Madison basketball channels old roots for successful season

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Madison-Park News | Published March 22, 2023

 Madison senior Damian Harvey Jr. fights through a double team against Detroit Loyola on March 10 at Detroit Pershing High School.

Madison senior Damian Harvey Jr. fights through a double team against Detroit Loyola on March 10 at Detroit Pershing High School.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Madison senior Keanu Mills takes a jumper against Detroit Loyola.

Madison senior Keanu Mills takes a jumper against Detroit Loyola.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


MADISON HEIGHTS — Hard-nosed, blue-collar, physical, determined: They’re all things that represent and can be expected from Madison Heights Madison High School boys basketball.

Madison expects this mentality from its players, but what the team didn’t expect this season was for its roster to diminish down to eight healthy bodies midway through January.

Luckily for Madison and head coach Karl Williams, the majority still remaining were seniors that were ready to take the leadership role.

“This year, the guys wanted to be here,” senior Damian Harvey Jr. said. “We took them to the gym to help with their craft, and the coaches did everything to help us and make sure we were straight.”

Moving up to the Macomb Area Conference-Silver division after spending the 2022 season in the MAC-Bronze, Madison (14-10) embodied the underdog mentality against its opponents.

Madison, a Division 3 school, was a big fish in a small pond last season, finishing 16-5 and winning the MAC-Bronze division, but the Eagles seemed to be in a “David and Goliath” kind of matchup week in and week out this season.

Courtesy of a stronger schedule, Williams said his guys were prepared when it came down to the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 3 state tournament.

“The thing that helped us out a lot, and kind of fought it at first and then they told me I had no choice, was they moved us from the Bronze to the Silver in the MAC division,” Williams said. “So, we were playing all Division 1 and 2 schools all season like St. Clair, Port Huron, Marysville, those schools. They were really big this year, and they won some big games this year.”

Madison held its own during the regular season, finishing 6-4 in the league with key wins over Macomb L’Anse Creuse North, Port Huron, St. Clair, and St. Clair Shores Lake Shore.

By the time the state tournament came around, Williams and his guys were ready for whatever the region had to throw at them.

Opening up against Detroit Pershing, Madison trailed by 15 points midway through the third quarter.

Behind senior Keanu Mills’ 27 points and 20 rebounds, Madison came away with a 72-64 victory over Pershing in the first round of the MHSAA state tournament .

“A lot of people at the end of the game talked to me and thought that we were done, but I said, ‘No, that’s not how we are at Madison,’” Williams said. “We are a hard-nosed and make-things-happen kind of team.”

Harvey Jr. contributed 15 points of his own while junior standout Jason Howard added 13 in the win.

Howard carved out a significant role for Madison this season, and will be a leader of the 2024 senior class next year.

“He knocked down some big shots for us, especially in districts against Pershing and (University) Liggett that really expanded the game for us,” Williams said.

Madison came back with an impressive 61-36 win over Grosse Pointe University Liggett in district semifinals behind Harvey Jr., Mills and senior John Paul.

Harvey Jr. tallied 17 points while Mills (17) and Paul (14) both finished in double figures.

Madison’s playoff run would come to a close in the district finals with a 70-44 loss to Detroit Loyola, but it did nothing to lower the heads of the seniors that carried the program this season.

“I took that game very hard, but knowing I got to play the last of my games with the guys that I love, it touched me,” Mills said.

Madison’s season shouldn’t be measured by falling short of a district title, with everything the Eagles accomplished leading up to the state tournament.

Opening the season 0-2 with a pair of losses to Center Line High and New Haven High, Madison countered with a 7-1 stretch, including a first-place finish in the Crusader Holiday Tournament at L’Anse Creuse North High School.

Madison eliminated MAC-Red’s L’Anse Creuse North and MAC-Blue’s St. Clair Shores Lake Shore to win the tournament, and set a precedent for the rest of the season.

“I think that tournament really showed us as a team that we could beat big teams,” Mills said. “To start the season, it wasn’t bad, but it was downhill. It showed that we could knock off teams that people said we couldn’t knock off.”

Madison lived up to its ‘giant killers’ mentality as described by Williams, and while offense was a point of emphasis from Harvey Jr. and Mills, the defensive physicality of Madison’s man-to-man defense continued to wear teams down.

Out of 36 MAC teams, Madison ranked 12th in points allowed per game at 51.8.

Junior Davion Davis and senior Corey Hana were key contributors to the defense this season for Madison.

“That is a demand to play Madison basketball,” Williams said. “We’re in help position, we’re boxing out, and we’re doing all the things that is called tough basketball.”

While Madison will carry the same mindset and physicality into the 2024 season, it will be a new-look squad on the floor.

Madison will compete in the MAC-Silver division again in search of a league title.

While the seniors left a solidified foundation to follow for the incoming seniors, Williams said he can guarantee something from the coaching staff.

“I know one thing: I’m going to coach them the best I can coach them, get the most out of them, and make them better men and students at the same time through basketball,” Williams said.