. “Obviously, we knew St. Ignace is in there and they are the favorite team.”

Senior leadership has been one of the keys to Harbor Light’s finishing atop the conference for the first time in more than a decade.

“We want to show up and play the best basketball you can to make your team the best they can,” Roussin said. “That’s what has been awesome with the leadership we’ve had on this team.

“Through all the guys is ‘it is not about me,’” Roussin continued. “It is about ‘what can I do to make the team better?’”

St. Ignace brings a 16-6 record into the Solid Rock Center. The Saints will have a chance to view some NBA history in addition to playing the final.

Above the main gym resides a mini court containing the Detroit Pistons floor from the Pontiac Silverdome. Before moving to The Palace of Auburn Hills, and most recently Little Caesars Arena, the Pistons played at the Silverdome from 1978-88.

Jeff Jakeway was able to get the court to Northern Michigan through connections in Novi.

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. 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) Harbor Light’s Vaughn Henagan (23) gets to the basket during a 59-39 win over Kinross Maplewood Baptist on Dec. 21. (Middle) David Chamberlin (22) elevates over a Pellston defender as the Swordsmen work toward a 75-20 victory Jan. 19. (Photos by Billy Mac Photos.)