Coaching Couple Guide Rising Cardinals

By Dennis Chase
Special for

January 21, 2016

JOHANNESBURG – It's Thursday – game day in the Huff household.

Nothing unusual about that. Most winter days are game days for Heather and Troy Huff, the head varsity basketball coaches at Johannesburg-Lewiston High School.

"Monday is usually the only night we eat at home as a family," said Heather, who is in her 15th season as the girls coach.

This week's schedule is as hectic as ever – the boys hosted Bellaire on Tuesday, the girls entertained Onaway on Wednesday, the boys travel to Pellston tonight and the girls head to Mancelona on Friday.

On Saturday, the Huffs will be in Houghton Lake to watch their 12-year-old son Sheldon play.

Sunday? It's back to practice.

"We get a lot of basketball this time of year," said Troy, now in his fourth season as boys coach.

Winning basketball, too. Propelled by a strong senior class, the Cardinals are off to a combined 14-2 start – the boys are 6-1 and the girls 8-1.

The girls record is not a surprise. The Cardinals are averaging 16 wins a season under Heather Huff, who is 234-89 since she took over from her mentor, Rick Guild, who won 443 varsity games during his Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Hall of Fame career.

The boys, though, are reaching for new heights. Troy Huff inherited a struggling program when he took over in 2012. The Cardinals finished with 10 victories that first season, and then jumped to 16 wins a year ago.

"It's amazing how far the team has come in four years," Troy said. "We had five coaches in 10 years (previously). You can't build a program like that."

Coaching stability has been a key to success at Johannesburg-Lewiston. The football program, which has won 61 percent of its games since starting the sport in 1969, has had just three head coaches since 1983. Girls basketball has had two since 1975. Kevin Kennedy will be starting his 30th season in the spring with girls track & field, a program he's led to seven league and six Regional titles. Guild is gearing up for his 41st season as baseball coach for the Cardinals, who have won 15 Districts and three Regionals in that span.

"We've been able to keep that continuity (in those programs), and that's huge," athletic director and football coach Joe Smokevitch said. "Year after year after year, the kids know the expectations."

The Huffs set the bar high in basketball.

"Troy and I were raised to work hard and set high expectations for ourselves," said Heather, who teaches math and health at the middle school. "We (ask) that from the kids that we coach, too. We hold them to a high level of accountability. I think when you do that, you get out of them what you expect out of them."

Troy agrees.

"I don't accept that 'I can't do it' type attitude," he said. "You have to push yourself to that next level."

On the court, the results are apparent.

The girls, led by four-year veterans Madison Showerman and Kelsey Cherwinski, are in contention for another Ski Valley Conference crown. The 5-foot-11 Showerman is averaging 25.3 points, 11 rebounds and 4.3 steals per game. She just went over the 1,000-career point mark. The 5-5 Cherwinski is averaging 16.2 points, 5.2 steals and 4.4 assists. The Cardinals also are getting strong play from two other seniors, Kate Heidman and Sarah Korff.

As in the past, Johannesburg-Lewiston likes to pressure the ball on defense, creating scoring opportunities off turnovers. And when the Cardinals clear a defensive rebound off the glass, they like to get out in transition.

If the fast break is not there, the Cardinals can turn to an improved halfcourt offense, Heather Huff said, that features Showerman's developing skills inside.

Another four-year varsity veteran, Logan Huff – Heather and Troy's middle son – is a key cog on the boys team. The 5-11 point guard, who carries a 3.99 grade-point average, also is averaging 18 points a game and surpassed the career 1,000-point mark earlier in the season. Troy's nephew, Brandon Huff, is a 6-3 forward who averages better than 15 points per contest. Seniors Nathan Fox, Brent Carpenter and Ori Kierczynski add to the attack. The 6-7 Carpenter, who is averaging close to 10 points, suffered a bone bruise four games into the season, so Tyson Claeys, a 6-3 freshman, stepped up, and is averaging nearly a double-double.

Troy Huff said that balance is the strength of his team.

"We have (multiple) guys that can score," he said. "It's not unusual to have three to four guys in double figures."

The Cardinals are pursuing their first boys league title since 1981. But it just got more challenging. They suffered their first loss Tuesday to Bellaire. The girls lost to Bellaire last week.

“That will be a great motivator for us,” Heather said.

Now, it will be for the boys, too.

