Stoney Creek Finishes Climb with Sweep

March 1, 2019

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

GRAND RAPIDS – Back in January, it didn’t look like this would be the breakthrough year for Rochester Hills Stoney Creek competitive cheer.

But the Cougars hit their stride at just the right time, overcoming a second-place conference finish by winning MHSAA District and Regional titles, then capping off their dream run with a Division 1 Finals championship Friday at the Delta Plex.

“I have a lot of different emotions right now, but the best one is knowing that our hard work over the past nine months has paid off,” said Stoney Creek senior Mandy Lilla after the emotional win in front of more than 3,000 spectators.

Stoney Creek posted the highest score from the eight-team field in all three rounds, adding up to an impressive total of 792.72 and edging neighbor and Oakland Activities Association Red rival Rochester Adams (788.90). Grandville placed third at 787.18.

The title was the second for Stoney Creek, which also won Division 1 in 2010.

The Cougars have had a solid program ever since, with a fourth-place finish last winter, but were never able to get back to the top spot until Friday night.

Tricia Williams, in her 17th season as Stoney Creek’s coach, said the maturity of this year’s team enabled the Cougars to continually improve.

“I could see this team growing week after week,” said Williams, who is assisted by Angela Gaabo. “We had a wonderful group of seniors and captains. January was not our month, but those seniors made sure that everyone stayed positive and kept tightening things up.”

The Cougars showed they were ready for business at the District with a 793.78 score, the best District total in the state. They followed that up with a Regional win and then took control of the Finals starting in Round 1.

Leading by almost four points heading into Round 3, Stoney Creek delivered a near-flawless final round performance under pressure, excelling in coordination, vocals and floor mobility, while adding many skill points with a series of stunts and lifts. In the process, the Cougars denied Grandville and Rochester Adams, the final two teams to compete in Round 3, the chance for a comeback.

It marked the second straight year that Rochester Adams took second, after coming up just short last year to Sterling Heights Stevenson. In fact, the Highlanders finished first or second in every competition this season.

“We had an amazing season,” said Brooke Miller, in her fifth year as Adams’ coach. “Everyone is so good in our conference that it just makes us all better. We overcame a lot of things today, including an injury in Round 1, so I’m very proud of our finish.”

Stoney Creek and Adams, competitive rivals all year, shared a special moment on the mat after the trophy and medals presentations – with hugs and congratulations all around.

“So many of those girls are friends and they all work so hard, so that was great to see,” Miller said.

Williams had a brief moment alone with the championship trophy, before getting swarmed by her blue-and-gold clad team.

The Division 1 title was especially sweet for the Cougars’ seven seniors – Claire Heritage, Renee Kehren, Lilla, Sophia Lipuma, Lauren Orlando, Elizabeth Vacante and Olivia Zajac.

“It feels incredible because these girls are my second family,” said Heritage, one of four captains along with Lilla and juniors Sophia Seneker and Lindsey Zanchetta. “We went through the highs and the lows together, but we always stayed positive and supported each other.” 

Brighton and Grand Blanc tied for fourth place, followed by 2018 champion Sterling Heights Stevenson, Utica Eisenhower and Hartland.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Rochester Hills Stoney Creek scored the highest in all three rounds at Friday's Division 1 Finals. (Middle) Rochester Adams followed its rival with its second straight runner-up finish.

Bragging Rights for Both as Multi-Sport Sage Twins Shine at Ford Field

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

March 10, 2023

SOUTHGATE – The question of “Which child is your favorite?” is impossible for any parent to answer, but Shawn Sage has an additional question that’s impossible to answer regarding his son Jackson and daughter Brooklyn.

Greater DetroitThat question is, “Who would win a wrestling match between the two?”

“They are both raising their hands right now smiling about it,” Shawn Sage said with a laugh during a phone conversation.

It’s a good-natured question anybody can pose to Shawn Sage, given his son and daughter are not only twins by birth, but in wrestling achievements as sophomores at Southgate Anderson.

Last weekend at Ford Field, Jackson Sage competed in his second Individual Finals, where he finished fourth in Division 2 in the 157-pound weight class.

It was an improvement from last year’s event, when he qualified as a freshman but didn’t place.

“I was more used to it,” Jackson Sage said. “Last year was a different experience being at Ford Field the first time.”

Brooklyn Sage qualified for the Individual Finals this season as well, where she finished sixth in the Girls Division 155-pound weight class.

The winter was busy for both, but especially for Brooklyn. In addition to competing in wrestling, she was also a member of the school’s competitive cheer team.

“I knew that it would be a commitment,” she said. “But I was up for it. I was at the school for about 14 hours a day, but it was worth it at the end.”

Jackson and Brooklyn are each three-sport athletes. Jackson is the quarterback on the football team in the fall and a member of the track team (he competes in 300 hurdles and two relays) in the spring, while Brooklyn plays softball.

But it’s wrestling where the two share their greatest bond athletically.

Jackson started getting involved in the sport when was around elementary school age, and Brooklyn would tag along to practices.

Along the way, she became intrigued enough to try wrestling herself.

“I liked being able to know that I could defend myself and take care of myself in different ways,” she said. “To be able to stand up for myself.”

Brooklyn said she stopped wrestling competitively around sixth grade because there weren’t opportunities for girls to compete only against each other, but that changed when a girls-only division was added to the MHSAA Tournament with the 2021-22 season.

With both able to compete in high school, at-home workouts intensified. The two regularly train against each other on a mat in their basement, where technique is honed and toughness is sharpened.

“She pushes me a lot,” Jackson said.

Both also learn from each other’s experiences.

“I feel like watching him made me more motivated to do it,” Brooklyn said. “He’s taught me a lot of technique that I wouldn’t have known from his past experiences and coach.”

Added Jackson: “I’ve learned from her matches.”

This week has actually presented a rarity for both in that they’ve had time off.

With wrestling ending and spring sports not officially opening practice until Monday, the two haven’t had practices and competitions.

That’ll change next week when they go their separate ways with Jackson to track practice and Brooklyn joining the softball squad, and they’ll focus on those sports for the rest of the school year.

But with two more years of eligibility left and all-state finishes in wrestling already, the sky is the limit for the next two years in that sport for both.

With that in mind, the questions to Dad about who would win a match are likely only getting started.

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTO Southgate Anderson twins Brooklyn, left, and Jackson Sage both placed at this season’s Wrestling Individual Finals. (Photo courtesy of the Sage family.)