Junior Varsity & Varsity Basketball 2018-19 Schedule
All-Ski Valley Team: Cardinals' Claeys make the 1st team
GAYLORD – Seven Otsego County boys basketball players appeared on the All-Ski Valley Conference team released Tuesday.
That included Johannesburg-Lewiston senior Tyson Claeys and St. Mary junior Brady Hunter, who each made the first team.
Claeys, the 2017-18 Gaylord Herald Times Player of the Year, averaged 16.2 points, 12.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals. He finished his career with 1,177 points, helping the Cardinals win the SVC championship as a junior. He'll play college football at Cornell University.
As the Snowbirds' top player, Hunter totaled 295 points, 118 assists, 95 rebounds and 66 steals. He averaged 14.8 points, 5.9 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 steals, while he also made 20 3-pointers.
J-L senior Tanner Shimel made the second team. He averaged 13.3 points, 3.5 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals.
Earning honorable mention were J-L's Sheldon Huff and Carlos Gascho as well as St. Mary's Alex Pudvan and Drew Koenig.
The Cardinals finished the season 16-6 overall after losing to Oscoda in the Division 3 district championship. They placed second in the Ski Valley race with a 13-3 conference record. Pellston (23-3, 14-2 SVC) won the conference title. The Snowbirds (10-10, 9-6 SVC) placed fourth in the final conference standings and lost to Ellsworth in the D4 district semifinal.
Undefeated Owls clip Cardinals in D3 district championship
LINCOLN – Before Friday's Division 3 district championship game, Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball coach Troy Huff made a worried comment to assistant Frank Claeys about his Cardinals.
"I don't know if we'll have the legs to keep up with them – I'm fearful of our legs," Huff said, referencing the fact the Cardinals had just seven practices and seven games the final three weeks of the regular season because of snow days. It didn't leave them much time to condition or work on the finer points of their game.
Sure enough, that reared its head, as Oscoda topped J-L 51-43 to claim the district title at Lincoln Alcona. It was their first title since 2000.
With three minutes left, J-L trimmed its deficit to just two points after Sheldon Huff (nine points) hit a 3-pointer and Joey Chrencik scored two baskets in the post. But the Cardinals resorted to fouling to get the ball back down the stretch, and the Owls made their free throws when they needed them the most.
The final four free throws the Owls made, in fact, sealed the win. They'll advance to the regional semifinal Tuesday, March 5, at Houghton Lake.
The Cardinals, led by Tyson Claeys with 15 points and 19 rebounds, finished their season 16-6 overall.
"It's an unfortunate year we had with seven practices, seven games," Coach Huff said. "And down the stretch, we were just 6 of 14 from the foul line, and that's because we haven't been in the gym or getting enough reps. We needed to shoot better tonight to beat them."
Oscoda jumped out to 16-8 lead after the first quarter thanks to Owen Franklin scoring 13 of his 23 points in the opening period.
"He's a long-range shooter, and we got caught in (help defense) a bit," Coach Huff said. "He's the best pure shooter on the team. They ran high screens for him, and he's a long kid – 6-foot-1 and only a sophomore.
"Sheldon did a better job defending him in the second and third quarters."
J-L cut it to 35-30 entering the fourth.
Sheldon Huff pitched in seven rebounds, while Tanner Shimel had seven points and three rebounds and Chrencik scored six points. Tyler Madej, Gavin Weaver and Carlos Gascho each scored two.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they say farewell to three senior starters in Claeys, Shimel and Madej. Claeys and Shimel were four-year starters, while Madej joined the varsity as a starter his sophomore year. They've been J-L's "Big 3," even helping the Cardinals win the Ski Valley title in 2017-18.
"Those three seniors, I can't say enough about them," Coach Huff said. "When you build a team around them as freshmen and sophomore, it's not just a one-year process with them. It's a four- and three-year process. All three have been great leaders in helping develop those younger players who will remain on the team next year.
"Tanner was our ball handler and finished well around the rim. Tyler was the quiet, silent one you'd always wonder how he'd have 12 or 15 points by the end of the night, and Tyson was just the big in the middle, using his physical presence in the middle."
JV Cardinals celebrate 18-1 season under Coach Kussrow
JOHANNESBURG – The sole purpose of the junior varsity is to prepare its underclassmen for future success at the varsity level.
But it doesn't hurt to win a few games while you're down there.
The Johannesburg-Lewiston JV boys basketball team finished 18-1 overall this season, its lone loss coming to Roscommon the second game of the year. The squad was led by coach Doug Kussrow and assistant Linc Campbell.
"If I had one word to describe this team it would be unselfish," Kussrow said last week. "These boys never cared who was the leading scorer, who had better statistics or even who didn't play well on a given day.
"Our team was well-balanced, hard-working and dedicated to each other and their team goals. As coach Linc Campbell and I discussed, it seemed at times we could mix and match this team together and not lose a step."
Shawn Ziobron led J-L by averaging 11.4 points per game, while Preston Marlatt averaged 10.7, Jason Richter averaged 9.3 and Lucas Newell averaged 7.3. Richter also averaged 9.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.0 steals per game. Ezra Gascho was also a key player.
Marlatt played 12 games on JV before the varsity pulled him up for depth at guard.
"Shawn Ziobron grew by leaps and bounds this year, taking control as point guard and a team captain," Kussrow said. "(Richter) can jump out of the gym. Preston was an outstanding guard and very poised for a freshman.
"Lucas Newell was our most improved sophomore. He busted his tail off and was a bear on defense. Ezra Gascho was a pivotal role player who always showed up ready to go with a smile on his face and eager to learn and compete.
"I could go on and on about each of these kids."
Kussrow said Logan May, Klayton Lowe, Josiah Hall, Ethan Voss, Cordell Campbell and RJ Korff each played important roles as freshmen. Jordan Crane, a sophomore, attempted to play this season but couldn't compete because of a broken leg but helped team manager Noah Makowski with stats.
