By: Daniel Stickradt
BOYS BASKETBALL: Rochester Hills Christian builds small-school power one dribble at a time
BY DAN STICKRADT
ROCHESTER HILLS — Having a small enrollment can often lead to coaches finding excuses of why a program doesn’t thrive on a consistent basis.
As small schools go, athletics teams often feel the peaks and valleys of the lesser talent pools. After all, how many quality athletes can a school that has consistently hovered around the 50-90 student mark produce in a given year?
Jon Bronsing doesn't leave excuses out on the basketball court, even though his school, Rochester Hills Christian, has never boasted over 100 students in grades 9-12 in a single school year.
“We have been very fortunate, very blessed over the years,” admitted Jon Bronsing, a 1999 graduate of Rochester Hills Christian. “We’ve taken a lot of pride into what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
Bronsing in his 13th non-consecutive season with the Eagles and their success story is noteworthy.
The school is chasing its seventh straight Fundamental Baptist Athletic Conference Red Division title and eighth in 10 seasons. Only in 2009-10 were the Eagles not in the title chase, the year Bronsing took a season off to deal with a family issue. Rochester Hills Christian finished just 5-13 that season.
Going back the past 30-plus seasons, the Eagles have rarely finished out of the top half of its league.
“We’ve had a lot of good players here over the years,” said Bronsing, noting a handful players that have gone onto college rosters. “We always try to play to (our personal). Each year is different. You have to play a style that fits your team.”
The overall style is a stifling, never-stop-playing defense that creates offense in transition and wreaks plenty of havoc on the opposition. It has led to many seasons over .500. In fact over the previous decade, the school has finished over the .500 mark eight times.
In the Michigan Association of Christian Schools state tournament, either in Division I or Division II, RHC has enjoyed many long postseason runs, winning MACS state titles in 1992 (D-II) and 2013 (D-I) to go along with state runner-up showings in 1993 (D-II), 2014 (D-I), 2015 (D-I) and 2016 (D-I) .
In the most recent championship year, the Eagles finished a school record 25-2 overall, 8-0 in FBAC-Red conference play. In fact from 2010-11 through 2015-16, RHC has recorded 119 wins (a 19.9 average) against 37 losses (6.2 average).
In that six-year span, RHC has compiled a 45-3 record in the FBAC-Red, where they have posted three undefeated league seasons at 8-0 and three others at 7-1.
“It’s always a goal of ours to contend for a league championship,” said Bronsing. “We feel like we should be in the race again. We’ve got a good shot.”
So far this season, Rochester Hills Christian if off to another fine 13-2 start, including 3-0 in league play. The Eagles graduated Oakland County’s leading scorer Ryan Patton and his 35.5 points a game.
Still, the program has reloaded.
“we’re a different type of team. We don't need for 1-2 players to do all the scoring,” said Bronsing. “This year we have a lot of balance and we have some depth, something that we hadn’t had since (2012-13) when we won the state championship.”
Freshman Kaloh Holmes has taken over the reigns as the leading scorer at nearly 19 points a contest. But by no means is he a one-trick pony.
Senior Jerem Byers, who missed eight games with a sprained ankle, along with twin brother Lucas Byers and sophomore guard Adam Patton, give this team plenty of options in a four-guard offense.
The biggest surprise has been 6-foot-4 sophomore transfer Alex Coury, who brings in 260 pounds to the paint and is a low-post scoring and rebounding threat.
Senior forward Noah Bossner (6-4) has led a quality bench this season, where junior forward Steven Taylor (6-2), senior center Ethan Howard (6-1) and sophomore forward Levi Byers have also gained minutes on a 12-man roster.
Junior forward Max Martin and freshmen guards Zak Connelly and Devin Burrick round out the roster.
The one constant staple, however, has been defense. In a recent 74-56 victory over Auburn Hills Christian, the Eagles forced 31 turnovers.
