On Monday afternoon, the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan selected Kalamazoo Central’s Isaiah Livers as Michigan’s Mr. Basketball award winner. This was one of the closest finishes in history, as Tillman actually earned more first place votes (363 to 333), but Livers earned more total points (2811 to 2739). Just one day later, these two were going to meet on the hardcourt as Kalamazoo Central and Grand Rapids Christian were set to face off in the state quarterfinals at Lansing Eastern.
In a rematch of a two point overtime contest in the regular season finale, the sellout crowd was treated to a different contest on Tuesday. The two-headed post presence of James Beck Jr. and Xavier Tillman was far too much for Kalamazoo Central to handle and the Eagles emerged victorious 66-46.
Xavier Tillman started the game off by scoring six straight points, prompting Kalamazoo Central coach Ramsey Nichols to call a timeout down six just one-hundred seconds into the ballgame.
Tillman and Beck took control of this contest and the Maroon Giants could not stop both of them. The Eagles frequently ran high-low action, and they got the defense shifting, creating openings for easy baskets. Beck finished the night with nineteen points and thirteen rebounds, while Tillman recorded eighteen points, thirteen rebounds, eight blocks and four assists.
Most impressively, the defense of Grand Rapids Christian on Isaiah Livers was the main difference in this contest. In the first half, the Eagles held Mr. Basketball to zero points! He finally broke his 19:38 scoring drought with a three-point basket in the third quarter, and he ended up finishing the night with eleven points and ten rebounds. Livers fouled out with a couple minutes remaining, and his career now transitions to his play at the University of Michigan next season.
The lack of depth not only in the frontcourt, but ultimately throughout their entire roster doomed Kalamazoo Central from the start. The Maroon Giants featured seven players in their rotation, and they had five players with at least four fouls. This not only created a plethora of defensive mismatches for K Central, but it also turned into 41 free-throws for Grand Rapids Christian (of which they made twenty-four).
With the win, Grand Rapids Christian advances to the State Semifinals on Friday where they will face Romulus in a battle of the Eagles for a spot in the Class A State Championship game. These teams will tip off from Breslin at approximately 2:50, or twenty minutes after the completion of the first semifinal between West Bloomfield and Clarkston. Stay tuned to Michigan Sports Radio (on Twitter, on the Website, and on the Air) as the MSR team covers the State Semifinals and Finals on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.