Under Kussrow, the sophomore class went 34-5 on the JV.
Cardinals down Rogers City, advance to district final
LINCOLN – The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team couldn't have asked for a better start to the Division 3 playoffs Wednesday.
The Cardinals (16-5) never trailed during the 56-47 win over Rogers City in the district semifinal at Lincoln Alcona. They advanced to face Oscoda (22-0) in the championship at 7 p.m. Friday, March 1, also at Alcona.
Tanner Shimel put together one of his best nights of the season, scoring 25 points and finishing 7 of 15 from the foul line for J-L, which led 30-25 at halftime.
"He just did really well finishing around the rim and attacking," coach Troy Huff said. "He beat them in transition when we were running, and he just did such a great job for us."
Also helping J-L were Tyler Madej with 12 points, Tyson Claeys with 10, Carlos Gascho with four, Sheldon Huff with three and Joey Chrencik with two.
Madej scored eight of the Cardinals' opening 17 points in the first quarter, even knocking down a pair of 3-pointers.
"Tyler did a nice job in the first half for us," Coach Huff said. "Obviously, our offense goes with our transition play. That gets us in a flow and rhythm. We've got to push the ball and attack the glass to be good, and we've got to take good shots. We've done a better job of that lately.
"Going forward, we're going to keep needing to get more points from other players than our starters. Tyler stepped it up the last three games, and that's a great time for him to step up for us. We'll need him Friday."
The Cardinals' lone negative came at the foul line. They shot 10 of 27 as a team.
"I thought the boys played pretty well, for the most part, with only being in the gym once the last three days," Coach Huff said. "But to beat Oscoda, we've got to make our free throws, for sure."
Cardinals beat Central Lake, lose SVC title race to Pellston
PELLSTON — In the end, it all came down to the tough loss a few weeks ago at Inland Lakes.
The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team needed rival St. Mary to upset Pellston on Thursday to claim a share of the Ski Valley title. The Hornets wound up running away with the game in the fourth quarter and, in turn, the outright title.
So, after beating Central Lake 62-58 in their game Thursday, the Cardinals could only look back and say “what if?” as their regular season concluded with the win.
“It’s unfortunate, and I knew it’d all come back to that Inland Lakes game,” said J-L coach Troy Huff, whose team finished 15-5 overall and 13-3 in the conference. Districts start next week. “I knew that game would haunt us because we should have won it. They fouled Tyler Madej out even though he had only four fouls, and then the clock operator didn’t run out some time. So it’s unfortunate.”
“We can only control what we can control, so I’ve been telling the guys to play every possession like it’s your last. Always play like it’s a 0-0 game.”
Huff was happy with how they wrapped up the regular season at Central Lake.
Madej led with 20 points, but the Cardinals looked a step slower than normal. They were playing their third game in as many days.
They grabbed an eight-point lead, but Central Lake’s 2-3 zone defense kept the game close.
“We were a bit sluggish with it being our third game in a row,” Huff said. “We weren’t moving our feet and looked a little tired. But, offensively, we moved the ball and penetrated to the basket well. Central Lake did a great job making it tough on us.”
Tanner Shimel and Carlos Gascho added 14 points apiece, while Tyson Claeys scored nine and Sheldon Huff had five.
“I think we’re peaking at the right time,” Coach Huff said. “I hope we can go into the district and get a win. It’s a shame we couldn’t repeat as Ski Valley champs, but hats off to (Pellston coach Larry Cassidy) and his boys.”
J-L faces either Whittemore-Prescott or Rogers City in the Division 3 district semifinal Wednesday, Feb. 27, at Lincoln Alcona.
Chrencik, Weaver huge for Cardinals off the bench
JOHANNESBURG – Three games in three days.
That's a tall order for the Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team, but it's the reality if it wants to get in a full slate of games this winter. That's all thanks to snow days and postponements.
So while playing game No. 2 this week, coach Troy Huff knew he needed to rely on his bench for extra minutes to ensure his starters would stay fresh.
And that's what Huff's crop of backups did Wednesday, as several of them contributed well in the Cardinals' 54-29 win over Inland Lakes.
Two of the bigger contributors were juniors Joey Chrencik and Gavin Weaver. While Tyson Claeys led with 18 points, Chrencik came off the bench and scored 11. Weaver finished with just five, but he knocked down a key 3-pointer to ensure a 29-14 halftime lead as well as came up with a monster block in the third.
In fact, Weaver's block was the motif of the second half, as J-L (14-5, 12-3 SVC) held the Bulldogs scoreless for the first six minutes after halftime and only gave up four points in the third.
"He was running through the lane, so I thought to myself, 'I can't have that,'" Weaver joked about the block. "But it's just been great coming off the bench this year. I did that last year, but I'm getting extra playing time this year, and it's helping my confidence. It's been a lot more fun."
Chrencik, too, has appreciated the time on the court. He had a pivotal and-one opportunity in the second quarter that kept a 10-0 run alive.
"It feels good to get some time out there," he said. "I'm excited for next year because all of us – me, Gavin, Matthew Davidson and the other guys – are all getting more well-rounded this year, and it should really help us next year.
"For me, it's just been about hustling and playing with a little more dedication. The speed difference between the JV and varsity is unimaginable, and it's been difficult to adjust to, but that's where that extra hustle has come in and helped."
Huff is just excited to see his younger players step up.
"Yeah, it's nice to see," he said. "That's been our game plan this week, is to get those guys extra minutes to keep us fresh. And they've all earned it. You can see it in practice because they've all been playing outstanding.
"They believe in themselves, and I believe in them, too. They've made huge strides since the beginning of the season until now. They're out there getting better, and sometimes they're beating the No. 1s (starters) in practice. I have confidence in them to score each possession."
Tanner Shimel, who sat most of the first half with foul trouble, scored six points, followed by Sheldon Huff with five, Carlos Gascho with four, Davidson with three and Tyler Madej with two.
