For those who still were hanging onto some doubt, Lansing Sexton boys basketball coach Carlton Valentine exclaimed it following his Big Reds 67-32 dismantling of a hearty, but less talented Stevensville-Lakeshore team in the Class B state finals at the Breslin Center Saturday night.
“This team has endured so much pressure being the number one Class B team in the state all year. I’ll say it, regardless of class, this is the number one basketball team in the state of Michigan,” Valentine said. “They (this selfless group of individuals) also played the toughest schedule in the state.”
The Lancers, the team from the Lakeshore, were left afterwards with looks of admiration.
“That’s one of the best basketball teams I’ve ever seen,” said Lakeshore basketball coach Sean Schroeder. “The game didn’t play out how we’d envisioned. It was one of those nights we did not bring out our best, but that’s a very, very good basketball team over there.”
It was Sextons third straight appearance in the state championship game and its second consecutive Class B state title.
Over the last three years, The Big Reds have won 75 basketball games. That gave reason for Valentine and his players to be asked where they rank among the best of all time?
“I think we’re pretty good. We’ve put a ton of work into this. It didn’t just happen. I think we’ll go down as one of the greatest,” said Bryn Forbes with the smile and soft laugh of a champion.
As a freshman Denzel Valentine endured two knee surgeries. Michigan State boys’ basketball coach Tom Izzo told him he couldn’t play for the Spartans because he couldn’t shoot it.
“Denzel went to the gym immediately after that and shot 500 jump shots,” said the senior’s coach.
Three years later he finishes his last game in a Big Reds uniform with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists in the title tilt. Come Fall, he will be back on the East Lansing campus as a member of the MSU men’s basketball team.
“Denzel is a great basketball player and now he has back-to-back championships to prove it,” Valentine said. “He’s been every father’s dream. Both my sons (Drew and Denzel) have enjoyed playing the game I love most.”
The underdog Lancers shot 22 percent from the floor in a game that was never in doubt. Lakeshore was outscored 32-10 in the first half and 25-10 in the third quarter.
The game’s most dramatic play occurred in the second quarter when Sexton senior guard Anthony Clemmons had to leave the game after landing hard on floor following a rebound attempt. Clemmons returned in the final minute of the game for one play and one final salute from the Sexton faithful.
“It (my back) hurt, but I hurt more inside because I couldn’t finish the game. My teammates, however, kept the energy and kept going,” Clemmons explained.
Forbes led all Sexton scorers with 19 points. Jalen Hayes also added 12.
Lakeshore’s top scorers were Ryan Avery and Keith Brushwyler with six points apiece.