Player of the Year: Claeys wins on both gridiron, basketball court this winter
All-Area Boys Basketball Teams 2017-18
Tyson Claeys - Herald Times Player of the Year
Cardinals duo Claeys, Shimel earn all-state accolades
Player of the Year: Claeys wins on both gridiron, basketball court this winter
What was Tyson Claeys' recipe for success this winter?
Surrounding himself with great talent, he said.
The Johannesburg-Lewiston junior turned heads as a tight end for the Saginaw Legacy 7-on-7 football team – catching the eye of Division I colleges and even hauling in touchdown passes that went viral on social media in the process.
When Claeys wasn't on the indoor gridiron, he was helping the Cardinals' boys basketball team claim its first conference championship since 1981.
Although J-L lost to Oscoda in the Class C district semifinal, Claeys pushed his squad to 15 wins and proved that he was the top player in Otsego County. For his extra hustle – and his ability to be a standout in two sports at the same time – the Herald Times has picked him as its Player of the Year.
"I just kept on doing what I've always done," he said Friday afternoon. "I bodied down in the paint and played with great guys on my team. That also helps a lot.
"Nobody could double down on me or anything because of the other guys on our team. The talent is so spread out across the board for everyone that it kept the other teams honest."
Claeys (6-foot-4 forward) called himself a "garbage man" in the paint. If he wasn't hitting short or mid-range jumpers, he was cleaning up the glass and getting put-back points. He rarely took a 3-point attempt – he didn't have to, really, because J-L rarely trailed in games – and he established himself in the post.
He finished with 308 points and 170 rebounds, averaging 15.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, and he picked up Associated Press and Detroit Free Press all-state honorable mention nods in the process and was also All-Ski Valley first team.
Claeys said he knew J-L was destined for a special year when he and his teammates quickly put away Pellston in the third game of the season in December. The Cardinals beat the Hornets – considered a team likely to contend for the SVC title – by 17 points, and they got up on them early.
Claeys was helped by a cast of Timmy LaPointe and Caesen Campbell in the post, Kyle May and Tanner Shimel at guard, Tyler Madej as a swing man and Carlos Gascho and Sheldon Huff coming off the bench as the sixth men.
"We just had the mentality that we could (win a conference title) and we should, and we did," Claeys continued. "Our goal was to win the championship. We just kind of had that mentality.
"After that Pellston game, when we jumped on them quick, we felt we had a really good start to that game, and we saw what we were capable of doing to teams. That's when we thought this could be our year, assuming we could come together and play together. And we did.
"Playing with all that talent around me definitely helped (me have success), and I'm definitely honored to be Player of the Year after playing with all them."
Some athletes could spend all winter in the gym to try and take home the HT's Player of the Year award. But Claeys was spending his free time hitting the books and running pass routes.
In his 7-on-7 league, he was an all-stater on offense thanks to the QB's throwing him passes, and he has been in touch with several Ivy League schools about playing football at the next level. He has campus visits planned with Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia.
He's also got camps scheduled at Central Michigan and Saginaw Valley State where he hopes to generate some more local recruiting interest.
Assuming he can keep his GPA where it's at and ace the SAT, Claeys would like to end up in the Ivy League. Regardless of what happens, his dream is to play college football, something he said he's been working toward since the seventh grade.
Wherever he ends up, he knows he's going to surround himself with the best talent he can find.
That's his plan for next basketball season, too.
"I don't think our mindset's are going to change much next season, even though we lose Kyle, Caesen, Joe (Bush) and Timmy," he said. "I think out mentality stays the same. We should win a conference title.
"We have to carry that mindset with who we have coming back."
Big year, big reward.
The Associated Press released its Class C all-state boys basketball team Tuesday, and Johannesburg-Lewiston had a pair of juniors make the cut as honorable mentions.
Tyson Claeys and Tanner Shimel, both three-year starters, are all-staters after leading the Cardinals to their best season the program has had in 37 seasons.
Claeys, a 6-foot-4 forward, led J-L with 308 points and 170 rebounds while averaging 15.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Shimel scored 277 points and shot 50.2 percent from the floor. The 5-11 guard also averaged 13.9 points and 3.7 assists.
Both players earned first-team All-Ski Valley honors.
J-L (15-6, 14-2 SVC) lost to Oscoda in the Class C district semifinal, but it won its first conference championship since 1981 behind Claeys' and Shimel's guidance.
Cardinals' Claeys, Shimel highlight All-SVC team
NORTHERN MICHIGAN – Six Otsego County players made the All-Ski Valley Conference team announced Wednesday, including a pair of the Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team's standouts on the first team.
Featured were juniors Tyson Claeys and Tanner Shimel, who combined to lead the Cardinals to the best season the program had in 37 seasons.
Claeys, a 6-foot-4 forward, led J-L with 308 points and 170 rebounds while averaging 15.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Shimel scored 277 points and shot 50.2 percent from the floor. The 5-11 guard also averaged 13.9 points and 3.7 assists.
St. Mary guard Brady Hunter landed on the second team, despite missing the beginning of the season with a leg injury he suffered during football season. The 5-8 sophomore scored 227 points in 17 games, shot 39 percent from the field and averaged 4.0 assists per game.
J-L senior Kyle May and junior Tyler Madej picked up honorable mention honors as well as St. Mary senior Josh Powers.
Also earning All-SVC first-team honors was Bellaire's Curtis Corbin, Onaway's Trevor Wregglesworth, Pellston's Tanner Byard and Central Lake's Grant Papineau.
The second team also featured Inland Lakes' Ian Clancy, Central Lake's Bret Dewey, Pellston's Blake Cassidy, Forest Area's Chase Ingersol and Mancelona's Matt Boyer.
Other honorable mention players included Bellaire's Hunter Pelz and Mitch Lampman, Inland Lakes' Kyle Whitman and Cleveland Baker, Pellston's Jordan Williams, Central Lake's Gavin Mortensen, Forest Area's Garrett Mullins, Onaway's Lucas Tollini and Mancelona's Jack Kloc.