Rebound and go: Cardinals race past rival Snowbirds on the road
GAYLORD – With the final seconds of the first half ticking away, the St. Mary boys basketball team wanted to get the final shot.
So the Snowbirds drew up a play for guard Brady Hunter to drive through the lane and hopefully draw contact or sink a runner. Instead, rival Johannesburg-Lewiston grabbed the rebound with five seconds left and lofted a pass to a streaking Tanner Shimel, who scored a layup at the halftime buzzer.
And that's how the game went all night for the Cardinals, who scored 22 points in transition alone during their 59-41 win Tuesday in Monsignor Kaminski Gymnasium.
The first half was more of a track meet than a ball game.
"The people who were supposed to get back didn't get back, so that's a discipline we've got to get better at," St. Mary coach Dale Jacob said. "We've got to get better at stopping them when they run. They've got a great rebounder (Tyson Claeys), so they know they're going to get a rebound and the guards just go. It affords them some opportunities in transition.
"It's definitely an aspect we've got to be a lot better at, and it was definitely disappointing."
The Cardinals recorded 18 of those fast-break points in the first half, so St. Mary did ratchet up its defense in the last two quarters.
Shimel had three transition baskets in the first quarter to ensure J-L a 14-3 lead. Then the senior buried a 3 to ignite another big run, which included fast-break points from him, Tyler Madej and Claeys in the next period. They led 33-17 at halftime.
St. Mary trailed by as many as 22 points but cut its deficit to 12 while the Cardinals had their bench in.
The damage had already been done, though.
"Our transition game was spot on tonight," J-L coach Troy Huff said. "We were hitting long passes and getting out in the front court."
J-L (13-5, 11-3 SVC) got 18 points from Shimel, while Claeys had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Madej stepped up with 11 points, including seven in the fourth to ice the game, and five rebounds. Sheldon Huff pitched in 10 points and seven rebounds.
Coach Huff was happy his team responded to the challenge, as the Cardinals have had limited time in the gymnasium this month.
"We've only had three practices and three games in the last three weeks," he said. "With school being canceled, they didn't allow us to practice. So I was nerved-up about tonight, but we played really well against Onaway a week ago, shooting the best we've shot from the floor.
"So tonight wasn't bad, shooting 45 percent from the floor as a whole – from the 3-point line, floor and free-throw line combined. For not being in the gym, we got a lot of good minutes out of a lot of good people."
The Snowbirds dropped to 8-8 overall and 8-5 in the Ski Valley, despite Hunter leading the way with 22 points and three steals. Alex Pudvan had nine points and five rebounds, Colton Inglis added six points and Conrad Korte scored four.
"We kept fighting," Jacob said. "It's hard to score in the half court. Teams don't score efficiently too often in the half court, but if you give them layups in transition and put them at the free throw line, it makes the game a lot easier. They exploited that tonight. Hats off to them."
Cardinals finally get in the gym, edge Bellaire on the road
BELLAIRE — Obviously, the weather has been a problem.
The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team didn’t even get to practice last week because of snow days.
So the Cardinals looked a bit rusty Saturday at Bellaire but did enough to pull out a 41-39 victory during the makeup game.
Tyson Claeys led J-L with 17 points and eight rebounds.
“We looked like a team that hasn’t played or practiced in eight days,” said coach Troy Huff, whose team is 11-5 overall and 9-3 in the Ski Valley. “We at least got one game in Tuesday, but the snow days are killing us. Especially without practicing.”
J-L and Bellaire played to a 10-10 tie in the first, but the Cardinals separated in the next period, carrying a 20-12 lead into halftime. They led by as many as 14 points, despite missing starter Tyler Madej, who was attending a college class at that time.
“Their post play got them back into in the fourth, and they were doubling down on Tyson,” Huff said.” They also were preventing Carlos Gascho from driving through the lane. They started out in a 3-2 zone and then switched to a 2-3.”
Sheldon Huff pitched in nine points, six rebounds and five assists, while Tanner Shimel had nine points, two steals and two assists. Joey Chrencik, Gavin Weaver and Gascho each scored two points.
Marlatt impresses in 2nd game with Cardinals
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor
With Sheldon Huff limited by a recent ankle injury, Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball coach Troy Huff needed to add depth to his bench, specifically as an insurance policy.
So he moved up Preston Marlatt from the JV. Marlatt played only a few minutes in his debut, but he got plenty of time on the court in Tuesday's 72-44 win over Forest Area in Ski Valley action.
The freshman chipped in seven points and got valuable playing time at the varsity level. That'll pay dividends, Coach Huff said.
"He's composed on the floor, and I figured with Sheldon having a rolled ankle that we needed another guard," said Coach Huff, whose team is 10-5 and 8-3 in the league. "Preston was very smart, and he's got a lot of basketball under his belt already. He does a lot of things right.
"I figured I could start working him in this year so he can adjust to this speed at a young age. It'll help him be more successful later down the road."
Tanner Shimel paced the Cardinals with 14, while Carlos Gascho scored 13, Tyson Claeys added 11 and Joey Chrencik had eight. Also scoring were Matthew Davidson and Tyler Madej with six points and Sheldon Huff with five.
Cardinals control rebounds, upset No. 2 Pellston
JOHANNESBURG – Tyson Claeys says the Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team is fired up right now.
Which is saying something, considering where the Cardinals were at last week.
The defending Ski Valley champions had an ugly letdown and close-call loss at Mancelona. What’s more, starter Sheldon Huff suffered an ankle injury that will likely limit his minutes going forward.
So things weren’t looking so great when the No. 2 team in Division 4, Pellston, came to town Tuesday. The Hornets had beaten J-L by five points earlier in the year.
