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Lumen Christi’s Khari Willis named JTV Sports Player of the Year

hanlc1There was no better

Willis takes home JTV Player of the Year award after capping brilliant career

By Mike Moore

JTV Sports Writer

Jackson — There were a number of things Rich Karasek called Khari Willis, a handful of terms he used to describe one of his most dynamic players Lumen Christi has ever known.

Electric. A winner. A competitor, just to name a few.

But there was one phrase that seemed to stand out, and maybe most accurately define one of the Titans’ best athletes to suit up in the green and gold.

“When you consider what he was able to do on the football field and the basketball court,” Karasek said of Willis, “he’s a once-in-a-lifetime guy.”

With endorsements like that, and a winter full of highlights and special play, Willis was an easy choice for the JTV Male Player of the Year.

“As a player, he was the guy that pushed the pace of the game. He could explode down court at any time,” Karasek said of his senior guard. “He made everyone around him better.”

The latter part of that comment may have been the most telling, and the one that told the story of what made Willis so instrumental to everything Lumen did.

He had the skill set to score more than 20 a game, but was actually Lumen’s second-leading scorer. But from one day, practice and game to the next, he made everyone around him more dangerous.

“This year was more of a lead-by-example season for me,” Willis said. “I was trying to keep this program moving in the right direction. I wanted to establish myself as a basketball player, but really, it was about winning. I wanted to lead, establish myself as one of the best guards in the state, and win as a team.”

Missions certainly accomplished.

Willis led Lumen to a 19-3 overall record and a spot in the district semifinals before a 63-61 loss to Hanover-Horton.

Individually, Willis scored 16.4 points per game (second to Devin Edward’s 16.8), pulled down six rebounds, dished out six assists and swiped three steals per contest.

In his four years on varsity, he was part of 73 wins, the most ever for a single player.

He also finished his career third all-time in Lumen’s scoring totals, yet, as mentioned, had the goal of sharing the ball when needed, or taking a step back if someone else had the opportunity to step forward.

“I’m a coach’s son, and I think I see the game different than most,” Willis said when asked about incorporating everyone on the floor into the game. “I like to set up and find the best shot on the court, whoever might have it. Even if I have a decent look, maybe somebody else has a better one.”

Few had a better look at Willis’ career than Karasek.

“His competitiveness made him so great,” the Titans’ coach said. “Growing up with older brothers and playing against them all the time certainly helped. But he was a gym rat and had such a desire to win. … He’s probably the closest thing to Tony Dungy this town has ever seen. Khari reminds me so much of Tony. He’s just a great individual.”

Willis, who said he takes nothing for granted, called the JTV Player of the Year award a true honor.

“I grew up watching games on JTV,” he said. “This means a lot to me.”

Willis is headed to Michigan State University in the fall on a football scholarship, but laughed when asked if he’s considering playing hoops as well.

“It’s still pending,” he said. “Don’t count anything out yet.”

As for moving forward next winter with a roster void of Willis, Karasek said simply, “we have to replace somebody that’s irreplaceable.”

Northwest’s Lexie Khon named JTV Sports Player of the Year

IMG_4588By Mike Moore, JTV Sports

Jackson – Ryan Carroll called her the “complete player.” And moments later he said how much better she can still be.

That, in itself, is a great proposition for Carroll and his Jackson Northwest girls basketball team.

It’s also a frightening reality for any player or team that has to face Lexie Khon in the future.

The Northwest junior tore up the hardwood this winter, establishing herself as one of the top players in the area, and for JTV, the female Player of the Year in 2015.

“She’s very versatile as a player,” said Carroll, the Northwest coach who was hardly surprised by JTV’s naming of Khon as Player of the Year. “She can play any position on the floor. I think she’s undersized as a post player, but can play with anybody down there she needs to. Then, she can step out and beat you from the perimeter, or beat you off the dribble. And she can defend any position on the floor.”

In other words, the complete player.

“She does a lot of things for us you don’t typically see a player doing,” Carroll added.

Just a junior, Khon established herself in a new way this year.

After operating on the low post her first two seasons on varsity, she shifted her spots all over the court, and in doing so, her numbers took off.

Khon averaged 15.8 points per game, pulled down 9.4 rebounds and blocked 3.4 shots.

She shot 53 percent from the field, and, just for good measure, hit 83 percent of her free throws.

She was the main weapon on a Mounties team that went 19-5 this year and reached the regional semifinals before falling to Chelsea High 45-44.

