Lake Shore 1994 state champion boys basketball team honored

Team went undefeated on its way to lone state title

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Online Only | Published December 19, 2013

 Members of the 1994 St. Clair Shores Lake Shore MHSAA Class B state title-winning team were honored during a ceremony at Lake Shore Dec. 19.

Members of the 1994 St. Clair Shores Lake Shore MHSAA Class B state title-winning team were honored during a ceremony at Lake Shore Dec. 19.

Photo by Jason Carmel Davis

ST. CLAIR SHORES — They were introduced one by one, taking a jersey with their name and old number on it from a current player to cheers from a packed St. Clair Shores Lake Shore gym.

They met beforehand to catch up and recall memories of their time as basketball players at St. Clair Shores Lake Shore — the fondest of which was a 1994 Michigan High School Athletic Association Class B state title, which the Shorians obtained by knocking off East Grand Rapids 38-37on March 26, 1994, at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University. The win capped off an undefeated 28-0 season for Lake Shore and made the team the first from Macomb County to capture a basketball state championship.

Players and coaches from that team, such as current Warren De La Salle boys basketball coach Greg Esler, who coached at Lake Shore for seven years and has since been enshired in the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Hall of Fame, gathered at the school Dec. 19 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of that title. That 1994 state title game played on flat-screen televisions in the lobby of the school's athletic wing. The state championship trophy was proudly on display, complete with the net from that contest draped over it.

Former players and their families converged on Lake Shore for the ceremony, which was put together by current Lake Shore athletic officials and former player Jeff Pouttu, who resides in St. Clair Shores.

"It's great to be here 20 years later. Looking through all the tapes, and I dug out all the archives and newspapers, it's bringing back a lot of memories," said Pouttu, who was named first-team All-Macomb County in the 1993-94 season. "That title game was probably the worst game we played that season, but we won."

That Lake Shore team outscored its opponents by 24.5 points on its way to a state title. The Shorians won the title a season after they went 26-1 — the lone loss coming in a MHSAA Class B state semifinal setback to Saginaw Buena Vista. Lake Shore's 54-1 mark over two years is one of the best in the history of the state.

Esler, who has coached in three state semifinals, guided the Shorians to the title in his seventh and last season with the program. Esler, who has won more than 500 games in a coaching career that spans more than a quarter century, said he figured he should go out on top.

"One thing I observed tonight is a lot of us have lost our hair over the last 20 years," Esler said Dec. 19. "But in all seriousness, it's great to be here with all of these great guys. What they've done with their lives — being family men and professionals, and the way they've conducted themselves has made me extremely proud. This is one of my proudest moments. If a coach can have something like this happen, he's really lucky."

Esler said a team of unselfish players who didn't care about stats won that state championship. Esler said he and his players knew the team would be good and that it just kept getting better.

One of those players who knew how good that team could be was guard Travis Conlan, who was named Macomb County Player of the Year for the 1993-94 season and went on to have a standout career at the University of Michigan.

Conlan, who hit the game-winning shot in the 1994 Class B final, said he's happy to be able to come back and celebrate the state championship. He said the title meant a lot to a lot of people. Conlan said the team knew it could win the state championship after the loss in the state semis in 1993.

"After that game, I knew we were going to win the state championship the next season," Conlan said. "I just had a feeling in my belly because we had gotten so close with such a good team and we had a ton of good players coming back. We just made it a goal at the beginning of that season. It was a test for everybody on that team to push each other in practice every day to get better and we went out and did it."