Breslin Bound: 2022-23 Girls Report Week 8

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

January 23, 2023

Of course, what matters most is ending the season with a win – and only four fortunate Michigan high school girls basketball teams do so every winter.

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But as we cruise into the second half of this regular season, it’s notable to highlight the 18 teams that have played nearly two months without experiencing defeat.

We detail a few of those below, but the list in whole includes Farmington Hills Mercy, Detroit Renaissance, Temperance Bedford, North Farmington and Flint Carman-Ainsworth from Division 1; Escanaba, Grand Rapids West Catholic, Lake Fenton, Haslett, Vicksburg and Warren Fitzgerald in Division 2; Bronson and Detroit Osborn in Division 3, and Kingston, Morenci, Mackinaw City, Brethren and Norway in Division 4.

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at MHSAA.com.

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:

1. Haslett 55, DeWitt 52 The Division 2 Vikings (12-0) won this nonleague matchup of undefeated teams, sending Division 1 DeWitt to 10-1.

2. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 45, Grand Blanc 43 The Cavaliers (10-0) remained undefeated overall and also in the Saginaw Valley League in handing the Bobcats (8-4) their first SVL loss.

3. East Grand Rapids 49, Lowell 40 The Pioneers (10-2) bounced back from defeat to hand Lowell (10-2) its first loss of the season.

4. Morenci 48, Petersburg Summerfield 41 Morenci (12-0) maintained an edge both locally in the Tri-County Conference and statewide in Division 4 with Summerfield (12-2) also among the elite.

5. Utica Eisenhower 47, Grosse Pointe North 46 After losing to North by 14 a month ago, Eisenhower (9-3) evened the season series with this close win over the Norsemen (11-2).

Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest's Aliyah Ozias (2) drives to the basket against Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood during a 62-32 victory.

Watch List

With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:

DIVISION 1

Brighton (8-3) In finishing 17-8 and fourth last season in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West, Brighton lost twice to Howell, Northville and Brighton. In leading the conference this winter, Brighton has defeated all three plus second-place Salem by 20 points. The Bulldogs are on an eight-game winning streak after opening 0-3 with two of those losses to teams still undefeated.

West Bloomfield (11-2) The reigning Division 1 champion Lakers also have won eight straight, with their only losses to reigning Division 3 champion Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (by four) and Indiana power South Bend Washington. Meanwhile, West Bloomfield has wins over South Lyon East, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, Clarkston and Rochester – which all have won at least eight games – plus Detroit Cass Tech and Illinois power Chicago Kenwood.

DIVISION 2

Dearborn Divine Child (11-2) The Falcons opened the calendar year with a solid 63-62 win over Redford Westfield Prep, then had a brief bobble with losses to Warren Regina and Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard – but are right back in contention in the Detroit Catholic League Central with their first meeting with league leader Farmington Hills Mercy on Tuesday. Divine Child is coming off defeating eight-win Grosse Ile, and also has a nice victory over Salem and handed Dansville its only loss this winter.

Houghton (10-1) The Gremlins are coming off a 51-46 win over another Upper Peninsula contender in Calumet, and have won six straight since their lone defeat to West Iron County. Last season’s 18-4 finish included a split with the Copper Kings, a sweep by Hancock and a playoff loss to Negaunee. Houghton also has a win over Negaunee this season and sees Hancock for the first time Feb. 9. Six of 10 wins are against teams .500 or better, with a 14-point victory over 10-win Baraga another major highlight.  

DIVISION 3

Elk Rapids (9-2) There may have been no better way to come back from a Jan. 13 loss to Traverse City St. Francis than Elk Rapids’ 51-42 win over Harbor Springs four days later, and those three teams all top the Lake Michigan Conference with one league loss apiece. Elk Rapids’ only other defeat was to Division 4 contender Maple City Glen Lake. The Elks won the LMC last season before losing to St. Francis in their District, and get the next chance to break that streak against the Gladiators on Feb. 9.

Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (6-4) The Gators always load their regular-season schedule in preparation for the postseason, and it paid off with another Division 3 title last winter. This season’s losses were to Division 2 Westfield Prep, Lake Fenton and Chelsea (two of those in overtime), and to Illinois power Chicago Butler. As noted above, Arbor Prep has defeated West Bloomfield, among four teams with double-digit wins – Tecumseh, Father Gabriel Richard and Madison Heights Bishop Foley are the others.

