East Lansing — Flint Beecher senior guard Malik Ellison made sure he left Breslin Center with a third straight Class C state championship trophy Saturday evening, surpassing the two titles that Iowa State star guard Monte Morris walked away with earlier in the decade with the school.
With Morris in the crowd, Ellison scored 32 to lead Beecher to a 73-58 victory over Grand Rapids Covenant Christian.
“We worked so hard for this moment and knowing that you had two under your belt and come in and get a third one, that just set the history books,” said Ellison, who scored 63 in a double-overtime loss to Class B state finalist New Haven in February and recently received an offer from Eastern Michigan.
Beecher (23-5) closed out the win in style, outscoring Covenant Christian 21-9 during the fourth quarter after the teams traded the lead seven times during the third quarter before 6-foot-7 senior center Levane Blake scored off a putback for a 52-49 lead, then rejected a shot at the other end to give Beecher some momentum heading into the final quarter.
Blake finished with nine points, 12 rebounds and four steals; senior guard Jordan Roland had 15 points and freshman Jalen Terry nine points and six rebounds.
Blake opened the fourth quarter with another blocked shot, leading to a transition dunk by Terry for a 55-49 lead.
“He’s (Blake) been doing that for us all year long, he’s been doing that for four years,” Beecher coach Mike Williams said. “He anchors our defense and talks to everybody. He’s one of the best defenders in the state and we wouldn’t be in the position that we’re in, winning our third state title, without this kid anchoring our defense, cleaning the glass, getting rebounds.”
Then, Beecher put on fullcourt pressure which forced a turnover, resulting in a transition basket by Roland for a 58-51 cushion, and Terry forced another turnover in the halfcourt trap.
In all, Beecher forced Covenant Christian (21-6) into 19 turnovers, nine coming during the fourth quarter.
“It’s just Beecher basketball,” Williams said. “We talked in the huddle, saying we had eight minutes left in your playing life, what are you going to do about it? The whole thing is our identity is our defense and when the kids sit down and start applying the pressure I really think it kind of got to them.
“One of the things that we wanted to do was pressure all night long, whether it was man or whether it was zone, and late in the game I was betting on maybe they didn’t have the same legs that they had earlier in the game to hit the long-range shots so we ratcheted up the pressure.”
Beecher shot 49 percent from the field and outscored Covenant Christian 19-7 at the line, 11-0 during the final quarter.
Ellison made 7-of-16 shots, 4-of-8 3-pointers and 14-of-16 free throws, all eight of his fourth-quarter attempts.
So, where does this rank for Williams?
“They’re all sweet,” Williams said. “I’m greedy. I want them all.”
Well, five out of six years is not bad.
Carson Meulenberg, a 6-6 junior forward, had 20 points and eight rebounds, Tyler Cammenga, 13 points and Trenton Koole 11 points and 11 rebounds for Covenant Christian, which held a 44-32 rebounding advantage, 16-5 at the offensive end, but only connected on 5-of-27 3-pointers, 1-of-8 in the pivotal fourth quarter.