Undefeated Brimley Primed for Big Time

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

February 8, 2019


BRIMLEY — Rankings are nice, but the Brimley boys are looking for more as they roll through this basketball season.

The Bays, ranked No. 1 statewide in Division 4 by The Associated Press, improved to 16-0 with a 72-46 triumph over St. Ignace on Tuesday.

Brimley’s run has continued a progression that saw the varsity finish 5-16 in 2014-15 and then add to its win total every season over the next three – going 20-5 and winning a District title last winter.

“Part of the reason for our success is team chemistry,” said 6-foot-3 junior guard Zach Gross. “We went undefeated from the fifth grade on. We’re excited about the ranking, but that only motivates us to work harder. We know there’s a target on our back. Everybody wants to beat the No. 1 team in the state.”

The Bays are well aware of the challenges in store for them during the postseason, where expectations will be high to match that top ranking.

The U.P. has enjoyed a wave of success in the smallest-school bracket especially this decade (the classification changed from Class D to Division 4 beginning this school year). North Central won three straight Class D titles from 2015-17 and also made the Semifinals in 2013. Dollar Bay made the Semifinals last season, following appearances as well by Eben Junction Superior Central in 2011, Carney-Nadeau in 2012 and Cedarville in 2014. Cedarville also made the Quarterfinals last season, losing to Dollar Bay, and has won six Regional titles over the last 10 years.

Brimley took a major step toward assuming a place among the elite, clinching the Eastern Upper Peninsula Conference title last week, outpacing Cedarville and Engadine after finishing second to the Trojans last season.

“Rudyard, Engadine and Cedarville have the strongest teams, which helps us get ready for the tournaments,” Gross said. “Rudyard has a very good defensive team, and Engadine has a run-and-gun offense. They (Engadine) have Andrew Blanchard, who’s a senior guard and a great athlete.”

Brimley posted an 89-78 victory at Rudyard on Friday. The Bays also defeated the Bulldogs 80-74 at home Dec. 13.

“Rudyard played a great game here,” said Brimley coach Joel Moore. “That was our closest game, although we had one guy injured. Another was sick and Marcus (Harris) was cramping up. Engadine was probably our toughest game (in a 79-67 victory Jan. 25). They match up with us pretty well. They can score in bunches.”

The Bays have shown on numerous occasions they also can score in bunches, which was evident in their 104-70 victory at Engadine on Dec. 6.

“The transition game is our strength,” said Harris, a 5-10 senior guard. “We have a lot of speed. We’re kind of an explosive team. We’re capable of putting up 90 points on any given night.”

Brimley is also aware of the possibility of teams taking the air out of the ball as DeTour attempted Nov. 30 when the Bays won 83-49.

“They tried to go with a delay offense,” said Harris. “We jumped on them early, then it was 13-13 after the first quarter. I think that prepares you a bit. There’s always a chance we could see that in the District.”

“If we see that in the District, I think we’ll be prepared for it,” 6-0 senior forward Hunter Lipponen added. “Our transition game has worked well. We don’t have the real big guy, so everybody has to be able to handle the ball. We have the ball handlers. We also have the speed, and we try to utilize that.”

A victory over Bay Mills Ojibwe Charter in the District opener Feb. 25 at Rudyard would set up a third meeting with Engadine two nights later. The District championship game is set for March 1.

“Ojibwe plays with a lot of pride and heart,” said Moore. “We can’t overlook anybody. Sometimes the hardest thing is to get out of the District because the teams are very familiar with each other. We have to stay humble and hungry. We can’t put much stock into the rankings.”

But the Bays can take confidence from what they’ve accomplished so far.

Brimley opened its season on a positive note, winning 73-49 at Cedarville.

“We hadn’t done that in about 15 years, which kind of set the tone,” Lipponen said. “Cedarville runs a 1-3-1 and 2-2-1 zone press and a half-court trap. You have to be able to make the right passes.”

Brimley visits Newberry tonight, and after Pickford for Parents Night on Feb. 15 hosts Harbor Springs Harbor Light Christian and travels to Sault Ste. Marie to close the regular season.

If the Bays win the District, they could potentially see Cedarville for the third time or Ski Valley Conference leader Pellston in the Regional. At that point, Brimley would be seeking its first Regional title since 1995, when it won its fourth in six seasons.

“Pellston is pretty good,” said Lipponen. “We saw them at team camp. They have a big guy underneath who has some very nice footwork.

“It’s very exciting. But we have to take it one game at a time.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Senior Tristen Lyons brings the ball up court during Brimley’s first game this season against Newberry, an 83-55 win Dec. 19. (Middle) Senior Dylan Carrick unloads a 3-point try against Superior Central in a 69-57 win Dec. 15. (Photos courtesy of the Brimley athletic department.)

St. Clair County Celebrates 1st Mr. Basketball Winner, PHN's Jamison

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 29, 2023

The Jamison family has spent plenty of time over the years driving long distances as Tyler chased his basketball dreams.

Bay & ThumbAfter the Port Huron Northern senior achieved one of the biggest ones, they had to put some more mileage on the family vehicle.

