EAST LANSING – The Wyoming Tri-unity Christian boys basketball team fell short last season in its bid to add another state championship to its storied history.
Senior point guard Brady Titus wasn’t about to let history repeat itself.
Titus scored a game-high 33 points to propel the Defenders to a thrilling 56-45 overtime win over Ewen-Trout Creek in Saturday’s Division 4 Final at the Breslin Center.
“There was so much motivation, just coming up short last year,” Titus said. “Just knowing that we lost to a team that we could’ve beat really carried on into this year, and there’s a great sense of relief knowing that we really did this as a team.
“I’m more than thankful, and it’s hard to describe how I feel right now other than a lot of excitement.”
The Defenders (20-6) lost to Detroit Douglass a year ago, 46-41, but gained redemption by outscoring the Panthers 13-2 in overtime Saturday.
Tri-unity captured its fifth Final, but first since 2011 under longtime coach Mark Keeler, who watched his team struggle in the second quarter after a strong start.
The Defenders led 16-11 after the first quarter, but Ewen-Trout Creek opened the second with an 11-1 surge to snare a 22-17 lead.
The Defenders countered with a 6-0 run to hold a slim 23-22 advantage, but Ewen-Trout Creek ended the half with seven straight points.
A 3-pointer from Eric Abramson at the buzzer gave the Panthers a 30-23 lead at the half.
“I was proud of my guys because we didn’t quit or get discouraged after that buzzer 3-pointer at the end of the first half,” said Keeler, who was appearing in his 10th Final. “Ewen-Trout Creek was gutty and tough, and they dominated the boards in the first half.”
Titus, who will play in college at Indiana Tech, scored 23 of his points in the second half and overtime after being held to 10 points in the first half.
He was poked in the eye inadvertently early in the third quarter, and it fueled his play.
“It was an accident for sure, but me being the person I am I took it personally,” Titus said. “That really fired me up to just go out there and play and compete.”
Titus stepped up several times when his team needed him during the second-half rally.
His driving lay-up with 33 seconds left knotted the score at 43-43 and sent the game to overtime after the Defenders got a defensive stop in the closing seconds.
“He does it so often,” Keeler said of Titus’ heroics. “He’s just an amazing young man, and he made plays for us.”
Tri-unity turned to its defense in overtime to help secure the win.
Sophomore Owen Rosendall, who made three 3-pointers and finished with nine points, had a steal and took a defensive charge, while junior center Hanif James had a huge blocked shot with the Defenders clinging to a 47-45 lead in the final minute. He then scored inside on an assist from Titus.
“I don’t really go for blocks because I try to keep my hands up as straight as possible,” said James, who had seven points and seven rebounds. “If I see it, I go for it, and then Brady has great vision and I know he’ll find me when I’m open.”
Ewen-Trout Creek (22-3) was playing for its first Finals title since 1972.
The Panthers also finished Class D runner-up in 1982, losing to Covert 105-94.
“Overtime losses are always tough, but an overtime loss in a state championship game is something else,” Ewen-Trout Creek coach Brad Besonen said. “The fight and the grind these guys bring to the court every night showed tonight in front of a big audience on a big stage in one of the biggest games we can have as a high school team. I couldn’t be prouder of these guys.”
Jaden Borseth finished with 16 points and eight rebounds to lead the Panthers, while Brendan Polkky had 14 points and Abramson added 12.
PHOTOS (Top) Tri-unity’s Hanif James (34) gets a hand on a shot attempt by Ewen-Trout Creek’s Jaden Borseth. (Middle) The Defenders’ Ethan Eerdmans (10) works to get past Ewen-Trout Creek’s Jonah Nordine. (Below) Tri-unity coach Mark Keeler raises the championship trophy toward his team Saturday. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
A review of Harbor Light Christian’s boys basketball rosters over the last couple of decades would show a lot of familiar names.
That 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.
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 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.)