The Cardinals (15-6, 14-2 SVC) lost to Oscoda in the Class C district semifinal, but they won their first conference championship since 1981. St. Mary was 9-14 overall and 4-12 in the SVC after falling to Wolverine in the Class D district final.
Owls sink 10 3-pointers to best Cardinals in district semifinal
JOHANNESBURG – Troy Huff could only shrug his shoulders after the game and say, "There's not much you can do."
The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team overcame seven different lead changes in the fourth quarter of the Class C district semifinal Wednesday at home.
But the one thing that hurt the Cardinals (15-6) all night wound up being the final dagger during the eighth and final lead change.
Trailing by one point and fresh off of a timeout break, Oscoda's Gabe Kellstrom buried a 3-pointer about 4 feet beyond the arc to help the Owls edge J-L 62-60 with only nine seconds left.
The triple attempt was the 10th make for the Owls, who overcame a nine-point deficit in the first half by sinking five 3s.
Oscoda will take on Whittemore-Prescott in the district championship Friday, March 8.
"We played good help defense, but then they'd knock down the 3," Huff said. "It was their night for the 3.
"I watched them play before against several teams, and to my knowledge, they have not shot 3s to that effect or that high of a percentage all season."
After Oscoda stole a 29-25 halftime lead, the Cardinals scratched and clawed their way back in front. They went on a nine-point run that was capped off with Sheldon Huff sinking a 3 of his own to give J-L a 39-38 advantage with 2:42 left in the third quarter.
Tanner Shimel buried a jumper and Tyson Claeys cleaned up an offensive rebound to ensure the Cardinals carried a 43-42 edge into the final eight minutes.
Twice, Oscoda's Grant Huebel sank a 3 early in the fourth to give the Owls a pair of one-point leads. But J-L countered when Tyler Madej and Claeys each sank foul shots to knot the score 56-56 with 1:39 left.
Huebel came through with two free throws as well, but Shimel got to the hoop and was fouled with 49 seconds remaining. He missed the back end of the pair, but he got his own rebound, and J-L worked the ball around to set up him with a drive to the hoop on the weak side. Once again, he was fouled as he made the shot. He hit the and-one opportunity, and J-L had a 60-58 lead.
"The ball just happened to bounce my way," said Shimel of the rebound. "I kicked it out and set it up, and we got it rotated, and I happened to be on the weak side.
"I drove and made some contact, I guess."
Much like the first half, J-L had no answer for Oscoda's 3-point attempt on its final shot because, well, the Owls were shooting from way downtown.
"We just kept playing our help defense, and they were getting out there (and making them)," Shimel said. "We were hoping they'd just start missing."
The Cardinals started the game on an 11-2 run thanks to Shimel's drives to the hoop and a tough 3. Claeys got the to the foul line, while Madej came up with some nifty passes to get his teammates open in front of the net.
But Huebel hit a pair of 3s and Owen Franklin had another to trim Oscoda's deficit to 19-16 at the first intermission.
The Owls hit a 3 to tie the score to open the second, and they eventually secured their first lead of the game shortly afterward.
"That's what I talked to them about after the game," Coach Huff said. "I said, 'We played good defense, and we played good offense, but their (Oscoda) shooting some of those 3-pointers 3 and 4 feet behind the line. It's just one of those nights they had 10 3s – 30 of their 62 points were 3s.
"We knew going in they didn't have much of an inside game. They looked to get to the rack or shoot the 3. We could have gone to a zone, but in a zone, they were still going to find that corner guy for a 3."
The Cardinals had a last-ditch opportunity to get off a final shot, but Madej's attempt missed just before the final buzzer.
Claeys and Shimel scored 24 and 20 points, respectively, to pace the Cardinals, while Madej tacked on seven.
Huebel helped the Owls with 24 points, including nine in the final period.
The Cardinals graduate four seniors in Kyle May, a three-year varsity player, Timmy LaPointe, Joe Bush and Caesen Campbell.
"It's going to mean a lot (to miss them)," Shimel said. "We're going to have to put in work in the offseason. We're going to need the younger players to step up for us and fill the roles that they're (the seniors) are going to leave us."
Outright champs: Cardinals win first conference title since 1981
JOHANNESBURG – The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team sprinted out of the locker room after Tuesday's game.
Leading the pack of Cardinals into the hallway was coach Troy Huff, who screamed, "Inland Lakes just upset Bellaire! Inland Lakes just beat Bellaire!"
Just 20 minutes early, J-L had beaten rival St. Mary 60-51 to clinch at least a share of the Ski Valley title. Bellaire's loss meant the 15-5 Cardinals were the outright champion.
What's more, it marked J-L's first conference title since 1981.
"Big games require big performances, and I think tonight required one, and we went out and got the W," said senior Kyle May, whose father, Mike, was a sophomore at J-L the last time the school hoisted a conference trophy in boys basketball. "It's just crazy because we worked so hard this season.
"That's a long time – 1981 – and 37 years is a long time for this team to come back and get a championship. It's unbelievable."
The Cardinals held onto to an eight-point lead for most of the game, despite St. Mary's Brady Hunter burying a 3-pointer and making an and-one to trim the score to 40-34 with 2:03 left in the third quarter.
"We weren't worried, we just needed to get back to our composure," Huff said. "I told them we're not filling out (on offense). We're not looking for the backdoor cut, etc. I said we're not reversing the ball. In the first half, we only reversed it once and we weren't looking for quality shots.
"We did that in the second half."
The catalyst for J-L's offense was its guards, primarily May, Tanner Shimel, Carlos Gascho, Sheldon Huff and, at times, Tyler Madej, who each drove deep into the paint to create shots for themselves or backside scoring opportunities for Tyson Claeys and Timmy LaPointe.
Claeys and LaPointe both made buckets down low to open the fourth, and then May and Shimel sealed the win by making four-straight foul shots to end the game.
