By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Perseverance and patience anchored the explanation as pride in the Detroit Public School League flowed Saturday evening at the Breslin Center.
The great majority of the conference’s nearly 30 MHSAA boys basketball championships have been won over the years in Class A. Most of the league’s schools lately have played in Class A and B.
And from Class C this weekend emerged the latest PSL champion, Detroit Edison, which entered the postseason with a .500 record but more than ready to run after weathering a regular-season schedule loaded with larger opponents.
Edison completed its first MHSAA title run with a 53-38 win over Maple City Glen Lake, the Pioneers’ 12th victory over its final 13 games this winter.
“We didn’t struggle the whole year. We played in the toughest league, the PSL,” Edison senior Pierre Mitchell, Jr., said. “We won the PSL championship; the state run was a little easier than the PSL playoffs. We just had to click at the right time.”
Edison (17-10) became the fourth team to enter the playoffs with a record of .500 or worse and win an MHSAA boys basketball title, joining 1933 Grand Haven and 1967 Menominee in Class B and 1969 Marquette Baraga in Class D. The Pioneers also became the third to enter with double-digit losses and win it all – Menominee was 6-10 (in part because of four forfeits) at the end of the 1967 regular season and finished 13-10, and Baraga was 8-10 in 1969 and finished 16-10.
Edison finished fourth during its regular season in the PSL’s East Division 1, which also included Class A Detroit East English and Martin Luther King, Class B Osborn and Class C Pershing. But the Pioneers won the PSL tournament title by beating Pershing plus Class A Cass Tech and Class B Mumford and Renaissance.
The early losses weren’t by design, of course, but Edison didn’t employ its full attack until late in the season to keep opponents from being able to scout everything that might be coming their way during the playoffs.
“To go 2-6 (in the league) was a big disappointment, but we always understood that everyone makes it to the playoffs,” Pioneers coach Brandon Neely said. “I was very optimistic that once we got into the playoffs, we were going to be a tough team.”
Glen Lake (24-3) was a formidable final opponent. The Northwest Conference co-champion led the first seven minutes Saturday and then most of the first three of the second half.
With 4:58 to go in the third quarter, Mitchell made a free throw to tie the score at 25-25 and then missed his second. Glen Lake senior forward Cade Peterson came down with the rebound – by also twisted his right ankle as his foot came down on the foot of an Edison player behind him.
Peterson left the game, and 20 seconds later Mitchell drilled a 3-pointer to give the Pioneers a 28-25 lead. Starting with his basket, they finished the period on a 14-6 run. Edison pushed the lead to double digits three minutes into the fourth quarter, even as Peterson returned to the floor.
“He does it all. He defends, he scores, he attacks, he rebounds at both ends, and he’s our leader on the floor,” Glen Lake coach Rich Ruelas said of Peterson, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. “When you take that away – and we’ve been resilient all year – obviously he’s pretty important to our team.
“Cade was our rock this year and just led us every step of the way. … He wants to win as badly as anyone I’ve ever met.”
Junior guard Xander Okerlund led the Lakers with 19 points and seven rebounds as they played in their first MHSAA championship game since 1996 and first ever in Class C and making all three previous Final appearances in Class D.
Mitchell finished with 17 points and three steals, making 6 of 12 shots from the floor. Senior guard Gary Solomon made 7 of 14 shots for 16 points to go with four steals. Senior center Deante Johnson and junior forward Brian Taylor, Jr., both had 10 points, Johnson with 11 rebounds and Taylor with three steals as well.
“We had a tough season, but these guys preserved and continued to dig in,” Neely said. “And it was very gratifying to see these guys reap the benefits of hard work. They’ve grown as men and they understand what it takes to get to the next level whether it’s in basketball, whether it’s in school, whatever needs to be done. These guys understand when you’re dedicated to something and commit yourself, you can be successful.”
Edison also became the fourth school to celebrate boys and girls MHSAA basketball championships during the same school year; the Pioneers' girls won their second straight Class C title last weekend. Edison joined the Detroit Country Day teams of 1989-90 and 1995-96, Flint Northern's teams of 1994-95 and Flint Northwestern's teams of 1983-84 and 1984-85 in that achievement.
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Edison’s Deante Johnson approaches for a dunk during Saturday’s Class C Final at the Breslin Center. (Middle) Glen Lake’s Cade Peterson goes up for a shot while Edison’s Brian Taylor, Jr., defends.