Southfield Christian Earns Return

March 21, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Damarco White was not part of Southfield Christian’s run to the Class D championship last season. But he got an earful from teammates Bakari Evelyn and Lindsey Hunter IV about what to expect Thursday at the Breslin Center.

Not that he didn't believe them. But it didn’t take long for the 6-foot-7 junior to truly understand what they meant. 

The Eagles' physical and fast-paced Class D Semifinal against Lansing Christian featured 123 shots and 67 free-throw attempts, 15 tie scores and 17 lead changes. But over the final 2:15, Southfield Christian simply outlasted the Pilgrims in pulling away for a 75-68 win and another title game berth. 

“They told me it wasn’t easy, and they were right,” White said. “I just tried to play my best. I try not to let my team lose every game I go out there.

“We’ve won 19 straight. We’re trying to make it 20.”

Southfield Christian (22-4), No. 3 at the end of the regular season, will face top-ranked Wyoming Tri-unity Christian at 10 a.m. Saturday to decide the title.

The Eagles no doubt will spend some of Friday resting up.

Only over the final two minutes – and after three Lansing Christian players fouled out – was Southfield Christian able to secure Thursday’s win. And those final two minutes followed six during which either the Pilgrims led or the score was tied.

“That’s what these guys have done all year. In tough games, tough situations, they hang in,” Eagles coach Josh Baker said.

“Our guys definitely picked up the intensity, picked up the ball pressure, sped up the pace. Part of it was (Lansing Chrstian) got into foul trouble and lost some guys. But I think we’re a little deeper. Hopefully we wore them down.”

Southfield Christian also took advantage of its ability to make free throws, connecting on 35 of 44 after entering the game on a streak of 23 straight makes. Sophomore guard Bakari Evelyn made 13 of 15 on the way to a team-high 22 points, and Hunter hit 8 of 9 in scoring 21 points total. White made 7 of 8 and finished with 19 points.  

The game style and pace indeed took a toll on the Pilgrims, who played mostly their starting five through the first three quarters. Lansing Christian’s standouts showed lots of hustle and forced a number of the Eagles’ 24 turnovers. But only two starters were around for the final minutes.

“That’s how we’ve played all year long. We’ve got great kids on the bunch, but a lot of them are just getting their start in the game of basketball,” Lansing Christian coach Steve Ernst said. “Certainly, that was a different type of game than we’ve seen this year.”

Still, it took a final jolt to get the Eagles moving on. And Hunter delivered it during a timeout, when he told his teammates that “this is our stage” and they needed to play to that level.

White had six of his points and three of his seven blocks during the fourth quarter. He also grabbed 12 rebounds for the game. Evelyn had six steals and Hunter had five.

“We’ve been in that situation before, and we just had to stick with each other,” said Evelyn, a top sub on last season’s team.

“For some reason, we always play better defense in crunch time. I guess that’s our fault, but we noticed they got tired. I guess we turned up the heat.”

Senior Skylar Ross led Lansing Christian with 23 points. Senior Josh Whitney had 16 and eight rebounds, and senior Jay Noyola had 14 points, 10 rebounds and five steals. Junior Jordan Terry added 11 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Lansing Christian finished 22-4 and tied its longest postseason run. The Pilgrims also made the Semifinals in 1984.

“Certainly we appreciate being able to play on this big stage,” Ernst said, “and the tremendous group of seniors who helped transform this program in a short period of time. We’re proud of their effort, and we were excited to play a program like Southfield Christian.”

Click for the full box score. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Southfield Christian's Lindsey Hunter IV rises toward the basket during Thursday's Class D Semifinal at the Breslin Center. (Middle) Southfield Christian's Bakari Evelyn (22) works to get around Lansing Christian's Jay Noyola while Pilgrims coach Steve Ernst directs his players from the sideline. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Bedford Boys Hoops Off to Best Start in Decade Under Alum Bollin

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

January 24, 2023

TEMPERANCE – The Bedford Mules are kicking up a special boys basketball season in southeast Michigan.

Southeast & BorderTemperance Bedford is off to a 10-1 start, the best for the school in a decade. Third-year coach Jordan Bollin is happy to bring a winner to his alma mater.

“Bedford has had good teams here and there and good players and coaches, but it never seemed to be anything that was sustained,” Bollin said. “I knew it was going to be a challenge.”

Bollin played varsity basketball at Bedford, graduating in 2006. He went into coaching almost immediately after high school and was named head coach at Dundee in 2015. After 68 wins in five seasons, Bollin was named head coach at Bedford.

“I talked it over with my wife, with the athletic director, with (assistant coach) Mark Hubbard,” Bollin said. “I always, in the back of my mind, thought that I would want to come back to Bedford and coach one day. I wanted to do it while I was still relatively a young coach who still had the passion for all of this. It’s the right time.

