By Dennis Chase
Special for Second Half
MAPLE CITY – When the Glen Lake boys basketball team went on a team-building retreat, coach Rich Ruelas asked his players to pick a word that would be their mantra for the season.
Cade Peterson chose “footprint.”
“Coming into my senior year, it hit me,” the three-sport standout said. “This is my last go-around for every sport. I thought, what kind of legacy do I want to leave, that our team wants to leave? It’s like footprints in the sand. How do you want to be remembered? This is a journey. Depending on how we play, how we act, we can be remembered here for years and years and years. That’s a big thing to grasp.”
The Lakers return nine players, including four starters, off an 18-5 squad that reached the Class C Regionals.
They are not the only Glen Lake basketball team that wants to leave a footprint.
The girls return five of their top seven players off a team that went 23-4 and played in the MHSAA Semifinals.
Optimism is high.
“We have experience, and a deep bench,” senior Savannah Peplinski said, reflecting on the team’s strengths. “We’ve all improved our skills. We’re tougher, mentally and physically. We’re focusing on individual things that combined will make us more complex as a team.”
It promises to be an exciting winter on the hardcourt at this Leelanau County school, where basketball tradition runs deep.
Glen Lake won boys Class D state crowns in 1959 and 1977 and was runner-up in 1996. The 1977 team, which upset Detroit East Catholic in the Final, celebrated its 40th anniversary of that championship this summer. The reunion was organized by Hall of Fame coach Don Miller, who has returned to the sidelines as the JV coach.
The Lakers claimed a girls state championship in 1978 and lost a heartbreaker in the 1979 Finals. Glen Lake has produced two of the best players to ever come out of northern Michigan – Laura Wiesen and Liz (Shimek) Moeggenberg, now the JV coach. Wiesen, a math teacher at the high school, is among the all-time assist leaders at Northwestern University while Shimek is Michigan State’s third all-time leading scorer (1,780 points) and the leading all-time rebounder (1,130).
The girls team returned to the spotlight with last season’s tournament run, which ended with a loss to Pewamo-Westphalia in the Semifinals.
Coach Jason Bradford said that run made believers out of his players.
“I told the girls they had the capability to go that far,” Bradford, now in his 10th season, said. “But I don’t think they believed it until they actually did it. It was a confidence builder, making it down (to the Semifinals).”
“Last year really opened our eyes as to how much talent we do have and how much harder we have to push ourselves to reach our potential,” the 17-year-old said.
A District win over nemesis Traverse City St. Francis, which had played in the Class C Final the previous year, catapulted the Lakers.
“You still have people who think it was luck we made it down there (to the Breslin Center),” Bradford said. “It’s like, you always have to prove yourself. (Because) we made it down there, and return a lot, there’s pressure to repeat, but that’s what the girls want.”
Glen Lake, which tips off its season tonight at Elk Rapids, has a solid nucleus with returnees Peplinski, Jennifer LaCross, Kaitlyn Schaub, Allie Bonzelet and Lily Ewing. LaCross averaged 10.8 points per game a year ago while Peplinski was at 10.1. Schaub, a 6-foot junior, led the team with seven rebounds a game.
“Jennifer is a forward-center, but she can play any position,” Bradford said. “She handles the ball well. She’s hard to guard. Kaitlyn’s our post player. She’s an inside-outside (threat). She has a soft touch around the hoop, and she can step out for a shot. Savannah is going to have the ball in her hands, dictating. She’s a great passer. We’re going to be pushing the ball.”
LaCross, Peplinski, Bonzelet and Schaub all saw time on the varsity as freshmen, Bradford said.
“They’ve played a lot of minutes together,” he said. “It’s a fun group, very unselfish and very supportive of each other. They accept their roles. They want to be part of this team and that’s half of it, if not most of it.”
Bonzelet is one of the top defenders on a team that prides itself on defense.
The Lakers will need to replace leading scorer Kelly Bunek and center Sarah Carney.
“It’s going to be tough to fill those holes,” Peplinski said. “But we’re working at it and building our confidence back up. I think it will be a good season.”
Sophomore Karrigan LaCross and freshman Hailey Helling are stepping in to provide the Lakers with added depth.
Glen Lake, which has won 32 consecutive Northwest Conference games, will be challenged by Kingsley and Benzie Central, which both opened the season with double-digit wins over teams from the larger Big North Conference. Frankfort is traditionally strong, too.
“It’s going to come down to the end,” Bradford said. “We have Frankfort, Benzie and Kingsley to finish the season. That’s a nice way to end it.”
As for the boys, Ruelas challenged his team over the summer. The Lakers competed in tournaments at Benzie Central. Traverse City West, Ferris State and Grand Valley State.
