Mathematically speaking, the 2010 MHSAA Girls Basketball Finals were just a bit closer than this season’s, with a combined point differential of 28 over the four championship games.
But it's a decent argument to call this winter’s Finals the most highly-contested set, as a whole, since the late 1990s.
In three of the four championship games, the eventual winner didn’t take its last lead until the final five minutes of the fourth quarter. Two Finals came down to the final two minutes. Class A was decided by a fastbreak lay-up with six seconds to play.
Combine those with a pair of three-point Class A Semifinals and appearances by the reigning champions in all four classes, and it made for a highlight-filled weekend at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.
Here’s our wrap-up of some of the most memorable moments:
Much to overcome: First Grand Haven had to get past reigning Class A champion Inkster in a Semifinal, and did so 43-40. Then the Buccaneers were told in the locker room that a group of their classmates had been involved in a crash on the way to the game and hospitalized. Then Grand Haven found itself down 18 points in the Class A Final – and completed the third-largest comeback in MHSAA Girls Finals history in downing Grosse Pointe South 54-53 to win the Bucs’ first championship. Senior guard Shar’Rae Davis might’ve had the play of the weekend, a baseline to baseline drive and lay-in for the deciding points with six seconds remaining. (Read the full report.)
It’s our turn: Goodrich is a team many in the girls basketball community saw coming for a while. After being stopped by a number of state powerhouses over the years, the Martians solidified their status among them by advancing to their first MHSAA Final and beating Grand Rapids Catholic Central 60-53 in Class B. Goodrich trailed by five with 5:32 to play, but finished on a 9-2 run and ended the season a flawless 28-0. It was the Cougars' their third championship game appearance in four seasons. (Read the full report.)
Champions again: Morley-Stanwood’s Class C title was its first in girls basketball, but second for the school’s girls teams this school year after the Mohawks also won the Class C volleyball title. Two stars from that latter team came up big in these Finals as well – Bailey Cairnduff scored 28 points as Morley-Stanwood beat reigning champion St. Ignace 60-50 in the Semifinal, and Alexis Huntey had 27 points and 16 rebounds in the 61-57 championship game win over Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett. The Mohawks had to outlast the Knights and Miss Basketball winner Madison Ristovski, whose 42 points were the second-most in MHSAA girls championship game history. (Read the full report.)
No D-nying Lakers: Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes won its third-straight Class D championship with a 53-47 win over Athens on the strength of five players scoring between seven and 13 points. Senior Ava Doetsch and juniors Lexie Robak and Jessica Parry were members of all three championship teams. Athens, meanwhile, made its first title game appearance. (Read the full report.)
16,897: Total attendance for the 12 Semifinals and Finals, combined. Keyed in part by a giant Grand Haven student section, the biggest crowd attended the Class D and A Finals session Saturday morning – although Class B drew the most fans among the Semifinal sessions.
56: Percent of its shots from the floor made by Waterford Our Lady in the Class D Final. The Lakers’ five starters took all but one of the team’s 34 shots, and all five hit at least 50 percent of their attempts from the field – including 6 of 12 from 3-point range.
18: The number of points by which Grand Haven trailed Grosse Pointe South with 1:51 to play in the third quarter of the Class A Final. Only Farmington Our Lady of Mercy in 1982 (19 points) and Detroit Cass Tech in 1987 (20) made bigger championship game comebacks in winning titles.
42: Total points scored in the Class C Final by University Liggett’s Ristovski, on 15 for 29 shooting from the floor including 4 for 8 from 3-point range. Only Peggy Evans for Detroit Country Day in 1989, with 47 points, scored more in a girls championship game.
99: The number of wins over four-year varsity careers for Grand Rapids Catholic Central seniors Shellis Hampton and Tiesha Stokes, after their Semifinal victory, which tied them with two others for second-most in MHSAA girls basketball history.
