Dynamic Bears: Buckley Proving it Belongs
BUCKLEY – When Blair Moss arrived at Buckley four years ago, the new coach quickly discovered a talented group of middle school basketball players that were poised for big things.
That group of players that Moss first saw take to the court as eighth-graders has emerged four years later as one of the most dynamic junior classes in northern Michigan.
"I didn’t really know about them. I heard about them, but I didn’t really see them until my first year here,” Moss said. "I had them come in, and continue to work, and trust me, they probably could’ve beat my varsity that year."
After going 11-11 with a third-place finish in the Northwest in 2014-15, Buckley made noise locally a season ago by winning a district championship and securing a spot in a Class D regional final en route to a 16-7 campaign. With a place in its first quarterfinal appearance since 2010 on the line, Buckley found itself pitted against a veteran Bellaire program in a 61-57 loss.
"We thought we had it, and yeah, just in crunch time it didn’t go our way,” junior Austin Harris said. “You know, we learned, in tough situations, we’ve got to calm down, not go all crazy and everything. We’ve just got to calm down and play our game."
With the likes of juniors Harris, Denver Cade, Harris and Joey Weber leading the way, the Class D No. 4 Bears (6-0) are off to a 4-0 start in the Northwest Conference after snapping seventh-ranked Frankfort’s 28-game league winning streak with a 50-38 come-from-behind win over the Panthers on Tuesday.
Trailing by three at the half before taking a one-point lead to the fourth, Tuesday’s 12-point win over Frankfort was the closest an opponent has come to knocking off their Bears this winter. With a scoring output of 80 points per game, Buckley is outscoring its opponents on average by 39 points and has held the opposition to under 40 points on four occasions.
Years of playing alongside one another is paying off for the Bears. With the central core of the roster playing together since elementary age, Buckley finds itself playing at a lightning-quick pace.
"We’ve played together from a really young age, so we really know each other very well,” senior Dillon Hankins said.
"It’s nice, without a true big guy, because we can push the tempo, which we’re good at,” added Cade. “That’s what we like to do best.
With a majority of its lineup intact from last year’s regional finalist squad, including the return of seven juniors as well as seniors Hankins and Dominic Taylor, Buckley’s future is bright.
"Our expectations are really high,” Cade said. “Coach wants us to go for conference, district, regional, and ultimately get to the Breslin Center."
“They keep saying Breslin, and so I said I’m okay with that, take me to Breslin,” added Moss. “That’s all I ask them to do, take me to Breslin."
Following Thursday’s game with Leland, Buckley is back in action Wednesday at Kingsley.