EAST LANSING – Noah Wiswary answered quickly when asked Saturday night if he had planned on winning multiple MHSAA championships during his senior season.
“No,” the Hudsonville Unity Christian guard said shaking his head. “Not at all. When we started football, we were like, ‘Let’s get a winning record.’ When we started basketball, it was like, ‘Let’s win Districts again.’ Then we won Regionals, and it was like, ‘All right, let’s do this again.’”
Wiswary – who also played on the Crusaders’ Division 5 champion football team – scored 17 points to lead Unity Christian to a 58-55 win against River Rouge in the Division 2 Boys Basketball Final.
He’s one of seven players on the Crusaders roster who played on an MHSAA championship team in the fall, as the Crusaders also won the Division 3 soccer title. So while Saturday’s win gave the Crusaders their first basketball title, being in championship games was nothing new to many of the players.
“Being in the football one, we knew we just had to come out and play hard right away, and that’s what we did tonight,” Unity Christian senior T.J. VanKoevering said. “We came out and we played hard right away. That’s what we did in both, so I think that’s a big key to it.”
Unity Christian had to play hard from the beginning against a River Rouge program making its 20th Finals appearance – the most in MHSAA history – and seeking its first title since 1999.
The Panthers’ high-pressure defense forced Unity Christian into an uncharacteristic 23 turnovers.
“We do not turn the ball over, so I’m going to give River Rouge a lot of credit – we just don’t,” Unity Christian coach Scott Soodsma said. “We are averaging probably 10.5 to 12 all year long, and ball security is something we preach. But with the intensity of that game and the way they were coming at us, I give them a lot of credit. We did make a few mistakes that we probably typically don’t do.”
River Rouge had possession of the ball down just three with 12.4 seconds remaining. The Panthers were able to get two looks at a 3-pointer, but neither fell. Their final attempt to tie the game came on a ¾-court heave by senior Nigel Colvin, which was off the mark.
“I feel like (the first 3-point attempt) had a chance,” Colvin said. “But after I let it go, obviously I saw that it was off.”
River Rouge had trailed by as many as 13 points late in the third quarter, as Unity Christian started to heat up and looked to be putting the game away. Wiswary was big during the quarter, scoring 11 of his game-high 17 points.
“I just think my teammates got me open,” Wiswary said. “I got in the lane a little bit, and they were open on the three and I just got a lot of floaters, then Ryan Takens hit a big 3 there, so that was big.”
River Rouge was able to claw back with its pressure defense, however, and force the dramatic ending sequence. It was too little, too late, however, in River Rouge coach LaMonta Stone’s eyes.
“Our defense creates our offense, and defensively we were bad the whole game,” Stone said. “They were getting too many easy looks. They were getting in the lane, and that’s just not the way we’ve been playing defensive basketball to this point.”
VanKoevering had 13 points for Unity Christian, while Takens had 10, and Zac Velthouse had eight points and eight rebounds. Among the Unity Christian starting five – which also includes Chandler Collins, who added seven points – only Velthouse returns.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these two guys,” Soodsma said, gesturing to Wiswary and VanKoevering. “They’ve been leaders all year long, on and off the floor. They’ve put in all kinds of work and effort, and those are the two guys we look to all the time. They have been a little bit special – it's going to be hard to say goodbye to them.”
River Rouge, meanwhile, started five seniors – Colvin, who led the team with 15 points, Micah Parrish who added 13, Donavan Freeman, Bralin Toney and Dan Few. The group helped bring River Rouge back near the top, as the Panthers had advanced to the Semifinals in 2017 and 2018. It was a great ride, but at River Rouge, championships are the goal.
“We’ve talked all week and talked all year, River Rouge basketball is based on state championships,” Stone said. “There’s banners in our gymnasium – there's 14 state championship banners. (Former coach Lofton Greene) has a number of runner-up places, but he didn’t place those banners in the gymnasium, so I’m not going to place it. That’s my mentor, that’s the guy I played for. Everything I know about basketball is based on Coach Greene. If he’s not satisfied with runner-ups, neither can I be.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Hudsonville Unity Christian raises its Division 2 championship trophy Saturday night at the Breslin Center. (Middle) Unity’s Chandler Collins gets a hand on a River Rouge shot.
Foster Loyer’s four-season career at Clarkston from 2014-15 through 2017-18 certainly must be considered among the most accomplished in state history as he led the Wolves to back-to-back Class A championships in 2017 and 2018 and is listed in the record book 25 times.
Among Loyer’s most notable entries were 2,325 career points (12th most), 272 career 3-pointers (tied for ninth), records of 119 consecutive free throws and 634 career free throws, a .921 free-throw percentage as a junior (tied for fourth) and .900 career percentage (second), 589 career assists (sixth), 278 career steals (15th) and 102 games played (tied for sixth).
Loyer went on to play at Michigan State and then Davidson.
See below for more recent record book entries for boys basketball.
Four Onaway standouts were added for single-season and/or career records. Jager Mix, who graduated in 2022, was added for 92 steals last season and 225 over his four-season career. Kevin Pearson, a 2021 grad, was added for 81 steals as a senior and 247 over his career. Joe Sigsby, a 2016 grad, was added for 127 steals, and Jadin Mix was added for 124 in 2021-22. Their totals rank ninth and tied for 10th, respectively, on that all-time list. Jager Mix also was added for 967 career rebounds, and Onaway as a team was added for tying the record for most points in a quarter with 49 during the first quarter of a win over Fife Lake Forest Area on Feb. 3, 2022. Jager Mix is playing at Alpena Community College, and Jadin Mix is a senior this school year.