“It was a pretty emotional day (Friday), a lot of tears and a lot of crying. We tried to keep the kids focused on what we could control. I was exhausted, and I wasn’t even playing. I just think waiting for that Class D game to get done; it’s just a long two-day period here. But the kids, we were playing for them. The girls really wanted to do it for them and for this community, but more so for those kids that would not be able to be here.” – Grand Haven coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer, on her team coming back strong in Saturday's Final after hearing about the Friday crash
“Our theme this year was ‘stay hungry.’ Two years ago we in the Quarterfinals, last year the Semifinals, and we knew we were a good team. We didn’t want to be in a situation where we expected to be here. We wanted to make sure we were still putting forth the effort. We have a lot of talent, maybe the most talent in the entire state right now. But we didn’t want to use that as the only thing that guided us all year.” – Goodrich coach Jason Gray
“I knew they were three special players at that young age, and I truly in my heart believed we could get down here. I told them all year, we don’t want to just get down there and get bounced out. We want to come down there and win it. And these three had a lot to do with that, obviously.” – Morley-Stanwood coach Bob Raven, on seniors Cairnduff, Huntey and Elyse Starck
“Throughout the year, we each had moments where we could be the last player to have the ball in our hands, who wanted it, and that’s what we needed.” – Waterford Our Lady junior Lexie Robak.
See you next year ...
Grosse Pointe South: The Blue Devils came from unranked to nearly Class A champion, and the team’s two leading scorers in the Final – freshman guard Cierra Rice and junior forward Claire DeBoer – should make the team a contender again when practice begins this winter. Junior Christina Flom also started in the Final, and freshman guard Aliezza Brown played 23 minutes.
Freeland: Although the Falcons fell 72-49 to Grand Rapids Catholic Central in their Class B Semifinal, it could end up as just another catalyst for a team that graduates no one this spring. Guard Tori Jankoska will sign with Michigan State this fall, and she’s got one more season after scoring 29 points in this trip to Breslin.
Concord: The Yellow Jackets will begin next season with four starters back from this Class C Semifinalist team, and without only three seniors who graduate this spring. Junior guard Megan Redman earned all-state recognition this season in helping Concord to a 26-1 record despite playing in a league that also included Class D Semifinalist Athens. Total, the Yellow Jackets had eight juniors who should contribute again in 2012-13.
Crystal Falls Forest Park: Four starters graduate from the team that made it to Breslin. But sophomore Alexis Gussert is only a sophomore, and could be the next elite player to emerge from the Upper Peninsula – her 34 points and 12 rebounds in the Semifinal loss gave a strong first impression. All four players Forest Park brought off the bench should be back next season as well.
To watch all 12 games and press conferences after each, click on MHSAA.tv.
PHOTOS courtesy of Terry McNamara Photography.
Hemlock and Rockford's drives to their first Girls Basketball Finals championships in March were paced in part by some of the strongest 3-point shooting in MHSAA history.
The Division 1 title-winning Rams connected on 243 3-pointers – third-most all-time – over 29 games in tying the single-season wins record while finishing 28-1. Grace Lyons, a senior this fall, made the single-season individual list with 70 3-pointers.
The Huskies won in Division 3 having connected on 229 3-pointers over 29 games, seventh-most in MHSAA history, on 678 attempts, which ranks 12th on that list. Chloe Watson made the single-season list with 75 3-pointers, and Regan Finkbeiner did as well connecting on 67.
Watson also made the career 3-pointers list with 224 and Finkbeiner with 194, and 2017 Hemlock graduate Samantha Krauss was added for 65 3-pointers as a junior in 2015-16 and 188 for her career. Additionally, past Hemlock standout Karli Herrington was added for her 317 rebounds in 2012-13, and Peyton Apsey was added for 144 steals in 2010-11.
Watson is continuing her career at Mid-Michigan College, and Finkbeiner is playing softball at Madonna. Herrington went on to play at Central Michigan and Northwood, Krauss played at Ferris State and Apsey played at Oakland.
Read on for more recent record book additions for girls basketball:
Hudsonville’s Maddie Petroelje joined the list of top 3-point shooters in MHSAA history as a junior in 2021-22, when she connected on 70 (in just 147 attempts) to make the single-season list. She graduated this spring 16th on the career list as well with 226 3-pointers in 512 attempts over 92 games and four seasons. She is continuing at Loyola (Ill.).
Byron Center’s Avery Zeinstra also finished her career among those top 3-point shooters. She also made the single-season list with 70 in 147 attempts as a freshman in 2018-19, and she capped her career in 2021-22 with 206 3-pointers (tied for 20th-most) in 502 attempts over four seasons and 80 career games. She is continuing at Grand Valley State.
