By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Absolutely, Ypsilanti Arbor Prep has noticed differences playing in Class B this season after winning the Class C title a year ago.
As expected, it’s tougher. There’s structure, more athletes. The Gators still pride themselves on suffocating defense, but at times it’s hasn’t been as bothersome against some of these new opponents.
And yet, the results have been the same – if not better.
Arbor Prep entered the postseason ranked No. 1 in Class B, and it remains undefeated after handing previously-undefeated and No. 5-ranked Freeland its first and only loss 54-46 in Friday’s last Semifinal at the Breslin Center.
The Gators now have won 36 straight games and will try to finish a perfect run against No. 2 Detroit Country Day in Saturday’s 6 p.m. championship game.
“It’s our last time playing together, and we just want to make it as special as we can,” Gators senior guard Ro’zhane Wells said. “And that’s winning the state championship. There’s no other way to go out than that.”
“Like Ro’zhane said, we’ve won the state championship. What better way to go? 28-0?” senior Adrienne Anderson added. “So that’s what we’re going for, and that’s our goal.”
Two teams had that goal Friday, with the assurance the season would end for one of them. Freeland’s strengths – especially outside shooting – were almost enough to send the Falcons (26-1) on instead.
Their 46 points were the second-most Arbor Prep (27-0) has given up this season despite facing a schedule that has included Class A finalist Flushing, another Class A power in Muskegon Mona Shores and a pair of ranked Class B teams during the playoffs in No. 3 Williamston and No. 8 Ida. Only Dearborn Heights Robichaud, with 54 in a four-point District Final loss to the Gators, put up more points against them.
Freeland made nine 3-pointers on 23 tries and shot better than 40 percent in two quarters, finishing just under 40 percent from the floor for the game. Leading Falcons scorer, senior guard Jessica Piper, made 6 of 9 shots including three 3-pointers on the way to 18 points.
But Arbor Prep’s defense did make a difference when it came to possessing the ball. The Gators took advantage of 21 Freeland turnovers, while giving the ball up only 10 times.
Still, a Piper 3-pointer pulled the Falcons to within 49-46 with 2:31 to play. At 5:55, they trailed Arbor Prep by 13.
“We’re like, we’re a good 3-point shooting team. We needed to get the 3 off, and the shots started falling; they didn’t fall the rest of the game,” Piper said. “And we looked at each other and we’re down by six. And we’re like, that’s two 3s, just look to shoot. We got it down to three at the end and almost pulled it off.”
Arbor Prep made five free throws down the stretch as Freeland had two turnovers and missed two shots.
“I knew we would never give up. We came out, I think we were a little hesitant, maybe a little nervous,” Freeland coach Tom Zolinski said. “(But) this team at any point could score 20 points in five minutes, and I think that’s half the reason we didn’t give up. We knew our firepower and what we were able to do.”
Wells had 14 points and six steals to lead Arbor Prep, and Anderson and Williams both added 10 points, with Anderson grabbing eight rebounds.
There are certainly some similarities as well between this run and Arbor Prep’s last two to Breslin (the Gators made the Class C Semifinals in 2015). They aren’t fazed by the stage, the different shooting perspective and other differences that might throw off first-time finalists – which should put them on at least even footing from that perspective with a Country Day team they know plenty about from playing against and with many of those players growing up.
“The girls believe they can play against anybody,” said Arbor Prep coach (and Ro’zhane’s father) Rod Wells. “We don’t really look at the jersey of the other team. We just think we can beat anybody. The girls still don’t get the attention they deserve. But they work extra hard, and you’ve got to respect that. I’ll probably never get a group (again) that works this hard.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Arbor Prep’s Lasha Petree stops Freeland’s Jenna Gregory (11) during Friday’s Class B Semifinal. (Middle) The Gators’ Cydney Williams (20) puts pressure on a driving Alyssa Argyle.
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.