MT. MORRIS TWP. – Beecher’s rally celebrating the Bucs 2021 Division 3 state basketball championship wasn’t even over Thursday when coach Mike Williams began talking about winning it again next year.
Williams introduced the players and said a few words about each, telling many of those who will be returning next year that he has already taken them to the state finals once and now they have to take him back to the Breslin Center in the future.
“I think we’ve got a few more trips left,” Williams said.
That’s a distinct possibility given Beecher’s track record and the fact that of the 15 players on the roster in the finals, only five were seniors and just three were regulars. So talk of future state championships isn’t a stretch by any means.
But the purpose of the gathering was to celebrate the Bucs’ sixth state championship under Williams since 2012 and their ninth overall since 1976.
Beecher capped a 16-1 season by routing previously unbeaten Iron Mountain 75-47 in the championship game. The Bucs’ lone loss was on the road against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, which was ranked No. 1 in Division 1 all season and had won 27 straight games before losing to Grand Blanc in the quarterfinals.
The Bucs always schedule the toughest opponents they can find and will play them anywhere.
So Williams couldn’t help but have a little fun at the expense of teams like St. Mary’s and Division 2 Benton Harbor without specifically mentioning either. Both were ranked No. 1 in their divisions a year ago but Beecher went on the road and beat them both.
“When we go to Detroit and we play the big dogs, they tell me, ‘We ain’t never coming to Flint’ and it’s because of you,” he said, speaking to the fans in attendance. “When they come to Flint and they get beat, they say, ‘We ain’t never coming back.’”
Master of ceremonies Charles Jupree began the celebration by welcoming everyone to “Championship City.” He introduced many of the 16 dignitaries in attendance, a group that included police chiefs Michael Beach of Mt. Morris Township and Terence Green of Flint, members of the Beecher Board of Education and superintendent Marcus Davenport.
Before the varsity basketball team entered the gym, Beecher also recognized members of the junior varsity basketball team, girls varsity basketball team, volleyball team and football team. Those players received certificates of participation.
When the varsity basketball team entered the gym, each player was carrying a championship trophy representing the school’s various district, regional and state titles.
There were several highlights when Williams introduced each of his players at the end of the night.
He said junior Carmelo Harris, a first-team All-Stater this year, reminded him of current Denver Nuggets guard Monte Morris, who won the 2013 Mt. Basketball Award while at Beecher.
Williams explained how Division 3 Player of the Year Keyon Menifield got the nickname “Bones.” (Menifield was a 5-foot-3 string bean when he joined the varsity as a freshman and last summer was 6-1, 135 pounds.)
He called sophomore Robert Lee the best sophomore in the city and said fans in attendance could be looking at a future Mr. Basketball.
Williams also thanked the players for helping him get through the most difficult year of his life. His father died last year after contracting COVID-19 and at one point Williams said he thought about not returning to coaching this season.
“We wanted you guys to leave everything you have on this floor,” he said to the players. “You just didn’t leave your mark on the state and this floor and this community, you left one on my heart and I appreciate that.”
The two-hour celebration ended with many in attendance going out into the parking lot to watch the players release two dozen red and white Chinese lanterns in memory of loved ones in the Beecher community who died in the last year, several after contracting the coronavirus.
Nine of the deceased were mentioned by name, a group that included legendary Beecher basketball coaches Mose Lacy and Leonard Robinson.
About 100 people turned out for the celebration, which was originally supposed to be held on the football field but was moved inside because of rain.
“This means everything,” Menifield said. “Not everybody gets to celebrate having a championship. Only one team wins so it feels great. All the fans don’t get to come to the games(because of COVID-19) and support us so for them to be here, it felt good.”