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Division 3: Menifield takes care of business on big stage, leads Flint Beecher to title


East Lansing – “What about me?” could have been the question that Flint Beecher senior guard Keyon Menifield was asking when he didn’t find his name among the Mr. Basketball finalists.

Well, Menifield went face-to-face with one of those Mr. Basketball finalist in Foster Wonders of Iron Mountain in a Division 3 state championship game Saturday afternoon at the Breslin Center.

And, there was no match with Menifield scoring 37 in a 75-47 victory, Beecher’s first state title since winning three straight Class C championships from 2015-17.

Simply put, Menifield was brilliant while scoring in transition, making mid-range jumpers and scoring off the dribble by going between his legs and then around opponents for driving layups or pull-up jumpers.

“I’ve been saying all along that he’s either the most underrated player or the best player in the state of Michigan, period,” said Beecher Coach Mike Williams of Menifield.

“I don’t know anybody that wants to guard him. I don’t know of anybody that wants to get in front of him. I’ve talked to college coaches that haven’t recruited him and I’ve told them that they are crazy. I just told them that, remember you didn’t recruit Monte Morris either, so you’re making a big mistake.

“Last year, we expected to come in and win the state title. We had the horses and we were ready to go. We beat the No. 1 team in Class A and Class B and things got shut down and I think that’s what kind of hurt this kid, he didn’t get the exposure, and to a degree he was overshadowed by the athleticism of Jalen Terry and Earnest Sanders.

“But, inside practice our coaches would look around and I’d take these two young men (Menifield, Carmelo Harris) and put them on one team and put the other guys (Terry, Sanders) on the other and we knew what happened in practice, so we knew what we had coming in, what our expectations were and what they are.”

By the way, Morris is now playing with the Denver Nuggets, Terry played with Oregon which reached the Sweet 16 last month, and Sanders is playing football at Kentucky.

Harris, a junior guard, scored 16, making 6-of-8 shots.

Menifield scored eight and Harris had seven in the opening quarter to help Beecher set the tempo, taking a 16-8 lead.

Then, Menifield took over, scoring in transition off a steal for a 26-13 lead, then completing a three-point play (jumper, free throw) to open up a 31-15 advantage, and then an incredible move, zig-zagging through defenders by dribbling between his legs, then going around a defender and knocking down a mid-range jumper for a 33-15 cushion.

Beecher went on to take a 38-19 halftime lead and continued to double up the score on Iron Mountain through three quarters (62-31) with Menifield scoring 31 on 14-of-21 shooting.

And, Menifield wasn’t done, starting off the fourth quarter with a layup.

In fact, the only thing the slender 6-foot-1 Menifield didn’t do was convert on an alley-oop pass early in the fourth.

And, Wonders?

Well, Beecher’s defense swarmed around the talented 6-foot-5 Wonders from the start, trapping him into a turnover eight seconds into the game.

Wonders was scoreless until scoring inside with 2:36 left in the third to cut the deficit to 53-27. Menifield quickly responded with a three-point play (basket and free throw), then scoring off a putback for a 58-27 lead.

“We get stops on defense and that amps me up,” said Menifield who was guarded at times by Wonders. “I had to attack, make sure I get in the lane and makes shots because the team that makes the most shots wins the game.”

While Williams is happy he didn’t have to try and stop Menifield, he’s thrilled with his team’s ability to slow down Wonders who came in averaging more than 33 points, but held to 13 on 5-of-17 shooting, 1-of-4 3-pointers.

BOX SCORE: Flint Beecher 75, Iron Mountain 47

“We just wanted to come out and establish our defense,” Williams said. “Foster Wonders is a kid that can play, the best compliment I can ever give another player is that I’d pay money to watch him play. We knew that we had to neutralize him one way or the other for us to have a chance. Our kids were up to the battle. They prepared, they fought, they followed and they executed and I couldn’t be more proud.

“We wanted to get the ball out of his hands and make everyone else beat us. The problem with that is you have to gamble, but what my kids were able to do, they gambled, but were able to recover, so quick trap, early recovery and being able to lock down and play defense and talk and communicate and that’s how we got by. There’s nothing negative I can say about Foster. The way that we defended him, that shows how much respect we have for him.”

And, while Wonders is headed to play his college ball at Southern Illinois, Menifield has an offer from Cleveland State and is hoping more comes his way.

dgoricki@detroitnews.com