“We know that we’re only as good as our defense. The best offense is a great defense,” reminded Bronsing. “We use the (pressure) defense to force steals and get us out going in transition. I like what we have been able to do with our defense this season. We’re still a young team. We start two sophomores and a freshman this year and we only have four seniors. But I think they have all bought in and we’re jelling right now.
“I think that’s been a constant for us over the years. We have guys that buy into our system,” continued Bronsing. “We feel that we have built a program. Each year, each team is a little different. But when you have guys that work hard and buy in, it leads to success.”
Success breads success.
BOYS BASKETBALL: Rochester Hills Christian blitzes Auburn Hills Christian to claim 74-56 victory
BY DAN STICKRADT
ROCHESTER HILLS — Earlier this season, a parent walked up to Rochester Hills Christian boys basketball coach Jon Bronsing and said his team was like a swarm of bees.
It is a fitting analogy.
Rochester Hills Christian won for the second consecutive night on Jan. 20, using its trademark — swarming defense — to force 31 turnovers Friday, which led to a 74-56 victory over Auburn Hills Christian in a Fundamental Baptist Athletic Conference crossover contest. It was the host’s homecoming game in front of an overflow crowd.
“It was just the other day I had a parent from the other team say that we play like a swarm of bees,” smiled Bronsing, in his 13th season with the high-flying Eagles. “That’s what we preach. Our offense comes from our defense, as we like to force the other team into turnovers and score in transition.”
Although Rochester Hills Christian shot just 44.5 percent from the floor (28-for-63), thanks to Auburn Hills Christian’s similar pressure defense, the Eagles trailed only once, 2-0, in the game’s opening minute.
RHC (13-2) forced 13 turnovers in the first quarter alone and the 2-0 deficit quickly turned into a 12-4 lead over the course of three minutes.
The Eagles led 19-13 after the first quarter, although the Cougars (4-1) used a 12-6 run to tie the score at 25-25 on a jumper from Dawson Carpenter with 1:49 left in the second period.
Rochester Hills responded with a 12-3 blitz to end the second quarter and take a 37-28 lead.
The Eagles outscored the Cougars 21-11 in the third quarter to blow the game open and take a 59-39 advantage into the final frame.
Auburn Hills Christian could get no closer than 16 points (59-43) in the fourth quarter.
“You have to give them credit. They play awfully well in this small gym,” said AHC coach Julian Thomas. “They play great defense, play with a lot of energy. They cause you a lot of problems because there is not a lot of room out (on the court) and they are very quick. But both teams played on the same court. Rochester is a very good team, a good program that does well each year with Jon (Bronsing) as their coach.”
Defensively, the Eagles held AHC to 31.5 percent shooting from the floor (23-for-73) and forced the Cougars to chuck up 27 three-point attempts. Auburn Hills Christian connected on only eight shots from downtown and attempted only six free throws, sinking only three of them.
The Eagles were also a crisp 16-for-22 from the foul line, which helped them pull away.
“I wished we would have not turned the ball over so much ourselves, but when you play an uptempo game, and the fact that we are still a very young team with a lot of sophomores and freshmen on our roster, you’re going to make mistakes,” said Bronsing. “But I love our work ethic and our depth. We can play a lot more guys this year than the last two seasons and that helps. I think we can wear other teams down.”
Freshman guard Kaloh Holmes led four Eagles in double figures with 18 points, six rebounds and four steals. Senior guard Jerem Byers followed with 14 points, six assists and four rebounds, sophomore center Alex Coury also scored 14 with six rebounds and five steals, while sophomore guard Adam Patton followed with 10 points, six rebounds and five steals for the Eagles.
RHC held a 42-29 edge on the boards.
Dawson twined a game-high 19 points with five assists for Auburn Hills Christian. Remani Jackson added 15 points and Ehsha Adams scored 11 with six rebounds for the Cougars. AJ Hawkins supplied six steals, five assists and four rebounds for AHC.