BOYS BASKETBALL: Midland Calvary Baptist trips up Rochester Hills Christian for MACS-I state championship
BY DAN STICKRADT
CLARKSTON — If Midland Calvary Baptist and Rochester Hills Christian could have hit the basketball court 10 times this season, the two would likely go 5-5 against one another.
Fortunately for Calvary Baptist, its turn to shine came Saturday afternoon at Clarkston Springfield Christian High School.
The Kings, whose only losses this season came at the hands of Rochester Hills Christian, overcame a five-point deficit through three quarters of play and rallied for a thrilling, 61-59, victory over the defending state champion Eagles in the Michigan Association of Christian Schools Division I state championship game.
“You’re right. We probably would have split if we played that many times,” laughed Calvary Baptist coach John VanHolstyn, who collected his fourth state crown in 30 seasons as head coach. “We played four times this season and we each won two times. We’re very evenly matched.”
Midland Calvary beat Rochester Hills by six points in December in Midland, while Rochester Hills defeated Calvary by three points at Springfield Christian in December in the championship game of the Eagles Cup.
The two faced off on Feb. 11 in Rochester Hills with the Eagles claiming a rare, 25-point blowout win, 78-53.
“That was at home,” sighed Rochester Hills Christian coach Jon Bronsing. “Really, we are very evenly matched. We’ve had some great games with them the past few years. This time we left it all out on the floor. We just came up a little short. Credit to Calvary for playing a great game.”
The Kings trailed 44-39 entering the fourth quarter and were faced with a seven-point deficit (46-39) with under seven minutes to play before clawing back.
Midland Calvary closed with a 22-13 run in the final 6:57 and took advantage when
Rochester Hills Christian 6-foot-4 senior post Josh Steiner fouled out with 2:20 remaining and Calvary holding a 55-54 lead. The Kings took advantage of the extra space in the paint and utilized 6-5 senior center John Reece for a couple free throws and rebounds down the stretch.
“I think we benefited from that, when Steiner fouled out. That allowed us to attack the basket more and we were able to hit some free throws down the stretch,” said VanHolstyn. “We found a way when it counted most.”
Sophomore Jeremiah Altenburg’s two free throws with seven seconds left put the Kings in control for good at 61-57.
The Eagles made it a two-point game when sophomore guard Ryan Patton scored on a putback with two ticks left. The Eagles made only two of their final six shots and despite a late steal, could not get off a final shot as the final buzzer sounded.
“Our goal was to try to keep Marquez Hatcher to under 15 (points) and he had more than that at the half. Who really hurt us the last time was Ryan Patton. He had 28 points on us when we played a few weeks ago. We knew we had to try to contain both of them,” explained VanHolstyn. “I thought we did a great job keeping Patton from having a big game and we made Hatcher really work for his points. They are both really good players.”
Midland Calvary opened the game with a 16-13 edge, only to see Rochester Hills go on an 18-6 run in the second quarter for a 31-22 halftime advantage.
In the third quarter, the Kings whittled away at the nine-point deficit thanks to a 17-13 run in the frame, setting the stage for the final fourth-quarter rally.
“This one hurts because we had all of those seniors (six) and we were hoping to become the first team in our school history to win back-to-back titles,” said Bronsing. “We had a great season, a great run with this group. They will be missed. It’s an end of an era for us.”
Altenburg finished with 17 points and nine rebounds and junior guard Gideon Zelinski also scored 17 for the Kings. Senior forward Eric Lewis scored 13 and Reece patrolled the paint with 12 points, 16 rebounds, five blocks and two assists for Midland Calvary.
Hatcher overcame a rough 11-for-35 shooting performance to score a game-high 25 points with 10 points, seven assists and two swipes for Rochester Hills Christian. Patton scored 15 with 13 boards and three assists, while Steiner contributed 11 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks and a trio of steals for the Eagles.