But none of that really mattered once the opening tip took place. The Cardinals gave up a 3-pointer here and there, but they dominated Pellston in every phase of the game, even scoring 23 points off offensive rebounds alone. Aside from a brief comeback attempt in the third quarter, when Pellston went on a 14-3 run to trim its deficit, J-L looked like a team poised to make noise in the upcoming district playoffs.
When Claeys came up with a thunderous block – batting down Tanner Byard’s jumper attempt – that lead to a Tanner Shimel layup in transition in the third quarter, the game was basically sewed up. The Cardinals walked away with an 81-65 victory over the red-hot Hornets.
J-L’s offensive rebounding efforts were key, but so too were its patient offense and physical defense.
“I thought we played our game plan,” said coach Troy Huff, whose Cardinals are 9-5 overall and 7-3 in the SVC. “We were always on the help, we were always on the inside shoulder playing defense – not on the outside. We were straight-up guarding them in the face. I thought that was pivotal for us tonight, for sure.”
“We always knew where our help was coming from, and I thought the boys played extremely well.”
In the fourth, the Cardinals pulled down an offensive rebound that ended in a Shimel basket, which extended J-L’s lead to 16 points. A 16-4 run also helped the Cardinals during the final eight minutes.
Back-to-back baskets from Claeys allowed J-L to close an early 7-4 deficit, and the Cardinals never looked back, leading for the rest of the game.
“It’s big when we’re rebounding like that,” said Claeys, who scored 23 points. “We were all over the boards and killing them. They weren’t boxing us like they did the first time, and they weren’t sucking down into the paint, which made it easier for us. Our guards were flying in and grabbing good boards.
“It definitely worked out for us.”
Shimel added 19 points, while Sheldon Huff came off the bench and scored 15, despite battling his injury. Gavin Weaver had one of his best nights on varsity, finishing with 10 points and playing great defense on Pellston’s star player, Blake Cassidy, who fought for all 24 of his points.
Also scoring for the Cardinals were Carlos Gascho with six, Tyler Madej with four and Joey Chrencik and Preston Marlatt with two apiece.
Byard scored a game-high 26 points for the Hornets.
“Yeah, we gave up 50 points to those two, but we locked up everybody else,” Claeys said. “We wanted to make everybody else beat us.”
Coach Huff, too, was OK with giving up 50 points to Pellston’s stars.
“Absolutely. As long as we’re taking good shots on our end, (that’s OK),” he said. “I thought we were taking good, wide-open looks. We were making the extra passes and catching the ball, looking for the open player. Our shooting percentage was way higher."
Ironmen outlast Cardinals in Ski Valley matchup
Tyson Claeys scored a bucket down low to knot the score at 55 early in the fourth quarter.
The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team just couldn't hold on down the stretch Thursday at Mancelona. The Ironmen edged the Cardinals 67-64, despite Claeys finishing with 21 points.
J-L attempted two 3-pointers to tie the score in the finals seconds – one each from Gavin Weaver and Tanner Shimel – but neither fell.
"It seemed liked Mancelona was hitting everything they shot," coach Troy Huff said. "We just gave up too many second-chance shots tonight."
The Cardinals (8-5, 6-3 SVC) host No. 2 Pellston for an important Ski Valley game Tuesday, Jan. 29.
Sheldon Huff (ankle) scored 16 points but left with an injury. Carlos Gascho added 12 points, Shimel scored 10 and Tyler Madej pitched in five.
Mancelona carried a three- to six-point lead for most of the game, relying on 20 points apiece from Jayden Alfred and Matt Boyer.
JOHANNESBURG — Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball coach Troy Huff gave his team a reminder at halftime.
On Friday night, the Cardinals led by as many as 11 points in the first half against rival St. Mary. But Drew Koenig buried a pair of 3-pointers to make it a 27-24 game entering halftime.
"We talked about finishing strong at halftime," Huff said. "We didn't finish strong against Inland Lakes, and we let them come back and beat us up there.
"I told them we can't let our guard down now. We have to go out there and play a full 32 minutes."
And that's what the Cardinals did. They ratcheted up their defense, starting running in transition again and built up their lead to 26 points by late in the fourth quarter.
Tyson Claeys scored 18 points, reaching the 1,000 career points milestone, and J-L (8-4, 6-2 SVC) downed the Snowbirds 66-42 in Ski Valley play, keeping pace with first-place Pellston, which is ranked No. 2 in Division 4.
"In the first half, offensively, we quit working the ball down to Tyson," Huff said. "Defensively, we let their pick and roll hurt us too much with Brady Hunter (16 points). We weren't switching correctly. Then Sheldon (Huff) was playing help-side defense inside, which left Koenig wide open. You just can't leave a shooter like him open.
"So we fixed that in the second half and got back to being more patient, looking for those quality looks."
Sloppy offensive play by the Snowbirds allowed the Cardinals to go on a 12-0 run to open the third, which was capped off by Claeys scoring down low in the post. St. Mary needed a jumper from Conrad Korte to halt the scoring spree with 1:49 left in the period.
With 2:30 left in the game, Coach Huff subbed out his Big 3 – starters Tanner Shimel, Tyler Madej and Claeys – for good. They had worked hard enough.
"In the second quarter, we got away from good ball movement," Claeys said. "We needed to play more like we did in the first quarter, but for some reason, we weren't moving the ball well enough. We got back to it, and we started getting the ball down low again."
Madej helped with 13 points, Shimel and Carlos Gascho scored 12 apiece, Gavin Weaver added five, including a key 3 in the first half, Sheldon Huff chipped in four and Joey Chrencik had two.
Claeys was just too big inside," said St. Mary coach Dale Jacob, whose Snowbirds fell to 5-5 overall and 5-3 in the SVC. "We played them good in the second quarter, even cutting it to three. But hats off to Joburg. They did what they needed to do to beat us tonight.
"We came in knowing we had to guard the Madej kid. In my opinion, he's really underrated in this league. But they ended up being too big for us inside. And they defended us better, too."