“We wanted a challenge so we got put in the top brackets at Ferris and Grand Valley,” Ruelas said.
Glen Lake won its bracket at Grand Valley and was runner-up at Ferris State.
The Lakers return four starters in seniors Peterson and Nick Apsey, junior Xander Okerlund and sophomore Reece Hazelton. Okerlund averaged 17.5 points and 4.8 rebounds a year ago, while Peterson was at 15.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per contest.
“We have balance, inside and out, length and leadership,” Ruelas said.
Peterson, who has committed to play football at Grand Valley, is 6-5, as is Hazelton. Okerlund measures 6-4.
The Lakers also welcome back 5-7 senior point guard Peyton McDonough, who missed most of last season with a torn meniscus.
“We’re very athletic,” McDonough said. “We can run the floor. We have good shooters - we can drive and kick. We’re a well-rounded team.”
Glen Lake did not win the Northwest Conference last season. That honor went to Buckley, which ran the table. The Bears, who reached the Class D Final, return all five starters. Frankfort also has its top talent back.
“(Our players) know we have great teams in our conference,” Ruelas said. “We don’t throw that in their face. It’s motivation for us to work hard, do the right things and take it step by step.
“If we work together, work hard, have fun and are connected as a team, that’s my goal. I want us to get better every day.”
Connected was the word Ruelas chose at the retreat.
“It’s a we – not a me – mentality,” he said. “We’re trying to live that day in and day out. It’s easy to say, but if we can live it they know the sky’s the limit.”
Peterson said chemistry is one of the Lakers’ strengths.
“We’re more unselfish, more together,” he said.
“Everyone’s really positive and excited for the challenge,” Okerlund added.
McDonough. Peterson and Okerlund are the captains, and all bring something different to the table.
“Peyton’s the vocal leader,” Ruelas said. “He’s challenging everybody to get better every day, even if it’s one percent. Cade brings that competitiveness to the team. He wants his senior class to go out the right way, not have any regrets. Xander leads by example. He works his tail off.”
Glen Lake opens its season Tuesday against St. Francis – the start of a near four-month journey.
“We’re not going to lose sight of the important things,” Ruelas said. “Of course, we want to win the conference, the District, and so on. Every good team wants that.
“But basketball is like every other sport. On any given night, maybe the ball doesn’t fall, things don’t go your way. (Our season) could end in the state championship game or in a District Final. Whenever it ends, we want to look back and say we worked hard, had fun, respected each other and enjoyed the journey. If we walk away knowing that, I can’t think of a reason we would have any regrets. That’s what matters.”
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 [email protected] 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: (Top) Savannah Peplinski (left) and Peyton McDonough are among those expected to contribute to strong Glen Lake basketball teams this winter. (Middle) Jennifer LaCross defends against Frankfort last season. (Below) Max Lerchen goes to the basket last winter against Leland. (Girls photos courtesy of Robert Ewing; boys photos courtesy of Don Miller.)
Foster Loyer’s four-season career at Clarkston from 2014-15 through 2017-18 certainly must be considered among the most accomplished in state history as he led the Wolves to back-to-back Class A championships in 2017 and 2018 and is listed in the record book 25 times.
Among Loyer’s most notable entries were 2,325 career points (12th most), 272 career 3-pointers (tied for ninth), records of 119 consecutive free throws and 634 career free throws, a .921 free-throw percentage as a junior (tied for fourth) and .900 career percentage (second), 589 career assists (sixth), 278 career steals (15th) and 102 games played (tied for sixth).
Loyer went on to play at Michigan State and then Davidson.
See below for more recent record book entries for boys basketball.
Four Onaway standouts were added for single-season and/or career records. Jager Mix, who graduated in 2022, was added for 92 steals last season and 225 over his four-season career. Kevin Pearson, a 2021 grad, was added for 81 steals as a senior and 247 over his career. Joe Sigsby, a 2016 grad, was added for 127 steals, and Jadin Mix was added for 124 in 2021-22. Their totals rank ninth and tied for 10th, respectively, on that all-time list. Jager Mix also was added for 967 career rebounds, and Onaway as a team was added for tying the record for most points in a quarter with 49 during the first quarter of a win over Fife Lake Forest Area on Feb. 3, 2022. Jager Mix is playing at Alpena Community College, and Jadin Mix is a senior this school year.
Uchenna Amene was added for 11 steals in a March 7, 2022, game against West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy and for 97 steals total over 25 games. He was a sophomore at Southfield Christian that season and now is a senior at Detroit Catholic Central.
Owen Franklin graduated from Oscoda in 2021 as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and nearly 44 percent of those 1,477 points came on 3-pointers. Franklin made the state career 3-pointers list with 216 over four seasons. He’s playing baseball at Northwood.
