Onsted Quickly Finding Winning Combinations During Fast Starts

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

December 28, 2021

ONSTED – Austin Davis played college basketball under John Beilein and Juwan Howard at the University of Michigan. One of the lessons he brought home with him after four years with the Wolverines is now helping the Onsted boys basketball team excel. 

“Austin talks to our team all of the time about being a star in your own role,” Onsted boys basketball coach Brad Maska said. “Whatever it is you do, whether it’s rebounding or scoring, you need to be a star in your specific role. That’s his message, and it's really made our team better.” 

Davis is finished with the Wolverines, but not basketball. The Onsted graduate helps at practices and games when he can, and Maska said his presence is one of the reasons the Division 2 Wildcats were 5-0 heading into a holiday tournament this week that features teams from three states. 

“Him just being here, being a part of it, is big for our guys,” Maska said. “We are lucky to have him.” 

Davis also is tutoring his younger brother, 6-foot-9 sophomore Ayden Davis.  

The younger Davis came on strong as the season went on last winter, and he has started this season even better, averaging better than 21 points a game. He scored 30 against Hanover-Horton and has a 20-rebound game to his credit as well. 

“As coaches we learned so much when we had Austin,” Maska said. “All of the things we are trying to do with Ayden are things we didn’t do with Austin. We want to play fast, get out and run, and Ayden can run up and down the floor.” 

Onsted has an interesting roster mix. There are five seniors, including captains Dayton Henagan and Harry Moore, who return from last season’s 14-4 team. There are three juniors, Davis is one of two sophomores, and there are two freshmen – Aidan Paquin and JT Hill – who played big roles in the first five wins. 

“The collection of kids we have around Ayden is second to none,” said Maska, in his 15th year as Onsted head coach. “It all starts with our seniors and how they have bought in to what we are doing. We had a great summer together, and it is showing.” 

Hill and Paquin both have hit big shots already this season. Junior Bradlee VanBrunt hit six 3-pointers in a win over Jonesville. Henagan is averaging six rebounds, five steals and five assists per game, and Moore has been filling up the stat sheets. 

“It hasn’t been just one guy,” Maska said. “That’s what has been so exciting. Everyone is contributing, one through 11.” 

Ayden grew up around the Onsted program while Austin was a three-year starter for the Wildcats. Their father, Eric Davis, remains an assistant coach. Ayden said he’s grateful for the work Austin puts in with him. 

“We have a great relationship, and I’m so grateful for him being here and helping me,” Ayden said. “He helps with my shot, my footwork. He learned from Coach Beilein and Coach Howard. He’s bringing that to working with me. I’m very excited to work with him. 

Onsted basketball“He’ll put his shorts on and pull out the old basketball shoes sometimes and we go at it. It makes me a better player.” 

Henagan, a 6-2 senior forward, is second on the team in scoring, putting up between 11 and 19 points in every game this season. He said as a captain, it's his role to ensure the younger players on the team are integrated into everything the team does. 

“This summer was really important because we gelled right away,” he said. “Having that time brought everyone close together. Now we hang out and do things together as a team. It’s been big for us. We all trust each other. The summer really gave us a head start.” 

Maska has upgraded the Wildcats’ schedule this season. They played three games over the first five nights of the season, are playing in the North Central Tournament in Ohio this week and will play at a Martin Luther King Day event in Ohio against Toledo St. Francis, a Division 1 school in its state. 

“I like to play different teams,” Maska said. “In the summer we will play all over the place. We want to play the best and see how we stack up.” 

It’s a good time for basketball all around at Onsted. The Wildcats JV boys are also undefeated, and the Onsted girls varsity is 5-0 after knocking off Brooklyn Columbia Central on Dec. 16. The Golden Eagles had won 34 straight Lenawee County Athletic Association games before the Wildcats beat them, 46-34, with great defense down the stretch. 

Varsity girls head coach Brandon Arnold likes the versatility of his team. 

“We have four guards, and we can do a lot of different things with them,” he said. 

Senior Kaylei Smith, a Siena Heights University signee, is off to a great start with 85 points in five games, and sophomore Hailey Freshcorn is a gym rat who is fast and the ringleader on defense. 

“She never comes out of the gym,” Arnold said.  

Onsted won 14 games last year and graduated four-year starter and 1,000-point scorer Mya Hiram.  

“No one expected us to start like this,” Arnold said. “But the girls have embraced it. We’re like the underdog right now.” 

The Wildcats girls got a late start to the season due to the volleyball team reaching the Quarterfinals, and then battled some COVID-19 issues. They are rolling now but have some tough games coming up. 

“We have a lot of momentum and confidence right now,” Arnold said. I like how we are playing, and the things we are doing.” 

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Onsted’s Dayton Henagan (3) makes his move toward the basket during a win over Hudson. (Middle) Past star Austin Davis coaches up one of Onsted’s current contributors. (Photos by Deloris Clark-Osborne.)

Decade After Title Trips, 'Coach K' Just as Driven to Coach Up Grand Haven Contenders

By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com

February 1, 2023

Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer has experienced unforgettable highs and nightmarish lows during her 25 years as the girls basketball coach at Grand Haven.

It’s now the 10-year anniversary of an amazing three-year stretch from 2011 to 2013, when “Coach K” guided the Buccaneers to a combined 81-2 record, three consecutive berths in the Class A Semifinals and back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.

