Rough Start Turns into Breslin Ending

March 22, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Some may consider it ironic that Detroit Community will play for the Class B championship Saturday despite nine losses this season.

But the Hurricanes are the first to explain those losses are why they’ll play in their first MHSAA Final.

Community advanced to the final game for the first time with a 58-37 win over Wyoming Godwin Heights in a Semifinal on Friday at the Breslin Center.

And now senior Byron Zeigler and his teammates will face No. 1 Detroit Country Day – although they won’t be intimidated after facing and falling to the likes of Romulus, Detroit Pershing, Cass Tech, Southeastern and others during the regular season.

“We’ve played all the top teams in the state, so there’s nothing we haven’t seen before,” Zeigler said. “Any situation we came to, we knew we had to stick together, play hard, and we knew we’d have a good outcome.”

Saturday’s Final tips off at 6:30 p.m. Community (18-9) entered the tournament unranked – but given this outcome, likely wouldn’t have scheduled any other way.

The Hurricanes found themselves at 6-5 just after the midpoint of the season. In three of their defeats – to Pershing, Southeastern and reigning Class D champion Southfield Christian – they led going into the final minutes.

During this run they’ve won three games by six or fewer points.

“I think that helped us out going down the stretch. We’re closing those games out now,” Community coach Venias Jordan, Jr., said. “Playing in every holiday tournament and not closing those games out, I guess we can’t help but get better.”

Closing out wasn’t a worry Friday. The Hurricanes took a 10-point advantage three minutes into the second quarter and led by double digits the rest of the way.

Zeigler, a 6-foot-6 forward headed to South Florida after graduation, said he wanted to be aggressive early and remind his teammates they’d reached the big stage. He scored 10 of his 17 points in the first quarter, and also finished the game with 12 rebounds. Godwin Heights coach Chad Conklin said Zeigler was the best his team had faced this season.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes worked to keep Godwin Heights’ standout guards out of the lane. Plugging the middle worked – the Wolverines’ point total was their lowest this season by 10. Three Godwin Heights guards entered the week averaging more than 10 points per game, but none scored more than four Friday.

“It’s a double-edged sword. If you’re not making your shots on the perimeter, and then go inside and your shots are blocked … to score 37 points like this is disappointing,” Conklin said. “I thought we got some decent shots outside, but they didn’t go in. We tried to attack the glass, but they did a good job of blocking (us).”

Community junior Jason Buyck grabbed 10 rebounds in just 11 minutes as his team outrebounded Godwin Heights 46-37.

Junior center Markese Mayfield led the Wolverines with 13 points and seven rebounds.

Conklin explained to his players after that they’d put Godwin Heights hoops on the statewide map. His teams were a combined 66-8 over the last three seasons including 23-3 this winter.

Jordan no doubt can say the same to his Community players, regardless of what happens Saturday.

“Over the last three years, we’ve been through a lot, faced a lot of obstacles,” Community senior Ramell Robinson said. “This last year, we have to take it all the way. Our first practice goal was March 23, and not to just get to the championship (game), but to win the championship.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Community's Byron Zeigler (35) tries to drive past Wyoming Godwin Heights' Markese Mayfield during Friday's Class B Semifinal. (Middle) Godwin Heights' Jamal Bland pushes the ball upcourt against a Community defender. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

For Their Teams, For Each Other, St. Mary Seniors Team Up 2 More Times

By Tom Spencer
Special for

March 17, 2023

Shawn Bramer and Dylan Barnowski, as middle schoolers, attended the MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals every year.

Northern Lower PeninsulaLast year, they nearly played in the Division 3 title game – falling in a Semifinal but almost making a dream come true for the then-juniors and their Lake Leelanau St. Mary coach, Matt Barnowski, also Dylan’s father.

That dream began for some when the boys were coached by Matt as third graders, and they made serious strides last season. Before last winter, the last time the Eagles had won a Regional championship was 1950 – and no St. Mary boys basketball team had reached the Semifinals. Bramer and Dylan Barnowski – along with current seniors Jack Glynn, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar – had high hopes of making more history this winter.

The dream ended Wednesday night with a Regional Final loss to Frankfort, which St. Mary had defeated 54-41 during the regular season. This time, the Eagles were faced with a large number of K-12 students succumbing to illness – with all five of its starters at least somewhat sick – as nearly a third of the school’s tiny enrollment was out of school the day after the loss to the Panthers.