Koenig finished with eight points, followed by Alex Pudvan with seven, Joseph Moeggenberg with four, Colton Inglis with three and Korte and Alex Powers each with two.
"At some point, you got to start making shots," Jacob added. "We just didn't do that in the second half.
"We have to commit to getting better, and I've got to do a better job of coaching these kids up."
In the JV game, J-L beat St. Mary, 43-33. Dominic Keister led the Snowbirds with 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Brody Jeffers added 10 points.
Claeys reaches 1,000 career points
• Coach Huff has had three 1,000-point scorers the past three seasons, and none of them were basketball-first guys. Logan Huff (2016) is playing baseball at Alma College and Brandon Huff (2016) was J-L's star quarterback. Claeys reached that milestone Friday night, just one month after verbally committing to play football at Michigan Tech.
"That just shows what kind of coaches we have here," Claeys said. "The other coaches have done a good job leading us, from football to basketball to baseball.
"I couldn't have done this without all of them, and I couldn't have done it without the great teammates I've had here. From Brandon and Logan and Orie (Kierczynski) my freshman year to Tyler, Tanner, Carlos, Sheldon and all those guys this year."
Claeys sank a free throw in the second quarter to reach the milestone. Neither Coach Huff or J-L's athletic department alerted the senior that he was close to cracking 1,000 points. So the banner presentation mid-game was a surprise to him.
But Coach Huff wasn't too surprised.
"I'm not surprised at all," Coach Huff said. "His work ethic in the gym is tremendous. He works his butt off, and he has worked his butt off since he started as a freshman and began playing a key role for us then.
"Back then, he was playing guard for us, and I think that helped him, learning that position. It's allowed him to become the type of player he is now. It's really helped him, especially with how athletic he is."
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor
The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team got the bounce back it needed Friday night.
Behind Carlos Gascho's 17 points, the Cardinals topped host Onaway 81-51 in Ski Valley play. Tyson Claeys also scored 16 points and grabbed 26 rebounds.
They entered the game following a close-call loss to Inland Lakes.
"We were more patient on offense and ran in transition," J-L coach Troy Huff said. "We came out with more of a purpose after Wednesday night's game, and the kids really figured a few things out."
Sheldon Huff added 13 points and eight assists, followed by Tanner Shimel and Joey Chrencik with 10 points apiece, Matthew Davidson with nine and Tyler Madej with six.
"We came with some fire tonight," Coach Huff said. "It was a lot of run and gun."
The Cardinals (7-4, 5-2 SVC) host rival St. Mary for a conference game Friday, Jan. 18.
Cardinals suffer loss to Bulldogs after weird finish to game
That's not the way you want to come back from winter break.
The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team led for most of the game, but it had a handful of snafus that kept it from pulling out a win in Ski Valley play Wednesday at Inland Lakes.
Tanner Shimel fouled a Bulldog with 3.4 seconds, allowing Inland Lakes to take the lead 40-39, which wound up the final score.
Tyson Claeys had a shot to win the game for the Cardinals on the ensuing possession, as Inland Lakes fouled the senior immediately after making the winning free throws. Claeys missed both foul shots in the double bonus.
Earlier in the game, however, the game got a little weird, J-L coach Troy Huff said. Tyler Madej left the game with five fouls late in the fourth quarter. The only problem was he had only four. A scorebook error kept him from staying on the floor.
Then, with 1:08 left, the scoreboard operator forgot to start the game clock and the referees never stopped play to run off the 20 or so seconds the ball was actually in play. Huff was certain the Cardinals would have hung on to their lead had that time been run off the clock.
"It was really tough, actually," said Huff, whose Cardinals dropped to 6-4 overall and 4-2 in the SVC. "But, honestly, we're a better team than that. We were up nine at one point. We can't let other teams hang around like that."
Claeys scored 15 points for the Cardinals, who shot just 10 of 19 from the foul line and 30 percent from the floor. Shimel added seven points, Sheldon Huff had six, Madej finished with five and Carlos Gascho pitched in four.
Cardinals beat Bellaire behind offense from Claeys, Gascho
Tyson Claeys and Carlos Gascho each scored 16 points, and the Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team topped visiting Bellaire 59-46 in Ski Valley play Friday.
"We just were patient and getting good looks and not forcing shots," coach Troy Huff said. "We were getting good looks by making that extra pass."
The Cardinals, who led 31-12 at halftime, shot 11 of 14 from the foul line. They received nine points, five assists and three steals from Tanner Shimel, while Claeys pulled down eight rebounds.
Sheldon Huff pitched in eight points, followed by Tyler Madej with six and Gavin Weaver and Joey Chrencik with two apiece.
Bellaire made five 3-pointers in the second half during a comeback attempt.
J-L is 6-3 overall and is tied with Pellston atop the SVC standings at 4-1 in the conference.
Davidson, Chrencik ignite Cardinals off the bench
Wednesday was all about getting the Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team's bench some confidence.
The Cardinals (5-3, 3-1 SVC) blew past host Forest Area 71-48 in Ski Valley play, getting 18 points from Tyson Claeys, 13 from Tanner Shimel and 12 from Carlos Gascho – each a starter.
But Matthew Davidson and Joey Chrencik entered the game off the bench and each played meaningful minutes for the first time this winter. Davidson finished with a career-best eight points, Chrencik added six and even Gavin Weaver pitched in two.
"It was nice to get good minutes out of Matthew and Joey," coach Troy Huff said. "Matthew played with a lot of fire and heart, which I haven't seen that out him yet, which was nice to see. Joey was knocking down his little jumpers, too. With the length Joey has, getting him these minutes will pay us dividends for both the rest of the year and next year as well."
J-L's other two starters, Tyler Madej and Sheldon Huff, scored eight and four points, respectively.
The Cardinals led 41-12 at halftime.
"We moved the ball as well as we've moved it all year, especially in transition," Coach Huff said.
