BY DAN STICKRADT
ROCHESTER HILLS — Sometimes success can breed success.
Following Rochester Hills Christian’s Michigan Association of Christian Schools Division I boys soccer state championship in October, the Eagles have taken their swagger to the basketball court.
Heading out of the Christmas break, Rochester Hills Christian holds a 10-0 record in boys basketball — the best start in school history since the tiny Baptist high school opened its doors in the mid-1970s.
“I thought we could have a good team this season, but I am very proud of the way we have been playing,” said Jon Bronsing, the Eagles head coach and 2000 graduate of Rochester Hills Christian. “We have done it on both ends of the floor.”
The Eagles returned four starters and most of their bench this season. With a group of athletes that are used to playing two or three sports together and having success, it has carried over into the winter sports season.
“I think one of our biggest strengths is our chemistry,” said Bronsing. “We graduated (All-State First Team) guard Nathan Simon last year, I was wondering who might step up and take his place? The answer is they all have. We have (received) solid play from a lot of different players on this team. We also play well together. You can see it on the court that these guys are used to playing with one another.”
Marquez Hatcher, a 5-foor-11 junior point guard, has stepped up to be the leader on the court. Aaron Berry, a 6-1 senior guard who missed half of last season with an injury, is a sharpshooter from outside, while 6-2 junior Jered Brown and 6-4 junior Josh Steiner return to the post and have been solid on in the paint.
Jesse Montgomery, a 5-foot-6 junior guard and League MVP in soccer, brings quickness to the backcourt, while 5-7 sophomore guard Brandon Tuttle and 5-7 freshman guard Ryan Patton have also been solid for the Eagles. Charles Kalajian, a 6-3 senior, has helped out on the interior.
Rochester Hills Christian, the top-ranked team in the MACS, has looked impressive already this season. Finishing with a 17-9 record last season and 16-10 two years ago, the Eagles are sizably better than the previous two years when they shared the Fundamental Baptist Athletic Conference Red Division with Troy Bethany Christian.
The team has already won the Clarkston Springfield Christian Eagles Tip-Off Classic and own wins over traditional small-school state powerhouses Davison Faith Baptist and Temperance Stateline Christian.
“It’s not necessarily how we won, but also who we beat this season,” said Bronsing. “We beat some teams we have struggled to beat the past few years.”
The Eagles’ goal is to win the FBAC outright this winter and to win the MACS state title.
Rochester Hills Christian finished as the MACS Division II state champion in 1992, defeating Midland Calvary Baptist in the finals that season. In 1993, RHC lost in the finals to Detroit Trinity Christian. They have reached the state semifinals twice since then (1998, 2008), but never played in the state finals since the ’93 season.
“Our goal since Day 1 has been to make it to the state finals and win it all,” said Bronsing. “We know we have a long way to go. But it’s nice to have that high goal. The boys have something to shoot for.”
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SCHOOL: Rochester Hills Christian
HEAD COACH: Jon Bronsing, seventh season (non-consecutive).
2011-12 RECORD: 17-9, 7-1 FBAC Red Division (tied-first).
STATE TOURNAMENT: Lost in MACS Division I Second Round to Troy Bethany Christian.
RETURNING STARTERS: Marquez Hatcher, 5-10 jr. PG; Aaron Berry, 6-1 jr. G; Jered Brown, 6-0 jr. F; Josh Steiner, 6-4 jr. C.
OTHER RETURNEES: Liav Avihu, 6-3 jr. F; Charles Kalajian, 6-3 sr. F; Adriel Byers, 5-11 jr. G; Jesse Montgomery, 5-6 jr. SG; Misael Hernandez, 5-5 jr. G; Brandon Tuttle, 5-7 soph. G.
KEY NEWCOMERS: Ryan Patton, 5-7 fr. SG; Christian Ohly, 6-0 soph. F; John Werthman, 6-0 soph. F; Colton Tucker, 5-11 soph. G/F.
KEY LOSSES: Nathan Simon, 5-10 SG (All-State First Team);
OUTLOOK: The Eagles have split the FBAC Red crown with Troy Bethany each of the past two seasons and know enter the season as the favorite with the return of 10 lettermen and four starters. Simply put, RHC is more experienced and mature with some added height to its team resume. Could this be the team that makes its first run to the MACS Final Four since 1993?