A Year Older, Buckley Sets Aspirations High
December 15, 2016
By Dennis Chase
Special for Second Half
BUCKLEY – The Buckley Bears are hoping pizza parties become a regular occurrence this winter.
As an incentive to improve defensively, Buckley basketball coach Blair Moss is rewarding his players with pizza parties if they can hold opponents under 40 points.
Through three games, all impressive wins, the Bears have earned one party, beating McBain Northern Michigan Christian 86-39 last Thursday.
“He (Moss) knows we can put up points in a hurry,” junior standout Denver Cade said, “but he wants to see us lock down the other team.”
So far, added emphasis on the team’s man-to-man defense seems to be working. The up-tempo Bears are averaging 92 points offensively, and surrendering 49.
“I know we can score,” Moss said. “That’s not the problem. The problem is locking it down on defense. On nights we’re not making our shots, we’re going to need to have stops (on defense). Since summer, that’s what I’ve been preaching. We’ve talked about it and worked hard on it.”
Focusing on that facet of the game is a priority because Buckley has high aspirations after making a run to the MHSAA Class D Regional Finals last March with a lineup comprised of four sophomores and a freshman. The Bears nearly won the Regional, taking Bellaire to the wire – the teams were tied at 55 with just over a minute to go – before losing 61-57.
“We were young and, as a coach, you wonder how your players are going to handle that kind of pressure,” Moss said. “We threw the ball away in the last couple minutes and that really hurt us. That’s being young. But I think we’ve learned from that.”
That loss became a motivator for the Bears.
“We used it as fuel,” junior Austin Harris said. “We started working even harder after that.”
In the months that followed, players hit the weight room and were in the gym as often as possible. Three starters were heavily involved with AAU. In addition, Moss set up a busy summer schedule that had the Bears traveling all over the state. They competed in scrimmages at Northwood University, Central Michigan University, Ferris State University, as well as local gyms, including Cadillac, where they saw two of the north’s best teams in McBain and Manton. All told, Buckley played nearly 40 games, almost all against larger schools.
“Playing that type of competition has helped prepare us for what’s ahead,” Cade said.
The 6-foot-3 Cade is listed as one of the top 100 players in the state by the Detroit Free Press. He’s off to a solid start, averaging 26 points and eight rebounds a game.
“He’s a winner,” Moss said. “He’s my general on the floor.”
The 6-foot-3 Harris is talented as well. He’s averaging 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. He registered a triple-double in Tuesday’s 100-59 win over Suttons Bay. Harris plays on the wing, but also moves to the point on occasion. Moss would like to play him strictly on the wing to increase his scoring opportunities and balance the floor with Cade on the opposite wing.
Cade and Harris are joined in the lineup by juniors Joey Weber and Brock Beeman and sophomore Ridge Beeman. Weber, who also plays the point, and Ridge Beeman average 11 points; Brock Beeman averages nine per game.
All four juniors were on varsity as freshmen.
“You might get one of these groups every 10 years or so,” Moss said. “You’re just so thankful. They’re all so coachable – and they’re just as good in the classroom as they are on the court. They’ve been playing together since they could walk. They’re in the gym all the time. Their basketball IQ is very high.
“How many coaches start four freshmen at the high school level? I knew we were going to take our lumps that year. We were not very physical, but I knew we were talented enough that we could be in every game.”
The Bears finished 11-11 in 2014-15 and improved to 16-7 a year ago. They now have their sights set higher, starting with winning the Northwest Conference.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Cade warned.
Frankfort, heading into Thursday night’s game, has won 26 league games in a row and returns two top players in juniors Jaylon Rogers and Matt Loney. Glen Lake - bolstered by Lake City transfer Cade Peterson, the quarterback on the Lakers’ MHSAA Finals football team – is 2-0 and seems primed for a breakout campaign. And then there’s Benzie Central, which has given Buckley fits in recent seasons.
“This is the toughest I’ve seen this league,” Frankfort coach Reggie Manville said. “And what’s really scary is that all those teams at the top of the league have most of their starters coming back next season.”
Moss previously coached the Benzie Central varsity for seven seasons. After stepping down, he took two years off from coaching and then re-emerged at Buckley. He’s now in his fourth season.
“I still had that drive, that urge to coach,” he said. “I missed working with kids. I missed the camaraderie with the coaches.”
Todd Kulawiak, the elementary school principal at Buckley, reached out to Moss. The two have a connection – they were former standouts at Benzie under coach Will Lynch and are the two all-time leading scorers in school history. Kulawiak was also an all-state distance runner under Blair’s father, Pete.
Although the Bears struggled the first couple years under Moss, the coach could see what he had coming. Now he’s pushing that group, and himself, so they can reach their potential.
“We’re very capable if we keep focused, keep our heads on straight and keep working hard,” he said.
That drive to improve was a major reason he put together such an aggressive schedule in the summer. He wanted his team to face quality competition, and he was pleased with the results.
“It seemed like we were getting better all the time,” he said.
As an offshoot, Moss also wanted to get his players exposure, especially in camps at college venues.
“They deserve it,” he said. “I want (college coaches) to see our kids. It’s like I told Denver’s father, ‘You’re talking $100,000 for a college education. If he puts the time in now, bingo.’”
Buckley is not particularly big – “We’re mostly a five-guard lineup,” Cade said – so the Bears like to use their athleticism and push tempo.
“With Coach Moss, it’s go, go, go,” Cade said. “If the (MHSAA) had a shot clock, we would be one of the teams that would benefit from it the most because we find a way to get quick, quality shots.”
Opposing coaches have noticed.
“They’re extremely good shooters from the perimeter, and that sets up their offense,” Manville said. “You have to defend that shot. Now, they’re all starting to penetrate to the basket and dish, which makes them more difficult to guard. And if you want to help defend, you’ve got a problem.
“The other problem is they run. They want to score a lot of points. They scored 100 points Tuesday night. Scoring 100 is difficult nowadays. They must have been really efficient. And they’re getting better defensively. I know that’s something they’re working on.”
If Buckley needs size, the Bears can turn to 6-5 Nick Kuhn, who is still developing his game. He had eight points off the bench in a season-opening 91-50 win over Bear Lake.
Buckley’s ability to score, combined with its game experience and chemistry, gives the Bears a good base. But there’s another strength that’s just as important to the team’s success, Harris said.
“Our team has a lot of heart,” he said. “We play really, really hard.”
So now the goal is to play off those strengths while continuing to work on other aspects, like defense. It could make the difference in winning a league title and advancing along the March Madness tournament trail.
“Everybody at that next level can score,” Harris said. “It really comes down to who can play defense.”
Dennis Chase worked 32 years as a sportswriter at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, including as sports editor from 2000-14. He can be reached at email@example.com 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) Buckley’s Ridge Beeman (30) works to gather a loose ball against McBain Northern Michigan Christian on Dec. 8. (Middle) Joey Weber (5) blocks off a driving Bobcats player during the 86-39 win. (Photos courtesy of the Buckley athletic department.)
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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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.)