Pellston outlasts Cardinals in key early-season SVC matchup
PELLSTON — The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team is now one game back in the Ski Valley race.
The defending conference champions lost to host Pellston 67-62 on Wednesday. The Hornets outlasted the Cardinals in the final eight minutes to steal the win.
“Our offense just stalled at the wrong time,” coach Troy Huff said. “We resorted to fouling at the end, and they (Pellston) just hit their free throws. We had just too many turnovers tonight.”
Tanner Shimel, who finished with 20 points and was 4 of 9 from downtown, made a 3-pointer late in the third to give the Cardinals their first lead.
J-L’s lead got as big as four points in the fourth, with Tyler Madej scoring seven of his nine points in the period. But his team couldn’t make the front end of their free throws in the bonus to put away the game.
Pellston regained the lead with under three minutes left. Tanner Byard (34 points) was 6 of 6 from the foul line down the stretch, while Blake Cassidy (24 points) was 2 of 2, to help the Hornets, who improved to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the conference.
“Down the stretch, we’ve got to learn how to finish,” Huff said. “They were a disciplined teamed that could shoot the 3, so we’ve got to know who the shooter is and where the help on defense is going to come from.”
Carlos Gascho added 17 points for the Cardinals (3-3, 1-1 SVC), who host Central Lake for a league game Friday, Dec. 14. They’ll need to regroup quickly, as the Trojans upset them a year ago at home.
“Right now, we’ve just got to come out Friday and play our style,” Huff said. “We’ve got to take care of the ball because Central Lake has had our number the past couple of years.”
Claeys, Huff notch double-doubles as J-L downs Ellsworth
The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball played well Monday against Ellsworth.
Yet the Cardinals still haven't quite found their groove, coach Troy Huff said.
"We still haven't found that groove where all of us are stroking at the same time," said Huff, whose team beat the Lancers 82-60 in non-conference play. "Like with Tyler, I'm anxious to see how we can get Tyler Madej going. We've got to somehow get him going the same night as these other guys are playing good."
Tyson Claeys led the Cardinals with a double-double (24 points, 10 rebounds), while the senior was 11 of 14 shooting inside the paint. Sheldon Huff, who scored nine points in the opening quarter to give J-L a 21-15 lead, also recorded a double-double, finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Carlos Gascho (13 points, seven assists and four steals) also played well for the Cardinals, who improved to 3-2 overall. Tanner Shimel added 10 points.
"We just ran in transition, used our dribble-drives and cut to the basket," Coach Huff said. "Tyson was quite the physical presence underneath, and we were up by 20 early in the third quarter. I'm pretty happy with how we shot the ball as a team. We shot really well."
Cardinals' Claeys sinks game-winning free throws vs. Mancelona
The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team trailed Mancelona all game Friday.
That was, of course, the Cardinals raced up the floor with 11 seconds left, fed the ball to Tyson Claeys in the post and then Mancelona sent the senior power forward to the foul line. Claeys buried both free throws, helping J-L edge the visiting Ironmen 63-62 in Ski Valley play.
Mancelona, which led by as many as 12 points, had six seconds left to drum up a game-winner but couldn't get off a good attempt.
"It was just one of those games where whatever they (Mancelona) put up, they made, and we just couldn't get many shots to fall," coach Troy Huff said. "We just didn't shoot well from the floor, nor could we shoot free throws well (16 of 33).
"So I'm pretty happy with how it all finished. We worked the ball around there at the end. They had two kids who fouled out, so I told our guys to be patient. We just weren't being as patient as we typically are on offense for most of the game."
Tanner Shimel, who scored 14 points, made a layup to trim J-L's deficit to just 62-61 late in the fourth.
Claeys finished with a team-high 15 points, followed by Carlos Gascho with 10, Sheldon Huff with nine and Tyler Madej with six.
Gavin Weaver put together his best varsity game yet, scoring nine points.
"I got really good minutes with Gavin tonight," Coach Huff said. "He played, really really well."
Cards finish with only 4 on the floor in OT loss at Roscommon
The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team finished with just four players on the court Monday at Roscommon.
Foul trouble marred the Cardinals, who lost to the Bucks 77-68 in overtime, despite Tanner Shimel scoring a career-best 31 points.
The Cardinals (1-2) held a two-point lead in the final minute of regulation. They wound up forcing a quick shot, and Roscommon took the ensuing rebound the distance to knot the score, 61-61.
J-L, which hosts Mancelona to open Ski Valley play Friday, Dec. 7, had one final chance to win the game before overtime, but Sheldon Huff (eight points) couldn't draw a foul, despite being shoved out of bounds.
Tyson Claeys added 19 points, while starter Tyler Madej sat most the game with foul trouble.
"We traded a couple of baskets in overtime, but we got into foul trouble early," J-L coach Troy Huff said. "I knew we were going to be going into it. We kept fouling them, Roscommon would make one of their two free throws (in the bonus), and that's just how it went."
Carlos Gascho chipped in five points, while Gavin Weaver scored three. J-L shot 52 percent inside the 3-point line.
"We played really, really good defense," Coach Huff added. "We played full-court defense and got some steals off it.
"It was a very physical game, but we played through it and played extremely well. I wish we could have gotten more calls to go our way, but that happens. We just needed to find a way to win, but it's hard when guys like Tyson finish 5 of 12 from the floor. He doesn't ever miss too many shots."
Gascho, Huff stepping up for Cardinals as only sophomores
OHANNESBURG — With the three seniors Johannesburg-Lewiston's boys basketball team returned this winter — Tanner Shimel, Tyson Claeys and Tyler Madej — the Cardinals knew they'd be able to compete every night.
But what will likely take them from a Ski Valley contender to a champion are their two sophomores, Sheldon Huff and Carlos Gascho. Coach Troy Huff platooned the duo as the sixth man last year, which yielded some success. But he knows he needs them to be key contributors as starters this season.