DIVISION 4

Gaylord St. Mary (9-2) The Snowbirds have won nine straight since opening with losses to still-undefeated Escanaba and New Lothrop. All nine of those wins have come by double digits as St. Mary has vaulted back to the top of the Ski Valley Conference after sharing the title in 2021 and winning it outright last season. Expectations should remain high again after last season’s playoff run ended in the Quarterfinals against eventual champion Fowler.

Pittsford (10-2) The Wildcats also have won nine straight, all by double digits as well, as they seek to build off last year’s 18-4 finish. The losses came early to Hudson and Sand Creek, who both have won at least eight games, and Pittsford also has avenged last season’s defeat to Athens – another eight-game winner so far this winter. Pittsford more recently defeated Hillsdale Academy, a nine-game winner, in a key Southern Central Athletic Association matchup.

Can’t-Miss Contests

Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up: 

Tuesday – Dearborn Divine Child (11-2) at Farmington Hills Mercy (12-0) – As noted above, this matches two of the top three in the Catholic League Central and after these two split last season’s two meetings.

Tuesday – Byron Center (10-3) at East Grand Rapids (10-2) – EGR has a Saturday matchup with undefeated Detroit Renaissance, but first up is a key Ottawa-Kent Conference White meeting with league leader Byron Center.

Friday – Escanaba (13-0) at Calumet (9-2) – Two of the best in the Upper Peninsula face off, and they’ll actually see each other a second time Feb. 10 when both could be on their ways to league titles.

Friday – Bay City Western (11-1) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth (10-0) – These are two of three still undefeated in the Saginaw Valley League, with the only loss between them Western’s to Big North Conference contender Traverse City Central.

Friday – Temperance Bedford (12-0) at Saline (11-1) – A Saline loss last week to Grass Lake kept this from being a matchup of undefeated squads, but these two top the Southeastern Conference Red and are among the highly-regarded statewide in Division 1.

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PHOTOS (Top) Dansville sets up to defend during last week's 38-28 win over Bath. (Middle) Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest's Aliyah Ozias (2) drives to the basket against Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood during a 62-32 victory. (Top photo by Click by Christine McCallister. Middle photo by Chris Mudd; click for more from National Photo Scout Action Photos.)

Fearful Start Behind Her, Abnet Continuing to Amaze for Undefeated Vicksburg

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

February 7, 2023

VICKSBURG – It is not often that a mother calls her child’s concussion a blessing, but it certainly was for Vicksburg senior Tristin Abnet.

Southwest CorridorThe concussion, sustained her freshman year during a volleyball game, led to tests which led to the discovery of a brain tumor.

Luckily, the tumor was benign and, after the surgery and a long recovery, Abnet is one of two seniors on the undefeated girls basketball team that has set a program record this winter for most wins in a season at 16 and counting, eclipsing the previous mark of 15.

And when it comes to Abnet’s journey over the last three years, Bulldogs coach Tim Kirby said it’s been nothing short of amazing.

After taking a hit during a volleyball game, “I actually got a concussion and I ended up with a headache for about a month or so,” Abnet said.

“I didn’t think too much of it because I always got injuries and always got over them. But this one scared me a little bit.”

It was not until she was playing in a college exposure softball tournament that November that she realized something more was going on.

“Tristin was an up-and-coming softball athlete throughout the country,” her dad, Cheyenne, said. “She won many national championships up to her freshman year (in travel softball).

“We were playing at a college exposure tournament, and she was the youngest on the team. The third day (of the tournament) she started crying because her headache was so bad. She asked me if I would take her out.”

Her mother, Kristina, added, “That was so unlike T. She would battle through anything.”

At that moment, they knew something was terribly wrong.

“She was only making it through maybe two days of school every week because of headaches,” Kristina said. “We took her to her family doctor (in November), and they weren’t comfortable with everything.

“Her doctor (Rosa Maira) said she felt it necessary to do further imaging. Had she not, we’d still never know.”

Stitches stretched across Abnet’s scalp as three metal plates and a hinge were applied to her skull. The wait during the imaging dragged on, causing a bit of concern for her parents.

“They kept her for so long, and I said there’s something wrong – Mother’s intuition,” Kristina said.

“Then they came out and took us back and showed us what they found and asked to do further testing. Everything snowballed after that.”

Finding out about the tumor, “My world crashed,” Kristina said, with tears in her eyes. “(In 2011) I had a lot of tumors, desmoid tumors, and to think of the battle I went through and the fact that it was on her brain, it was tough.”

In March, doctors performed a biopsy, finding Tristin’s tumor was a low-grade glioma, which is benign.

