Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day boys basketball coach Kurt Keener and his staff could see it last summer.
Despite a lack of size for a team that traditionally produces Division 1 level big men, Keener and his coaches believed their squad would play bigger than their listing.
“We thought it from the beginning. High school basketball is still a small man’s game,” Keener said. “It’s a case where we’re with the kids every day. We see their work ethics.”
The Yellowjackets played anything but small and won the school’s ninth state championship, beating Detroit Community 57-49 March 23 at the Breslin Center for the Class B title.
“It’s just very special to me … because no one expected it. No one predicted us in the preseason, except to maybe have a rebuilding year,” Keener said. “More than anything else, it’s this group of kids. A lot of kids come to Country Day because they want to be part of this tradition. … This group wanted it very badly. They gave the time, the sweat, everything to get a state championship.”
Country Day trailed the Hurricanes by as many as eight points in the first quarter, but used a 12-3 run that continued through the second quarter to take the lead.
“There wasn’t really any anxiety or stress,” senior Austin Price said.
Country Day led 31-25 at the half, but Community battled back to tie it at 44 with just more than seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
From there, the Yellowjackets locked it down on defense and received some clutch shooting from Price.
The guard was 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth. As a team, Country Day made 20, compared to Community’s nine.
“These guys just kept believing and wouldn’t quit,” Keener said. “They just kept digging, and would get a stop, get a free throw and doing everything they had to do to get a win. I’m just so very proud of them.”
Despite having only one player listed taller than 6 foot 4, while Community had four over that height, Country Day out-rebounded Community and scored six more second-chance points.
Keener credited players like Maurice Ways and Deshawn Thomas for playing larger than their 6 foot 4 frames. Each pulled down eight rebounds.
“They just compete. They’re fundamentally sound and focused. Those are the types of things that, I think, make champions,” Keener said.
The Yellowjackets finish the season 25-3 overall and with its first state title since 2010.
“Each in their own way did it,” Keener said. “A little bit here, a little bit there, and they’re champions.”