EAST LANSING – The Blissfield girls basketball program from this point on hopes it’s a lot sooner than 2073 before it returns to a state championship game.
But for the time being, the Royals will enjoy returning after a 50-year absence.
For the first time since finishing as Class C runner-up in 1973, Blissfield will play for a Finals championship after defeating Madison Heights Bishop Foley, 45-41, in a Division 3 Semifinal on Thursday.
“It was a typical game for us,” Blissfield head coach Ryan Gilbert said. “A gritty win. We gutted it out. I thought we made plays when we had to and played our best when we needed to play our best.”
The difference in the game was Blissfield’s frontcourt, where seniors Sarah Bettis and Julia White proved too much for Bishop Foley to overcome.
White finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, while Bettis had eight rebounds to help Blissfield earn a 34-21 advantage on the boards.
The Royals (27-1) had 14 offensive rebounds to just three for Bishop Foley.
“That was our thought going in,” Gilbert said. “We wanted to get it inside early and try to get them in foul trouble. We finished some, we missed some. But we got a lot of rebounds. We did a great job on the glass.”
Junior Avery Collins scored 10 points, and freshman Leigh Wyman had nine to flank White for Blissfield.
Collins said many community members have been telling her for years that this season was the time for the team to get to East Lansing, given the nucleus of the team and what grades they were going to be in.
Now, that vision has been fulfilled. Blissfield will face Hemlock in Saturday's Division 3 Final at 4 p.m.
“I believed in us as soon as it started,” Collins said. “I believed in us.”
Junior Ryan Moorer scored 11 points, senior Abby Pasinos had 10 and senior Alyssa Samartino added nine points for Bishop Foley (21-7), which advanced to the Semifinals for a second-straight year.
“To make it two years in a row is tough,” Bishop Foley head coach Colleen Szakacs said. “These girls battle day in and day out, especially in this game. We battled back no matter what and made it a down-to-the-wire, exciting game. Unfortunately, there were a couple of plays we could have done better here and there. But hats off to Blissfield and how well they performed.”
Blissfield entered giving up 26.8 points per game, while Bishop Foley had given up 33 points a contest while playing a scheduled filled with Division 1 and Division 2 schools.
But before the fourth quarter was two minutes old, each team had given up more points than their average.
Blissfield held a 44-38 lead with 27.9 seconds remaining, but Bishop Foley cut the deficit to 44-41 with 17.2 seconds left on a 3-pointer by Pasinos.
The Ventures then got the ball back on a turnover, but after a timeout, missed a 3-pointer with under 10 seconds remaining that was rebounded by Wyman.
Following a foul with 8.1 seconds left, Wyman hit a free throw to give Blissfield a 45-41 lead.
A last-second 3-point attempt by Bishop Foley missed, essentially ending the game.
Trailing 30-25 going into the fourth quarter, Bishop Foley cut the Blissfield lead to two points on three occasions during the first four minutes of the period.
However, Bishop Foley couldn’t get over the hump and tie the game, and Blissfield took a 41-35 lead with 1:47 remaining after a putback by sophomore Peyton Tennant.
Bishop Foley cut its deficit to 41-38 with 1:32 remaining after a 3-point play by Samartino.
Blissfield had an answer, taking a 43-38 lead with 51.3 seconds remaining on a layup by Wyman and then going up 44-38 with 27.9 seconds to go on a free throw by Collins.
PHOTOS (Top) Blissfield's Abrie Louden (3) gets a hand up on a Madison Heights Bishop Foley shot during Thursday's first Semifinal at Breslin Center. (Middle) The Royals' Avery Collins (4) looks for an open teammate.
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.