Division 4 final: Southfield Christian reloads, then repeats as state champ
East Lansing — Southfield Christian’s backcourt of Da’Jion Humphrey, Jon Sanders and Noah Rheker came out ready to play in the Division 4 state-championship game at Breslin Center on Saturday morning.
Sanders scored nine points during a pivotal 13-0 run to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 13-2 lead and Southfield Christian went on to dominate Frankfort, 63-39, to repeat as state champion while also winning its fifth title in the last eight years.
Southfield Christian's eighth-year head coach Josh Baker lost his trio of Bryce Washington (Penn), Harlond Beverly and Caleb Hunter from last year’s championship team, with Beverly (Montverde, Florida) and Hunter (U-D Jesuit) transferring.
But Baker knew Humphrey, Sanders and Rheker were among the players waiting to take on a bigger role. And it showed with the title on the line on the big stage at Breslin.
After Sanders set the tempo, scoring 10 in the opening quarter to give Southfield Christian a 24-12 lead, Humphrey took over in the second, scoring 11 of his 20 to open up a 44-20 halftime cushion. And Rheker contributed 10 first-half points, making a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter.
Simply put, Southfield Christian’s fullcourt pressure and halfcourt trap was just too much for Frankfort.
Southfield Christian (21-6) forced five turnovers in the opening 3.5 minutes, leading to the 13-2 lead and junior guard Rahmon Scruggs was the catalyst, getting consecutive steals, one leading to a transition layup by Humphrey and another leading to Humphrey’s 3-pointer for a 7-2 lead.
“I thought our guys came out and started off great,” Baker said. “I thought the defense was good. I thought the energy was good and I thought the pace of the game was good. On offense we kind of drove and kicked and moved the ball and got great shots and were unselfish so I was happy with how we played in the first half for sure, and, again Frankfort is tough, scrappy, strong and they compete and they guard and 14, Will (Newbold) got it going, but I was proud of our guys.”
Scruggs had four steals in the first half, leading to Southfield Christian scoring 14 off of 10 turnovers.
Sanders finished with 19 points and Rheker 10.
So was Baker worried when Beverly and Hunter transferred?
“I thought it was a great challenge and a great opportunity for them,” said Baker, talking about bigger roles for players like Sanders and Humphrey who were both starters last year.
Said Sanders: “It was harder than we’ve ever worked to get back to this point. Our roles were 10 times bigger so we just worked hard and stepped into the roles.”
“This is sweet,” Humphrey added. “We worked hard, put in countless hours and as you can see it pays off.”
Frankfort (21-6) limited Southfield Christian to 25 percent shooting during the second half, but still Southfield Christian carried a 53-29 lead into the fourth quarter, shooting — at the time — 51.3 percent from the field while taking good care of the basketball (four turnovers) and forcing 14 turnovers.
Senior guard Will Newbold scored 17 for Frankfort, including back-to-back 3-pointers to pull his team back within 15-10 before Humphrey made a 3-pointer, then two free throws, followed by a transition basket by Ronald Johnson off a steal to push Southfield Christian’s lead back up to 12 (22-10).
“Nobody really expected us to get here and they didn’t back down and played until the end,” Frankfort coach Dan Loney said. “It was a tough matchup. They kept running guys in. We were expecting them to press. They were long and athletic and you can’t simulate that in practice.
"The press did bug us a little bit, but I didn’t think it was over the top.”