The lows are harder to pick out, but the way Grand Haven lost at Hudsonville on Jan. 24 certainly qualifies.

The Bucs led 46-44 with time running out, when Haven was called for a shooting foul with one-tenth of a second remaining on a desperation half-court shot attempt. Hudsonville senior Maddie Peroelje then made all three free throws to pull out an improbable 47-46 win.

“That one was brutal,” said Kowalczyk-Fulmer, who was feeling much better Tuesday, one week later, after Haven downed visiting Zeeland West 44-33 for its third-straight victory.

“I love all of it, the great teams and big wins, but also the struggles and trying to stay strong and figure things out.”

Kowalczyk-Fulmer, 52, might be in the midst of the best coaching job in her 31-year career, guiding a team with no returning starters to a 10-4 start, including an impressive 5-2 record after the first rotation in the rugged Ottawa-Kent Conference Red.

She is doing it with a team that only goes about six or seven deep, has no one in that group taller than 6-foot and lost its starting point guard, junior Abbey Klumpel, to a season-ending knee injury during the summer.

How is she doing it?

“She teaches a team game of basketball,” explained ninth-year Grand Haven athletic director Scott Robertson, who has been involved in high school sports for 32 years. “She is more invested in her sport, her kids, her program than anyone I have ever seen.”

The defensive leader Tuesday was gritty senior guard Grace Harrison, who held Zeeland West’s top perimeter threat scoreless.

On offense, junior forward Emerson Berndt turned in a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds. She scored 14 of those points in the second half to help the Bucs put the game away.

Berndt had the hot hand Tuesday, but in other games this season sophomore guard Gillian Sorrelle or junior forward Maddie Schopf have carried the team from outside. The inside leader is 5-11 senior center Heidi Berkey, who held her own against ZW’s 6-4 senior center Kara Bartels.

Berndt, who leads the Bucs with 12 points and five rebounds per game, said this team has a special bond with its head coach.

“Coach has established such a close relationship with all of us, and she knows how to get us going,” said Berndt, who is one of the five Haven starters who all average at least six points per game. “She’s always joking around, but getting after it at the same time.”

Kowalczyk-Fulmer and son Drew accept the Class A championship trophy after the Bucs’ second-straight title win in 2013. Haven, which is a surprising second in the O-K Red at the halfway point, starts the second half of the slate Friday at first-place and No. 3-ranked Rockford (13-1).

Kowalczyk-Fulmer, a standout player at Caledonia and then Hope College, began her coaching career at the age of 21 when she was still a senior at Hope – coaching the seventh-grade girls team at Caledonia.

She then worked five years at Hastings, including the final three as girls varsity head coach, before taking the job as a physical education teacher and varsity girls basketball coach at Grand Haven in 1997.

Kowalczyk-Fulmer and her husband, Paul, have one son, Drew, a 12-year-old sixth grader at Grand Haven who was just a toddler when the Buccaneers were enjoying their magical three-year run a decade ago.

Haven made its presence known on a statewide level in 2011, when 6-5 sophomore Abby Cole led the Bucs to a 26-1 record, with the only loss coming by a single point to Detroit Renaissance, 39-38, in a Class A Semifinal at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.

The Bucs took the final step in 2012, erasing an 18-point, third-quarter deficit as senior guard Shar’Rae Davis drove the length of the court for the game-winning layup with nine seconds remaining in a 54-53 victory over Grosse Pointe South. Haven finished 27-1, with its only loss coming early in the season against O-K Red rival East Kentwood.

GH did it again in 2013 with a perfect 28-0 record, which might have been the most impressive because the only returning starter was Cole, who would go on to an all-Big Ten volleyball career at Michigan. The Bucs committed a staggering 32 turnovers, but made up for it with 22-of-29 shooting (76 percent), in a 60-54 overtime victory over, once again, Grosse Pointe South.

“Those are the glory days, and here we are 10 years later and you realize just how special it was,” said Kowalczyk-Fulmer, who has also coached track at Grand Haven. “We always stayed humble and worked hard.

“Obviously, having someone like Abby Cole as the last line of defense is something special. But she had such great character and leadership, as well. I can still see her out there when things weren’t going well, and she would wrap her long arms around her teammates and tell them it was going to be OK. And it was.”

Kowalczyk-Fulmer has amassed 391 victories as a head coach, with six O-K Red titles, eight District and four Regional championships – along with the two Class A Finals wins.

“Those trophies are getting hard to come by – I’m thinking about buying one on eBay,” said Coach K, displaying the quick wit that her fellow coaches, referees and players know very well.

She works hard, but also has plenty of fun and laughs along the way, which is why she doesn’t plan on retiring any time soon – even though this school year marks her 30th year of teaching.

As Kowalczyk-Fulmer was finishing up her media obligations after the Zeeland West victory, her son – a sports junkie who has literally grown up in the Grand Haven bleachers and locker rooms – sat waiting in the hallway.

“I plan to be here until he graduates,” she said with a nod to her only child. “I love it. It’s my passion, and I’m really lucky. Grand Haven is such a great place to live and coach.

“I’m not ready to stop.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at kendra.tom@gmail.com with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Grand Haven girls basketball coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer talks things over with her team during a game earlier this decade. (Middle) Kowalczyk-Fulmer and son Drew accept the Class A championship trophy after the Bucs’ second-straight title win in 2013. (Top photo courtesy of the Local Sports Journal.)