Traverse City Christian sophomore Reece Broderick became one of the state’s most accomplished long-distance shooters in just his second year of high school this past winter, drilling 104 3-pointers – good for third-most for one season all-time – over 23 games. He connected on 42 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
A pair of Rudyard four-year varsity standouts entered the record book after their graduations in 2022. Tate Besteman made the career rebounds list with 762 over 89 games, and EJ Suggitt made the career 3-pointers list with 215 over the same 89 contests. Besteman played this past season for Mid Michigan College, and Suggitt is playing baseball at Spring Arbor.
Success from 3-point range played a significant role in Mesick finishing 21-1 in 2021-22, as the team made 195 of its 578 attempts – with game highs of 15 twice in wins over Baldwin and Pentwater.
Then-senior Tristan McFolley earned the first listing under single-game rebounds since 2013 with 30 in Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy’s game with Hope of Detroit Academy on Dec. 8, 2022.
Tawas found its groove from long range Jan. 10 against Oscoda, drilling 22 3-pointers in an 86-31 win. The total tied for fifth-most in one game.
Although Norway felt just short, 40-37, in its District loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park on March 8, Alex Ortman kept the Knights close scoring 20 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to make the single-quarter scoring list. He’s now a senior.
Kobe Clark has listings in two MHSAA record books, with three for boys basketball joining those he earned for football during his Schoolcraft career. He was added in hoops for 531 career assists and 290 career steals over 94 games from 2016-17 through 2019-20, and also for 82 steals as a senior. Tyler DeGroote also was added to the record book, for scoring 20 points during the first quarter against Delton Kellogg during Schoolcraft’s Jan. 11, 2022, victory. Clark began at Saginaw Valley State for football and now plays basketball and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and DeGroote is continuing at Rockhurst (Mo.).
Past Detroit Cooley star Larry Fogle has added a seventh record book listing a half-century later. Fogle grabbed 33 rebounds on Jan. 18, 1972, during a win over Detroit Mackenzie. He went on to play at Louisiana and Canisius, and then briefly with the New York Knicks.
Trevon Gunter scored 42 points in Kalamazoo Central’s 84-56 win over Richland Gull Lake on Jan. 17, 2020, including 31 during the third quarter – second-most and just one shy of the record for points during one period. A senior that season, Gunter plays currently at Grand Valley State.
Mark Wittbrodt held the record for consecutive free throws at 70 until 2008, and that entry in the record book has been joined by several others from the Bay City Western star. He was added for his 192 3-pointers, 436 free throws, .842 free-throw percentage and 266 career steals over three seasons from 1991-93, as well as for six single-season accomplishments. He went on to play at Michigan Tech.
Ellsworth’s Jacob Jenuwine tied for 12th on the single-game 3-pointers list when he connected on 11 as part of scoring 39 points total in his team’s Feb. 14 win over Alanson. Jenuwine graduated this spring.
Bellevue senior Dawson Wing capped his three-season varsity career last winter with three entries in the record. He was added for 12 blocked shots in a 2021-22 game against Colon, 107 for the season last winter and 203 blocks over his career. Teammate Caleb Betz, a senior this fall, was added for 12 steals in a game against Athens.
Logan Mansfield capped his Morenci career in a big way last winter. The senior drilled 90 3-pointers over 24 games to earn his school’s first individual record book entry in boys hoops since the 1987-88 season, when John Craig had 132 blocked shots that would have been the second-most recorded at that time. They currently rank 13th.
New Haven earned a pair of record book entries during its March 10 win over Memphis. The Rockets bested their previous single-quarter school record with 41 points during the opening period, and they also made the statewide single-game 3-pointers list with 16.
Whitehall’s Camden Thompson, a junior this fall, earned his first record book entry last winter – and the first for his school in boys basketball. He grabbed 303 rebounds over 21 games.
Grand Rapids Wellspring Prep junior Zeekeal Jackson earned his school's first boys basketball record book entry this past season as well. He made the single-season steals list with 106, over 22 games, and just missed the single-game list with a high of 10.
Jonesville’s Brady Wright was among his team’s leading scorers during his three varsity seasons ending this past winter, but he also was a major contributor defensively. He made the records with a season-high 101 steals over 25 games as a senior, and made the career list with 232 steals over 61 games.
Sophomore Christopher McLavish Jr. made a memorable impact last season with a pair of record book entries. He made the single-quarter points list with 20 in a Feb. 21 game against Flint Powers Catholic, but even more memorable were his 97 3-pointers over 25 games for the season – tying him for 11th all-time on that list.
PHOTO Foster Loyer directs Clarkston's offense during its 2018 Class A Semifinal.