U-D Jesuit Wins Matchup of Undefeated

March 25, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

EAST LANSING – Detroit U-D Jesuit’s first trip to the Class A Semifinals in 2014 was filled with awe.

The second trip, last season, ended in disappointment. 

There was no longer awe Friday, and no less excitement – just a laser-like focus on taking the next step for the first time in program history, led by the best player to wear a Cubs uniform.

Senior guard Cassius Winston has played prominent roles in getting U-D Jesuit to the Breslin Center the last three seasons, and his 27 points and 12 rebounds were one of a few reasons the Cubs got past Macomb Dakota 72-51 in a matchup of undefeated teams considered the best in Class A heading into the postseason.

“Like I’ve said before, this is the final to my high school career, and I don’t think I’ve had a successful high school career unless we can win a state championship,” Winston said. “It means the world to finally get over that hump. We came in two years expecting to win it and came up short. Now we made it past that hump to make it to Saturday, so we’ve got to finish it off.”

The Cubs (27-0) will face North Farmington in Saturday’s noon Class A Final.

U-D Jesuit and Dakota were ranked 1 and 2, respectively, by The Associated Press at the end of the regular season, and both were playing to make an MHSAA Final for the first time. Dakota also was riding a perfect run, with the loss Friday ending its season at 26-1.

The Cubs’ 2014 run ended with a 10-point Semifinal loss to eventual runner-up Bloomfield Hills. Last winter, U-D Jesuit edged a point closer, losing by nine to eventual champion Detroit Western International. 

The Quarterfinal win over No. 4 Ypsilanti Community on Tuesday to make this third straight trip definitely was worth celebrating. But Cubs coach Pat Donnelly said hoots and hollers were replaced by a quieter focus that showed him again that his players were all business.

“We did discuss the last two years and the feeling that we had leaving here Friday afternoon, and we talked about that throughout the season,” Donnelly said. “That allowed us to win the Quarterfinal and be very focused walking off the floor. … I think you saw the result of that today.”

It was quickly apparent during an 18-3 run that began 2:41 into the game and ended 2:28 into the second quarter with U-D Jesuit up 25-9. The lead grew to as many as 25 points as the Cubs also held Dakota to its second-fewest in a game this season.

The more sizable U-D Jesuit outrebounded the Cougars 39-24 and also shot 58 percent from the floor to Dakota’s 35 percent success rate, which got off to a cool 19-percent first-half start.

Winston, who will next play at Michigan State and was named the state's Mr. Basketball on Monday, made 8 of 16 shots from the floor in front of a Breslin crowd that included a full lower bowl and a number of fans in the upper bowl as well.

“That was probably the hypest game I ever played in,” Dakota junior Jermaine Jackson said. “Cassius is a great player. Mr. Basketball coming in, that’s a tough task.” 

Junior Gregory Eboigbodin added 13 points and 18 rebounds for U-D Jesuit. Senior guards Steven Marshall and Tavin Allison led four Dakota players in double figures with 13 points apiece, and Jackson and sophomore Thomas Kithier each scored 12. Kithier also had nine rebounds and four assists.

Donnelly said he told Dakota coach Paul Tocco after not to let a Breslin loss take anything away from an excellent season, as the Cougars were now experiencing what the Cubs had experienced twice before.

“Obviously we’re disappointed, but we’ve very proud of the season we had,” Tocco said. “I know the experience of losing to Clarkston in the Regional championship last year was a big-time motivator for us to move beyond that point. It motivated our entire program. And we took another step, two steps, beyond that this year.

"To get here, I’m not going to lie – it’s a lot of fun. We tried to treat it as a business-type trip. We weren’t just happy to be here. We just got outplayed tonight.”

Click for the full box score.

The Boys Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System.

PHOTOS: (Top) U-D Jesuit’s Ike Eke (1) launches a shot over the outstretched hand of Macomb Dakota’s Thomas Kithier. (Middle) Dakota’s Jermaine Jackson (1) works to get past U-D Jesuit’s Elijah Collins.

For Their Teams, For Each Other, St. Mary Seniors Team Up 2 More Times

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

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 tomspencer@chartermi.net 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.)