A-B Preview: Historic Opportunities Await

March 16, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Fans of Michigan high school girls basketball are familiar with the work over the decades of Detroit Martin Luther King, Detroit Country Day and Grand Rapids South Christian.

Five more Class A and B semifinalists have the opportunity this weekend to join them as MHSAA champions for the first time.

All four Class A and B Semifinals will be played Friday, with all four championship games Saturday. 

Semifinals - Friday
Class A

Detroit Martin Luther King (23-1) vs. St. Johns (23-3), 1 p.m.
Warren Cousino (21-4) vs. Hudsonville (23-3), 2:50 p.m.

Class B
Detroit Country Day (24-1) vs. Grand Rapids South Christian (24-2), 6 p.m.
Bay City John Glenn (25-1) vs. Marshall (24-1), 7:50 p.m.

Finals - Saturday
Class A - Noon
Class B - 6 p.m.
Class C - 4 p.m.
Class D - 10 a.m.

Tickets cost $8 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session. All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.TV on a pay-per-view basis. All four Finals will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit’s primary channel, with the Class B game on a delayed basis at 10:30 p.m. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.

And now, a look at the semifinalists in Class A and B. Click on the name of the school to see that team’s full schedule and results from this season. (Statistics are through teams' Regional Finals except for St. Johns’, which are through the regular season.)

Class A

Record/rank: 23-1, No. 4
League finish: First in Detroit Public School League East Division 1 and overall
Coach: William Winfield, 33rd season
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2006), six runner-up finishes.   
Best wins: 58-54 (OT) over No. 5 Ann Arbor Huron in Quarterfinal, 74-56 over No. 1 Southfield-Lathrup, 68-66 over No. 7 Detroit Renaissance. 
Players to watch: Micaela Kelly, 5-8 sr. G (15 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 5.8 apg, 4.3 spg); Tia Tedford, 5-8 jr. G (15.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 5.8 apg, 5.6 spg), Alicia Norman, 5-4 jr. G (11.7 ppg, 7.3 apg, 6.1 spg).
Outlook: King made the Semifinals last season and is back riding a 20-game win streak and after also defeating reigning Class A champion Bloomfield Hills Marian in the regular-season finale. The Crusaders have only nine players, with two seniors and a freshman starting. But there’s plenty of talent in that small group; in addition to the starters mentioned above, freshman guard Del’Janae Williams adds 10 points, four assists and 3.3 steals per game and 6-2 senior center Jasmine Flowers is one of two players that tall in the rotation.

Record/rank: 23-3, unranked
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red 
Coach: Casey Glass, seventh season (83-77)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.    
Best wins: 40-32 over East Lansing in Quarterfinal, 45-44 over honorable mention Muskegon Mona Shores in Regional Final, 59-58 and 55-47 over East Kentwood.
Players to watch: Kasey DeSmit, 5-7 soph. G (12.3 ppg, 4.8 apg, 51 3-pointers); Shaina DenBesten, 5-10 sr. F (11.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg).
Outlook: Hudsonville has won 21 straight games on the way to its first MHSAA Semifinal, and few teams have as much close-game experience – the Eagles have six wins and lost twice by four or fewer points. They are eight wins better than a season ago and have taken a huge jump since going 2-19 in 2013-14. This experience to should pay off in the future as well as four starters and six of the top eight players should be back next winter. Six-foot junior center Chloe Guingrich adds 9.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and nearly two blocks per game.

Record/rank: 23-3, honorable mention
League finish: Tied for first in Capital Area Activities Conference Red 
Coach: Mark Lasceski, 20th season (328-125)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.   
Best wins: 46-43 over No. 2 Saginaw Heritage in Regional Final, 37-31 over No. 9 Flushing in District Final, 48-38 and 52-40 over No. 6 Haslett, 56-50 over East Lansing, 61-50 over Class C No. 10 Saginaw Nouvel.
Players to watch: Maddie Maloney, 5-7 soph. G (12.1 ppg, 4.9 apg); Erika Ballinger, 5-7 jr. G (10.9 ppg, 42 3-pointers); Brooke Mazzolini, 5-8 sr. F (10 ppg, 5.4 rpg).
Outlook: St. Johns joins Haslett and DeWitt as teams from the CAAC Red to make the MHSAA Semifinals over the last two seasons after splitting the league title with both this winter. The Redwings last made the Semifinals in 1997, but should contend to return with Mazzolini and starting forward Jessica Hafner the only seniors. St. Johns relies on balanced scoring and a gritty defense that gives up only 35 points per game despite having only one player taller than 5-8. The only losses were once to Midland early and twice to No. 7 DeWitt.