As the newly-crowned Mr. Basketball, Jamison was invited to a special presentation during the Boys Basketball Finals this past Saturday afternoon at the Breslin Center. It was an invitation Tyler and his family didn’t hesitate to accept, and the drive from Port Huron to East Lansing was nothing.

But it did cause a pretty big change to some other travel plans.

Tyler and his family were scheduled to fly to Florida on Friday for spring break. That flight had to be canceled, though, and instead, the family made the drive down later.

“There were some jokes about just leaving me and letting me find my own way down there,” Jamison said.

While they joke, there’s nowhere the Jamisons would have rather been Saturday than at the Breslin. As a true basketball family – Tyler’s dad Brian is also the coach at Northern, and his brother Alex was a standout freshman for the Huskies – they have a great appreciation for the Mr. Basketball Award and its significance.

“I had said a while ago, ‘Hey, if we’re still in the tournament, we’ll be playing Friday,” Brian Jamison said. “I even mentioned that it would be a miracle, but Tyler could win Mr. Basketball. Now we’re eating plane tickets and driving down to Florida. But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we’re not missing this.”

Jamison was the overwhelming winner of the award, which is named after Hal Schram and given out by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan. He received 3,058 points in the vote to become its 43rd winner. Curtis Williams of Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (2,004 points), Kaden Brown of Grand Rapids Catholic Central (1,918), Sonny Wilson of Detroit U-D Jesuit (1,883) and Ryan Hurst of North Farmington (1,811) were the other finalists.

“It was just insane,” Tyler Jamison said. “I can’t even really put into words how I felt – it was just a dream come true, a culmination of all the hard work that’s been put in over the years. My mom was in the other room (when his dad called to tell him), and I just hugged her and we were kind of screaming. The dog was getting riled up. It was fun. There were a few tears shed.”

Jamison throws down a dunk.Jamison, who signed with Fairleigh Dickinson in December, finished the season averaging 26.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game. He was named the Macomb Area Conference White division MVP after leading Northern to the league title and a 20-4 overall record.

Even with all that, winning the most prestigious individual basketball award in the state didn’t seem like a reality.

“We purposely try to play a tough schedule, and we purposely got into some showcases because we wanted people to see, not only him play, but us play,” Brian Jamison said. “We had beaten Skyline and Hamtramck, and went up to Croswell-Lexington and won up there, and I thought, ‘OK, now he’s done it against some of the better teams.’ Up to that point, when we played those tougher teams, he’s always showed out well, but it’s different when you’re not winning them. But at that point, I thought he had a chance. Really, I was just hoping he would get on the list. To win it was kind of above and beyond what I had hoped for.”

On the court, Tyler’s impact on the program was pretty obvious and immediate.

He’s the program’s all-time leading scorer – a record he set as a junior – with 1,763 career points. He also holds Northern records for career rebounds (825), points in a game (59), rebounds in a game (28), career field goals made (638) and career free throws made (439). As a junior, he was named MAC Blue MVP.

Northern did not lose a league game in either of the past two seasons.

But Northern is likely to see future success because of Tyler’s non-statistical impact.

Leading a young team, including a group of star freshmen – his brother Alex, Cam Harju and Amir Morelan – was a major part of Tyler’s job this season.

Northern’s home games were must-see events this winter, as the Huskies were one of Division 1’s top teams, and Tyler was providing nightly highlights and must-see performances. Even in his final game, a loss against Macomb Dakota in the District Final, Jamison treated the standing-room crowd with a 46-point performance and a halfcourt shot at the third-quarter buzzer in a valiant effort.

“That’s the big thing, you want the students and the school community to support you, and they did an amazing job,” Tyler Jamison said. “We also had people from the community that wanted to support us and watch us play. Port Huron High had a really good season, too, and I think both schools in the city had that public support. That’s huge. It makes you feel like you’re playing for more than yourself.”

Among those crowds were the next generation of Huskies, some of whom were coached by Tyler in youth basketball. As he’s the first Mr. Basketball winner from St. Clair County, those kids now have a hometown example of someone who has reached the highest heights.

“I think interest gets sparked when the little kids come to the gym, like, ‘Hey, I want to do that,’” Brian Jamison said. “They want to play for Northern or (Port Huron) High. And with him winning Mr. Basketball, I think it gives kids a little bit of ‘Hey, why not me?’ I do think it helps motivate younger people. We’ve had great crowds at our games. I think the area is excited about basketball. It really is a great basketball area.”

With all of that excitement surrounding him, Tyler had one more challenge after the season – keeping the secret that he had won. He found out six days before the award was announced.

“It was terrible – especially when it’s something of that magnitude,” he said. “You want to tell everyone. You want to tell your friends and family. It was hard to be like, ‘No, I don’t know.’”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected]om with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Tyler Jamison, second from left, with his parents and brother, stands with his newly-received Mr. Basketball Award trophy during the ceremony at the Detroit Free Press. (Middle) Jamison throws down a dunk. (Photos courtesy of the Jamison family.)