In Semifinal Return, Schoolcraft Dethrones Reigning Champ to Take Next Step

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

March 24, 2022

EAST LANSING – There are many teams around the state that probably figured no recipe existed for dominating Flint Beecher in a boys basketball game. 

They likely were taking notes Thursday while watching what Schoolcraft accomplished in the second Division 3 Semifinal at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.

Playing just about flawlessly on offense and defense, Schoolcraft advanced to its first Finals championship game since winning the Class C title in 2011 with a stunning 55-39 win over the reigning Division 3 champion.

“Five weeks ago, we just kind of overhauled our offense,” Schoolcraft coach Randy Small said. “We tried to play more inside-out and have more post-up action than what we had previously. I think that has helped us out overall offensively. It’s just given us more flow.”

Schoolcraft/Beecher basketballIt was a return trip to the Semifinals for the Golden Eagles, who fell 54-50 in overtime to Iron Mountain last year at Breslin.

The simplest explanation for what happened this time is that Schoolcraft (24-2) made its shots throughout – with an especially notable showing from 3-point range – while Beecher (22-3) did not find similar success.

Schoolcraft shot 9 of 12 from 3-point range and made 17 of 27 shots from the field overall, while Beecher made 5 of 19 shots from 3-point range and 15 of 46 overall. 

But going a bit deeper, much of the credit for Schoolcraft’s shooting has to go to the way it handled any pressure Beecher threw at it, effectively creating a halfcourt game and patiently moving the ball on offense for good shots. 

Schoolcraft turned the ball over a reasonable 12 times and rarely let Beecher speed the game up. 

“I think the whole team handled it pretty well,” senior Ty Rykse said of Beecher’s pressure. “We knew they were going to pressure. The past couple of days, we had just been stressing to handle the ball pressure and I think we did.” 

Defensively, Schoolcraft used its height advantage inside, employing a zone defense to pack in Beecher and force the Buccaneers to win from the perimeter.

“I just thought we did a pretty good job of controlling the paint and keeping them out of the paint,” Small said. “We had to give up some threes because they are quicker than we are. We didn’t want to spread ourselves too thin. I thought overall, we did a pretty good job of that.”

Schoolcraft made five of its first six shots from 3-point range in the first half and took a 28-17 lead into halftime. 

The third quarter saw Schoolcraft continue to make it a halfcourt contest and shoot well from the outside. Schoolcraft grew its lead to 17 points at 41-24 with 55 seconds remaining in the third following a 3-pointer by junior Eli DeVisser. 

A Beecher run never materialized, and the lead increased to 49-27 with 5:36 remaining and was never threatened the rest of the game. 

“We had shots we missed; they had shots they made,” said first-year Beecher coach Marquise Gray. “I think we took some good, quality shots. You’ve got to give them credit.”

Sophomore Shane Rykse scored 21 points, senior Tyler DeGroote scored 13 and Ty Rykse added 12 points for Schoolcraft. 

Senior Carmelo Harris scored 15 points and junior Robert Lee added 10 for Beecher. 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Schoolcraft celebrates its Semifinal win Thursday afternoon at Breslin Center. (Middle) The Golden Eagles’ Tyler DeGroote (24) and Beecher’s Bryce Carr (32) reach for a loose ball. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)