Uchenna Amene was added for 11 steals in a March 7, 2022, game against West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy and for 97 steals total over 25 games. He was a sophomore at Southfield Christian that season and now is a senior at Detroit Catholic Central.
Owen Franklin graduated from Oscoda in 2021 as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and nearly 44 percent of those 1,477 points came on 3-pointers. Franklin made the state career 3-pointers list with 216 over four seasons. He’s playing baseball at Northwood.
Traverse City Christian sophomore Reece Broderick became one of the state’s most accomplished long-distance shooters in just his second year of high school this past winter, drilling 104 3-pointers – good for third-most for one season all-time – over 23 games. He connected on 42 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
A pair of Rudyard four-year varsity standouts entered the record book after their graduations in 2022. Tate Besteman made the career rebounds list with 762 over 89 games, and EJ Suggitt made the career 3-pointers list with 215 over the same 89 contests. Besteman played this past season for Mid Michigan College, and Suggitt is playing baseball at Spring Arbor.
Success from 3-point range played a significant role in Mesick finishing 21-1 in 2021-22, as the team made 195 of its 578 attempts – with game highs of 15 twice in wins over Baldwin and Pentwater.
Then-senior Tristan McFolley earned the first listing under single-game rebounds since 2013 with 30 in Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy’s game with Hope of Detroit Academy on Dec. 8, 2022.
Tawas found its groove from long range Jan. 10 against Oscoda, drilling 22 3-pointers in an 86-31 win. The total tied for fifth-most in one game.
Although Norway felt just short, 40-37, in its District loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park on March 8, Alex Ortman kept the Knights close scoring 20 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to make the single-quarter scoring list. He’s now a senior.
Kobe Clark has listings in two MHSAA record books, with three for boys basketball joining those he earned for football during his Schoolcraft career. He was added in hoops for 531 career assists and 290 career steals over 94 games from 2016-17 through 2019-20, and also for 82 steals as a senior. Tyler DeGroote also was added to the record book, for scoring 20 points during the first quarter against Delton Kellogg during Schoolcraft’s Jan. 11, 2022, victory. Clark began at Saginaw Valley State for football and now plays basketball and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and DeGroote is continuing at Rockhurst (Mo.).
Past Detroit Cooley star Larry Fogle has added a seventh record book listing a half-century later. Fogle grabbed 33 rebounds on Jan. 18, 1972, during a win over Detroit Mackenzie. He went on to play at Louisiana and Canisius, and then briefly with the New York Knicks.
Trevon Gunter scored 42 points in Kalamazoo Central’s 84-56 win over Richland Gull Lake on Jan. 17, 2020, including 31 during the third quarter – second-most and just one shy of the record for points during one period. A senior that season, Gunter plays currently at Grand Valley State.
Mark Wittbrodt held the record for consecutive free throws at 70 until 2008, and that entry in the record book has been joined by several others from the Bay City Western star. He was added for his 192 3-pointers, 436 free throws, .842 free-throw percentage and 266 career steals over three seasons from 1991-93, as well as for six single-season accomplishments. He went on to play at Michigan Tech.
Ellsworth’s Jacob Jenuwine tied for 12th on the single-game 3-pointers list when he connected on 11 as part of scoring 39 points total in his team’s Feb. 14 win over Alanson. Jenuwine graduated this spring.
Bellevue senior Dawson Wing capped his three-season varsity career last winter with three entries in the record. He was added for 12 blocked shots in a 2021-22 game against Colon, 107 for the season last winter and 203 blocks over his career. Teammate Caleb Betz, a senior this fall, was added for 12 steals in a game against Athens.
Logan Mansfield capped his Morenci career in a big way last winter. The senior drilled 90 3-pointers over 24 games to earn his school’s first individual record book entry in boys hoops since the 1987-88 season, when John Craig had 132 blocked shots that would have been the second-most recorded at that time. They currently rank 13th.
New Haven earned a pair of record book entries during its March 10 win over Memphis. The Rockets bested their previous single-quarter school record with 41 points during the opening period, and they also made the statewide single-game 3-pointers list with 16.
Whitehall’s Camden Thompson, a junior this fall, earned his first record book entry last winter – and the first for his school in boys basketball. He grabbed 303 rebounds over 21 games.
Grand Rapids Wellspring Prep junior Zeekeal Jackson earned his school's first boys basketball record book entry this past season as well. He made the single-season steals list with 106, over 22 games, and just missed the single-game list with a high of 10.
Jonesville’s Brady Wright was among his team’s leading scorers during his three varsity seasons ending this past winter, but he also was a major contributor defensively. He made the records with a season-high 101 steals over 25 games as a senior, and made the career list with 232 steals over 61 games.
Sophomore Christopher McLavish Jr. made a memorable impact last season with a pair of record book entries. He made the single-quarter points list with 20 in a Feb. 21 game against Flint Powers Catholic, but even more memorable were his 97 3-pointers over 25 games for the season – tying him for 11th all-time on that list.
PHOTO Foster Loyer directs Clarkston's offense during its 2018 Class A Semifinal.