For the Huffs, coaching at Johannesburg-Lewiston completes a circle. It’s where they went to school, where their sports journeys began.

Heather was a standout player under Guild, scoring 1,216 points during her career. She played at Alma College for a couple seasons before turning to coaching, starting at the middle school level in Alma, Breckenridge and Gaylord before returning home. She spent six years as an assistant and junior varsity coach before succeeding Guild. Her 2009 team reached the Class D MHSAA Semifinals.

Troy was a captain on the football and baseball teams in high school, but did not play basketball.

"That's one of my regrets," he said.

Troy Huff went on to spend 25 years in law enforcement, retiring from the Gaylord Police Department in 2013.

With three sons active in sports, he took on a second job during those years, coaching youth sports.

“It was in my blood,” he said.

Huff was still working in the police department when he accepted the boys varsity basketball job. Not long after, he agreed to be an assistant to Guild in baseball.

Smokevitch said Huff's personality is what stood out when he took over the basketball program.

"He's a take-charge guy," said Smokevitch. "He has that no non-sense (attitude) about him, similar to the way I coach (football)."

Huff also knew the kids. He coached most of them in youth sports.

Huff has had the joy of coaching two sons on varsity – Coalton and Logan. Sheldon, the team manager, is coming up through the ranks.

The Huffs agree the best part of their jobs is simply working with their players and “helping them be the best they can be.”

"Just watching each player develop, watching them work together as a team, and having some influence on that, is rewarding," said Heather.

That's not lost on Smokevitch. He’s seen Heather teach her craft on the court for all 15 years as head coach.

"She's constantly working with the kids, constantly teaching," he said. "I read a quote from John Wooden the other day. He said, 'It's not coaching, it's teaching.' That's what Heather does."

Smokevitch said this is a special time at the school. Teams are doing well across the board.

"We have great kids," he said.

Not just in talent, but character, he added.

Take Logan Huff, Brandon Huff and Fox, for example. They were three-year starters for Smokevitch n football. The Cardinals finished 9-2 in the fall, losing by six and eight points to St. Ignace, an eventual Division 8 semifinalist.

Brandon was the pass-run threat at quarterback, Logan was a 1,000-yard rusher and became the school's all-time leading tackler, while Fox was an all-state punter.

They visited Finlandia University in Hancock late last week and then returned home in time to attend a birthday party for Smokevitch's 7-year-old son, Joey.

"He invited those three to come to his bowling party," said Smokevitch. "They all showed up, bowled, brought presents, had pizza and cake, and hung out with a bunch of 7-year-olds. That shows you what kind of kids they are, the upbringings they've had.

"It's that small-town school atmosphere. Our school is one building, K through 12. The younger kids see the (high school) kids all the time. My son idolizes those kids, and they accept him right back."

In another month or so, those three boys, along with their teammates, would like to be accepting a league championship basketball trophy. The girls would like to be celebrating a title, too.

But there are still a lot of game days ahead. Just ask the Huffs.

Dennis Chase worked 32 years as a sportswriter at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, including as sports editor from 2000-14. He can be reached at with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS: Heather Huff, left, and husband Troy coach the girls and boys varsity basketball teams, respectively, at Johannesburg-Lewiston. (Photos courtesy of Brandon Folsom/Gaylord Herald Times.)

Breslin Bound: 2022-23 Boys Quarterfinal Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 21, 2023

It finally feels like spring, at least here in East Lansing. And tonight, 32 teams will attempt to build into their spring breaks a trip to Breslin Center.


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Below is a glance at all 16 of tonight’s Quarterfinals across four divisions, with all games tipping off at 7 p.m. unless noted. Winners advance to Thursday and Friday’s Semifinals, and we’ll detail the teams more then as we preview those concluding rounds of this year’s tournament.

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Division 1

Ann Arbor Huron (23-2) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (25-1) at University of Detroit Mercy, 5:30 p.m.

After an early postseason exit last season, 2021 Division 1 runner-up Huron has put together another deep playoff run. Sophomore guard Macari Moore leads three players averaging double-digit scoring at 17 points per game. After winning its first Regional title last season since 1998, Cass Tech is back at the Quarterfinals for a second straight March. Darius Acuff is another super sophomore, also leading three double-digit scorers at 21.6 ppg to go with 5.8 assists per contest.