"For it to be this long, it feels great to win it," said Claeys, whose father, assistant Frank Claeys, was 6 years old the last time J-L won the title. "It feels good. I can definitely thank I-Lakes. They definitely pulled it out for us. It's just a good feeling to work so hard and get this. It's just great."
Claeys finished with a team-high 15 points, while May pitched in 13 in what Coach Huff called the best game of his career. Madej added 12 off his smooth-shooting from mid-range, Shimel scored 11, LaPointe added five and Gascho had four.
Hunter led all scorers with 17 points, Ryan Meisner scored 12 and Joseph Moeggenberg had eight for the Snowbirds.
Looking back at it, all Coach Huff could think was, "Wow." He knew just how tough it was for the seniors to will their team to a win against their rival and complete the conference title run.
"It's unbelievable," said Huff, who was 12 years old in 1981. "In five years of coaching here, it feels absolutely amazing. The boys have worked hard.
"Kyle, I brought him up as a sophomore for his defense, and his defense tonight was unparalleled. I think this is the best game he's ever played. Caesen (Campbell), we started him last year, and he gave me good quality minutes, and Timmy came back this year and gave us good quality minutes and easy baskets tonight, and Joe Bush is a young man I can't say enough about. He comes to practice every day and works hard for us and makes us better as a team, and this is just a great team effort.
"To win it outright, it's just even better. We've worked hard all year, and we've had a lot of Sunday practices. I'm not an easy guy to play for, and I demand a lot. I told them that if I didn't believe you had a lot more to give, I wouldn't be getting after you. I love those boys. They worked their butt off this year."
Cardinals keep pace in SVC with win over Inland Lakes
After an upset loss to Bellaire last week, Johannesburg-Lewiston bounced back with a 59-44 win Wednesday at Inland Lakes.
The Cardinals (12-5, 11-2) remain in first place of the Ski Valley after shooting over 50 percent from the floor. Tanner Shimel (team-high 16 points) buried two 3-pointers in the first half to open up the paint for his teammates.
J-L carried a 30-25 advantage into halftime and then used a 16-8 run in the third to separate from the Bulldogs.
"We looked like the team of old and got ourselves back in our swing and groove," J-L coach Troy Huff said. 'We were patient and seeing the ball really well."
Tyson Claeys added 13 points, followed by Sheldon Huff with nine, Tyler Madej with eight and Kyle May with six.
May spearheaded J-L's defense.
"We played full-court man, and I thought Kyle got back in his groove with good pressure defense all the way up the floor to get us started (offensively)," Coach Huff said.
The Cardinals visit Onaway for a conference game Friday, Feb. 23.
Eagles beat Cardinals to make SVC race even more exciting
JOHANNESBURG – Tyson Claeys' feet glided across half court as his Hail Mary heave went in at the halftime buzzer.
Unfortunately for the junior, that 42-foot shot was the easiest one he could come up with all night. Bellaire seemingly took him out of Johannesburg-Lewiston's offense in the paint, eventually finishing with a 42-25 win in a clash of No. 1 vs. No 2 in the Ski Valley.
Had the Cardinals earned the sweep over the Eagles, it would have guaranteed them at least a share of the SVC title and their first conference championship since 1981. Instead, it's now the Cardinals and Eagles both with a pair of losses in the conference.
A loss by either team will yield the outright championship to the other. Should both teams complete the conference season without another loss, they'll share the title.
"Like I said to the boys, we got to get back on track," said J-L coach Troy Huff, whose team is 12-5. "We can't be just one guy on the floor (Claeys) executing. We have to be smart and timely when we execute, too. At times, we were looking a little Helter Skelter tonight and not playing our style or flow.
"We control our own destiny now, so we'll have to see where it goes."
The two teams played to a 6-6 tie in the first quarter, and Claeys' buzzer-beater in the second ensured Bellaire only led 19-16 edge at halftime.
But turnovers and sloppy offensive possessions doomed the Cardinals in the second half, allowing the Eagles to take a 26-18 third-quarter lead and turn it into a 17-point blowout in the final eight minutes.
The Eagles were 9 of 14 from the foul line in the fourth quarter alone, while Griffen Niepoth accounted for 10 of his game-high 13 points in the period.
Aside from his half-court make, Claeys didn't come up with his first point – a free throw – until there was 2:39 left.
"There's nothing we can do when they take Tyson out of the middle," Huff said. "He commanded a double team from time to time but not all the time. They just did a good job shutting him down."
Tyler Madej (10 points) and Tanner Shimel (eight) were the chief beneficiaries of Bellaire taking Claeys out of the mix, but 18 points weren't enough to combat the streaky Eagles, who often turned turnovers into transition offense.
"It's what happens, generally, in every game," Claeys said. "We got to find a way to work around it and find openings for other guys to create (points) off. We weren't clicking tonight as well as we could have."
Claeys finished with four points, while Caesen Campbell added three. No other Cardinal could crack the scoreboard.
J-L hopes to keep its conference title hopes alive when it visits Inland Lakes on Wednesday, Feb. 21.
"This loss is tough because that game was one we definitely could have won," Claeys said. "We just have not been playing like we are capable of, and we just got to come out and play like we can going forward.
"We're capable of a lot, but we got to have that mentality along with the gritty mentality we have."
SVC race tightens as Cardinals are upset by visiting Trojans
JOHANNESBURG – A scorebook snafu before the game awarded the Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team a pair of foul shots to open Friday night's Ski Valley matchup.
Tanner Shimel missed both freebies, which was almost an omen for the Cardinals, who finished 5 of 17 from the free-throw line during their 51-38 loss to Central Lake.
The loss was the Cardinals' first in the conference this winter, which gives them only a one-game lead in the standings over second-place Bellaire. Those two teams will square off Friday, Feb. 16 to likely determine if there will be an outright champion.
J-L (12-4, 11-1 SVC) hasn't won a conference title since 1981.