The two played great in their season-opening loss to Mio, but they took the next step in their win Thursday at Fairview. Sheldon Huff, alone, scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, putting together a career game.
"Being in the starting role, it's a faster pace," said Coach Huff, Sheldon's father. "I can't say enough about them. I did stress one thing with them, though. I said, 'Don't change your shots. Attack the basket like you've done 100 times and don't be afraid to shoot your shot.'"
The transition from bench player to starter hasn't been too bad for the boys.
Sheldon Huff started on the football team and was the defense's leading tackler. He helped the team win a Northern Michigan Football League-Legacy title and make it to Round 2 of the Division 8 playoffs.
Gascho won both Ski Valley and D4 regional titles in cross-country this past fall, even finishing in the top 10 of the D4 state championship in November.
So the spotlight isn't too bright for Huff and Gascho.
"The game wasn't as quick as I remembered it, but we'll keep working to get better," Sheldon Huff said. "Along as you get it done, that's all that matters. We want less turnovers and want to try to get everyone involved in the game.
"But none of us care about points. We just want to wins."
Now the two are looking to transition their varsity leadership in other sports to the basketball court.
"Sheldon is a good ballplayer, and he's a good athlete in general," Gascho said. "He's stepping up pretty well. We're both strong enough, and we're both mentally strong and physical. We've just got to step up to the plate and do what we need to do to fill in for (former players) Timmy LaPointe, Caesen Campbell and Kyle May."
Although Sheldon Huff spent most of his summer vacation playing for Gaylord Baseball Club, he did find time to play with the Cardinals during summer basketball tournaments and camps. Gascho spent the spring and summer playing AAU with his buddies from Mio and Fairview (he transferred to J-L from Fairview two years ago). So that has helped prepare them for this season as well.
Through two games, Sheldon Huff has become a great presence on the wing — hitting a late 3-pointer against Mio to keep the game close — but he's also able to drive to the hoop and get to the foul line. Gascho has handled some of the point guard duties as well as led the defense. He's capable of taking a steal the distance for an easy layup. Speed kills, after all.
They just need to keep that going for 18 more regular season games.
"Last year, we really worked with each other, so we all know what to do when we get the ball," Gascho added. "We just combined for at least 20 points or more (against Mio), and we're just working the ball around to get easy buckets. The team is working better now, and it's our second year together.
"Hopefully, we'll keep it going, getting more points and easy buckets."
Huff's 22 points helps Cardinals down Eagles on the road
Sheldon Huff's career night was enough to combat a slow start for Johannesburg-Lewiston on Tuesday at Fairview.
The sophomore scored a personal-best 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, helping the Cardinals beat the Eagles 69-29 in non-conference play. What's more, he used his dribble-drive to create scoring opportunities for his teammates, especially Tyler Madej (11 points, eight rebounds), Joey Chrencik (two points) and Matthew Davidson (two points).
Also playing well was Tyson Claeys, who shot 9 of 14 from the floor for 19 points and 12 rebounds.
"Sheldon got our offense going by dribble driving and dumping down to the post for easy buckets to get the other guys going," said coach Troy Huff, whose Cardinals (1-1) led only 17-10 after the first quarter. "He sees the floor well and didn't force the ball. He took what the defense was giving him.
"He got a lot of open jumpers and mid-range jumpers and also attacked the basket to get second-chance shots. He had six points alone on second-chance opportunities – rebounding it and putting it back up."
J-L ratcheted up its defense in the second and third quarters, holding the Eagles to only eight points during that stretch.
"We weren't moving the ball well in the first quarter," Coach Huff said. "We played down to their level a little bit. But then we started to run in transition a little bit better, pushing the ball. We played a little bit better defense, too. We were just too lackadaisical to start. Luckily, Sheldon had a really big night."
Tanner Shimel and Gavin Weaver each scored eight points apiece, while Carlos Gascho pitched in three.
The Cardinals hope Thursday's effort will give Sheldon Huff more confidence going forward.
"If he can't build on that, I don't know what the problem would be," said Coach Huff, Sheldon's father. "He was just feeling it tonight with his soft shot."
Cardinals lose opener to hot-shooting Thunderbolts
JOHANNESBURG – A year ago, River Waisanen buried nine 3-pointers to help Mio upset Johannesburg-Lewiston in a non-conference boys basketball game.
Waisanen and the Thunderbolts found that downtown spark again during Tuesday's season opener. Mio made seven 3s and staved off a late comeback from the host Cardinals to earn a 59-56 win.
All 12 of Waisanen's points came from four 3s. His last one gave Mio a 49-40 advantage with 5:23 remaining, and then Brendan DeFlorio scored in transition to make it an 11-point game, their team's largest lead.
"He's a hell of a 3-point shooter," J-L coach Troy Huff said. "He had the game of his life last year. It obviously boosted his confidence against us today.
"We were sagging down on him too far. I wanted us to deny him the ball and deny him the pass, initially. We gave him a step and was a step off him. So when we'd get mixed up on screens, that allowed him to get open."
Late in the fourth, J-L finally snapped a 12-2 run by Mio after Tyson Claeys (team-high 19 points) scored a fast-break bucket. What followed was a brief run from the Cardinals, who got a reverse layup from Carlos Gascho and a 3-pointer from Tanner Shimel to make it 53-51 with 1:16 left.
"That's just defense," said Gascho, who scored 14 points. "We had a couple of errors where we were switching, and we'd stay on the same guy and another would be wide up. We weren't moving our feet and stuff, and we'd foul.
"That (run) was just defense and getting good looks for back cuts and looking for easy buckets on the backside."
Drew Hess (17 points) made four foul shots in the bonus to secure the win for Mio, despite Sheldon Huff swishing a long 3 for J-L with only eight seconds remaining.
"They showed resiliency," Coach Huff said. "They didn't chop off their heads. They continued to fight and fought their way back into the game by taking good shots, not forcing things and playing good defense."