Grand Blanc (24-2) vs. Rochester Adams (17-8) at Lake Orion

Last season’s runner-up is two wins away from playing for another title, but this time the Bobcats are led by first-year coach Tory Jackson. Seniors Tae Boyd (15.4 ppg) and RJ Taylor (14.3) are a strong 1-2 punch. Adams is coming off its first Regional title in this sport, with junior 6-foot-7 football standout Brady Prieskorn among top contributors for a Highlanders hoops team that has won seven of its last nine games.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (14-10) vs. Warren De La Salle (17-8) at University of Detroit Mercy

These Detroit Catholic League Central rivals will meet for the third time, with St. Mary’s winning the first matchup by 17 on Jan. 10 and the reigning Division 1 champion Pilots taking the rematch by 12 on Jan. 31. Sophomore Trey McKenney is a force at 25.5 points and 11.1 rebounds per game for the Eaglets, while Phoenix Glassnor is another sophomore standout leading De La Salle at 18.4 ppg.

Muskegon (24-2) vs. East Lansing (16-9) at Caledonia

East Lansing has won six straight and 12 of its last 14 games, with three of those wins over opponents responsible for four of their losses this winter. Only one starter is a senior, and sophomore Cameron Hutson leads the way at 19.3 ppg. Muskegon is in the midst of a ninth 20-win season over the last decade and earned its first Regional title since 2015. Senior Jordan Briggs (18.7 ppg) has qualified for the MHSAA single-season record list with 84 3-pointers, connecting on nearly 40 percent of his tries from beyond the arc.

Division 2

Cadillac (22-4) vs. Saginaw (20-6) at Alma

The Trojans are seeking their first Semifinal appearance since 2013 and have lost only to Division 1 opponents this season, with guard Javarie Holliday leading a mostly senior-powered lineup at 15.8 ppg. Cadillac also won its Regional last season and is seeking to return to the Semifinals for the first time since 2015, with 6-6 junior Charlie Howell the leading scorer (15.3 ppg) and rebounder (7.4 rpg).

Ferndale (18-8) vs. Goodrich (22-4) at Lake Orion, 5:30 p.m.

The Eagles are working to reach Breslin and the Semifinals for a third-straight season and have won 13 of their last 14 games while navigating a power-packed schedule again this winter. Senior Chris Williams leads a balanced lineup at 13.5 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Goodrich is a combined 93-20 over the last five seasons and playing to make the Semifinals for the first time with senior Jack Locey (18.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.0 spg, 45 3-pointers) among those filling the stat sheet.

Hudsonville Unity Christian (18-9) vs. Grand Rapids South Christian (23-3) at Calvin University

These rivals will be filling Calvin for a rematch after South Christian won the regular-season meeting 58-50 on Dec. 16. The bad news for the Sailors is they lost leading scorer Carson Vis (17.7 ppg) to injury in the Regional Final, but senior Jacob DeHaan (13 ppg) leads three others averaging at least 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Unity has won 11 of its last 12 games, with two-point upsets of Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Grand Rapids Christian along the way. Juniors Trayton Fisher and Colin Neiuwenhuis both average about 11.5 points per game and have combined for 97 3-pointers.

Chelsea (21-5) vs. Romulus Summit Academy (24-2) at Milan

These are two more teams looking to reach the Semifinals for the first time, Summit having played in a Quarterfinal as recently as 2021 and Chelsea’s last trip to the season’s final week in 2000. Juniors Jacob Stephens (22.7 ppg) and Joseph Cabana (22.2) set a strong pace for the Bulldogs. The Dragons have doubled up all four of their postseason opponents so far and done the same in 16 wins total this winter.

Tri-unity Christian’s Roy Fogg pulls in a loose ball during his team’s Regional championship victory over Lansing Christian.

Division 3

Detroit Loyola (25-1) vs. Flint Beecher (21-4) at Waterford Mott

A 67-58 loss to Division 1 Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Jan. 29 remains the only defeat on Loyola’s list this winter. All five starters are seniors, with Dashawn Martin (15.1 ppg) leading three averaging double-figure scoring. Beecher’s losses were to Division 1 and 2 opponents, including three playing tonight. Robert Lee leads a senior-dominated lineup at 24.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game as the Bucs attempt to make the Semifinals for a third-straight season.