Record/rank: 21-4, unranked
League finish: Tied for first in Macomb Area Conference Red 
Coach: Mike Lee, seventh season (124-41)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.   
Best wins: 41-29 over Northville in Quarterfinal, 43-39 (Regional Final) and 47-37 over Bloomfield Hills Marian.
Players to watch: Kierra Fletcher, 5-9 jr. G (21.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 5.2 apg, 3.6 spg); Erin McArthur, jr. G (9.5 ppg, 5.5 apg, 59 3-pointers); Mackenzie Anderson, 5-5 sr. F (9.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.2 apg).
Outlook: Cousino has won at least 15 games all seven seasons under Lee, but broke through this winter with a first Regional title in program history – and with only one senior, Anderson. A strong junior group fills most of the rest of the significant roles, with freshman Mackenzie Cook also a starter. Two of the team’s four losses came to Port Huron Northern, the co-champion in their league, which also went on to make the Class A Quarterfinals.

Class B

Record/rank: 25-1, No. 2
League finish: First in North East Michigan Conference
Coach: Cory Snider, seventh season (104-51)

Championship history:
 Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins:
 55-47 over No. 5 Manistee in Quarterfinal, 59-27 over No. 8 Freeland in Regional Final, 49-46 (Regional Semifinal) and 41-23 over No. 9 Frankenmuth, 53-44 over Class A No. 1 Southfield-Lathrup, 61-38 over Class A No. 7 Detroit Renaissance, 52-48 and 55-41 over Class C No. 10 Saginaw Nouvel.
Players to watch:
 Jenai LaPorte, 5-7 sr. G (14.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.5 apg, 49 3-pointers); Kalle Martinez, 5-6 jr. G (15.5 ppg, 4.5 apg, 67 3-pointers); Cassidy Boensch, 6-3 sr. C (17.5 ppg, 12 rpg, 5.7 bpg).
 John Glenn has been near perfect on the way to its first Semifinal, save for three-point loss to Class C favorite Ypsilanti Arbor Prep. LaPorte is the program’s all-time leading scorer and Boensch was a Miss Basketball finalist this winter, and they with Martinez give the Bobcats a trio that can match any in the state. They combine to supply almost all of the scoring, but get plenty of help defensively – John Glenn gives up only 30.7 points per game. 

Record/rank: 24-1, No. 1
League finish: Does not play in a league. 
Coach: Frank Orlando, 35
th season (733-111)
Championship history: Eleven MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), four runner-up finishes.   
Best wins: 68-64 over Class A No. 3 Midland Dow, 42-38 over Class A No. 5 Ann Arbor Huron, 56-50 over Class A No. 7 Detroit Renaissance, 69-56 over Class A No. 6 Haslett, 56-52 over Class A No. 1 Southfield-Lathrup, 37-33 over Class C No. 1 Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.
Players to watch: Destiny Pitts, 6-0 jr. G (15.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.8 apg, 43 3-pointers); Kaela Webb, 5-6 soph. G (10.7 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.0 spg).
Outlook: The reigning champion returns its two top players, three starters total and six of nine who saw time in last season’s championship game. Four of this group are 6-0 or taller, with 6-4 junior Tylar Bennett (7.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.0 bpg) occupying the middle most of the time. The lone loss came to Class A No. 2 Saginaw Heritage, but Country Day played and beat five more of the top seven in Class A and have won all of their MHSAA Tournament games by at least 12 points.

Record/rank: 24-2, No. 3
League finish: Tied for first in O-K Gold. 
Coach: Kim Legge, first season (24-2)
Championship history: Class B champion 1988, two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 70-50 over No. 4 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 59-53 over No. 6 Williamston in Regional Semifinal.
Players to watch: Jennifer DeBoer, 5-7 sr. G (16.8 ppg, 6.0 apg, 5.1 rpg, 3.6 spg, 71 3-pointers); Markayla Vander, 5-8 sr. F (12.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg).

 Anchored by an all-senior lineup, South Christian is striving to return to the Class B Final for the second time in three seasons; it finished runner-up to Eaton Rapids in 2014. The Sailors haven’t missed a beat under first-year coach Legge, an assistant for 20 seasons before taking over the program this winter. DeBoer runs the point and is the top shooter in school history, this season leading a group that had made 147 3-pointers entering the week. The only losses came by two to Caledonia, also a league champion, and in the regular-season finale to GRCC, the other champion in the O-K Gold.

24-1, No. 7
League finish: 
First in Interstate 8 Athletic Conference
 Sal Konkle, 16th season (281-95)
Championship history:
 Class B runner-up 1981.
Best wins:
 41-30 over No. 4 Grand Rapids Catholic Central in Quarterfinal, 62-44 over honorable mention Stevensville Lakeshore in Regional Semifinal, 54-53 and 46-35 over Jackson Northwest.
Players to watch:
 Nicole Tucker, 5-10 jr. C (12.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg); Emily Delmotte, 5-9 jr. F (8.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg).
 Marshall played in its third Quarterfinal in five seasons Tuesday, but will return to the Semifinals for the first time since that 1981 runner-up finish. A balanced lineup has made Marshall dominant, with the only loss on opening night to No. 6 Williamston. Six players average at least 4.5 points per game; junior Jill Konkle follows Tucker and Delmotte scoring 7.7 ppg to go with 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 2.2 assists per game.

The Girls Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System.

PHOTO: Bay City John Glenn has reached the Class B Semifinals in part because of its defensive excellence. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)