Western Ends Perfect Run with 1st Title

March 28, 2015

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half 

EAST LANSING — Even in their own city, even after all they'd accomplished this season, Detroit Western International's basketball players were somewhat of a curiosity when they showed up at Calihan Hall to play in the MHSAA Class A Quarterfinals on Tuesday. 

Western had been this far only twice in its long history — and neither occasion was recent history. The Cowboys reached the Quarterfinals in 1922 and the semifinals in 1974, long before any of the current players were born.

"That's why so many eyebrows were raised," junior guard Brailen Neely said. "When we were at Calihan, they hear Western and they're like, 'Western? They've never had a program.'" 

The Cowboys do now — the undisputed No. 1 program in Michigan in 2014-15. 

Western completed a perfect season by beating sixth-ranked Saginaw Arthur Hill, 62-59, in the MHSAA Class A championship game Saturday at the Breslin Center.

The Cowboys finished 26-0, including a 69-57 overtime victory over Arthur Hill in their second game. On only five occasions did a team come within single digits of Western. It was the first MHSAA championship in any sport for the school, which was the 1972 Class A runner-up in baseball and had been past the Regionals only five times in bracketed sports.

"It's really big for the community," senior guard Josh McFolley said. "The community hasn't had this in a very long time. It's really big for the school. It's really big for coach (Derrick McDowell) and the team. We've worked hard for this from day one." 

Not only has Western historically played in the shadows of Detroit's powerful programs, but the Cowboys were coming off a season in which they gave little indication that they would take the state by storm this winter. Western showed promise two years ago, going 12-7 in McDowell's second season at the school, but the Cowboys slumped to 6-13 last winter. 

Even Neely admits he never expected such a dramatic turnaround.

"I thought we would do better, but never state champs," said Neely, who was on the varsity as a freshman.

Neely said the big difference was that the team paid better attention to McDowell, who coached now-defunct Detroit Redford to Class A runner-up finishes in 1997 and 2002. 

"It was a process," Neely said. "Our freshman year, we were young and had only one senior. We had a lot of growing to do. Our next year, our 10th-grade year, we thought we had it. We weren't listening. We were knuckleheads, and it showed in our game. We didn't have our best year. People weren't coming to see us, which humbled us. This year, we're on coach Mac's page and he led us to tremendous success."

With sophomore Brian Bowen scoring 10 of his game-high 21 points in the second quarter, Arthur Hill (24-4) grabbed a 25-21 lead heading into halftime. 

There were seven lead changes in less than four minutes during the third quarter before Western took the lead for good at 33-32 on two free throws by Neely with 2:28 to go in the period. Those shots ignited what proved to be a decisive 16-2 run, as Western's lead grew to 47-34 with 5:19 remaining in the fourth quarter.

McFolley overcame an ankle sprain that he sustained before halftime to lead the surge, scoring 10 points during the third quarter. He hit two 3-pointers and scored twice when he stole the ball and went in for layups. He limped noticeably after the game, but showed no signs of the injury during the second half. 

"I knew the adrenaline was going to go through me," McFolley said. "I was going to forget about the pain. It's the biggest game of my career. My team needed me. I had to go back out there."

With Bowen scoring nine fourth-quarter points, the Lumberjacks battled back to within four points twice in the final minute. Nate Moore scored with four seconds left to get Arthur Hill within three, but the Lumberjacks were out of timeouts and Western didn't need to inbound the ball. 

"We knew it was going to be tough," McDowell said. "We played them the first time down in Detroit. They were up 13 at the half. The only way we got back in the game was from the defense the first time we played them. At halftime, that was the big emphasis, getting them in the full court, making them work to get down the court. We kind of looked at it like a football field where you have to work to get to the goal line."

Western was led by McFolley with 19 points and Gerald Blackshear with 16 points and 12 rebounds. As transfer students this winter, neither played in the first Arthur Hill game or during their team’s 8-0 start. 

"To be honest with you, I knew they were coming, but I had all the pieces anyway," McDowell said. "Those were just extra pieces, I thought. We weren't looking for them to come in and be Superman and Batman and save us. We had enough to win, which showed early in the year when we won without them. What that did was shut up the naysayers who thought the only way we could do it was with those two. We proved them wrong. When they became eligible, it just added to it."

Karim Murray added 15 points for the Cowboys. 

Arthur Hill fell short in its bid to win its third MHSAA title to go with championships in 1944 and 2006.

Guard Eric Davis, the Mr. Basketball runner-up, placed the burden for the loss on his shoulders. 

"We just missed a couple of opportunities," said Davis, who had 15 points, six rebounds and three assists. "I take full responsibility for today's effort and our loss today. I want to thank my teammates and our coaching staff. They did a great job this year. I take full responsibility. I feel like I didn't step up like I needed to, but I've just got to move on now."

Arthur Hill coach Greg McMath appreciated the show of leadership from his four-year star, but wouldn't let Davis take the blame. 

