GRAND RAPIDS – Patience explains much of why the Bellaire girls basketball team finds itself on the brink of history.
The Eagles charged into their first Division 4 championship game with a methodical 48-29 win over Petersburg Summerfield in Wednesday's Semifinal at Van Andel Arena.
Bellaire wasn't necessarily flashy, but used a hefty rebounding edge, a stingy defense that allowed just three second-half baskets and a balanced offense to earn the trip to Friday's 10 a.m. championship game at the Breslin Center against Fowler.
Doing a bit of everything right is why the Eagles will play for their first-ever Finals title, coach Brad Fischer said.
"We want to be patient offensively," he said. "It's hard to key on any one person for five or six passes. We like to work the ball around and keep the team concept. (Defensively) we've played against teams with 3-point shooters, and we don't want to let too many 3-pointers off."
Bellaire (17-3) never trailed after taking a 20-19 lead with 1:34 left in the first half. Summerfield cut a seven-point deficit to as little as 28-25 with 4:10 left in the third quarter, but Bellaire scored 12 of the next 13 points to lead 40-26 with six minutes left in the game.
The Eagles' defense was superb, allowing just two field goals in the final 11 minutes. Bellaire forced 15 turnovers while holding the Bulldogs (15-5) to just 24 percent shooting from the floor. Bellaire, meanwhile, shot 42 percent.
"We keep telling the girls defense, defense, defense," Fischer said. "It's a cliché, but it comes up again. It was kind of an odd game in that we didn't move our feet at times, and we were a little undisciplined. But the longer a game goes, the stronger the girls get in ratcheting it up."
Senior guard Katie Decker and sophomore center Jacey Somers each scored 10 points with Madi Evans and Emersyn Koepke each adding eight. Decker added 11 rebounds as Bellaire held a 37-22 edge on the boards.
Senior Noel Mann, who chipped in six points, six assists, six rebounds and two steals, said the ability to overcome Summerfield's defense was a key.
"Their ability to anticipate, to extend our zone took us off guard," she said. "Once we got through that, it opened things up for us. Their defense was longer than we expected."
Summerfield coach Mickey Moody said the sagging rebounding number was mostly the result of Bellaire's aggressiveness.
"They outworked us, outrebounded us," Moody said. "They put more bodies on us, and we didn't attack the basket like we usually do. We pretty much went side to side. I thought we played pretty decent in the first half and got their best player in foul trouble, but we missed a lot of opportunities. We should have attacked a lot more. But in the first half we were fine, we just missed some opportunities."
Summerfield got nine points from Destanee Smith, while Grace Kalb and Breanna Smith each had six points.
"They were aggressive and put pressure on us," Kalb said. "It was a lot like our Regional Semifinal. When we'd drive on them, they weren't afraid to put a body on us."
PHOTOS: (Top) Bellaire's Delaney Goodwin (2) brings the ball upcourt Wednesday with Madi Evans (32) and Katie Decker (3) also on the break. (Middle) Bellaire's Jacey Somers gets up a shot against Calumet. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
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.