EAST LANSING — Powers North Central began today’s Class D final with a head of steam and never let up today at the Breslin Center.
Making the trip to East Lansing for the second time in three years, the team made it clear it was coming home with the coveted boys basketball championship trophy for the first time in school history (since 1984).
Jumping out to a quick 13-3 run to end the opening quarter, the Jets were able to rip the fighting spirit out of the Morenci Bulldogs, winning 67-47 in Morenci’s first-ever appearance in the state finals.
Morenci head coach Jim Bauer told his players before the game his team had a fighting chance to come away with an upset as big as the “Miracle on Ice.” But it didn’t happen.
“Lightning would have had to strike,” Bauer said. “They had quickness, they had ball handling, they had rebounders, they have a team that has it all. If we play them 10 times, they would probably beat us nine, but we thought today that we could strike a little magic.”
The Bulldogs, who reached the semifinals this past Thursday for the first time since 1954, made it an enticing match-up in the first quarter, tying it up at 10 at the 4:08 mark after falling behind early. But that was the closest they would get, trailing by as much as 27 in the third quarter.
Powers North Central head coach Adam Mercier hands the championship trophy to his players after their 67-47 win over Morenci in the MHSAA boys basketball Class D finals March 28, 2015 in East Lansing.
The offensive firepower from Powers North Central was unstoppable for the entire 32 minutes of play, shooting 59.6% from the floor (28-of-48), 46 of those points coming from inside the paint and 14 from second-chance opportunities. In comparison, Morenci shot the ball 63 times, but only converted 18, including just 14.3% from beyond the arc (4-of-28).
“I’m speechless right now,” Powers head coach Adam Mercier said. “Usually I’m not speechless but, at this moment, I kind of am. We’ve shared a lot of emotion just this last year, and today was capped off by a great performance.”
Four players from Powers finished the day in double-digit scoring, with sophomore Jason Whitens leading the way with 19 points and seven rebounds. Caleb Martin and Bobby Kleiman each added 13 points, while Rob Granquist Jr. contributed 11.
For Morenci, it was the Austin Sandusky and Torin Merillat show, as the duo were the only players from the Bulldog bench who scored more than nine points (each had 11). Sandusky, the senior guard, was asked to carry the load offensively, finishing 4-of-15 shooting and 1-of-6 from three-point land.
For Powers North Central, it required crucial victories against the likes of Munising and Lake-Linden Hubbell in the regional round, teams ranked in the top 10 in the Class D bracket, to be crowned state champions. Mercier, who couldn’t help but smile following the game, said his team’s continuous efforts were the reason behind this unforgettable moment.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these kids,” Mercier said. “They worked really hard to get to this moment and carpe diem, they seized the day, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”