Beecher races to 20-point, first-quarter lead and runs past Hanover-Horton, 71-43, in a Class C semifinal
East Lansing — If they make it look easy, Aquavius Burks, Samuel Toins and the Flint Beecher boys basketball team will assure you it’s not.
The Bucs will play for their third Class C state title in four years on Saturday, combining hot shooting with a stifling press in making quick work of Hanover-Horton, 71-43, in the second semifinal on Thursday at the Breslin Center.
"It’s not easy," Burks said of a game which saw Beecher lead by as many as 39 in the second half. "Practice. We put in the time and effort in practice and it pays off."
Beecher (25-1) will face Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (21-5) for the title on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
NorthPointe (21-5) defeated Boyne City, 48-45, in the first semifinal.
"The things that I put them through in practice, you know, I get on them an awful lot," Bucs coach Mike Williams said, "and there have been some days where all four of these guys right here have wanted to strangle me. But, it was to get them to this point."
The Bucs scored the game’s first 11 points as Hanover-Horton turned it over on five of its first six possessions. Toins, who had 11 of his game-high 20 points in the first quarter, hit back-to-back 3-pointers from the left corner after a Comets turnover and missed layup as Beecher opened up a 23-3 lead after the first quarter and never looked back.
"I just wanted to get off to a quick start and start my team off fast," Toins said. "We wanted this bad. Last year, we suffered a heartbreak and we didn’t want to feel that pain like we felt last year."
Beecher lost, 42-41, to eventual runner-up Pewamo-Westphalia in the quarterfinals a year ago after back-to-back state titles in 2012 and 2013.
Cedric Moten added 18 points, Levane Blake had 11 to go with eight rebounds and Burks had seven points, six assists and four rebounds also for the Bucs.
Preston Laketa’s 17 points and 10 rebounds led Hanover-Horton — playing in its third semifinal and first since 2003 — which ends its season 24-2.
"We just didn’t come out and play the way we’re capable of playing," Comets coach Chad Mortimer said. "That’s probably the worst half of basketball we’ve played in and I know (Beecher) had a lot to do with it.
"They were shooting what? Sixty? Seventy percent in that first half? They couldn’t miss. So, it was a combination of them just playing outstanding and us not being on our game. It was over quick."
Beecher shot better than 50 percent from the floor and 55 percent from beyond the arc, and forced the Comets into 21 giveaways which the Bucs turned into 27 points.
"I am ecstatic with the way our kids came out and played," Williams said. "They really took it to them from the beginning. The only worries, only issues that I had coming into this game is I was hoping they wouldn’t be distracted or their nerves be wrecked by the bright lights of this stage.
"I’ve been through this quite a few times and right now is not a time to celebrate," he added. "It’s a time to stay focused and complete the mission."