10 to Remember: 2013-14 Finals

July 10, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Every championship leaves a lasting impression with the athletes and coaches who achieved it and the communities that cheered them on. 

That makes picking the 10 most notable finishes from this school year's MHSAA Finals a no-win scenario. But here's one person's carefully-considered opinion:

10. Unranked Eaton Rapids finishes No. 1 for the first time

The Greyhounds capped this year’s Girls Basketball Finals with a 51-38 win over Grand Rapids South Christian in the Class B title game that closed the weekend. But that statement alone barely scratches the surface of the story. The championship was the first for Eaton Rapids, which started five seniors and entered the tournament unranked but eliminated No. 6 Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, No. 8 Flint Powers Catholic and then the top-ranked Sailors during the season’s final week.

9. Western sweeps first Finals at Michigan State

The Baseball and Softball Finals moved to Michigan State University this spring, and the Bay City Western baseball and softball teams both took home championship trophies. The Warriors baseball team, after winning its first title in 2013, became the first in Class A or Division 1 to repeat in defeating Grosse Pointe South 6-2. The softball team won its first MHSAA championship by defeating Portage Central 4-2 after also making – and leading late – in the 2013 Final before losing by a run to Mattawan.

8. Sacred Heart overcomes, comes back for first title

Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart couldn’t have been favored by many in this season’s Class D Girls Basketball Final with one senior, making only its second championship game appearance and going up against Crystal Falls Forest Park and recently-crowned Miss Basketball Lexi Gussert. But the unranked Irish finished on a 14-3 run over the final three minutes to get past the top-ranked Trojans 56-53 and win their first MHSAA title.

7. Canton gymnastics finishes long championship journey

The Canton gymnastics team claimed its first MHSAA title by edging Grand Ledge by 2.4 points after finishing runner-up to the Comets each of the last three seasons. The Chiefs also had finished Finals runner-up in 1996 under coach John Cunningham, who took over the program in 1979 and has coached the sport since 1968. Grand Ledge had won 106 straight competitions including the last six MHSAA Finals.

6. Big Reds regain top spot in Class A hoops

With Mr. Basketball Deshaun Thrower and 2015 candidate Deyonta Davis setting the pace, Muskegon finished only the second perfect season in Class A in the last 24 seasons with a 91-67 Final win over Bloomfield Hills that earned the Big Reds their first MHSAA championship since 1937. Thrower had 21 points, and Davis had 26 and 13 rebounds.

5. Brother Rice sends Fracassa out as champion once more

The Warriors made coach Al Fracassa a back-to-back MHSAA football champion for the first time with a 38-21 victory over Muskegon in a rematch of the 2013 Division 2 Final. Brother Rice also finished 14-0 as Fracassa finished a career during which he built a 430-117-7 record dating to 1969. His wins rank first in MHSAA football history.

4. New Lothrop wrestlers end Hudson’s reign

The Hornets won their first MHSAA title since 2004 by edging Hudson 32-22 in the Division 4 Final at Kellogg Arena. New Lothrop’s title win also ended an MHSAA-record five-season championship run by the Tigers, who tied the Davison teams of 2002-06 for the longest string of consecutive titles.

3. Stars finish final title runs with 4

A pair of mid-Michigan athletes capped four-year varsity careers by joining the elite champions in their respective sports. Breckenridge runner Kirsten Olling became the fifth girl in MHSAA history to win four Lower Peninsula individual championships, claiming her latest and last in an LP Division 4 Final record 17:44.9. St. Johns senior Zac Hall became the third wrestler in three seasons and 18th in MHSAA history to finish with four individual championships. He defeated Greenville’s Alec Ward 12-2 in the Division 2 140-pound championship match to close this season 52-0 and his career 198-2.

2. St. Philip adds to all-time accolades

The Battle Creek St. Philip volleyball program ranks first in MHSAA Final appearances (27) and championships (19), but further cemented itself among the all-time elite by winning its eighth straight MHSAA title – good to tie Marysville’s 1997-2004 teams for the longest championship streak in MHSAA history. The Tigers did so this season by defeating Waterford Our Lady in three games in Class D, and despite graduating seven from its 2012 championship team.

1. Trenton wins one more for Turner

Trenton’s hockey team defeated Hartland 8-3 in the Division 2 Final to earn the program’s 14th MHSAA championship and first since 2010 – and send out coach Mike Turner with one more crowning achievement on the most notable career in MHSAA hockey history. Earlier this winter, Turner set the record for coaching wins. He finished 628-126-52 over 28 seasons stretching across two tenures.  

PHOTO: Trenton hockey players celebrate during this season's Division 2 championship trophy.

South Christian Sails Into Latest Challenge, Earns Saturday Return

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

March 24, 2023

EAST LANSING – The Grand Rapids South Christian boys basketball team faced adversity when it lost standout sophomore Carson Vis to season-ending injuries in last week’s Regional Final.

The Sailors faced a different kind of adversity Friday in a Division 2 Semifinal, as they were tested for the first time since late January.

South Christian responded, and showed a steely resolve that put the team one step closer to a championship following a 40-35 overtime win over Romulus Summit Academy North at Breslin Center.

The Sailors will play Ferndale in Saturday’s Division 2 Final.

“We talk about adversity all the time, and we’re missing our 20 points a game star player, and so we’ve had some throughout the season,” South Christian coach Taylor Johnson said. “It builds character.”

Summit’s Dontez Scott Jr. works to get past the Sailors’ Nate Brinks.

South Christian had won 15 games in a row entering Friday, all by double digits. Summit gave the Sailors their closest game since losing to Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Jan. 24. 

“We’ve been on a run here, and even as a coach, I feel like I haven’t done enough because we haven’t been in these situations,” Johnson said. “What a battle, and that’s what it’s all about. Two great teams with a lot of great players, and we found a way.”

Senior Jake DeHaan, who led the Sailors with 14 points, said he embraces playing in these types of games.

“This is what our team talks about, adversity, and we want to play in the biggest moments,” DeHaan said. “As a competitor, that's what you want to do. You want to play on the biggest stage against the best teams, and that's what we like to do.”

In a defensive struggle with points hard to come by, the Sailors maintained the lead throughout.

The Sailors took a 19-13 advantage into the half, but the Dragons rallied and cut the deficit to 23-21 with a minute left in the third quarter.

Summit’s Dominic Krzesowiak drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to knot the score at 31-31 with 30 seconds remaining in regulation.

In overtime, Nate Brinks buried a 3-pointer for South Christian after Summit took its only lead of the game.

Junior Jake Vermaas, who finished with 12 points, then made 6 of 6 from the free throw line to keep Summit at bay.

“I just kept dribbling with my head up and knocking down free throws when we needed them,” Vermaas said. “Staying focused and locked in, and I think that’s a credit to being on a big stage like this in football and being comfortable.”

The Sailors, who won the Division 4 football championship in November, will search for their first basketball Finals title since 2005.

Summit Academy (25-3), which shot 35 percent (16-46) from the field, was playing in its first Semifinal.

“We expected it to be a defensive game and every possession to be tough,” Summit coach Mark White said. “We expected to be challenged to execute and to challenge them to execute.

“We knew it would come down to who executed the best and took advantage of their opportunities. We came to battle, and I’m very proud of our team and our program that we made it this far.”

James White led Summit with 13 points and seven rebounds. Krzesowiak finished with six points and six rebounds.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) South Christian’s Jake Vermaas (0) makes a move toward the basket during his team’s Division 2 Semifinal win. (Middle) Summit’s Dontez Scott Jr. works to get past the Sailors’ Nate Brinks.