2nd-Half Surge lifts Sacred Heart in Class D

March 17, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

EAST LANSING – Averi Gamble had a smile on her face for all but a few seconds of the final minute of Thursday night’s MHSAA Semifinal.

Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart’s Class D championship win two years ago was “the best moment of my life, thus far,” she said after. 

And she and her teammates earned the opportunity to go through it all again.

Sacred Heart chipped away over three quarters to finish a 45-38 win over Stephenson and set up championship game matchup against top-ranked Pittsford.

“Just the fact that I can come back here twice is overwhelming,” Gamble added. “I know how it feels already. It’s just so exciting that I can do it twice.”

The No. 3 Irish (24-1) will face Pittsford at 10 a.m. Saturday. Stephenson, ranked No. 8 entering the postseason, was playing in its first Semifinal and finished 24-3.

But for more than a half, it looked instead like the Eagles’ dream season might go on.

Stephenson took a five-point lead into the final seconds of the first quarter, and led as late as two minutes into the third.

But that’s when Sacred Heart’s experience began to pay off.

The Irish actually are relatively young, with a freshman and two sophomores in the starting lineup. But Gamble was The Associated Press’ Class D Player of the Year this winter and senior guard Megan English also started in the 2014 Final.

Gamble finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots, but had 11 points, five rebounds and two of those blocks over the final 14 minutes and nine of her team’s 12 points during the fourth quarter.

Stephenson, which had shot 33 percent from the floor during the first half, sagged to 23 percent during the second half against the Oilers’ zone, which was anchored by Gamble dissuading would-be drivers from taking a run at the basket.

English added two points, two steals and an assist over the final 14 minutes.

“We just settled in,” Sacred Heart coach Damon Brown said. “We just had to get through that first quarter, get our nerves out of the way, just think of it as a regular basketball game. Once we did that, settled in, our defense looked a lot better and our offense looked a lot better.”

The Irish did switch things up defensively a bit during the second half in an effort to apply more pressure and up the pace of the game. Stephenson coach Shanna Beal admitted that uptick in tempo might have drained her team’s energy a bit too quickly – although the inability to get many open looks and stop Gamble down the stretch certainly made differences as well.

“Obviously she’s the focus and what they base their offense around, and we just decided to play in front and behind her,” Beal said. “The problem that arose was getting body position, and rebounding was a big key in the second half. We just couldn’t move her out of there to get second shots.”

Sophomore forward Sophie Ruggles added 10 points and eight rebounds for the Irish, and freshman guard Scout Nelson also scored 10 points.

Senior Karley Johnson was the lead scorer for Stephenson with 12 points, and senior center Tori Wangerin had six and 13 rebounds while locking up Gamble for more than a half defensively.

“I have no words; I’m super proud of the girls this year,” Beal said. “These three girls (Wangerin, Johnson and Kelsey Johnson) have grown up in the gym. This was a dream of theirs, and I’m glad we were able to make it here. I believe we fought hard all the way to the end. We have a lot of pride being the first women’s team from our school to make it here. Most of our community was here; we’re pretty small, but that they were all here was great support.”

Click for the full box score.

The Girls Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System.

PHOTOS: (Top) Sacred Heart players celebrate clinching their second MHSAA championship game appearance in three seasons. (Middle) Scout Nelson works to get past Stephenson’s Haley Truitt.

Hemlock, Rockford Follow 3-Point Success to 1st Titles, Record Book Fame

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

September 1, 2023

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:

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.