Southfield Christian win fourth Class D title in last seven seasons, defeats Buckley, 64-54
East Lansing – Southfield Christian would be advised to find a new league and a new classification.
Christian blew past all seven of its opponents in the Class D tournament, with the exception of Buckley in the state final on Saturday and, with the exception of one league game, dominated the four teams in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference this season.
On Feb. 6 the Eagles defeated Sterling Heights Parkway Christian, 69-67, for its only close game within the MIAC.
Southfield Christian (23-5) won its fourth state title, the first since 2014, by defeating Buckley, 64-54, in the state final on Saturday at the Breslin Center on Michigan State’s campus.
This was by far the closest game the Eagles played in the tournament. Auburn Hills Oakland Christian lost to Southfield Christian, 79-50, in a district final. The other five tournament games were decided by 35 points or more.
Even against Buckley the Eagles were dominant early. They led 21-10 at the end of the first quarter and, with 4:27 left in the first half, built the lead to 35-13 after a free throw by one of the state’s top juniors, Harlond Beverly. Beverly scored his team’s first 11 points and had 23 points, eight steals, seven rebounds and six blocks for the game. And he’s a point guard, 6-4 at that.
The Eagles had four players score in double figures including Bryce Washington who had 12 points and nine rebounds.
To Buckley’s credit, the Bears didn’t fold. This Buckley team proved that it belonged. The Bears scored the final 11 points of the half, the last two on a basket by Joey Weber, one of three four-year starters.
Buckley (21-6), a state finalist last season, got within 38-32 after a four-point play by Austin Harris with 6:16 left in the third but that’s as close as the Bears would come.
The Eagles increased the lead 61-46 with just over three minutes to play and closed out the game by making 10-of-12 from the free throw line in the fourth.
“They’re crazy good,” Buckley coach Blair Moss said. “We don’t see teams like that Up North. They jump out of the gym.”
Should Southfield Christian opt to move up to Class C, it would not set a precedent. Other teams have done it. When the enrollment at Saginaw Arthur Hill declined school administrators decided to remain in Class A. A similar situation occurred at Detroit Pershing, though the Doughboys have competed in Class C recently.
Furthermore, Southfield Christian has made the move before. And the time is right to do it again. Southfield Christian will have three Division I prospects on varsity next season, and that doesn’t include any possible Division I recruits in the incoming freshmen class.
This program isn’t going to have set back, as far as talent, anytime soon. And as long as Josh Baker remains as coach the program is in good hands.
Should a program like this, one that played teams like River Rouge, a Class B semifinalist the past two seasons, West Bloomfield, a Class A semifinalist last season, Detroit Edison, a Class C semifinalist last season and a finalist this season, and so on, be content in winning a Class D title. Christian won three consecutive Class D titles (2012-14) before opting to move up to Class C (note: when a program petitions the Michigan High School Athletic Association to move up a classification, that program must remain in that class for two seasons).
The two seasons that Southfield Christian did compete in Class C the Eagles lost in a region final each time to Flint Beecher, 78-60 (2015 and 78-65 (2016). Beecher won the state title both times. Southfield Christian led Beecher in the fourth quarter in 2016.
Last season Southfield Christian lost to Powers North Central in double overtime in a Class D semifinal, 84-83. North Central then went on to win its third consecutive title.
“Part of our deal is how do we get our guys to get better,” Baker said.
Move up a class. Have your players play in a more competitive tournament. Just because a team lost in a region final in consecutive seasons doesn’t mean that team can’t win a state title in that class.
To Baker’s credit, and to his administration, they seek to play the most competitive non-conference schedule. Having just eight conference games opens the door for them to schedule teams like Ann Arbor Pioneer, Detroit Country Day and Detroit King.
To the powers that be: it’s time to draft that petition. You’ve done it before. Athletics, at its highest form, is about competition.