Last year was about rallying a team in the midst of adversity.
This year, it was more about basketball for Williamston interim coach Tom Lewis.
The on-the-court results were strong for the Hornets in both instances under the leadership of Lewis.
Williamston won a second straight regional championship and found itself one of the final eight teams standing once again this season under Lewis, who leads the Associated Press Class B all-state squad as the coach of the year.
Lewis guided the Hornets to a 21-5 record, an outright CAAC White title and had them seconds away from advancing to Breslin Center for a second straight season. Williamston sent home top-ranked Wyoming Godwin Heights on its way to a regional title and came close to getting past No. 2 River Rouge in the quarterfinals for a second straight year.
Boys basketball state finals: Five things to watch
“I think going into this year, those kids wanted to get back to Breslin so bad they were willing to do anything preseason and in-season to really make that happen,” said Lewis, who has served as Williamston’s interim coach since last March when Jason Bauer was diagnosed with brain cancer.
“We kind of put our head down and we all created a plan and I said this is what needs to happen. We definitely had some bumps in the road. We were just trying to get better. We really had that Godwin game in the back of our mind the whole season. We had to earn our way to get to that game, and we figured if we could get there and compete, we could try and claw our way back.”
Lewis knew there would be a target on the Hornets’ back after reaching the Class B state semifinals last season. Being a marked team took some getting used to for a younger Williamston squad in the season’s early stages. But that eventual realization set up a strong finish that saw the Hornets win 10 of their final 12 games.
“Midseason, we had a little bit of a lull, but we got out of it,” Lewis said. “I think the St. Johns game was a huge game for us at home. I kind of saw a different look in their eye, and at that point I think they understood the level of intensity we needed going forward.”
Senior Sy Barnett was one of the key performers for the Hornets this season and is one of two Lansing area players to earn Class B second team all-state honors. Lewis said Barnett’s desire to win helped Williamston to success.
“I used him all over the court both offensively and defensively and he was such a difference maker even for those young guys who had the experience of last year,” Lewis said. “He was a senior, he had been in some big games and obviously he’s a tremendous football player. He kind of brought that swagger to our team.”
Sexton senior Zhervontae Smith also was a second team all-state selection.
Area honorable mention all-state selections included Lansing Catholic’s Chuck Plaehn, Ovid-Elsie’s Carson Vincent, Eaton Rapids’ Drew Shafer, Alma’s Konner Vedrode, Olivet’s Delbert Redfield, Corunna’s Jaron VanFleteren and Levi Lehman and Isaiah Hoag of Ithaca.
Contact Brian Calloway at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.
CLASS B ALL-STATE
The 2017 Associated Press Class B boys basketball All-State team as selected by a panel of 10 Michigan sportswriters.
Player of the Year
Romeo Weems, New Haven, So.
Romeo Weems, New Haven, So.
Darian Owens-White, River Rouge, Sr.
Mark Watts, Detroit Old Redford Academy, So.
Lamar Norman, Wyoming Godwin Heights, Jr.
Avery Hudson, Wayland, Sr.
Carlos Johnson, Benton Harbor, Fr.
Tyreese Gardner, Comstock, Sr.
Mario Whitley, Frankenmuth, Jr.
Bryce Drews, Hillsdale, Jr.
Carl Bow Jr., Hazel Park, Jr.
Coach of the Year
Tom Lewis, Williamston
(Nominees receiving two or more votes from the 10-member panel)
Armani Felder, Detroit Osborn, Sr.
Jacob Polakovich, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Jr.
Nick Dekkenga, Coopersville, Sr.
Troy Summers, Grayling, Sr.
Darious Young, Flint Northwestern, Sr.
Jalen Miller, Lake Fenton, Sr.
Sy Barnett, Williamston, Sr.
Zhervontae Smith, Lansing Sexton, Sr.
Eric Williams, New Haven, Jr.
Mark White, River Rouge
Thad Shank, Ludington
Demetri Martin, Big Rapids; DreQuan Bell, River Rouge; Kenneth Holloway, Detroit Osborn; Kylan Shipp, Detroit Northwestern; Devontaye Webb, Detroit Henry Ford; Hunter Greer, Allendale; Marcus Bingham, Grand Rapids Catholic Central; Christian Rodriguez, Wyoming Godwin Heights; Markeese Hastings, Wyoming Godwin Heights; Zack Neiuwkoop, Wayland; Thomas Grigg, Kelloggsville; Austin Steenwyk, Hudsonville Unity Christian; Zach Goodline, Coloma; Lucas Schumm, Whitehall; Spencer White, Grayling; Calvin Hackert, Ludington; Sam LaDuke, Ludington; Logan Guenther, Cheboygan; Jeremiah Davis, Battle Creek Harper Creek; Skyler Lipinski, Onsted; Ronald Jamierson, Battle Creek Pennfield; Luke Morrell, Plainwell; Luke Toliver, Paw Paw; Trey Brennan, Paw Paw; Bill Woodhams, Otsego; Tirrell Hausmanis, Three Rivers; Carson Charvat, Three Rivers; Deondre Lovell, Vicksburg; Kevin David-Rice, Goodrich; Carson Vincent, Ovid-Elsie; Garrett Bishop, Chesaning; Jaron VanFleteren, Corunna; Chuck Plaehn, Lansing Catholic; Delbert Redfield, Olivet; Konner Vedrode, Alma; Drew Shafer, Eaton Rapids; Grant Bonner, Frankenmuth; Charles Garrett, Bridgeport; Drew Bakos, Freeland; Ethan Bernard, Hillsdale; Levi Lehman, Ithaca; Isaiah Hoag, Ithaca; Wendell Green, Detroit Country Day; Tim Hauxwell, Cranbrook-Kingswood; Dave Hearns, Hazel Park; Tavis Smith, Detroit University Prep; Derrick Bryant, Detroit University Prep.