Clarkston beats West Ottawa in 2018 Class A State Final (Story)
BY DAN STICKRADT
EAST LANSING — Like a runaway freight train.
Like a well-oiled machine.
Like a fine-tuned engine.
Pick your cliche’, but there’s nothing quite like Clarkston’s run to a second straight Class A state championship.
The top-ranked Wolves put the final stamp on their two-year dynasty, routing seventh-ranked Holland West Ottawa in grand fashion in the form of a 81-38 victory at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.
“This is pretty special,” admitted veteran Clarkston coach Dan Fife. “I know because it took so long to get the first one. But to come in here and play the way we did is pretty special."
Clarkston, which is 97-6 over the past four seasons, shot 65.7 percent from the floor in the first half, including 8-for-13 from three-point range.
The Wolves finished an eye-catching 59.2 percent overall from the floor in the game (29-for-49), including 59.1 percent from beyond the arc (13-for-22), and set off the running clock in the fourth quarter.
The 43 points differential set an MHSAA record for margin of victory in the Class A state finals and it came off the heels of a super-human performance from senior guard Foster Loyer.
Named Mr. Basketball earlier in the week, the Michigan State-bound Loyer followed up his 42-point effort in the Friday’s state semifinals with a game-high 40 points on 14-for-19 shooting and 6-for-11 shooting from deep.
Over two games at the Breslin — the MSU recruit’s future home — Loyer shot 26-for-36 from the floor. Last year as a junior he scored a combined 61 points between the semifinals and finals in aiding the Wolves’ first state title run.
“He put on a clinic,” said Fife.
Loyer is the first unanimous four-time Associated Press Class A All-State First Team selection in over three decades.
“My teammates and I wanted to come out fast and we were able to do that. I think being here last year, we weren’t nervous,” said Loyer. “We came out and hit shots early and I think that made a difference.”
Clarkston came out of the gate in a mad sprint with early threes from Loyer and CJ Robinson and sank 5-of-7 threes in the opening period for a 19-6 lead.
West Ottawa (25-3) never recovered from the war-time bombardment.
Clarkston (26-1) outscored the Panthers 30-14 in the second quarter for a commanding 49-20 halftime lead. The Wolves blitzed West Ottawa, making its first Final Four appearance in the school’s 56-year history, 32-18 in the second half — and that included playing all 15 players in the fourth quarter.
“You can only hope that Foster Loyer has an off night shooting and hope that some of the other guys do too,” sighed West Ottawa coach Steve Windemuller. “But besides Foster, they have the Robinson kid who can make shots and No. 31 (Chase Wasilk) came out and hit a three.We weren’t expecting that. Then they have big guy (Taylor Currie) coming in and cleaning up all of their misses — when they did miss.
“Obviously this is not how we envisioned going out, but I’m proud of my guys for the run we made and the season that we’ve had,” continued Windemuller. “We just lost to a great team that had a great game.”
Loyer ended his career with a three-pointer with 2:41 to go and also dished out seven assists with three rebounds and a steal for good measure.
Robinson drilled four 3-pointers and finished with 18 points, three assists and two steals, while the 6-foot-9 senior Currie supplied 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Wolves, who lost just one game in each of the past three years.
Clarkston also claimed football state titles in three of the past five school years.
“We graduated Dylan Anderson and had that void in our lineup. CJ Robinson stepped up and players like Nick Wells and Chase Wasilk stepped up and helped fill that void,” noted Fife. “We played with a target on our backs the whole season and to come out here and finish this way is something special for Clarkston basketball. You couldn’t have asked for anything more. ”
Senior guard Xavier Wade, who will play football and basketball at Division II national semifinalist Ferris State, capped his career with 13 points for West Ottawa. Senior forward Liam Cavanaugh 10 points for the Panthers, who made only 37.5 percent of their shots (15-for-40).