East Lansing – Clarkston senior point guard Foster Loyer entered the postseason earlier this month wondering if he would even be able to play after suffering a slight meniscus tear in his left knee during the final week of the regular season.
Loyer actually missed the showdown for first place in the OAA Red Division, the only time in his career he sat out, and his teammates had his back in Clarkston’s win over Hazel Park to claim the title outright.
Loyer said he felt discomfort with the knee in the regional championship game win over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s just 10 days ago, saying, “There was a couple of times I felt it catch, kind of gave a little bit, but the type of person I am, how I’ve been the last four years I’m going to play.”
And play Loyer did, ending his career with back-to-back Class A state championships.
Loyer scored 40 points Saturday at the Breslin Center in an 81-38 championship game win over Holland West Ottawa on his future home floor, and in front of his future coach, Tom Izzo.
Loyer’s performance occurred 24 hours after he scored 42 in a 74-49 semifinal victory over Warren De La Salle.
“I think playing in front of this atmosphere on this stage, I think it definitely helped being here last year. There was no nerves from me, and I think our team wasn’t scared of playing under the bright lights,” said Loyer, who won the Michigan Mr. Basketball award on Monday. “I thought coming into the game with the mindset to attack, and I’ve been working on my shot quite a bit, so I was happy when a few of them went in.”
A few? Loyer made a 3-pointer from the left corner 15 seconds into the game and didn’t stop.
In fact, Loyer left the Breslin court the same way he started, knocking down a 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:42 remaining for a 76-33 lead.
The 43-point win was the largest margin of victory in Class A finals history, surpassing Detroit Pershing’s 32-point win over Benton Harbor in 1992.
Loyer became the eighth player in state championship game history to score 40 or more points. He made 14-of-19 shots from the field, including 6-of-11 3-pointers and 6-of-7 free throws. Oh, and he dished out seven assists, too.
Clarkston made five of its first six 3-pointers, including two by Loyer, two from senior guard C.J. Robinson and one from senior forward Chase Wasilk, to take a 19-4 lead in the opening quarter, and then Loyer between quarters posed on the Spartans logo with his Mr. Basketball trophy before returning to inflict more pain on West Ottawa, scoring 29 points by halftime to help his team to a 49-20 lead.
Loyer, who has signed with Michigan State, said he couldn’t think of a better way to end his high school career.
“To be able to win two state championships, my teammates and myself, I don’t think we could ask for a better finish,” Loyer said. “I thought from the get-go we carried a little bit of our success from yesterday over into today. I thought we had a couple of open looks to start and that kind of got us rolling. Chase (Wasilk) did a great job of running screens to get C.J. (Robinson) and I open for the first couple of shots, but I think as a team we just executed our game plan.”
Loyer said he didn’t have any thoughts of scoring 50 to break the state title game record held by Keith Appling of Detroit Pershing, who scored 49 in 90-73 victory over Kalamazoo Central in 2009.
“No, I didn’t even know the state record,” Loyer said.
Clarkston finished 26-1 and 97-6 the last four years.
Clarkson’s coach, Dan Fife, still holds the school single-game scoring record of 52 points – a record he has held for more than 50 years.
Fife, who is in his 36th year at Clarkston, was thrilled to be a two-time state champ.
“The first one was pretty special,” he said. “This one here is really special because the day we left this building (last year), everybody started talking about back-to-back, and I know how hard that is because it took me so long to get the first one. For these kids to live up to that is just a tremendous challenge and I can’t say enough about these kids.
“I thought the difference today was that we were able to come out from the start and get the lead and basically set the way the game was going to be played, and I felt like that was really important.”
Clarkston shot a sizzling 59.2 percent, making 13-of-22 from long range, with Robinson contributing 18 points (4-of-7 3-pointers). Wisconsin-bound 6-9 center Taylor Currie had a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds), even connecting on a 3-pointer with 5:40 left for a 71-28 cushion.
“I saw Tristen (Mysen) coming in for me and I said I’ve got to let one fly,” said Currie of his long-range shot.
Xavier Wade scored 13 for West Ottawa (25-3).
“Obviously they were really, really good today,” West Ottawa coach Steve Windemuller said of Clarkston. “Our game plan – you hope that he (Loyer) misses a few and you hope some of their other guys don’t step up, but Robinson was hitting some big shots and then (Currie) goes in there and cleans it up, and then you have a role player like 31 (Wasilk) knock down a 3. It was their day. We caught them on a day when they were hot and we weren’t so hot.”
West Ottawa shot 37.5 percent, made just 3-of-17 3-pointers and watched Clarkston score 19 points off its 14 turnovers.