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Macomb Township

March 29, 2012

LCN boys hoops team wraps up stellar season in state semis

By Jon Malavolti
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
L’Anse Creuse North senior Kyle Deschaepmeester (32) attempts to evade a pair of Lake Orion defenders during the March 20 Class A state quarterfinals at the University of Detroit-Mercy’s Calihan Hall. The Crusaders won that game before falling in the state semifinals to eventual champion Saginaw High.

EAST LANSING — Macomb L’Anse Creuse North’s boys basketball didn’t leave the Breslin Center with a trophy — they left something instead.

An imprint.

It’s not flashy and it’s not huge, but its there, at the site of the boys basketball final four on the campus of Michigan State University, where the Crusaders ended up for the first time in program history, only to fall to Saginaw High 59-46 March 23.

“I think that when you go on a run like this and create some school history … it’s been awesome,” LCN coach Jay Seletsky said. “Besides the outcome, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.”

The Crusaders certainly made their mark, entering the semifinals as a relative outsider and underdog before hanging with and putting a little scare into the eventual Class A state champions for three-and-a-half quarters.

“My teammates had a great game. We just couldn’t come out on top,” junior guard Tyler Conklin said after finishing with a game-high 22 points.

Before he led his Trojans to the state title the next night in a 54-42 win over Rockford High, Saginaw coach Julian Taylor took notice of the Crusaders and Conklin.

“They were very disciplined,” he said. “(Conklin), he’s a good, good, good player.”

Sporting a bruise on the side of his face after the contest, Conklin certainly embodied the spirit of the Crusaders and their season as they battled against some of the top players and teams in the state.

“It’s just been a tremendous ride,” Seletsky said. “These kids really worked for everything they got this year. I couldn’t be more proud of a group effort.

“I think Tyler belongs, doesn’t he? He showed on a big stage, he can keep us in some things,” the coach continued. “He kept us close, he really did. You can’t ask for much more. He really wanted it, as all the kids did.”

Finishing 22-5 overall, the Crusaders set a program record for wins, as they wrapped up the Macomb Area Conference Red Division, a district and regional titles.

“It feels great to make school history. We worked hard for it every day in practice,” Conklin said. “We’re going to keep our heads up, and work all offseason and come back next season and try and make it this far.”

While they come into this season with little fanfare, the Crusaders will open next year with plenty of spotlight fixated on them as they return their entire starting lineup in Conklin, fellow juniors Ramone Griffin, Robert Hopkins and John Allen, and sophomore Frank Devos, as well as a key backup in junior guard David Bercel-Dicker.

Seletsky called the experience of the postseason run “invaluable.”

“What it comes down to, at this point, you’re playing three extra weeks of basketball,” the coach said. “And you’re going against teams that we don’t have in our area, different types and styles of play. We’re going to take this experience and lead it into the summer.

“And really now, we see where we can be with this group,” he continued. “I think we’ve learned a lot. Our kids are hungry still. Obviously, our goal is to improve. It really propels you going into next year, in our case especially, because you have so many returners.”

LCN graduates a pair of seniors in Kyle Deschaepmeester and Derick Motley.

But before thinking of next season, Seletsky said the Crusaders would look back and enjoy this one.

“I really just want to savor this moment with these guys,” the coach said. “We may never be back, and that’s reality.

“So we’ve been living in the moment, we’re going to enjoy the moment.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Jon Malavolti at jmalavolti@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1040. Twitter Follow Jon on Twitter.