Media Information Director
DPS Office of Athletics
EAST LANSING — Like their distinctive nickname, this basketball season has been dynamically different for the Southeastern High Jungaleers.
“When we had our practice jerseys made at the start of the year, the one thing we put on the dark side of the jersey is ‘SE vs. History’ and on the other side we put ‘No Excuses,’ Southeastern Coach George Ward said.
“We kind of felt that if we did the fundamental things; staying disciplined and playing together; we had a chance at rewriting history a little bit.”
As the Detroit Public School League’s Proud Strong Learners of the Week, the Jungaleers (22-3) will try to extend their history-making season today at 2:50 p.m. against Bay City Western (24-2) in the Class A state semifinals at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.
Southfield (20-5) plays defending Class A champion Kalamazoo Central (23-3) in today’s 1 p.m. semifinal, with the winners squaring off at 4 p.m. Saturday for the state championship.
Just two more victories would put the ultimate cap on a season in which Southeastern earned its first PSL title in 55 years when it defeated Cody in the Big D tournament finale Feb. 18. The Class A crown would be Southeastern’s first state basketball championship since 1926.
“The 22 wins are the most ever in the history of the school,” Ward said. “We kind of felt these goals were attainable. But again, we had to be disciplined and we had to stay focused, and we couldn’t let any selfishness creep in. That’s the biggest thing. We have not allowed any selfishness to creep in this program.”
With ten seniors providing leadership, the Jungaleers’ team-oriented style at both ends of the floor has been their hallmark.
“I don’t think (the game’s inventor) Naismith would have a problem with how this team plays basketball,” Ward said. “When we started this season, I wanted this to be one of the best teams that the Detroit Public School League had seen in a while.”
Ward points to Southeastern’s 73-51 rout of top-ranked Romulus in Tuesday’s state quarterfinals as evidence of team strength.
“We beat the No. 1 team in the state by 22 points and our supposed best player (Mr. Basketball finalist Brandan Kearney) only scored six points. Our reliance is not on one individual or two individuals. Our players really believe in the team concept, and that’s why we’ve been so successful.”
Ward has reason to be confident this weekend as the PSL’s last team standing.
“The PSL is acknowledged as the toughest league in the state and everybody knows it’s one of the toughest leagues in the country,” he said. “Our kids go to colleges all across the country and do extremely well. We’ve also got some of best coaches, so I have to thank my cohorts for helping make us a better team and making me a better coach.
“Every Tuesday and Friday has really prepared us for tournament play. Having 10 seniors has helped our situation because our kids have never, ever panicked. That’s been a staple of this team.”