By: Daniel Stickradt
BOYS BASKETBALL: Flint Beecher vamps up defense down stretch to claim Class C three-peat
BY DAN STICKRADT
EAST LANSING — The best offense is often the best defense.
Flint Beecher displayed that in the fourth quarter Saturday in the Class C state finals at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.
The Bucs clamped down on defense, forced nine fourth-quarter turnovers, and outscored Grand Rapids Covenant Christian 21-9 in the final period to claim a 73-58 victory over the Chargers for the school’s third straight Class C state championship.
The win gave Beecher (23-5) its eighth overall state crown — the Bucs also won in 1976, 1985, 1987, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 — and moved the school into second place in Flint history, one title behind Flint Northern.
Beecher has won five of the last six state titles in Class C, while the school’s other state crowns came in Class B.
“That’s what we do. That’s Beecher basketball,” reminded Beecher coach Mike Williams. “I thought our defense in the fourth quarter was the difference. We got some steals, pushed the tempo and we pulled away.
“I really believe our schedule really prepared us for this,” said Williams. “We described the game like a fight. You have to be able to take a punch and to be able to give one back. I felt we did that tonight.”
A steal by Malik Ellison and a quick feed to Jalen Terry for a dunk gave the Bucs a 55-49 lead over unranked Covenant Christian and kickstarted the game-finishing pace.
Levane Blake’s thunderous dunk pushed the advantage to 67-55 and helped seal the deal for the Bucs.
“It’s a good feeling to work so hard for this moment and knowing that you had two under your belt and to come in and get a third one that just sets the history books,” smiled Ellison. “We knew we could do this.”
Ellison, who recently committed to Eastern Michigan and was voted the Associated Press Class C Player of the Year, bowed out with 32 points to lead the Bucs, although he had an uncharacteristic eight turnovers. He sank 14-of-18 free throws and made four 3-pointers for the Bucs, who shot 25-for-51 from the floor (49 percent).
Jordan Roland added 15 points, while both Blake and Terry contributed nine points with the 6-foot-7 Blake caroming 12 rebounds and four steals.
Covenant Christian traded runs with Beecher for the first three quarters — the third quarter alone featured seven lead changes — but the Chargers couldn’t withstand the Bucs’ pressure down the stretch.
The two teams were tied 22-22 after the first quarter, with Beecher holding a slim 35-33 advantage at halftime.
All of Beecher’s losses came against Class A and Class B schools.
“That prepared us for anything we saw down here,” said Williams. “We played some very good teams, even played in a triple-overtime game with (Class B finalist) New Haven. We were prepared for a game like this.”