East Jackson High School senior basketball player Lily Beaman (33) drives toward the basket during a game Friday against Vandercook Lake. Photo by Jeff Steers, JTV Sports.
By Jeff Steers
Coming off a two-win season, the East Jackson High School girls’ basketball team was looking for redemption in 2019-2020.
Weeks before regular season games started, EJHS head Coach Jerrell Sanders was charged with criminal sexual conduct third degree according to Jackson District Court 12 records.
He was immediately released as varsity coach of East Jackson.
Junior varsity coach Mike Mericle was moved to the varsity level.
Probably not the kind of start East Jackson wanted.
But the Trojans have responded with a 7-4 start overall, 5-2 in the Cascades Conference. East Jackson is in third place in the conference halfway through the season.
“It is the same group of players, playing the same way we did last year,” Mericle said. “It is all about having confidence.”
Case in point, the Trojans trailed by as many as eight points against Vandercook last Friday, but was able to pull out a 51-43 win in overtime.
“I am not sure we would have won that game last year,” Mericle said.
Junior Jordan Nicholson knocked down a free throw late in the contest sending it to overtime.
“It was pretty nerve racking with everyone screaming and knowing that I had to make it (the free throw) to keep our team playing,” Nicholson said. “I knew I had to do something to pull through.”
Nicholson said improved communication and a renewed energy has driven EJHS this season.
“This year we work together as a team and have better communication,” Nicholson said. “There is also a lot of energy on the team.”
Mericle – the father of EJHS varsity players Brynn and Rory – said he expected good things from the group as they were moving to the varsity level.
“I had high expectations for these players when they were at the junior varsity level,” Mericle said.
The Trojans are 5-2 in the Cascades Conference, losing by big margins to league leaders Grass Lake and Michigan Center. But Mericle says the Trojans are playing well as a team.
Case in point, their MaxPreps page has three girls – Olivia Seymour, Livi Talmage, and Hannah Elliott – averaging nearly seven points per game earlier in the season. Five players – Brynn Mericle, Seymour, Elliott, Lily Beaman, and Addisyn Rudd – were averaging more than four rebounds per game.
“If we get the right setting, we can knock them (Grass Lake and Michigan Center) off,” Mericle said. “We have played teams of that caliber.”
Mericle said moving into the head varsity position was made easier since he took the girls to summer camp.
“I was somewhat familiar with them,” Mericle said.” When you work hard, good things will happen.”