"Coach (Frank Claeys) and I talked about it: There was no team in this league that was going to go undefeated, in my eyes," J-L coach Troy Huff said. "We thought if we could have gotten a win tonight, we would have owned the conference, but now it's just one game at a time.
"Hats off to Central Lake because they worked their butts off, and they out hustled us tonight."
Central Lake controlled the tempo for almost the entirety of the game. The only time the Cardinals looked in control was when they went on an 11-0 run to open the second quarter. They tied the score 14-14 after Tyson Claeys scored down low off a nice pass from Shimel at 4:23, but it was the Trojans who carried a 23-17 advantage into halftime.
If it wasn't Central Lake's Gavin Mortensen (18 points) leading his team down the court in transition, it was the Trojans punishing J-L at the foul line. They were 14 of 24, which included them making 10 foul shots in the fourth quarter alone.
Huff gave Central Lake credit for the win, but he said his team likely struggled because it was playing its third game in five nights.
"The bottom line is we played three games in a week, and I absolutely despise that," he said. "I thought we didn't have a lot of energy, and it is what it is. We got out hustled tonight.
"We'd have one or two good possessions, and then we'd take a possession off."
Claeys led J-L with 14 points, followed by Shimel with 10, Tyler Madej and Kyle May with four apiece, Gavin Weaver with three, Caesen Campbell with two and Sheldon Huff with one.
Cardinals stave off Pellston's late comeback attempt
Pellston made 3-pointer after 3-pointer to make a comeback attempt Wednesday.
But it was the Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team that came out with 66-62 Ski Valley win on the road.
"We were ahead by 13 points, and they just pounded the 3s, and they hit two 3s after our turnovers," coach Troy Huff said. "They're a very-well coached team, and they have won a lot games and have been in a lot of games.
"They're a disciplined team and shoot the ball well from the outside, but we handled our composure and hit our shots when we needed to, and we finished at the foul line."
The Cardinals, who led by as few as three points in the fourth, finished 17 of 24 from the foul line.
Tyler Madej scored a team-high 23 points and was 5 of 6 from the free-throw line, while Tyson Claeys helped with 19 points (6 of 11 shooting) and nine rebounds and was 7 of 9 at the line.
Although Caesen Campbell (illness) was out, Timmy LaPointe stepped up in his starting role and finished with two points and three rebounds.
Tanner Shimel scored eight points, followed by Carlos Gascho with four points and four rebounds and Sheldon Huff with two points and five rebounds. Kyle May added four steals.
Cardinals drop road game at Cedarville
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor
The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team couldn't combat the size disadvantage it dealt with Monday at Cedarville.
The Cardinals (11-3) lost 61-45 to the Trojans in non conference play, unable to overcome their six-point deficit entering the fourth quarter.
"They're a big, physical team," J-L coach Troy Huff said. "They have a few kids 6-foot-3 or better, and we didn't box out, so we got over-the-back calls.
"It was a good, physical game, but when you're not boxing out really well, it's hard to win on your second and third opportunities. They had 12 points on their second and third opportunities alone."
Tyson Claeys scored 17 points, followed by Tanner Shimel with nine, Tyler Madej with seven, Caesen Campbell with five, Timmy LaPointe with three and Kyle May and Sheldon Huff with two apiece.
Buzzer beater: Claeys relies on team grittiness to push J-L past Mancelona in OT
JOHANNESBURG – Playing in its third game in the same week, the Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team looked gassed Friday night, and it often made small mistakes it rarely commits.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, their starters stepped up in the second half to complete a 47-44 comeback win over visiting Mancelona, which included junior Tyson Claeys burying a 3-pointer at the buzzer in overtime to clinch the victory.
"It's a heck of a finish, but like I told them, I thought we got outplayed," said J-L coach Troy Huff, whose team is 11-2 overall and 10-0 in the Ski Valley, six wins from a perfect season in the conference. "I honestly thought we got outplayed.
"We knew we were capable of being right there, but we didn't play like that the whole game. We made the big shots when we needed them. But I got to say, with three games in one week, our legs are gone, and it showed tonight."
The Cardinals entered halftime trailing 29-20 after sloppy rebounding and frequent miscues on offense marred their ability to keep up with the Ironmen early. The first quarter alone saw them commit four turnovers on their final six possessions of the period, never truly setting up any kind of plays.
But their starters found their groove late in the third, and junior Tanner Shimel led J-L on a 7-2 run that resulted in a 36-33 advantage to begin the fourth. Shimel hit a go-ahead bucket down low off a pass from Carlos Gascho to give the Cardinals their first lead, 34-33, since the first quarter. Tyler Madej capped the third with a buzzer-beater jumper.
Mancelona twice knotted the score in the fourth, including making a foul shot with 1:05 left to send the game into overtime. Madej had a chance to make the game-winning shot at the regulation buzzer, but his attempt didn't get off clean enough to find the bottom of the basket.
Mancelona quickly took a two-point lead in overtime, but Claeys tied it up 44-44 with a bucket in the paint.
An ill-timed foul by Madej sent Mancelona to the line for a one-and-one foul shot with 5.6 seconds left, but the free throw banged off the rim. Around mid court, Claeys angled for the near sideline and got off a 3 at the buzzer he swished.
"Luckily it went in," Claeys said. "I don't think I could ever do it again even if I had to, so I'm glad it went in."
Claeys, who had a team-high 14 points alongside Shimel, said the play ranks near the top as one of his best moments playing sports.
The junior just wishes his team could have played up to its potential the full 32 minutes before overtime started.
"That was definitely a game that we would like to learn from but forget, too," he said. "(We need to) move on and play our style of ball next time.
"(At halftime), we came in here and got our talking to, and we enforced playing with our grit because that's all we can play with. We're not bigger. We're faster than some teams, but we're not bigger, so we got to play with our grit and do what we got to do to succeed."
