Country Day and Southfield Christian boys basketball teams take titles
Published March 29, 2013
The boys basketball season came to a close recently, and two Oakland Country squads from C & G’s coverage area proved to be best in their respective classes.
Here’s a look at what went down in the Class B and Class D state finals March 23 at the Breslin Center.
Despite a lack of size for a team that traditionally produces Division 1 level big men, Keener and his coaches believed their squad would play bigger than their listing.
“We thought it from the beginning. High school basketball is still a small man’s game,” Keener said. “It’s a case where we’re with the kids every day. We see their work ethics.”
The Yellowjackets played anything but small and won the school’s ninth state championship, beating Detroit Community 57-49 March 23 at the Breslin Center for the Class B title.
“It’s just very special to me … because no one expected it. No one predicted us in the preseason, except to maybe have a rebuilding year,” Keener said. “More than anything else, it’s this group of kids. A lot of kids come to Country Day because they want to be part of this tradition. … This group wanted it very badly. They gave the time, the sweat, everything to get a state championship.”
Country Day trailed the Hurricanes by as many as eight points in the first quarter, but used a 12-3 run that continued through the second quarter to take the lead.
“There wasn’t really any anxiety or stress,” senior Austin Price said.
Country Day led 31-25 at the half, but Community battled back to tie it at 44 with just over seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
From there, the Yellowjackets locked it down on defense and received some clutch shooting from Price.
The guard was 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth. As a team, Country Day made 20, compared to Community’s nine.
“These guys just kept believing and wouldn’t quit,” Keener said. “They just kept digging, and would get a stop, get a free throw and doing everything they had to do to get a win. I’m just so very proud of them.”
Despite having only one player listed taller than 6 foot 4, while Community had four over that height, Country Day out-rebounded Community and scored six more second-chance points.
Keener credited players like Maurice Ways and Deshawn Thomas for playing larger than their 6 foot 4 frames. Each pulled down eight rebounds.
“They just compete. They’re fundamentally sound and focused. Those are the types of things that, I think, make champions,” Keener said.
The Yellowjackets finish the season 25-3 overall and with its first state title since 2010.
“Each in their own way did it,” Keener said. “A little bit here, a little bit there, and they’re champions.”
In just two seasons under Josh Baker, the boys basketball program at Southfield Christian has gone from obscurity to state power.
The year culminated in a Class D state championship, as the Eagles beat Wyoming Tri-Unity Christian 65-46 March 23 at the Breslin Center for their second straight title.
“That was my goal; that was my vision,” Baker said. “I thought it was a great school. It’s great academically, and it’s a great Christian school.”
In the two seasons before Baker’s arrival, the Eagles won 12 total games. In the two seasons since, Southfield Christian has 47 victories (23-4 this year) and the program’s first two state championships.
Baker said this season started slowly. The team went 3-4 overall, but then found its footing and didn’t lose again.
“When people asked how we were going to be, I kept saying we were going to struggle, and hopefully be great by the end of the year. That’s how it kind of turned out,” Baker said. “We knew we had the potential, just early on we just struggled understanding the work ethic that you have to put in. It’s not just handed to you. Every team you play is going to come after you.”
Against Tri-Unity, the Eagles led by five points after the first quarter and then were able to push the lead to 11 at the half.
In the third, Southfield Christian took over, outscoring the Defenders 20-9 in the frame, including an 18-2 run.
The Eagles shot 63 percent in the quarter and held Tri-Unity to 33 percent.
For the game, Southfield Christian shot 52 percent. The Defenders put up 34 percent.
The Eagles also got their scoring from a variety of sources. They had four players in double figures, with junior Damarco White leading the way with 15, nine of those came in the third.
The Defenders had two players in double figures and just two points from their bench, compared to the Eagles’ 14.
Though the Eagles won the state championship last season, there were only two primary players back for 2012-2013.
And players like White and freshman Eugene Brown were playing in their first title game. Brown finished with 13 points.
“They told us, ‘Go out and have fun,’ and we got the medal,” White said.
Soon after the final, the attention turned to next season and the chance of three in a row.
Every player that scored and saw double-figure minutes in the championship game are expected back.
“I’m looking forward to the summer league and just playing with the top competition,” Baker said. “If we play a bunch of games in the summer, we could be very good.”
“The sky is the limit,” Brown added.