BOYS BASKETBALL: Southfield Christian showed the will of a champion in adversity-filled season
SOUTHFIELD – While pursuing a sports dynasty, every team at every level has faced adversity at some point in time in its quest.
And the Southfield Christian boys basketball team hasn’t been an exception to that rule this season.
It’s faced quite a bit.
Over the weekend, the Eagles cemented their legacy as one of, if not the best Class D squad in MHSAA history by winning its third straight state championship (a narrow 63-61 victory over Adrian Lenawee Christian Saturday in East Lansing at the Breslin Center).
Southfield Christian’s road to solidifying its’ dynasty in the 2014 campaign wasn’t without its share of hardships along the way. The Eagles played the vast majority of the regular season without head coach Josh Baker, who left the team just prior to the opener to tend to family matters, but returned to the bench in an assistant-capacity for the playoff run.
Filling Baker ‘s shoes this season has been one of the state’s best assistant coaches, Clennie Brundidge. Coming into the Eagles’ program last year, after successful tenures at Troy and Southfield, the notoriously spunky Brundidge guided Southfield Christian to a near-perfect 26-1 record, with the team’s only defeat coming to Class A power Saginaw Arthur Hill, in his first stint holding the head-coaching reins.
On top of losing their coach for most of the year, the Eagles also encountered internal issues during the middle of the season when star point guard Bakari Evelyn abruptly left the team for over a month before returning in February.
Brundidge admitted that losing Evelyn was a key loss, but commented that it gave other members of the team an opportunity to step up and have their shot at playing in a bigger role,
“Our mindset was just that we can control what we can control and that’s all we can do,” he said. “It’s just like the situation we were in today (Saturday’s state championship game), we could only control what we could do. I challenged the kids to step up and play, it’s primetime and let’s show people that we can play without a key player and that’s what these kids did and as a result, we’re 26-1.”
In Saturday’s Class D state championship game, the Eagles faced adversity again. For the first time on the state-finals stage, Southfield Christian actually trailed. Three starters got into deep foul trouble, playing sparingly in the second half, two fouling out.
However, with the help of their deep bench the Eagles managed to hang on long enough to pick up a third crown in a row.
And even more fittingly, the Eagles did it with the help of Baker, co-coaching with Brundidge, drawing up plays during timeouts down the stretch, and Evelyn pouring in a game-high 28 points, knocking down big shot after big shot in the second half along with free throws to ice the game away in the closing minutes.
Junior sixth-man Kam Garner, who exited Saturday’s game with a head-bruise right before halftime only to surprisingly return in the second half to help spark the Eagles to the win, points to the bumpy season as aiding his club to coming out on top Saturday in a nip-and-tuck state championship game.
“Through all of the drama, we just learned to come together,” he said. “We’ve got coach Brundidge who’s a great coach and our whole coaching staff is great. Just to see with the adversity we faced and how we pushed through was great. That’s what you saw today in this game. It’s what we’ve been doing all year long.”
As Garner, a player Brundidge called his team’s ‘heart and soul’ mentioned, the Eagles went through plenty of adversity this winter and persevered.
But as they learned, that’s the price you pay in order to lock down a reputation for true greatness.
There’s no doubt Southfield Christian did just that in 2014.