The 3 was only Claeys' second attempt of the season. The big man is shooting 100 percent from downtown, and J-L is still undefeated against conference opponents.
"Honestly, I don't know if we deserved to win this game," said Huff, whose Cardinals are three wins ahead of second-place Bellaire in the conference standings. "We didn't step up when we needed to step up, and we weren't patient with the ball. We weren't waiting for our bigs to sit down (in the post), we were kind of throwing the ball in, and we're lucky to come out with a win."
Huff said the Cardinals were saved by its foul shoot (6 of 11), and he admitted they probably lose if they weren't better than 50 percent against last-place Mancelona.
Madej finished with eight points, while Kyle May had five, Timmy LaPointe had four and Sheldon Huff added two.
"It's just tough," Coach Huff continued. "We played Mio on Wednesday – and they're just big and physical, too – and we looked like were just a step behind tonight, I'll be honest."
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor
When Johannesburg-Lewiston struggled to find consistent success Monday at Forest Area, its boys basketball team relied on senior Kyle May's defense to secure the win.
The Cardinals (8-1, 7-0 SVC) topped the Warriors 48-33, despite carrying a huge halftime lead in the Ski Valley matchup.
"We were up 24-8 at halftime, and we were dictating what went on in the game, especially on defense," J-L coach Troy Huff said. "We had a few turnovers and played a little sloppy, but fortunately Kyle May had a good game for us.
"We had a few steals off his pressure defense, and he was antagonistic and wore down their players. It was his best all-around game this season."
May scored nine points and finished with two steals and three assists to ensure the Cardinals remained in first place of the conference standings.
Tanner Shimel (4 of 10 from the field) paved the way with 17 points, six rebounds and four steals, while Tyson Claeys added 11 points, Tyler Madej had six, Carlos Gascho and Joe Bush had two apiece and Sheldon Huff added one.
Rebounding, transition game inspire Cardinals to win over rival Snowbirds
GAYLORD – The recipe was simple for the Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team Friday at rival St. Mary.
First, the Cardinals secured a defensive rebound, then they made an outlet pass, then they passed down the court and then they finished at the rim with a transition layup.
They did that enough times in the first half to carry a 38-19 lead into halftime, which included a huge 15-4 run in the second quarter, ultimately allowing them to cook up a 54-29 win over St. Mary in Ski Valley action in Monsignor Kaminski Gymnasium.
The win kept the Cardinals two games ahead of Bellaire in the Ski Valley standings, and now they're halfway home to winning their first conference title since 1981.
"We were running that transition and hitting our outlets with Sheldon (Huff) and Carlos (Gascho), and I thought that was pivotal," J-L coach Troy Huff said. "We got them tired, and we kept our foot right on them and didn't let them get a breath of air during that run.
"That (15-4) run was huge. We were able to just play ball after that, and I thought it was a total group effort."
Coach Huff said he made defensive rebounding an emphasis all week during practice. He wanted his team to grab "one and done" rebounds to limit St. Mary's second scoring chances.
Not only did they do that, but they turned it into easy points at the other end of the floor.
"We stress boxing out, and we try our best to box out," said J-L junior Tyson Claeys, who led all scorers with 20 points. "We're just quick, and we have everybody crash. We don't really send anybody out releasing (right away). We just try to crash the boards as effectively as we can.
"We pride ourselves on getting it in transition if we can. Boxing out and rebounding is the first thing. If we can get up the floor, push it up and get transition buckets, then that's just a bonus for us."
The Cardinals' 15-4 run in the first half saw Claeys and Kyle May each score down low, while Tyler Madej buried a jumper and Gascho scored back-to-back layups in transition. Huff sprinkled in a few free throws throughout the scoring spree.
They amped up their effort after halftime, to and Claeys scored 10 of his 10 points in the third quarter alone.
"I was out there doing the best I could," he said. "I wanted to help my team win by getting some boards and passing and doing what I needed to do to help them."
Added Coach Huff: "Tyson had a huge game for us, playing strong and physical."
Tanner Shimel scored 10 points, followed by Madej with eight, Huff with seven, Gascho with six, May with three and Caesen Campbell with two.
Cardinals hope to clean up small mistakes ahead of St. Mary rivalry game
JOHANNESBURG – Even after an exhausting overnight car ride, Johannesburg-Lewiston coach Troy Huff's eyes stayed sharp.
The veteran coach left for Minnesota on Tuesday afternoon to purchase a new snowmobile and was back in time for Wednesday's boys basketball game, one his Cardinals dominated 56-34 over much-bigger Roscommon.
But road fatigue didn't keep Huff from noticing the few things his team did wrong, and those are the things he wants to see fixed immediately before the Cardinals (7-1, 6-0 SVC) visit rival St. Mary for a pivotal Ski Valley matchup Friday, Jan. 26.
"I thought the whole group played pretty well, but I still thought we had a few too many turnovers," said Huff, whose Cardinals have won seven-straight games. "We had 13 turnovers against the caliber of team we just played. I told them (after the game) we have to clean up a few of those before we play St. Mary.
"With an 11-point lead at halftime, I thought we missed a few easy shots and layups, and I thought we should have been up by 30."
A 10-3 run to open the second quarter clinched the win for the Cardinals, who saw Tanner Shimel score once on a cut to the hoop and another time on a backdoor cut. Tyler Madej buried a 3-pointer, and Carlos Gascho used his speed to score a layup in transition, ensuring J-L a 25-14 halftime lead.
Sheldon Huff scored six points in the first quarter, which included a deep 3 to end the period, to give the Cardinals an early 12-7 advantage.
The Cardinals held Roscommon scoreless for the first 3:15 of the third quarter. Offensively, they utilized drives to the hoop from Tyson Claeys, Shimel and Huff to grab a 20-point lead entering the final eight minutes.
J-L iced the game once and for all when Caesen Campbell cashed in on three easy buckets near the hoop in the fourth.