“The key with her, as a freshman and sophomore, she was her post player, with her back to the basket, because that’s what we needed,” Carroll said. “This year, she wanted to start branching out and getting out and attacking. She wanted to do some things that would attract college coaches. And she did a great job. She allowed us to do so many things with our offense.”

Khon, who was named honorable mention All-State in Class B by the Associated Press, deflected the attention in another direction.

“I think it had a lot to do with this team and these coaches,” she said simply of her year. “I would have never been able to do what I did without them around me. … To me, I go out and play basketball. Whatever happens, happens.”

As for changing from a post player to an all-over-the-floor threat?

“I felt like I had to take on a more aggressive role for the team,” Khon said. “I had to be more of a player, and coach put me in a position to do that.”

Still, as dominant as Khon was, Carroll laughed when asked about her ceiling as a player.

“I think she can get a lot better,” the Mounties’ coach boasted. “I think she scratched the surface on her potential. We’re still trying to figure out how to utilize everything she offers. We’re still trying to figure out how to use everything she can do for us.”

Khon agreed, saying she still has a lot of work to do before her senior year and her ultimate goal of playing basketball at the collegiate level.

As for nabbing the JTV Player of the Year nod?

“It’s awesome,” she quipped. “But I play the game because I love it. To be recognized  like this is an honor.”

‘The complete player’

Khon showed her potential in girls basketball, takes home JTV Player of the Year

By Mike Moore

JTV Sports Writer

IMG_4588Jackson – Ryan Carroll called her the “complete player.” And moments later he said how much better she can still be.

That, in itself, is a great proposition for Carroll and his Jackson Northwest girls basketball team.

It’s also a frightening reality for any player or team that has to face Lexie Kohn in the future.

The Northwest junior tore up the hardwood this winter, establishing herself as one of the top players in the area, and for JTV, the female Player of the Year in 2015.

“She’s very versatile as a player,” said Carroll, the Northwest coach who was hardly surprised by JTV’s naming of Kohn as Player of the Year. “She can play any position on the floor. I think she’s undersized as a post player, but can play with anybody down there she needs to. Then, she can step out and beat you from the perimeter, or beat you off the dribble. And she can defend any position on the floor.”

In other words, the complete player.

“She does a lot of things for us you don’t typically see a player doing,” Carroll added.

Just a junior, Kohn established herself in a new way this year.

After operating on the low post her first two seasons on varsity, she shifted her spots all over the court, and in doing so, her numbers took off.

Kohn averaged 15.8 points per game, pulled down 9.4 rebounds and blocked 3.4 shots.

She shot 53 percent from the field, and, just for good measure, hit 83 percent of her free throws.

She was the main weapon on a Mounties team that went 19-5 this year and reached the regional semifinals before falling to Chelsea High 45-44.

“The key with her, as a freshman and sophomore, she was her post player, with her back to the basket, because that’s what we needed,” Carroll said. “This year, she wanted to start branching out and getting out and attacking. She wanted to do some things that would attract college coaches. And she did a great job. She allowed us to do so many things with our offense.”

Kohn, who was named honorable mention All-State in Class B by the Associated Press, deflected the attention in another direction.

“I think it had a lot to do with this team and these coaches,” she said simply of her year. “I would have never been able to do what I did without them around me. … To me, I go out and play basketball. Whatever happens, happens.”

As for changing from a post player to an all-over-the-floor threat?

“I felt like I had to take on a more aggressive role for the team,” Kohn said. “I had to be more of a player, and coach put me in a position to do that.”

Still, as dominant as Kohn was, Carroll laughed when asked about her ceiling as a player.

“I think she can get a lot better,” the Mounties’ coach boasted. “I think she scratched the surface on her potential. We’re still trying to figure out how to utilize everything she offers. We’re still trying to figure out how to use everything she can do for us.”

Kohn agreed, saying she still has a lot of work to do before her senior year and her ultimate goal of playing basketball at the collegiate level.

As for nabbing the JTV Player of the Year nod?

“It’s awesome,” she quipped. “But I play the game because I love it. To be recognized to like this is an honor.”

IMG_6042

Breslin Bound

RKP_2504Hanover hangs on to beat Monroe St. Mary in Ann Arbor; punches ticket to East Lansing

By Mike Moore

JTV Sports

ANN ARBOR – In terms of nail-biting and hair-pulling finishes, this could get no worse, or maybe, no better, depending on how the final two seconds would play out.

A substantial lead and all-but-certain victory had withered away to a two-point advantage and defeat starring Chad Mortimer in the eyes.

Two free throws.

Two seconds.

Two misses.

And with that, the Hanover-Horton boys basketball coach leapt in the air with fists pumping, his team’s landing spot now certain.