“We all lost it that day,” Kristina said. “We had our entire family there for her first surgery in March. We left (the hospital) three days later, and then COVID hit.”

With classes online, “She ended up not having to go back to school that year, so that was a blessing too.”

The surgery to remove the tumor was scheduled for August 2020, and during the months between the biopsy and surgery, Tristin said, “I didn’t want to freak myself out because I knew it was coming, I knew what was going to happen and there was nothing I could do about it.”

Her dad said Tristin “never cried in front of me from the day at the tournament all the way to the day of her surgery.

“She was so, so strong, and she was just a little girl. I never saw a tear until they were ready to wheel her away for the surgery.”

One worry for Tristin was the chance of losing her hair to facilitate the craniotomy.

“First they told me they were going to shave my head halfway back and then, as I was getting wheeled back, there were two girl nurses talking about what they were going to do with my hair, so I knew they weren’t going to completely shave my head,” Abnet said.

Abnet is surrounded by support including parents Cheyenne, left, and Kristina, and coach Tim Kirby. The surgery lasted 13 hours at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, and three days later she was headed home to her bedroom decorated by friends and family.

At first, Tristin was allowed no competition for six months after the surgery. But after a CT scan, doctors added another two months before giving her the OK to play.

“There are (three) metal plates there, that’s why she could not go back to sports for such a long time because that plate had to heal,” her dad said.

Although she could not play basketball her sophomore year, she found a way to stay involved: She became the varsity team manager.

“As a sophomore she literally was here for every practice and every game, even though she wasn’t allowed to participate,” Kirby said.

“At the end of the season, her team unanimously voted her “best teammate” on the entire team, and she couldn’t play. I think that’s a testament to the kind of person she is and the impact she had on the team.”

After taking a year off and after major surgery, Abnet had a lot of catching up to do, both physically and mentally, during her junior year, her coach said.

“Last year, you just wanted to make sure you kept her safe,” Kirby noted. “This year, I haven’t worried about it as much because she’s been through it and we’re all more comfortable with it.

“She knows what her limitations are. Last year, I was a little more leery about it.”

Tristin worked her way back into shape.

Abnet launches a jumper during a game with Stevensville Lakeshore. “She goes to the gym four days a week,” her mom said. “She’s literally built up about 10 pounds of muscle.

“She lost 35 pounds after her brain surgery. She went from being a fit athlete to being very tiny, very fragile.”

Those first few games back last year were also nail-biters.

“I was absolutely terrified,” her mom said. “One hit to her head and her forehead could concave.”

They were a bit daunting for Tristin as well.

“I was super, super nervous because I didn’t want to get hit in the head and have to go through that surgery again,” she said.

Her dad added that the surgery changed her.

“She’s not the athlete she was four years ago; she’s not, and that’s fine,” Cheyenne said. “It took me a while as Dad, as (softball) coach, to understand that. I’m proud of her.”

Through it all, she never let her grades suffer and carries a 4.13 GPA.

She is also called the team “mom,” taking snacks to road games and putting out reminders every day in the team’s group chat.

“She inspires me every single day,” Kirby said. “When you’re a young team, you have to have that leadership. She’s a great leader for us. She bonds everybody together.”

That bonding is one thing that is so special about the Bulldogs, Kirby said.

“They work hard every day and they share the basketball like nobody I’ve ever seen before,” he explained. “Every night, someone else leads us in scoring.

“I’ve had seven different girls lead us in scoring this year, and I don’t have anyone averaging 10 points a game right now.”

Amanda Laugher joins Abnet as the team’s seniors. The young roster also includes juniors Brooklynn Ringler, Emma Steele and Maddison Diekman and sophomores Scarlett Hosner, Kendra Cooley, Emily Zemitans, Makayla Allen and Hannah Devries.

As for the school record, that was not the team’s goal at the beginning of the season.

“Our goal this year is to win the (Wolverine) Conference championship,” Kirby said. “Vicksburg has never won a conference championship in girls basketball. That was our No. 1 goal this year.

“We host our District this year, so we’re hoping maybe to follow up a conference championship with a District championship. You get to that point, and it’s all gravy.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at pamkzoo@aol.com with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Vicksburg’s Tristin Abnet is glad to be back on the court, and intense going to the basket. (2) Stitches stretched across Abnet’s scalp as three metal plates and a hinge were applied to her skull. (3) Abnet is surrounded by support including parents Cheyenne, left, and Kristina, and coach Tim Kirby. (4) Abnet launches a jumper during a game with Stevensville Lakeshore. (Photos courtesy of the Abnet family.)