Western Takes Next Step to Make History

March 27, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Brailen Neely and his Detroit Western International teammates have heard plenty about Detroit Redford’s glories past.

Their coach, Derrick McDowell, coached Redford from 1993-94 through 2005 and took two teams to Class A runner-up finishes.

“When they win, I won’t mention Redford anymore,” said McDowell, of his Western team. “It will be all Western stories.”

This Cowboys’ season has been filled with historic accomplishments. But one more win will be the biggest of all – and definitely put this team in the same breath as the greats McDowell coached in the past. 

Western will play Saturday for its first MHSAA title, thanks to a 55-46 Semifinal win over Detroit U-D Jesuit on Friday at the Breslin Center.

“That’s a tremendous honor coming from Coach Mac,” Neely said of his coach's comment. “He always tells us how tough Redford (was), what they accomplished. To accomplish this under Coach Mac is tremendous.”

Western (25-0), winner of its first Detroit Public School League title since 1922, then its first Quarterfinal since 1974, will face Saginaw Arthur Hill to decide the Class A title at noon Saturday.

The Cowboys had beaten U-D Jesuit, the Detroit Catholic League A-B champion, 58-49 in the annual Operation Friendship game to close the regular season three weeks ago.

And McDowell and his team knew all the more that the key would be at least slowing down Jesuit junior Cassius Winston.

Winston had 27 points in the teams’ first matchup. This time, Neely and company worked to keep the 6-foot-1 shooting guard out of lane – and then, after Winston hit 7 of 9 free-throw attempts during the first half, off the line as well.

Winston did finish with 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals, but made only 4 of 12 shots from the floor.

Western led from start to finish, and by as many as 10 during the second quarter. The margin did fall to three points twice during the fourth – the final time when Winston drilled a 3-pointer that pulled the Cubs (22-4) to within 43-40 with 3:55 to play.

Neely led Western with 16 points, and senior guard Josh McFolley added 11 and five rebounds.

“We have been winning ugly, defensively, grinding it out at the defensive end,” Jesuit coach Pat Donnelly said. “We ended up shooting just under 29 percent from the field for the game, well below our average. Coming in we were averaging 46 percent from the field, but we struggled inside the arc, outside the arc and at the free-throw line.

"I thought we did a pretty good job defensively, and even through we struggled to score, we still had our opportunity.”

Only one starter returned this season after Jesuit made the Semifinals in 2014 for the first time in program history. But the Cubs anticipate eight of their top nine returning for 2015-16.

“They always had a lead, but I always felt we had a chance to win the game,” Winston said. “It was a great experience. … But that’s two years in a row we’ve made it this far and lost, and I don’t plan on going through this again.” 

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

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Western International players celebrate Friday during the final moments of their first MHSAA Semifinal win. (Middle) U-D Jesuit’s Cassius Winston (5) ascends toward the hoop.

Second-Half Surge Sends Tri-unity Christian to 3rd-Straight Final

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

March 23, 2023

EAST LANSING — The Defenders will once again have a chance to do just that.

In what has become a usual rite of March during longtime head coach Mark Keeler’s 36-year tenure, the Wyoming Tri-unity Christian Defenders are once again headed for the Division 4 boys basketball championship game following a 54-37 win over Frankfort in a Semifinal on Thursday.

Making its third-straight appearance in a Final and 11th in school history, Tri-unity Christian will attempt to repeat as champion when it faces Munising in the 10 a.m. title game Saturday. 

Junior Owen Rosendall scored 13 points and senior Roy Fogg added 11 on Thursday to lead Tri-unity Christian (22-6), which will go for its sixth Finals win. 

“At the beginning of the year, we had some ups and downs in the season,” Rosendall said. “But we stuck to it and kept working.”

Tri-unity Christian got it done mainly by dominating the board, collecting a 41-22 rebounding advantage.  

Emmerson Farmer (0) gets a hand up high as Owen Rosendall puts up a jumper.“I think our quickness on the boards outdid their size,” Keeler said. “I was really happy with how explosive we were on the boards.”

The discrepancy even surprised Frankfort head coach Dan Loney, who said rebounding has been a strength of his team all year. 

“Going into the game, I would not have guessed they would have outrebounded us like that,” Loney said. “It’s one thing we’ve done well all year. I think honestly a lot of that came from their guard play. When their guards got to the rim (and) our bigs stepped over to help, their bigs were there to get their missed layups.”

Sophomore Carter Kerby led all scorers with 21 points to pace Frankfort (18-9). 

“It was a fun season for sure. We look forward to the future,” Loney said. 

Tri-unity Christian separated itself in the third quarter after Frankfort cut the lead to 29-26 with 4:40 to go in the period.

From there, Tri-unity Christian ended the third on an 11-1 run to take a 40-27 lead into the fourth quarter.

“We have a little more depth, and it helped,” Keeler said. “We were really trying to push the ball, and we were really trying to pressure them on defense. I think we wore them down a little bit.”

The Defenders continued to grow the lead in the fourth, taking a 48-32 advantage with 4:17 remaining after a 3-pointer by Rosendall and a basket by Akais Giplaye. 

Tri-Unity Christian forced Frankfort into 12 turnovers and 38.9-percent shooting from the field while committing only six turnovers itself.

“We played great defense,” Keeler said. “That is what I was really happy about. We made them work for everything they had.”

Tri-unity Christian got off to a good start, taking a 16-8 lead after the first quarter before Frankfort settled in during the second. 

Frankfort outscored Tri-unity Christian 13-9 in the second quarter to cut its deficit to 25-21 by halftime. 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Tri-unity’s Jordan VanKlompenberg (3) puts up a shot over the outstretched arm of Frankfort’s Xander Sauer on Thursday. (Middle) Emmerson Farmer (0) gets a hand up high as Owen Rosendall puts up a jumper.