Laingsburg (25-0) vs. Ecorse (19-4) at Ypsilanti Lincoln

The Wolfpack’s closest game this season was seven points, its Regional Semifinal win against Jonesville, as it attempts to reach Breslin for the first time since 2013. Junior Zander Woodruff is averaging more than a point per minute of playing time, leading at 24.4 ppg. Ecorse is seeking a return trip to the Semifinals and has won 17 of its last 18 games. Senior guard Malik Olafioye also is putting the finishing touches on a high-scoring career.

St. Ignace (22-4) vs. Traverse City St. Francis (22-4) at Gaylord

St. Ignace is playing in its first Quarterfinal since 2001, seeking to reach the Semifinals for the first time since 1983. Junior Jonny Ingalls (22.4 ppg) leads three Saints averaging at least 13, plus he’s dishing 5.4 assists per game. St. Francis has won 11 of its last 12 games with that lone loss to Cadillac (see above) in overtime in the regular-season finale. Senior Wyatt Nausadis has paced the scoring at 20.1 ppg after quarterbacking the football team to a Division 7 runner-up finish in the fall.

Pewamo-Westphalia (19-6) vs. Niles Brandywine (24-2) at Portage Central

Brandywine has reached the final week for the first time with its first Regional title, and its only losses this season remain against Division 2 Benton Harbor. Junior Jaremiah Palmer leads a lineup with four players averaging at least 9.7 ppg at 12.9 per game. P-W is making its second-straight Quarterfinal appearance after edging North Muskegon by three and then Grandville Calvin Christian by two last week. Senior Jamison Eklund is averaging 22.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

Division 4

Painesdale Jeffers (25-1) vs. Munising (24-1) at Negaunee

The Upper Peninsula is guaranteed to send a one-loss team downstate to the Division 4 Semifinals, and for both programs it would be a first-time trip. Jeffers is playing its first Quarterfinal, and Munising its first since 1954. Junior Levi Frahm leads four Jets scoring in double digits at 20.5 ppg, while senior Kane Nebel is surrounded by a similar balanced attack and leads four double-digit scorers at 15.8 ppg.

Taylor Trillium Academy (21-3) vs. Marine City Cardinal Mooney (15-11) at West Bloomfield

Trillium is another first-time Regional champion, taking this step after falling just a four-point loss shy of reaching the Quarterfinals a year ago. Senior DaMaryon Fishburn is averaging 22.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game for the Wildcats, and junior Keymarryon Fishburn adds 15.3 ppg. Cardinal Mooney has won seven of its last nine games to reach the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2016 and after falling in Regional Finals the last two seasons – avenging the 2022 loss to Genesee Christian to advance. Senior Trent Rice leads three double-digit scorers at 12.9 ppg.

Frankfort (17-8) vs. Hillman (22-4) at Gaylord, 5 p.m.

Frankfort is another team on a nice streak with eight wins over its last nine games including 50-44 over 2022 semifinalist Lake Leelanau St. Mary in last week’s Regional Final. Senior Emmerson Farmer and sophomore Carter Kerby supply the backcourt with between 10-11 ppg apiece. This will be Hillman’s fourth Quarterfinal over the last nine seasons as the Tigers seek their first Semifinal trip. Trenton Taratuta is a big-time scorer averaging 27.4 ppg with 60 3-pointers but also 9.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 5.2 steals per game.

Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (20-6) vs. Kalamazoo Phoenix (17-2) at Richland Gull Lake

This is a familiar spot for Tri-unity Christian, the reigning Division 4 champion. All five starters average between 6-13 ppg and four have high games of at least 20 points this season; senior Roy Fogg tops both lists at 13 ppg and 25, respectively. This is new territory for Phoenix, which won one game just two seasons ago but has won 10 in a row heading into this week. Senior Cameron Lewis-Atkins (19.9 ppg) leads five players averaging 11 or more points per game. Phoenix avenged one of its losses, to Eau Claire, in the Regional Semifinal.'s weekly “Breslin Bound” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTOS (Top) A fan holds up a sign supporting Painesdale Jeffers between the third and fourth quarters of last week’s Regional Final win over Stephenson. (Middle) Tri-unity Christian’s Roy Fogg pulls in a loose ball during his team’s Regional championship victory over Lansing Christian. (Top photo by Cara Kamps; middle photo by High School Sports Scene.)