Comets launched, Breslin bound.

“It feels really good. I’m so excited for these guys to experience this,” Mortimer said after his team hung on to beat Monroe St. Mary’s Catholic Central 50-48 in Tuesday night’s Class C quarterfinal from Ann Arbor Huron. “To make a run through the tournament and actually go to the Breslin Center and keep the season going, they’re excited. It’s unreal.”

Huron’s gym was packed from the start, with overflow fans turned away at the door once the attendance limit was reached.

But Hanover has made a habit of playing in electric environments, and seemed the more composed team when things tipped off.

After St. Mary’s went up 2-0, Hanover took over the first quarter, holding a team averaging 66 points in the playoffs to just three field goals.

The Comets’ 10-6 lead after one, became 21-17 by halftime, and the key was sharp shooting.

Brock Spink scored 11 first-half points, nine from behind the 3-point line.  He was guarded more tightly in the second half, scoring just six points, but other guys were there to pick up the slack.

Hanover’s lead grew to 35-29 entering the fourth, and the Comets led by as many as 10 at one point, but St. Mary’s was far from finished.  Stephen Umfress had just six points in the first half, but came to life in the second, scoring 14 points while almost singlehandedly bringing the Falcons back.

Hanover was haunted by two turnovers late in the contest, and after St. Mary’s had cut the gap to 50-48, the Falcons sent Bradley Shinevarre to the free-throw line with a chance to tie the game with two seconds remaining.

Two misses.

Breslin bound.

“What won this game was our defense and how hard we played,” Mortimer said of his defensive group, which held St. Mary’s to a playoff low in terms of points scored.

“Big as they get. This was as big as they get,” said Spink, who finished the night with 17 points. “You can’t beat it.”

As for his shooting, which included four 3-pointers?

“I felt good. I knew if warm ups I’d make some shots if I could get them off,” Spink added. “It’s easy to get focused in this big of a game; all of it building up to this. I’m just glad on this day, I felt as good as I did. It helped.”

Stefan Young hit three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points for the Comets, while Preston Laketa scored all 10 of his points in the second half.

Hanover, now 24-1 and riding a 21-game win streak, faces Flint Beecher (24-1) in Thursday’s state semifinal at 2:50 p.m. at the Breslin Center.  The other semifinal has Boyne City (21-5) and Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (20-5) facing off for a spot in Saturday’s4:30 p.m. final.

“(Beecher) is, year in and year out, one of, if not the best team in Class C, every year,” Mortimer said. “They are well-coached. They press. They trap. They’re quick. They can shoot. They have bigs. They have everything you need. We’re going to play our game and prepare for that kind of stuff, take care of the ball and be strong.”

It’s a familiar recipe for the Comets, one that’s paved the way through this playoff journey, from their home court, to Adrian Madison, to Ann Arbor and onto East Lansing.

One final stop, two wins away.

Hanover-Horton Schedule/Results

 

hhhh2Hanover-Horton season results

Tecumseh W 58-51
Concord W 60-55
Grass Lake W 82-30
Lumen Christi (at SAU) L 46-60
AT Homer W 70-52
AT Napoleon W 75-41
Vandercook Lake W 57-46
AT Lansing Eastern W 56-51
East Jackson W 79-31
Manchester W 88-47
Michigan Center W 61-47
AT Addison W 57-35
AT Grass Lake W 65-19
Napoleon W 62-41
AT Vandercook Lake W 52-45
AT East Jackson W 82-40
AT Manchester W 76-37
AT Dundee W 64-55
AT Michigan Center W 61-54
Addison W 58-45
Lumen Christi (District Semi) W 63-61
Vandercook Lake (District Final) W 54-47
Hillsdale (Regional Semi at Adrian Madison) W 58-48
Addison (Regional Final at Adrian Madison) W 52-42

Weekend Broadcast Schedule

addhh1Saturday 1pm and 7pm, Sunday 3pm – HANOVER-HORTON VS. HILLSDALE (Regional Semi)

Saturday 3pm and 9pm, Sunday 9pm – HANOVER-HORTON VS. ADDISON (Regional Final)

Sunday 1pm and 7pm – LUMEN CHRISTI AT HANOVER-HORTON (District Semi)

This Weekend on JTV

hanlc1Saturday at 1pm and 7pm, Sunday 3pm – Lumen Christi at Hanover-Horton (District Semifinal)

Saturday 3pm and 9pm and Sunday 9pm – Vandercook Lake at Hanover-Horton (District Final)

Sunday 1pm and 7pm – Jackson at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix (District Final)

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