"Like I told Eric (Friday) night, he's a kid who really transformed himself and put the program back where we wanted it to be, because he sacrificed a lot for his team, becoming a point guard and cutting down on his scoring to get everybody else involved to help these guys get better," McMath said. "We're a team. We win as a team; we lose as a team. Him accepting that, we'll take it, but we know it's not his fault, because he gave it everything he had."

Billy Burton had 10 points for Arthur Hill. 

Click for the full box score and video from the postgame press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Western International’s Josh McFolley celebrates with his teammates the school’s first MHSAA championship. (Middle) Arthur Hill’s Eric Davis (10) works to get around McFolley.

Breslin Bound: 2022-23 Boys Quarterfinal Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 21, 2023

It finally feels like spring, at least here in East Lansing. And tonight, 32 teams will attempt to build into their spring breaks a trip to Breslin Center.


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Below is a glance at all 16 of tonight’s Quarterfinals across four divisions, with all games tipping off at 7 p.m. unless noted. Winners advance to Thursday and Friday’s Semifinals, and we’ll detail the teams more then as we preview those concluding rounds of this year’s tournament.

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Division 1

Ann Arbor Huron (23-2) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (25-1) at University of Detroit Mercy, 5:30 p.m.

After an early postseason exit last season, 2021 Division 1 runner-up Huron has put together another deep playoff run. Sophomore guard Macari Moore leads three players averaging double-digit scoring at 17 points per game. After winning its first Regional title last season since 1998, Cass Tech is back at the Quarterfinals for a second straight March. Darius Acuff is another super sophomore, also leading three double-digit scorers at 21.6 ppg to go with 5.8 assists per contest.

Grand Blanc (24-2) vs. Rochester Adams (17-8) at Lake Orion

Last season’s runner-up is two wins away from playing for another title, but this time the Bobcats are led by first-year coach Tory Jackson. Seniors Tae Boyd (15.4 ppg) and RJ Taylor (14.3) are a strong 1-2 punch. Adams is coming off its first Regional title in this sport, with junior 6-foot-7 football standout Brady Prieskorn among top contributors for a Highlanders hoops team that has won seven of its last nine games.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (14-10) vs. Warren De La Salle (17-8) at University of Detroit Mercy

These Detroit Catholic League Central rivals will meet for the third time, with St. Mary’s winning the first matchup by 17 on Jan. 10 and the reigning Division 1 champion Pilots taking the rematch by 12 on Jan. 31. Sophomore Trey McKenney is a force at 25.5 points and 11.1 rebounds per game for the Eaglets, while Phoenix Glassnor is another sophomore standout leading De La Salle at 18.4 ppg.

Muskegon (24-2) vs. East Lansing (16-9) at Caledonia

East Lansing has won six straight and 12 of its last 14 games, with three of those wins over opponents responsible for four of their losses this winter. Only one starter is a senior, and sophomore Cameron Hutson leads the way at 19.3 ppg. Muskegon is in the midst of a ninth 20-win season over the last decade and earned its first Regional title since 2015. Senior Jordan Briggs (18.7 ppg) has qualified for the MHSAA single-season record list with 84 3-pointers, connecting on nearly 40 percent of his tries from beyond the arc.

Division 2

Cadillac (22-4) vs. Saginaw (20-6) at Alma

The Trojans are seeking their first Semifinal appearance since 2013 and have lost only to Division 1 opponents this season, with guard Javarie Holliday leading a mostly senior-powered lineup at 15.8 ppg. Cadillac also won its Regional last season and is seeking to return to the Semifinals for the first time since 2015, with 6-6 junior Charlie Howell the leading scorer (15.3 ppg) and rebounder (7.4 rpg).

Ferndale (18-8) vs. Goodrich (22-4) at Lake Orion, 5:30 p.m.

The Eagles are working to reach Breslin and the Semifinals for a third-straight season and have won 13 of their last 14 games while navigating a power-packed schedule again this winter. Senior Chris Williams leads a balanced lineup at 13.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Goodrich is a combined 93-20 over the last five seasons and playing to make the Semifinals for the first time with senior Jack Locey (18.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.0 spg, 45 3-pointers) among those filling the stat sheet.

Hudsonville Unity Christian (18-9) vs. Grand Rapids South Christian (23-3) at Calvin University

These rivals will be filling Calvin for a rematch after South Christian won the regular-season meeting 58-50 on Dec. 16. The bad news for the Sailors is they lost leading scorer Carson Vis (17.7 ppg) to injury in the Regional Final, but senior Jacob DeHaan (13 ppg) leads three others averaging at least 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Unity has won 11 of its last 12 games, with two-point upsets of Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Grand Rapids Christian along the way. Juniors Trayton Fisher and Colin Neiuwenhuis both average about 11.5 points per game and have combined for 97 3-pointers.

Chelsea (21-5) vs. Romulus Summit Academy (24-2) at Milan

These are two more teams looking to reach the Semifinals for the first time, Summit having played in a Quarterfinal as recently as 2021 and Chelsea’s last trip to the season’s final week in 2000. Juniors Jacob Stephens (22.7 ppg) and Joseph Cabana (22.2) set a strong pace for the Bulldogs. The Dragons have doubled up all four of their postseason opponents so far and done the same in 16 wins total this winter.

