East Lansing — Southfield Christian coach Josh Baker loaded up his schedule with tough opponents to make sure his team would be ready to take care of business at the Breslin Center with the Class D state championship on the line.
Sure, Southfield Christian (22-5) suffered several losses, but they came at the hands of PSL champion Detroit Edison, PSL runner-up Detroit Pershing, Class A West Bloomfield and Class B Detroit Country Day.
Oh, and Southfield Christian earned victories over such Class A teams as Ann Arbor Pioneer and Detroit King, along with River Rouge, which will play in a Class B state semifinal Friday night.
No doubt, Southfield Christian was prepared for its state semifinal showdown with previously unbeaten Dollar Bay Thursday night and it showed by scoring the game’s first 16 points on the way to a lopsided 71-32 victory.
When was the last time an unbeaten team had the running clock put in play against them in a Final Four game? Well, no one could ever recall it happening, but it happened in this one.
Yes, Southfield Christian wants another state championship after winning three straight from 2012-14 and suffering a heartbreaking 84-83 double-overtime loss to Powers North Central in last year’s state semifinal, enabling North Central to walk away with a state record 83 consecutive wins and three straight state titles two days later.
Southfield Christian came out with tremendous energy and Dollar Bay looked shell-shocked.
Southfield Christian’s backcourt of junior Harlond Beverly, Caleb Hunter — son of former Pistons guard Lindsay Hunter — and 6-foot-4 Bryce Washington caused problems with their quickness … and skill set.
Dollar Bay came up empty on its first 13 possessions (seven turnovers, 0-for-6 shooting) while Beverly (six), Hunter (six) and Washington (four) combined for 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
“I think our energy was real good with how we started the game and we kept pushing in transition,” said Hunter, who finished with 17 points, five steals and four assists without turning the ball over.
And, Hunter started the game with an alley-oop pass to Beverly (12 points, seven rebounds, four steals) who had a highlight reverse-dunk to get the crowd in it early. Washington finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and three steals and Jon Sanders, 10 points and three assists.
Beverly, who is one of the premier players in the country for the 2019 class, was playing in front of Michigan State coach Tom Izzo who has already offered him, along with Ohio State and Xavier.
Obviously, Baker was impressed with his team’s defense, but more so with his team’s depth, which silenced Dollar Bay’s impressive one-two punch of 6-5 senior Jaden Janke and 6-0 senior Devin Schmitz.
“I think so,” said Baker when asked if this was Southfield Christian’s best defensive effort, limiting Dollar Bay (26-1) to 31 percent shooting while forcing 22 turnovers, scoring 28 points off of them, and holding a 37-23 rebounding advantage. “I think Jon (Sanders) and Rahmon (Scruggs) and Caleb (Hunter) and Noah (Rheker), with all these guys coming in we can rotate guys.
“We were fortunate tonight to have two different guys guard Schmitz and then two different guys guard (Jaden) Janke. That’s tough for those guys. They can really score, but if you have two different guys on you the entire game, hopefully it can wear them down.”
Southfield Christian limited Janke to 12 points (5-of-13 shooting) and Drake Schmitz, five points while forcing him into eight turnovers.
“Nothing can prepare us for that speed,” Dollar Bay coach Jesse Kentala said. “Defensively, they were so active. I felt we came out a little star struck and usually we like the big lights, we like to be on these kind of stages. They came out and punched first. I thought we adjusted and settled in a little bit, but that defense they bring and that intensity just made for a long night for us.”
Dollar Bay bounced back and competed during the second quarter, cutting the lead to 13 (33-20) before Southfield Christian entered the intermission with a 35-20 lead.
Southfield Christian opened the second half the same way it started the game, going on a 14-0 run to open up a 49-20 cushion with 4:40 left in the third.
And, it was Hunter leading the way, opening the quarter with a 3-pointer, then playing strong defense against Jacob Iacono, forcing him to miss an inside shot.
Buckley 65, Hillsdale Academy 55: Austin Harris went 6-of-12 on 3-pointers and finished 22 points to lead Buckley (21-5), which faces Southfield Christian in the Class D final at 10 a.m. Saturday. Joey Weber scored 15 and Brock and Ridge Beeman each had 11. Peter Kalthoff had 17 points and Michael Craig 14 for Hillsdale Academy (19-7).
All games at Breslin Center
Detroit Edison 55, GR Covenant Christian 43
Maple City Glen Lake 62, Monroe St. Mary CC 56
Final: 4:30 p.m., Saturday
Southfield Christian 71, Dollar Bay 32
Buckley 65, Hillsdale Academy 55
Final: 10 a.m., Saturday
Warren De La Salle (19-7) vs. Clarkston (24-1), noon
Holland West Ottawa (24-2) vs. Novi (17-8), 2
Final: 12:15, Saturday
Benton Harbor (25-1) vs. River Rouge (23-1), 5:30
New Haven (26-0) vs. Grand Rapids CC (23-2), 7:30
Final: 6:45, Saturday