Shimel led with 13 points, followed by Claeys with 12, Huff with 10, Campbell with eight, Madej with five and Gascho and Kyle May with four apiece.
"I thought Tyson had a good inside game, and he worked from different points of the floor, and he was working from down low and the short corner," Coach Huff said.
"I thought Caesen played really well. He's athletic as hell, but he needs to trust himself more (like he did in the fourth quarter). He needs to take it to the rack, and when he does decide to do that, he's tough to stop."
The Cardinals hold a two-game advantage over second-place Bellaire in the conference standings. They'll need to earn a tough road win over the Snowbirds to keep a healthy lead over the Eagles going down the stretch of the season.
They've already outlined what they need to do to stop St. Mary, which was on hand as an entire team Wednesday night scouting what the Cardinals do.
"I didn't think we did a very good job boxing out in the first half," Coach Huff said. "St. Mary is a physical team, and we know we have to get a body on everybody.
"We need to keep Brady Hunter from penetrating, and we need to get some good defensive pressure on him. We need to limit (Josh) Powers and (Liam) Beningo on their short shots."
Huff, Gascho ignite 1st-place Cardinals to win over Onaway
Johannesburg-Lewiston reaped the benefit of having a deep bench in its Ski Valley boys basketball game Thursday.
The Cardinals (7-1, 7-0 SVC) got off to a slow start, trailing 15-14 after the first quarter, but rebounded with the help of its freshmen Sheldon Huff and Carlos Gascho off the bench to down visiting Onaway, 76-48.
J-L now sits in first place in the conference – two games ahead of both second-place teams, Bellaire and Onaway.
"We weren't patient with the ball in the first quarter, and I was disappointed," J-L coach Troy Huff said. "They tried to force it into the teeth of the defense, and they ran a 3-2 zone on us, and we tried to force it in the middle.
"Sheldon and Carlos came in, and we moved the ball really well. They're just more patient with their offense. They helped us work the ball around to penetrate dish and get good looks."
Huff scored seven of his 10 points in the first half, assisting J-L in outscoring Onaway 18-10 in the second quarter to take a 32-25 lead into the halftime locker room. The freshman was able to take advantage of backdoor cuts for easy lay ups.
"We started to get into a flow in the second half, and then we played really, really well," Coach Huff added.
Tyson Claeys scored 14 points for J-L, which led 51-35 entering the fourth quarter. Tyler Madej, Tanner Shimel and Gascho each scored 10 points, Caesen Campbell and Timmy LaPointe scored six apiece, Gavin Weaver had five, Kyle May added three and Joe Bush pitched in two.
The Cardinals host Roscommon for a non conference game Wednesday, Jan. 24.
Experienced juniors help Cardinals pull out comeback win over Bulldogs
JOHANNESBURG – They might be only juniors, but they have ice in their veins when it comes to game-winning moments.
Johannesburg-Lewiston starts three juniors who entered the season with a combined five seasons of varsity experience between them.
They looked like veterans when they helped the Cardinals (6-1, 6-0 SVC) orchestrate a 42-39 comeback win over Inland Lakes in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's Ski Valley boys basketball game.
First, it was Tanner Shimel who hit a pair of technical free throws to knot the score 39-39 with 35 seconds left, and then Tyler Madej went to the line to give J-L a one-point lead 15 seconds later.
Shimel went to the line one more time with eight seconds remaining, sinking a pair of foul shots in the bonus to secure the victory for his team.
"Tanner is a hell of a free-throw shooter, and I think he's in the high-70 percent range," J-L coach Troy Huff said. "If you can't rely on that, who can you rely on?
"They're juniors, but they're of age. They've been here since they've been freshmen and a sophomore. I believe in them, and they believe in themselves. I don't question them ever questioning themselves. I think they know they're here for a reason, and they'll make shots like those."
More than the game was on the line: Those free throws ensured the Cardinals would have sole possession of first place in the conference standings.
"We put in a lot of practice (on free throws), I guess," said Shimel, who has been on the varsity since he was a freshman. "We work on free throws every day, and (our experience) is huge, too.
"When we were younger, we were making mistakes, and we're not making those little mistakes anymore. It's just (about) having confidence in ourselves now. "
The Cardinals trailed 30-24 entering the fourth quarter, but Madej buried a jumper and the ensuing and-one foul shot to trim that deficit to only three points to open the final period.
About four minutes later, a steal from Carlos Gascho set up Caesen Campbell with a pivotal put back shot that gave the Cardinals their first lead, 32-31, since the third.
"I have to hand it to Carlos: His defensive pressure got us started, I thought," Huff said. "He had four or five steals, I and I think it (the comeback win) all started right there with him.
"He's a freshman, but as I tell them all, they have to believe in themselves. I wouldn't put them on the floor if I didn't believe them, so I tell them to go out there and believe in yourself."
Inland Lakes tied the score two more times before the game ended, but each time the Cardinals called a timeout and had a response.
"We just worked the ball around and said to do what we know what we can do and to box out," Madej said. "(During the timeouts), we're just telling everyone to keep their heads up and to play how we know how to play. We just needed to play good defense."
Except in the third quarter, where J-L allowed Inland Lakes to score 16 points, nine of which came from Ian Clancy, the Cardinals played tough defense all game.
They limited the Bulldogs to only four points in the first quarter, and a Gascho turnaround jumper at the buzzer ensured they'd carry a 6-4 lead going into the second.
J-L's defense drummed up a 9-0 run in the second, allowing it to take an 18-14 advantage into the halftime locker room.
The Bulldogs went on a run of their own in the third, though, as they took a 24-23 lead with 3:48 left in the period. They capped off the period on an 11-0 scoring spree.
"We just knew we had to get stops and stay consistent on offense and not force anything," said Shimel, who scored a team-high 12 points.
Tyson Claeys, the other junior starter, added 11 points, followed by Madej with eight, Kyle May, Gavin Weaver and Campbell with two apiece and Sheldon Huff with one.
Clancy finished with 12 points for the Bulldogs.
