Posted On: 12/6/17 9:44 PM
I made the short trip to East Lansing from Mount Pleasant to cover this game that featured two of mid-Michigan’s best teams in East Lansing and Dewitt.
For the most part in this game, East Lansing was in control. They led by 6 after one and 8 after two, but Dewitt made a run in midway through the third, cutting it to three. That was as close as they would get though, as by the end of the third they were down 13, and the gap stayed between 8 and 14 the entire fourth quarter. East Lansing ended up winning 68-57, but at several points throughout the game it felt like East Lansing was up by more than the scoreboard showed.
Both teams played predominantly juniors and seniors, although East Lansing did have one freshman that played key minutes.
MVP: Brandon Johns- 6’8 PF East Lansing (Michigan commit)
Johns was the easy choice for this. He had a game high 33 points while being efficient, and scored at all three levels. He also filled the rest of the stat sheet, posting 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 6 steals and 3 blocks. He did all this while being out of shape too, mind you. He has only been playing for the past week, as he was recovering from a partially torn patellar tendon in his left knee. It is a very scary thought that he could put up this stat line while being tired and only playing around 22-24 minutes of the game. The Mr. Basketball favorite made a huge statement on the opening night.
Schon really put on a show on the offensive end. He showed why he is considered to be one of the Lansing area’s top shooters, as he knocked down 4 threes, including a 4 point play to end the half to put East Lansing up 8. Schon also scored around the rim, displaying a soft touch inside of 10 feet. He also made 3 free throws, drawing fouls off of rebounds and attacking with the dribble. He did all this while having very little time on the ball. Schon was decisive with his decisions. He was looking to score off the catch from deep, in 1-2 dribbles, or he was keeping the play moving with passes. An impressive, efficient performance from Schon.
Best defensive performance: Brandon Johns- East Lansing
It is hard to give this award to anyone else with how dominant he was defensively. He had game highs in steals, rebounds and blocks. 4 of his 6 steals were in the first quarter, as he got up in Dewitt’s guards and wings and used his length and strength to take the ball from them whenever they tried to pass or dribble. He was a steady presence around the rim, and he altered several more shots to go along with his 3 blocks. His 10 rebounds were spread out between offense and defense, but any time there was a high ball around the rim, he came up with it in the second half and stopped any chance of Dewitt getting 2nd chance points. He had 8 of his 10 rebounds in the second half. Also, Johns did a fantastic job defending Luke Hyde, who is one of the area’s most productive players and is a Grand Valley State commit. Hyde normally can physically abuse players, and Johns showed that he is one of the few who can give it back. Also, Hyde usually can step out and hit a three pointer with regularity. I cannot remember him even shooting a three with Johns on him. He used his length, quickness and athleticism to bother Hyde from start to finish, and that was one of the biggest keys to East Lansing’s win.
Best shooting performance: Isaac Hungerford- 2019 6’3 SG/SF Dewitt
We could have easily given this to Noah Schon, as he posted a game high 4 threes. However, Hungerford showed that he too will be one of the better three point shooters in the Lansing area. He knocked down 3 threes of his own, and they were smooth with excellent technique. He finished 2nd on the team in scoring with 13 points, and also had 4 rebounds. Last year Dewitt had Tanner Reha and Luke Hyde as consistent options, but there was no other consistent scorer. If Hungerford can step in as a consistent three point threat, it will make the offense operate so much smoother, and make Dewitt a lot better.
Best playmaker: Malik Jones- 2018 5’7 PG East Lansing (Aquinas commit)
Jones did not appear to be too satisfied with his personal performance, but he was happy with the team win. He was a huge part of that because he dropped a game high 8 assists. He had multiple turnovers that frustrated him, but he was aggressive with the ball and really tested Dewitt’s defense from start to finish, constantly probing them and looking for open teammates. He also grabbed 3 rebounds despite being the smallest player on the floor the entire time. Jones is one of, if not the best dime droppers in the Lansing area, and he will likely surpass this assist total several times this season.
Top Underclassmen: Marcus Wourman Jr- 2021 5’11 PG East Lansing
He did not look out of place at all on the court. In fact, I initially thought he was a different player for the Trojans, because he did not seem rattled at all while out there. Wourman knocked down a pair of threes and also went 1-2 at the foul stripe. He finished 3rd on the team in scoring for the night, and did a good job running point guard duties when Malik Jones was not in there. His handles are crisp, and he had two moments in the first half where he nearly dropped his man. He is extremely quick and with handles that good, he could prove to be a very useful player against teams who try to play pressure man to man defense.
Best moment: Noah Schon’s 4 point play
This was a close one between Brandon Johns play where he put a Dewitt defender on skates before finishing through contact late in the 2nd quarter and Schon’s 4 point play, but we chose the latter due to the big momentum shift to end the half. It was only a 4 point game until Schon hit the 3 at the buzzer, and then he stepped up to knock in the free throw as well. This seemed to deflate Dewitt a little bit, and it helped East Lansing to manage Dewitt’s third quarter run where they cut it to three.
He struggled scoring, but he did just about everything else. He was very active all over the floor, and was actually Dewitt’s leading rebounder, as he tied for a team high 6 boards. He was also the team’s top creative outlet, he had a team high 5 assists and also had a team high 3 steals. If Flannery can get his shot to fall and become a reliable 3rd or 4th option scorer, he will be one of the top stat filling guards in the Lansing area this season.
Biggest surprise: Benjamin Tanke- 2019 SG/SF Dewitt
He did not really fill the stat sheet, but he was always around the ball and was one of the few players that was putting pressure on East Lansing’s defense.Tanke had 4 rebounds and a handful of points, and was frequently trying to probe East Lansing’s defense looking to score.
Biggest takeaways from the game for both teams:
I think both teams can take some positives away from this game. Dewitt’s most productive player Luke Hyde was held in check by Johns and the rest of the Trojans, yet Dewitt still hung around and had chances to cut the lead throughout the game. When Hyde does get rolling, Dewitt should be one of the tougher teams in the area without question. Even with the subpar performance by Hyde’s standards, he still finished with 11 points 6 rebounds and 2 steals. Also, it looks like Dewitt could have a few players who are ready to step up into bigger roles this year in Tanke, Flannery and Hungerford. They have some good quality in their starting 5 to support Tanner Reha and Hyde. Reha had a team high 17 points, but never seemed to get going. When he is rolling, he too is one of the top players in the area.
For East Lansing, they appear to again be the top team in the Lansing area. They surprised me with how well they defended and rebounded on both sides of the floor. Also, they have some good quality players throughout their rotation, and actually have more size in their rotation than I thought. 2018 Justin McAbee is only 6’4, but plays like he is 2-3 inches taller. 2018 Ben Zeka also provided some good minutes, and is all of 6’7 if not taller with really long arms. To go along with them, Schon has decent size on the wings at 6’4 as well, and Brandon Johns is obviously one of the best all around players in the state at 6’8. East Lansing’s biggest question to me is who will be able to score off their own dribble if the situation arises. Johns showed that he can do that without question, and Malik Jones showed the quickness to penetrate defenses, but he was not a major threat scoring inside. Someone else will need to be a threat with the ball, because Johns cannot be asked to be the only player who can be both a legitimate playmaker and scorer off the dribble. If East Lansing can find someone to step into that role, or find a way to mitigate the lack of a second elite scorer with the ball, there is no reason why they can’t make a run to the Breslin.