Tri-unity Christian Back on Top As Titus Leads Overtime Surge

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

March 26, 2022

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 Christian/Ewen-Trout Creek basketballTri-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.

Tri-unity Christian basketball“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.

Click for the full box score.

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.)

Ferndale Caps Winter Season with 1st Boys Hoops Title Since 1966

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

March 25, 2023

EAST LANSING – One team was going to end a long championship drought in Saturday’s boys basketball Division 2 Final.

Ferndale’s was especially lengthy, and spanned more than five decades.

And now it is no longer.

The Eagles won their first Finals championship in 57 years with a 44-38 victory over Grand Rapids South Christian at Breslin Center.

Ferndale had last won a state title in 1966.

“The drought is over,” Eagles coach Juan Rickman said. “That’s big time, and the biggest part about making it down here was seeing how charged up the community was and the school was so charged up. It’s the greatest feeling to see how vested our community was in our success.”

Christopher Williams (13) tries to power past South Christian’s Sam Weiss (23) to the rim.Ferndale senior Christopher Williams led the way with 16 points and four rebounds.

“It feels great,” Williams said. “Especially since the past four years we’ve been to the same place and lost twice in a row to the same team, and now it feels like weight is lifted off my shoulders.

“We started off the season 1-5, and going till now we knew if we stayed together through adversity then we could do it. And it made it more impactful that it was our coach’s first state title, and that’s what we wanted to do.”

Added senior point guard Cameron Reed, who had a game-high seven assists: “It’s incredibly special. I wasn't born back then, my teammates weren’t born and my coaches weren’t born. It definitely rejuvenated the whole city and community.”

Ferndale led 8-4 at the end of the first quarter, and both teams shot poorly in the first half. The Eagles connected on a paltry 24 percent from the field, and South Christian on 35 percent of its attempts. Nate Brinks drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Sailors a 16-14 halftime lead. 

Junior guard Jake Vermaas opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer to make it 19-14, but Ferndale made a charge.

The Eagles sliced the deficit to one (25-24) on a 3-pointer by Trenton Ruth, and Cameron Reed tied it at 28-28 with an acrobatic layup.

“Our team was mentally strong, and I’m so proud of them for their accomplishment,” Rickman said. “Just so committed to the process and just being resilient.”

Cameron Reed (0) leads a break for the Eagles.An 8-2 spurt by Ferndale over the first three minutes of the fourth quarter made it 36-30.

“That was extremely important, and we always want to win the first four minutes,” Rickman said. “And we tried to open up the fourth quarter with what we call a kill; we want to get five straight stops and score on two or three of those possessions so we can build a lead. We did that fairly well against a good team.”

South Christian was attempting to win football and basketball Finals championships during the same school year, and was looking for its first basketball title since 2005.

“It was a really hard-fought game and I thought we played at our speed, but it got away from us a little bit,” first-year Sailors coach Taylor Johnson said.

“But it doesn’t take away from what we accomplished this year. We’ve been through it all, including three season-ending injuries, and to still make it to the state finals is an incredible feat.”

Senior Jacob DeHaan and Vermaas led the Sailors with 14 points apiece, while senior Sam Medendorp added seven points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Ferndale raises the Division 2 championship trophy Saturday night at Breslin Center. (Middle) Christopher Williams (13) tries to power past South Christian’s Sam Weiss (23) to the rim. (Below) Cameron Reed (0) leads a break for the Eagles.