Cardinals beat Bellaire for first time since 1998
The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team used two freshmen off the bench in the second half to defeat Bellaire for the first time since 1998.
The first-place Cardinals (5-1, 5-0 SVC) topped the host Eagles 53-41 in Ski Valley play Thursday.
Tanner Shimel scored 18 points, but it was the heads-up play from freshmen Sheldon Huff and Carlos Gascho that helped J-L put away Bellaire in the second half.
It was a 31-30 at halftime.
"Midway through the third, I put in two freshmen – Sheldon and Carlos – and it just happened," coach Troy Huff said. "Sheldon got offensive boards that were huge, and Carlos did a good job with pressure defense. He was picking them up at half court and just pressuring them."
Shimel was 8 of 9 from the line in the fourth alone, while Tyson Claeys added 12 points, Huff scored eight, Tyler Madej had five, Gascho had four and Caesen Campbell pitched in two.
Timmy LaPointe added four points off the bench as well.
"Timmy came off the bench and had a couple of backdoor cuts that he finished really well on," Coach Huff said. "He also had a couple of steals for us.
"He helped us when we couldn't turn the hedge. We went up by one point in the third, but they went back up on us by five. We took over in the fourth with good offensive boards and defensive pressure.
"The freshmen came off the bench and absolutely played phenomenally about midway through the third quarter and into the fourth, and they played hugely. They didn't turn over the ball."
The Cardinals host Inland Lakes for a conference game Tuesday, Jan. 16. They expect to have a target on their back as they enter the matchup undefeated in the SVC.
Luckily for them, they'll have the confidence of finally beating Bellaire for the first time in two decades.
"The confidence we have now from beating them is huge," Coach Huff said. "That's the first time in my career I've had a W at the end of the day against them.
"If we can't build off that win, we can't build off anything. We're 5-0 in the Ski Valley, and we control our destiny, and now it's just one game at a time for us."
Easy baskets have Cardinals atop the Ski Valley standings
JOHANNESBURG — It's hard to miss shots when you're standing wide open underneath the basket.
That's what the Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team has found out this season, as its 62-32 win over visiting Forest Area in Ski Valley play Tuesday has the Cardinals (4-1, 4-0 SVC) undefeated since dropping their season opener to Boyne City.
The Cardinals were 25 of 55 from the floor and shot 48 percent from inside the 3-point line.
"We're getting high-percentage shots," J-L coach Troy Huff said. "Our shots are in the paint, and we're not living and dying by the 3-point line — even though we can shoot 3s – and we shoot them really well.
"We're just going to keep penetrating, and if teams run zone on us, we'll just keep being patient against the zone and still get looks at the basket."
The chief beneficiary of J-L's inside scoring was Timmy LaPointe, who came in off the bench and was 7 of 9 shooting for 14 points while also collecting five rebounds.
The senior was often in the right spot when the Cardinals drove to the hoop and looked to the backside for him to make an open shot.
LaPointe also scored four points in transition.
"Timmy's playing well," Huff said. "Our guards are getting things started by dribbling and penetrating, and Timmy's going to the right spot, and it's hard (to defend us) when you have fast guards with Kyle (May), Tanner (Shimel), Carlos Gascho and even Sheldon (Huff).
"They're all skilled, so they can get to the hole and find the easy passes for high-percentage buckets, and that is what's winning us ball games, to be honest."
The game was only in question early on when Forest Area made a couple of quick jump shots. But Tyson Claeys and Shimel kick started a 9-0 run to end the first quarter and give the Cardinals an 18-11 advantage entering the second.
A 14-3 run in the second quarter by J-L sealed the win, as Claeys and Sheldon Huff each scored four points during the spree.
Claeys scored a team-high 15 points, followed by Tyler Madej and Shimel with nine apiece, Huff with six, May with four, Gascho and Gavin Weaver each with two and Caesen Campbell with one.
Claeys grabbed nine rebounds, Gascho finished with seven steals and Shimel had six assists.
Gascho and Huff joined LaPointe off the bench with big contributions.
"Our bench is giving us great minutes," Coach Huff said. "We're not losing anything when we go to our bench.
"We get to give our five starters a little bit of a break here and there, and they come back in and are firing on all cylinders."
With the Cardinals atop of the Ski Valley standings, Coach Huff said his team realizes it has a target on its back as the conference season continues to heat up.
"It's like I told the boys: It's one game at a time," he said. "You can't overlook anybody. Obviously, everybody is looking at us and want to beat us right now.
"We're just being patient, commanding the ball and being patient with the ball. And we can run in transition, so we have a well-rounded team."
Quick recap: Explosive first half guides J-L past Forest Area
JOHANNESBURG – Heads-up defense and transition offense are keeping the Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball atop the Ski Valley standings this winter.
Tuesday was more of the same from the Cardinals, who downed visiting Forest Area 62-32 to improve to 4-1 overall and 4-0 in the conference.
They used a pair of explosive runs in the first half to distance themselves from the Warriors. That included an 11-0 run that saw Tyson Claeys make a pair of baskets down low and Timmy LaPointe score twice in transition.
In the second quarter, J-L used a 14-3 run that was highlighted by four points in transition and two buckets in the paint.
J-L visits Bellaire for a Ski Valley game Thursday, Jan. 11.
LaPointe's return to Cardinals helping Claeys, others find scoring chances
JOHANNESBURG – The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team was inexperienced and, at times, short last season.
The Cardinals could have used depth in the post. They could have used somebody like Timmy LaPointe, who sat out last winter and focused on preparing for track and field.
LaPointe has rejoined the program this season, and his presence was immediately felt in Monday's 55-41 loss to Boyne City.
"Timmy is a smart kid, No. 1, and he plays to his strong suits," said coach Troy Huff, referencing LaPointe's academic prowess. The senior was academic all-state in football. "He's a leaper, and he's a smart ballplayer.
"As long as he continues to play to his strengths, we'll get a lot of minutes out of him."
