East Lansing – Harlond Beverly was the best player on the floor in the Class D championship game on Saturday, leading Southfield Christian to a 64-54 victory over Buckley at the Breslin Center.
Southfield Christian (23-5) made amends for its double-overtime loss in last year’s semifinal to three-time state champion Powers North Central.
It was Southfield Christian’s first state title since it won three straight Class D championships from 2012-14.
Beverly, a 6-foot-4 junior guard who has offers from Michigan State, Ohio State and Xavier, came out with tremendous energy in the title game, scoring inside five seconds into the game, then on a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Bryce Washington a minute later. Beverly scored his team’s first 11 points and continued with strong play at both ends of the floor the rest of the game.
With MSU coach Tom Izzo looking on, Beverly filled the stat sheet in the opening quarter alone, putting up numbers in the opening eight minutes what the majority of players would be proud of having an entire game.
Beverly had 14 points and four steals in the first quarter to help Southfield Christian jump out to a 21-7 lead.
Beverly made a pair of 3-pointers and had a highlight-reel put-back off a Caleb Hunter missed 3-pointer during an early 10-0 run to turn a 5-4 deficit into a 15-4 lead.
“I didn’t even know that, I just tried to play basketball and do what I do,” Beverly said about scoring his team’s first 11 points, when he made 5-of-6 shots. “The rim feels as big as an ocean.”
Beverly finished with 23 points, eight steals, seven rebounds, six blocks and four assists.
Southfield Christian seventh-year coach Josh Baker was thrilled with Beverly’s start.
“He was great and we made a nice play to get him going and he had a ton of energy,” said Baker. “He had eight steals and six blocks and that’s a lot of energy and a lot of effort. He can make great plays in transition and give us some easy ones. We struggled the rest of the game so his start was the game.
“I felt we were kind of rolling and then Harlond and Bryce got some tough calls (fouls) and it kind of changed the momentum, had to take them out and the momentum shifted. I was proud of our guys in the second half. We made the tough plays, got rebounds, loose balls and I thought defensively we were great down the stretch.”
Buckley (21-6), which lost to Powers North Central in last year’s state title game, regrouped after the bad start and got back in the game with Beverly and Washington each picking up their second fouls, pulling within 35-24 at halftime.
Buckley made it a two-possession game (40-34) with 4:40 left in the third when Denver Cade scored inside, but Southfield Christian went on a 14-8 run, culminating with a Beverly dunk off an inbounds pass and then a Caleb Hunter 3-pointer off a steal from Beverly for a 54-42 cushion with 7:20 remaining.
Southfield Christian also received strong efforts from Washington, Hunter and sophomore Da’Jion Humphrey.
Washington had 12 points and nine rebounds, Hunter scored 13, making four 3-pointers, and Humphrey had nine of his 11 points during the third quarter to make sure Southfield Christian kept its lead.
Humphrey, who also had seven rebounds, started his big third quarter by making a 3-pointer from the right corner to open a 38-26 lead. He also scored off two driving layups and took a charge when Cade crashed into him while going to the basket.
Buckley had three players score more than 1,000 career points and it showed with senior guard Joey Weber scoring 26 on 10-of-20 shooting while also grabbing eight rebounds; 6-3 senior forward Austin Harris contributing 15 points and seven rebounds; and Cade, a 6-3 senior, eight points and nine rebounds.
“They are crazy good, very athletic and we don’t see teams like that up north,” said Buckley coach Blair Moss. “It’s hard to scout them with their athletic ability and they jump out of the gym. I just told our kids to put a body on them. We tried to play physical and we got called for it.”