The Cardinals scored six-straight points to open the third, including Gascho driving for a layup. The attempt gave J-L its first and only lead, 36-34, with 3:37 remaining. Mio took a 43-40 advantage into the final eight minutes.
Gascho's mid-range jumper knotted the score at 9 in the first, while Tyler Madej buried a 3 to begin the second quarter and tie it at 16. However, the Thunderbolts carried a 33-27 lead into halftime, riding their hot shooting and steady defense past the Cardinals.
"We've just got to work on backside help, on-ball pressure and moving our feet," Sheldon Huff added. He and Shimel each finished with 10 points. "There's no quit in this team, for sure. If we're down by 11 with a minute left, we're still pushing until the end. There's no stop in this team."
Coach Huff was actually happy with how J-L played. He called it the perfect tune-up for the season, believing his team played great against a well-coached Ty McGregor program. McGregor played professionally in Denmark.
"I'm not disappointed," Coach Huff said. "This is just what I wanted, right here. ... We've got to clean up a few things. We've got to finish around the rim and box out. That first half killed us, and we probably spotted them at least 11 or 12 points by not doing the simple things."
The Cardinals, who were scheduled to visit Fairview on Thursday, Nov. 29, will also look to shore up its perimeter defense going forward. Fortunately, they won't have to face Waisanen again this season.
Defending SVC champion Cardinals not looking too far ahead
JOHANNESBURG — The Johannesburg-Lewiston boys basketball team removed one proverbial monkey off its back when it won its first Ski Valley title since 1981 last season.
So one would think the next monkey it’d attack would be finally winning a district title after coming so close the past four years under seventh-year coach Troy Huff. But that’s not how the Cardinals, 15-6 a year ago, are looking at things.
“Nope, we’re just looking to come out and win some games,” said senior Tyson Claeys, who was the Herald Times Player of the Year in 2017-18. “If we come out and win games, everything else will fall into place.”
“We definitely would like to win a district championship because we figure this is the team to do it. If we just work hard, we’ll have a season like last season where we got to the spot that everyone expected us to get to.”
Senior Tyler Madej echoed Claeys’ sentiments.
“At this point, (it’s) not really (our goal),” he said. “We’re just worried about coming out and winning and getting another conference championship. Then we’ll move on to districts.”
You get to the call the shots when you’re the king of the conference. And with a Big 3 — seniors Tanner Shimel, Claeys and Madej — like the Cardinals have, they definitely have room to talk.
J-L lost two starters to graduation from last year’s title team in guard Kyle May and wing Caesen Campbell as well big man Timmy LaPointe off the bench.
But their losses shouldn’t be too tough to replace. Last year, Huff played then-freshmen Carlos Gascho and Sheldon Huff as the first two off the bench and got them considerable varsity minutes. They’ll step into starting roles as sophomores.
“We’ll be stronger this year,” Coach Huff said. “The freshmen from last year are sophomores, so they’re a little bit more of age. I expect a lot out of them. Plus we’ll get that junior class (the Big 3), which was my leading scorers last year, back as seniors.”
“There’s nothing like game-time experience. Carlos and Sheldon were my sixth and seventh guys off the bench, depending on which game it was. Between the two of them, they averaged 7-10 points per game, and, hopefully, they can get into the 12-14 points range this year.”
“I believe my starting five and the three on the bench is as deep as we possibly can be as far as shooters on the team. And I like that from a consistency standpoint.”
Those three coming off the bench will be juniors Matthew Davidson, Gavin Weaver and Joey Chrencik, each capable of playing both in the post and on the wing.
“I expect big things from them off the bench,” Coach Huff continued. “And they’re going to get a ton of playing time. I’m excited to see how each one will develop.”
“Matthew is very coachable, and he uses his body well. He’s bigger and stronger this year, and he has been in the weight room in the off-season, which will pay dividends in basketball.”
“Joey has now got a smooth shot, and he’s gotten a lot more physical. During camp over the summer, I saw a different side of him. He wasn’t letting those guys push him around. He got mad at them, which was nice to see. I expect him to come in and do good at rebounding, especially if Tyson gets into foul trouble.”
“Gavin got some time off the bench for us last year as a sophomore, but I definitely expect him to be more in the mix this year, especially with his height (6-foot-3).”
It’s unlikely another team in the Ski Valley will have three players to match up with Shimel, Madej and Claeys throughout a full 32-minute game. And they each know it, too.
Claeys and Shimel were Class C all-state players, each making the honorable mention team. Claeys led the Cardinals with 308 points and 170 rebounds, while Shimel scored 277 points and shot 50.2 percent from the floor. Both were first-team All-SVC players.
Madej, on the other hand, was just an All-SVC honorable mention, but with the way he’s improved his shooting this preseason, he will likely earn more accolades as a senior.
“I think we’re going to come out strong — just like we did last year,” Madej said. “We lost Caesen and Kyle, who were both great defensive players, but we also have Sheldon and Carlos stepping up now.”
Whether the Cardinals would like to admit it, their season won’t be judged on their ability to repeat as Ski Valley champions. It’ll all come down to what they do in the district tournament.
“I definitely don’t doubt there’s some pressure on us to get another championship and do well in districts and the playoffs as a whole,” Claeys said. “But I think we’re ready as a team, for sure.”
The Cardinals at a glance
Coach: Troy Huff, seventh year
2017-18 Record: 15-6 (14-2 SVC)
2017-18 Finish: Lost in the Class C district semifinal to Oscoda, 62-60; Claimed first conference championship since 1981
Key Losses: Kyle May, Caesen Campbell, Timmy LaPointe
Key Returners: Tyson Claeys, Tanner Shimel, Tyler Madej, Sheldon Huff, Carlos Gascho, Gavin Weaver
Newcomers: Joey Chrencik, Matthew Davidson
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