LaPointe, who is only 6-foot, scored only three points in the opener – all in the first quarter, helping J-L grab an 8-7 lead early – but he created mismatches in the paint. He also showed his ability to hustle down loose balls and out jump others for rebounds.
"I missed playing the games, and I love playing football with these guys because they're definitely my favorite," LaPointe said. "It was definitely nerve-wracking the first few minutes, but I came out and got that early bucket, and it definitely helped my confidence a lot. I was definitely nervous because I haven't played for awhile, and I didn't know how good I was going to be."
Both Huff and senior guard Kyle May feel LaPointe will be best used in the paint to take heat off forward Tyson Claeys, who is often double- and triple-teamed because of his height. Having LaPointe be both a scoring and rebounding threat down low should help Claeys score more points.
"He's just another big guy and another big guy we can feed into," said May of LaPointe. "Last year, we only had two big guys with Tyson and Tyler (Madej). ... He's just another guy on the floor we can give the ball to, and he can score.
"When they double up on Tyson, it frees up Timmy. And Timmy can score. When they double up on Timmy, we can dish to Tyson, so it's a dual-threat with two guys."
Added Huff: "He takes a lot of pressure off Tyson, so now teams have to worry about two different rebounder's."
LaPointe also said he wants to focus on making plays in the paint for the Cardinals, who could only help Claeys score two points in the fourth quarter vs. Boyne City. Claeys finished with 13 points.
"It's sort of always where I've played, too," LaPointe said. "I figured I'd be down there. I think that's where I can help, taking pressure off Tyson. That's going to help a little more because, eventually, in the fourth quarter, once we got it to Tyson, he had three guys on him.
"We got to try to take that pressure off him."
Cardinals encouraged by effort in loss to Class B Boyne City
JOHANNESBURG – The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team knows it can compete for a Ski Valley title this winter.
Their confidence in following through on that goal just grew considerably after their 55-41 loss to Class B Boyne City in the season opener Monday.
At times, the Cardinals (0-1) clang to a lead – even carrying an 8-7 advantage into the second quarter – and other times they trimmed double-digit deficits into four- and five-point holes.
They did everything they could to hang with a school with a 429-student enrollment, which meant a deeper, more talented roster, and that effort made their coach proud afterward.
"The heart the kids put on the floor tonight was unparalleled," coach Troy Huff said. "They fought and didn't lay down and just played hard. The juniors and seniors, I knew they were going to be that type of players, and I'm proud of the young guys. They came in and stepped up and gave us some good minutes."
Boyne City ultimately distanced itself from J-L in the second quarter by scoring in the paint. Seven of its eight baskets came from close range as the Cardinals struggled with help-side defense and closing out on rebound attempts.
J-L fixed those problems at halftime, but Boyne City's shooters got hot in the third quarter and even buried three 3-pointers to grab a nine-point lead down the final stretch.
"A lot of that was boxing out and stepping over sooner," Huff said. "We weren't stepping over. We were letting their guys get deep into the paint and get easy shots. Tyson (Claeys) actually closed out a little quicker and shut that down, and the weak side guard dropped down on that side to help, too.
"We just need to keep working on the little things, polish ourselves up and the Ski Valley is up for grabs."
Claeys finished with 13 points, followed by Tanner Shimel with 12, Kyle May with 10 and Caesen Campbell and Timmy LaPointe with three apiece.
The Cardinals found some offensive success breaking Boyne City's full-court press and attacking the hoop.
If it wasn't for some rusty play in the first half, May said, the final outcome might have been much closer.
"We've improved, but we didn't start the season off very well because we were rusty," the senior guard said. "But we knew coming into this game that they were going to be tall and tough, so we had to run with them, and they were going to full-court press us.
"So in practice we were running up and down the court, getting our stamina up and we knew we just had to run with them. That was the key to beating them."
Added Huff: "We were being patient, getting good looks and attacking the basket. They run that half court defense and the full-court (defense) as well, but I told them once we break it, you got to attack. You can't just keep passing. You got to attack the basket and see what you can get for shots."
May said he and his teammates weren't discouraged by the loss because "it's not in conference, so this loss doesn't bother me whatsoever. This is just preparing us for the season. They're a good team, and there's no team like that in our conference, so we're going to be a contender."
Huff echoed those sentiments.
"We're going to keep working, and we're going to be a tough school to beat," he said.
Local boys basketball teams prepare to tip off 2017-18 season
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor
Outlook: The Cardinals added four underclassmen to this year's squad and somehow still got older, which youth was their one problem last winter. At times they were just too young to compete with the experienced teams in the Ski Valley. With their top scorers – Tyson Claeys, Tanner Shimel and Tyler Madej – now juniors and Kyle May, their crafty guard, now a senior, that should take away a lot of the inexperience the Cardinals have struggled with and give them a chance to finish in the top three or four of the conference. The program also welcomed back Timmy LaPointe, who didn't play basketball last year but adds solid athleticism as the school's best tight end and hurdler.
2016-17 Record: 6-15 (5-11 SVC)
2016-17 Finish: Lost in the Class C district semifinal to Whittemore-Prescott, 60-33.
Key Returners: Tanner Shimel, Tyson Claeys, Kyle May.
Key Losses: Max Roberts, Tyre Curtis.
Key Additions: Timmy LaPointe, Gavin Weaver, Sheldon Huff.
No. - Name - Grade - Height
1 - Tyler Madej - 11th - 6-1
3 - Sheldon Huff - 9th - 5-8
4 - Carlos Gascho - 9th - 5-7
5 - Caesen Campbell - 12th - 6-1
11 - Tanner Shimel - 11th - 5-11
14 - Gavin Weaver - 10th - 6-3
22 - Kyle May - 12th - 5-8
23 - Joe Bush - 12th - 6-2
31 - Tyson Claeys - 11th - 6-4
32 - Timmy LaPointe - 12th - 6-0
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