Senior-Led Stevenson Makes Statement

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

March 22, 2016

STERLING HEIGHTS – Three times coach Rick Bye took Sterling Heights Stevenson to the MHSAA Finals in football.

Since the mid-1980s few schools in the Metro Detroit area have a football program as successful as that at Stevenson. Since 1985, Stevenson has qualified for the football playoffs 20 times. Twelve times the Titans won 10 or more games. During one stretch they reached the Semifinals six consecutive seasons (1993-98).

The baseball program has thrived recently under coach Joe Emanuele. The Titans won the Division 1 title in 2005, reached the Semifinals twice (2011 and 2013) and went to the Quarterfinals in 2014.

But in boys basketball, the Titans have not been able to compete at nearly as high a level as football and baseball. Before this season, Stevenson had one Regional title.

Now it has two.

Stevenson (20-4) defeated Roseville, 60-44, last Wednesday in a Class A Regional Final. The Titans will face North Farmington (22-2) in tonight’s 7 p.m. Quarterfinal at Calihan Hall at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Perhaps we should have seen this coming. Coach Mark LaCombe is in his third season, and the Titans have shown improvement each winter. They were 13-8 in 2013-14 and 16-5 last season, a finish that included a Macomb Area Conference White title.

But first-round knockouts in the MHSAA Tournament didn’t sit well with the five seniors who start for LaCombe this season.

Luke Lamoreaux, a 5-foot-9 point guard and a three-year starter, is one of four returning from last season’s lineup. He was the captain on the soccer team in the fall and is the leader of this team. Lamoreaux said the difference between last season and the team this season is experience.

“We’ve gotten stronger in the weight room,” he said. “We hit the weight room a lot.

“It’s a lot of hard work. Plus it’s a senior-led team. We played a lot of tough teams in the summer. And we played a tough nonconference schedule. We played (Macomb) Dakota. We had a 15-point lead and lost in overtime. We said if we can play with the No. 2-ranked team, we can play with anybody. We’d like another shot.

“We’ve always been a good football school. We’ve wanted to make our mark in basketball. What we’re doing now is we’re making a statement with this run.”

Stevenson isn’t a tall team. Its tallest starter is Stacy Howard at 6-2. LaCombe uses a four-guard lineup and generally subs two to three off the bench. Jahi Hinson (6-3) is one of those reserves, and he’s the lone junior in the rotation.

“We’re undersized,” LaCombe said. “The kids play harder than anyone we play. The kids that play, play at a high level.”

Three players, including Lamoreaux, average between 11 and 12 points. Mylon Weathers (6-0) and Vince Ramachi (6-1) averaged 12 points apiece, Lamoreaux 11.5. Lamoreaux has stepped up his game in the tournament. He’s averaging 15.5 in four tournament games.

“The basket looks really big to him now,” LaCombe said. “He’s getting a name for himself. He plays well on the big stage.”

Weathers is the team’s top defender and will guard the opposition’s top scoring guard. In a District Semifinal, he held Clinton Township Chippewa Valley senior Steven Lloyd to 11 points, 10 below Lloyd’s average.

Stevenson hasn’t received much publicity this season for obvious reasons. LaCombe knows a team has to earn respect, and he said that’s what his team has done. The MAC White isn’t a strong basketball division, and to prepare his team for a long run LaCombe scheduled nonleague games against Rockford, Detroit Western International, Rochester Adams, Warren DeLaSalle and Detroit Country Day. Stevenson’s four losses were to teams that won District titles.

“We weren’t quite ready last year,” he said. “Defensively they’ve executed as well as a coach could ask for. They’ve made adjustments. We trap a lot.

“The brackets were set up perfectly for us. A lot of times you set goals for the season: a league and district titles. That wouldn’t have been good enough for this group. I don’t think we’ll have a group like this come out of Stevenson for a long time.”

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Luke Lamoreaux and assistant coach Bill Szlaga share a celebratory embrace during Stevenson's Quarterfinal run. (Middle) Stacy Howard (3) prepares to signal a 3-pointer as teammate Austin Beba launches the shot. (Photos courtesy of the Sterling Heights Stevenson boys basketball program.) 

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.)