“I felt like, leaving Dundee, I had an opportunity to build something myself.”

Wrestling has been the winter sports king at Bedford for decades as the Mules spent years at the top of Class A/Division 1 wrestling circles. The boys basketball team has enjoyed its moments, such as a three-year span when it went 18-6, 18-5 and 14-8 across 2012-2014, but there have been down years, too. Various coaches have tried their hand at the helm, including former NBA player Dennis Hopson.

Bollin himself played for coach Bill Ryan, who led the boys team for seven years but has found ultra-success with Bedford’s girls basketball program.

Bollin knew that when he took over the varsity, he wanted to incorporate the entire program.

“No program is one coach,” he said.

He brought multiple assistants with him from Dundee, including longtime Monroe County coach Hubbard, a Bedford graduate, and former head coach in the county himself. The two have formed a bond.

“We talk every day on the phone before practice,” Bollin said. “We go to lunch once or twice a week. He’s a mentor and someone I talk to all the time.”

Bedford has posted wins over a variety of teams this season, from Southeastern Conference teams like Dexter and Monroe to Ottawa Lake Whiteford, Adrian Lenawee Christian and Stockbridge. Ten of the Mules’ final 11 games are against SEC schools, including two against 8-3 Saline.

Bedford coach Jordan Bollin.Bollin knows the toughest is yet to come.

“We get Ann Arbor Huron at home,” he said. “We lost to them by three on the road. We had the ball, down two in the final seconds and had the ball and were called for a travel. It was close.”

Six-foot-7 Andrew Hollinger is the team’s top scorer and rebounder. Four years ago, he played five games on the varsity, then was a starter in Bollin’s first season. He’s now closing in on 1,000 career points and is one of the best rebounders in southeast Michigan.

“He’s phenomenal,” Bollin said. “He plays so hard, and he’s a great kid. He’s a 4.0 student and very humble. You’ll never hear him talk about himself; it’s always about the team.”

While he’s proven to be a great scorer and free throw shooter this season, Hollinger is also a relentless rebounder.

“I’ve always been one of the tallest out on the court, so I know that I can really use that to my advantage in order to rebound,” he said. “Once the shot goes up, I try to chase down the ball or box someone out in order to give my team the chance to get the ball back.”

Bollin said Hollinger’s intensity shows.

“I use him as an example to the other kids all of the time,” Bollin said.

Twice this season Hollinger has set the school record for most consecutive free throws made in a game. He went 15-for-15 once and 16-for-16 another time. Hollinger averaged a double-double last year at 18.2 points and 10.8 rebounds and has topped those numbers through 11 games this season.

Hollinger brings the Mules up court.Hollinger is one of eight seniors on the roster. Like Bollin, he’s a homegrown talent, having made his way up from the Bedford Community Education program in the fourth grade to middle school, JV and varsity.

“I fell in love with basketball when I played in the local community ed program,” he said.

Hollinger said all of the seniors had a feeling this was going to be a great season.

“I think the success from our team comes from how hard we play every game and how much experience we have,” he said. “We knew coming into the season that we were in pretty much every game the season before and just had to find a way to start winning games.”

Bedford won six games during the COVID-19 shortened 2020-21 season and four a year ago – losing several games that came down to the final minute. Bollin has matched the win total in those first two years at Bedford in two months.

Ironically, Bollin said, it was the 2020-21 season during which most of this year’s seniors learned to play varsity basketball.

“We had so many games where we had players out for COVID that we had to bring a lot of them up to the varsity to play,” he said. “A lot of the seniors this year got a ton of playing time that year.”

The other current seniors include Griffin Wolf, Tommy Huss, Jimmy Fackelman, Simon Eighmey, Caleb Kochendoerfer, Evan Campbell, and Leo Wagenhauser. They are complimented by a couple sophomores and juniors plus freshman Carsen Behnke.

Hollinger is hopeful the first-half success will continue.

“We all believed in each other in the offseason, and that belief still continues through the start of the season,” he said, deflecting any attention from himself. “I love how basketball is a team game and how you need the whole team to be playing hard in order to win. It’s not just about one person, but it’s about everyone.”

Bollin said he could sense this summer that this season had the makings of being something special.

“I thought we’d have a nice season, but, no, I wasn’t expecting 10-1,” he said. “But, in the summer, I knew when everyone was there and together, we were tough to beat.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Bedford’s Andrew Hollinger works for an opening while surrounded by Monroe defenders last season. (Middle) Bedford boys basketball coach Jordan Bollin. (Below) Hollinger brings the Mules up court during a 63-43 win Friday. (Action photos by Tom Hawley and Mike Doughty, respectively, and courtesy of the Monroe News.)