But you won’t hear any of the players or coaches making excuses. They give all the credit to Frankfort, and they’re ready to move on. And many in the LSM family know reaching the Regional Finals this season and Breslin Center in 2022 had absolutely no probability had Bramer and Barnowski not made an iron-clad agreement last summer. 

Eagles coach Matt Barnowski coaches up his team during last week’s Regional Semifinal win over Mesick.The two friends vowed to help each other despite their personal, opposing challenges.

Barnowski and Bramer, through LSM’s cooperative agreement with Suttons Bay, went 3-for-3 playing in 8-Player Division 1 Football Finals during their first three years of high school. But through last summer Barnowski, who quarterbacked the Norseman, had no interest in football.  

Bramer, meanwhile, had been nursing a quad tendon injury since his sophomore football season and battling two bad knees but was thinking he could suffer though football and sit out the basketball season to recover. The all-state running back experienced training difficulties and even had his strength training severely hampered.

Football was king for Bramer, and he also loved basketball too. Basketball is number one to Barnowski. The longtime friends decided cut a deal to help each other — and their teammates — out.

“I was kind of on the edge,” said Bramer, who plays with braces on both knees. “After talking to each other, we both ended up just playing. 

“I really shouldn’t be playing sports, but I couldn’t miss out playing with my friends,” he continued. “We just figured it was our last season so we might as well just do it.”

Dylan Barnowski and Brammer also teamed up during successful football careers. Barnowski had been considering ending his football days immediately after the Norse fell short in their third-straight trip to the Finals, at Superior Dome in Marquette in Fall 2021. That loss was at the hands of Adrian Lenawee Christian 31-20.

The Norseman graduated most of their offensive and defense lines last spring and expected to be small in numbers. Until this fall, they had lost only one regular-season game on their way to three straight title game appearances. This year they finished 3-5.

The big linemen losses — Barnowski’s protection — was forcing him to weigh his injury risk against having a senior basketball season.

“We did it for each other,” Barnowski said. “I talked with Shawn, and we knew we had a big community behind us and it would be hard for them if we just quit. 

“I knew we weren’t going to have the same powerhouse team we had,” he continued. “We weren’t very good this year, but we still had a blast.”

This week’s loss put an end to the possible Breslin championship finish, but it left the friends happy with the decision to play both sports. The Eagles finished 20-4.

Barnowski led St. Mary in scoring. He averaged better than 20 points a game with more than seven rebounds and five assists. Bramer averaged just under 15 points per game, and almost 10 rebounds.

The two big men each scored 11 in the season-ending loss. Thompson scored 14. This year’s senior-dominated team likely will be remembered for its basketball success for some time. Barnowski, Bramer and Glynn experienced only one loss in District play over their four seasons.

“It’s a really special groups of kids,” Coach Barnowski said. “These kids kind of transformed St. Mary’s basketball.  

St. Mary’s seniors, from left: Shawn Brammer, Jack Gwynn, Dylan Barnowski, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar. “They’ve really built the program,” he continued. “It’s been a roller coaster ride.”

Bramer and Dylan Barnowski also played baseball in the past for the Eagles, but that likely won’t happen this spring. Barnowski plans to golf, and Bramer expects to sit the spring season out and heal.

“We’ll never forget these last four years of varsity we played,” Barnowski said. “I‘ve decided to go a more relaxing route, and I’m going for some golf.”

With their Breslin dream over, the friends are ready to enjoy the St. Mary’s community support and move on. They’re bummed so many were sick in the end but won’t use it as an excuse.

“Hats off to Frankfort,” Barnowski said. “They did an incredible job of shutting us down.”

Bramer agreed.

“They just played their game better than we did,” he said. “They took the lead at the end of the third quarter, and it was a battle from there.”

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 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) St. Mary’s seniors Dylan Barnowski, left, and Shawn Bramer hold up the team’s District championship trophy last week. (2) Eagles coach Matt Barnowski, center, and assistant Sander Scott coach up their team during last week’s Regional Semifinal win over Mesick. (3) Dylan Barnowski and Bramer also teamed up during successful football careers. (4) St. Mary’s seniors, from left: Shawn Bramer, Jack Glynn, Dylan Barnowski, Drew Thompson and Nick Linguar. (Sideline photo by Tom Spencer; player photos by Emmerson Lamb Photography.)