Hannah Thompson was best known for her soccer scoring at Schoolcraft. But she’s made a second MHSAA record book for her 15 steals in a Jan. 28, 2022, basketball win over Galesburg-Augusta. She’s continuing her soccer career at Eastern Michigan.
Baraga’s run to the Division 4 Semifinals in 2022 received big boosts from Corina Jahfetson’s 3-point shooting and Reide Osterman’s defense. Jahfetson was added to the record book with 66 3-pointers over 25 games, including nine in a game against Carney Nadeau – when Baraga as a team made the record book with 14 3-pointers total. Osterman made the record book with 153 steals. Jahfetson graduated this spring, and Osterman is playing at Northern Michigan.
Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy’s Audrey Mileski had one of the busiest games at the free throw line in MHSAA history Dec. 14, 2021. She made 23 free throws – third-most in a single game – against Wyoming Kelloggsville. Mileski graduated this spring.
Sophia Bussell had set Monroe’s single-game 3-pointers record of eight as a freshman two seasons ago, and she bettered it last Dec. 13 by tying for the 10th-most in MHSAA history. She made 10-pointers including the game-winner of a 58-56 victory over Ypsilanti Lincoln. A little less than 10 months earlier, Adrian Lenawee Christian then-senior Kylie Summer also made 10, on 17 attempts, during a 57-34 win over Lansing Christian on Feb. 24, 2022.
Lydia Meredith enjoyed a memorable senior season for Portland St. Patrick in 2021-22, finishing her four-year varsity career with 453 steals over just 80 games. She also was added for drilling 17 free throws in 22 attempts against Fowler. She plays now at Saginaw Valley State.
Gabby Piepho got off to a fast start at Howell as a freshman last season, and at a record-setting pace at the free-throw line. She made 93 of 107 attempts over 25 games, for an .869 percentage that made the single-season list. That included a string of 47 straight free throws that ranks as the second-longest in MHSAA history. As a team, Howell tied for sixth all-time with 301 free throws over 25 games, on 439 attempts.
Kent City’s Lexie Bowers reached the single-season 3-pointers list for the second time last season, connecting on 72 of 233 tries over 26 games (after making 77 as a junior), and finished her four-season varsity career 16th on that 3-pointers list with 225 in 693 attempts over 99 games. She’s continuing her career at Northwood. Kent City as a team also reached the single-season 3-pointers made and attempted lists again, ranking fourth with 753 attempts and tying for eighth all-time by connecting on 202.
Posen then-junior Faith Cousins earned a par of record book entries during 2021-22 for assists. Her 16 in a District Final win on March 4, 2022, remain tied for fifth-most in one game, and she finished with 165 over 22 games for the season. She’s set to begin her softball career at Alma College.
Niles Brandywine went over 20 wins again this past season, finishing 21-3, and again the 3-pointer was a key tool in that pursuit. Brandywine made the record book with back-to-back games of 13 3-pointers to close the regular season, and finished with 175 3-pointers in 592 attempts over 23 games (with one won by forfeit).
Greenville’s Megan Leslie averaged more than two 3-pointers a game during her four-season varsity career, making the record list with 153 total over 76 games through graduation this spring. She’s continuing her career at Alma College.
Successful 3-point shooting played a major role in Saline finishing 21-4 with league and District titles last winter. The Hornets attempted 704 3-pointers – ninth-most all-time for one season – and connected on 191, which is 12th on that list. They made a season-high 14 against Ypsilanti Lincoln on Nov. 29 to make the single-game list.
Marcellus senior Brooklyn VanTilburg enjoyed a big finish to her high school career last winter, making the record book with 16 blocked shots in a game against Centreville and 135 blocks total for the season. She’ll continue at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Kennedy Gustafson made headlines last winter as a sophomore and earned a pair of record listings for her rebounding. She grabbed 26 in a March 3 District Final win over Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, and she finished with 376 rebounds over 25 games for the season.
PHOTO Hemlock's Regan Finkbeiner, left, follows through on a free throw attempt during last season's Division 3 Final, and Rockford's Grace Lyons launches the game-winning 3-pointer in Division 1.