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.)

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.)