Tri-unity Christian’s Roy Fogg pulls in a loose ball during his team’s Regional championship victory over Lansing Christian.

Division 3

Detroit Loyola (25-1) vs. Flint Beecher (21-4) at Waterford Mott

A 67-58 loss to Division 1 Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Jan. 29 remains the only defeat on Loyola’s list this winter. All five starters are seniors, with Dashawn Martin (15.1 ppg) leading three averaging double-figure scoring. Beecher’s losses were to Division 1 and 2 opponents, including three playing tonight. Robert Lee leads a senior-dominated lineup at 24.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game as the Bucs attempt to make the Semifinals for a third-straight season.

Laingsburg (25-0) vs. Ecorse (19-4) at Ypsilanti Lincoln

The Wolfpack’s closest game this season was seven points, its Regional Semifinal win against Jonesville, as it attempts to reach Breslin for the first time since 2013. Junior Zander Woodruff is averaging more than a point per minute of playing time, leading at 24.4 ppg. Ecorse is seeking a return trip to the Semifinals and has won 17 of its last 18 games. Senior guard Malik Olafioye also is putting the finishing touches on a high-scoring career.

St. Ignace (22-4) vs. Traverse City St. Francis (22-4) at Gaylord

St. Ignace is playing in its first Quarterfinal since 2001, seeking to reach the Semifinals for the first time since 1983. Junior Jonny Ingalls (22.4 ppg) leads three Saints averaging at least 13, plus he’s dishing 5.4 assists per game. St. Francis has won 11 of its last 12 games with that lone loss to Cadillac (see above) in overtime in the regular-season finale. Senior Wyatt Nausadis has paced the scoring at 20.1 ppg after quarterbacking the football team to a Division 7 runner-up finish in the fall.

Pewamo-Westphalia (19-6) vs. Niles Brandywine (24-2) at Portage Central

Brandywine has reached the final week for the first time with its first Regional title, and its only losses this season remain against Division 2 Benton Harbor. Junior Jaremiah Palmer leads a lineup with four players averaging at least 9.7 ppg at 12.9 per game. P-W is making its second-straight Quarterfinal appearance after edging North Muskegon by three and then Grandville Calvin Christian by two last week. Senior Jamison Eklund is averaging 22.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

Division 4

Painesdale Jeffers (25-1) vs. Munising (24-1) at Negaunee

The Upper Peninsula is guaranteed to send a one-loss team downstate to the Division 4 Semifinals, and for both programs it would be a first-time trip. Jeffers is playing its first Quarterfinal, and Munising its first since 1954. Junior Levi Frahm leads four Jets scoring in double digits at 20.5 ppg, while senior Kane Nebel is surrounded by a similar balanced attack and leads four double-digit scorers at 15.8 ppg.

Taylor Trillium Academy (21-3) vs. Marine City Cardinal Mooney (15-11) at West Bloomfield

Trillium is another first-time Regional champion, taking this step after falling just a four-point loss shy of reaching the Quarterfinals a year ago. Senior DaMaryon Fishburn is averaging 22.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game for the Wildcats, and junior Keymarryon Fishburn adds 15.3 ppg. Cardinal Mooney has won seven of its last nine games to reach the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 and after falling in Regional Finals the last two seasons – avenging the 2022 loss to Genesee Christian to advance. Senior Trent Rice leads three double-digit scorers at 12.9 ppg.

Frankfort (17-8) vs. Hillman (22-4) at Gaylord, 5 p.m.

Frankfort is another team on a nice streak with eight wins over its last nine games including 50-44 over 2022 semifinalist Lake Leelanau St. Mary in last week’s Regional Final. Senior Emmerson Farmer and sophomore Carter Kerby supply the backcourt with between 10-11 ppg apiece. This will be Hillman’s fourth Quarterfinal over the last nine seasons as the Tigers seek their first Semifinal trip. Trenton Taratuta is a big-time scorer averaging 27.4 ppg with 60 3-pointers but also 9.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 5.2 steals per game.

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (20-6) vs. Kalamazoo Phoenix (17-2) at Richland Gull Lake

This is a familiar spot for Tri-unity Christian, the reigning Division 4 champion. All five starters average between 6-13 ppg and four have high games of at least 20 points this season; senior Roy Fogg tops both lists at 13 ppg and 25, respectively. This is new territory for Phoenix, which won one game just two seasons ago but has won 10 in a row heading into this week. Senior Cameron Lewis-Atkins (19.9 ppg) leads five players averaging 11 or more points per game. Phoenix avenged one of its losses, to Eau Claire, in the Regional Semifinal.

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PHOTOS (Top) A fan holds up a sign supporting Painesdale Jeffers between the third and fourth quarters of last week’s Regional Final win over Stephenson. (Middle) Tri-unity Christian’s Roy Fogg pulls in a loose ball during his team’s Regional championship victory over Lansing Christian. (Top photo by Cara Kamps; middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)