By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – At River Rouge, 14 MHSAA championship banners tell of one of the most storied programs in Michigan high school boys basketball history.
They don’t hang banners there for making the Semifinals or finishing runner-up.
That’s been on the minds of Panthers players all season after falling in the Semifinals the last two – and it was on their minds again as Friday’s Division 2 Semifinal against unbeaten Harper Woods Chandler Park went into overtime.
River Rouge saw a lead as large as 10 fade away during regulation, and then barely earned overtime on a last-second 3-pointer. But on the 20th anniversary of their last championship, the Panthers will get the opportunity to play for possibly the next after hanging on for a 72-66 victory at the Breslin Center.
“We need to win. I need to do whatever it takes to win the state championship. That’s what was going through my mind the whole time,” said River Rouge sophomore Legend Geeter of the game’s final stretch.
“I’ve been (to Breslin) once and lost in the Semifinals, and it was not a great feeling. In my mind, in order for this program to keep being great, we’ve got to win another state championship and put another banner up.”
River Rouge (23-2) will take on Hudsonville Unity Christian in Saturday’s 6:45 p.m. Final, in a rematch of the 1963 Class B championship game won by the Panthers 59-49.
Coach LaMonta Stone, who led the 1999 team, returned in November after two seasons away for his third tenure running the program and immediately told his players this season would be “state championship or bust” – but also that his expectation was that they would win title 15.
River Rouge has the most championships in the MHSAA’s 94-year history, but none during the 2000s, and the Panthers couldn’t bear the thought of another opportunity slipping away.
The double-digit lead – 33-23 just less than a minute into the second half – did slip away gradually over the third and fourth quarters. Senior Josh Diggs gave Chandler Park a 58-56 lead with a 3-pointer with 49 seconds to go in regulation, and two free throws by senior Andre Bradford pushed the advantage to three with 13 seconds left. But senior Nigel Colvin saved River Rouge’s championship hopes, taking a pass down the baseline on the ensuing possession, moving two steps to his right and draining a 3-pointer with three seconds left on the clock.
“Nigel when I came into this team was just a spot-up shooter,” Stone said. “But he’s the hardest-working kid on the team. Every day before practice, after practice, he’s working on his 1-2 dribble pull-up. He doesn’t want to be known as just a 3-point shooter.
“So when I saw that shot, and he had to get it off, I’m just thinking back to when he’s in the gym after practice, before practice, working on those type of shots where he has to take one or two dribbles and shoot the ball. Two or three months (ago), he couldn’t have made that play – because he was just a spot-up shooter.”
Colvin hit another 3-pointer to open the overtime scoring, and Chandler Park senior forward Tyland Tate answered to tie things back up. But a Geeter basket with 1:50 to play gave the Panthers the lead back for good, as they finished on a 7-3 run.
The loss was the first and only this season for Chandler Park (21-1), which won its first Regional title last week on the way to this first trip to the Semifinals.
“You saw the support we had. A lot of people came out,” Chandler Park coach James Scott said. “Small charter school, on the end of the east side, Harper Woods area. So I thought it was big to show that we have talent, we’ve got some players and it’s a program on the rise. From making this type of run, every year, moving forward.”
Bradford had 14 points and three steals, and senior guard Derrick Bryant Jr. had team highs of 15 points and six assists for Chandler Park.
Colvin finished with 20 points to lead River Rouge, making 8-of-10 shots from the floor including 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Geeter added 17 points and six rebounds and senior Donavan Freeman scored 12. Senior Bralin Toney had seven assists.
PHOTOS: (Top) River Rouge players embrace senior Nigel Colvin after his game-tying 3-pointer during the final seconds of regulation Friday. (Middle) Donavan Freeman (1) gets a shot up just out of the reach of Chandler Park’s Tyland Tate.
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.