Breslin Bound: 2023-24 Girls Semifinal Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 20, 2024

The 2023-24 MHSAA winter season will conclude Saturday at Breslin Center with the 50th Girls Basketball Finals.

And there are several reasons these should be just as memorable as the first 51 years ago.

For starters, seven teams are seeking to play in a championship game – and win it all, of course – for the first time.

Rockford, meanwhile, is the only 2023 title winner returning – but all four from 2022 are back looking to finish on top once again.  

And Friday’s second Semifinal will be a replay of last year’s 40-36 Rams win over West Bloomfield in the Division 1 championship game, when Rockford didn’t go ahead for good until sinking a 3-pointer with 40 seconds to play.

(This will be the 50th Finals because none were played in 2020 due to COVID-19.)

DIVISION 1 - Friday
Grand Blanc (22-4) vs. Belleville (24-2) - Noon
Rockford (26-1) vs. West Bloomfield (25-1) - 2 p.m.

DIVISION 2 - Friday
Negaunee (26-1) vs. Detroit Edison (21-3) - 5:30 p.m.
Grand Rapids West Catholic (26-1) vs Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard (27-0) - 7:30 p.m.

DIVISION 3 - Thursday
Niles Brandywine (25-1) vs Lake City (25-2) - Noon
Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest (18-9) vs Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (23-4) - 2 p.m.

DIVISION 4 - Thursday
Ishpeming (26-1) vs Fowler (24-3) - 5:30 p.m.
Frankfort (22-5) vs Kingston (26-1) - 7:30 p.m.

Finals – Saturday
Division 1 - 12:15 p.m.
Division 2 - 6:15 p.m.
Division 3 - 4 p.m.
Division 4 - 10 a.m.

Tickets for this weekend’s games are $12 for both Semifinals and Finals and available via the Breslin Center ticket office; for information and links visit the Girls Basketball page.

All Semifinals will be broadcast and viewable with subscription on, and all four Finals will air live Saturday on Bally Sports Detroit – Divisions 4 and 1 on the primary channel and Divisions 2 and 3 on BSD Extra – as well as on the BSD website and app. Audio broadcasts of all Semifinals and Finals will be available free of charge from the MHSAA Network.

The Girls Basketball Semifinals & Finals are sponsored by Sparrow Health System

Here’s a look at the 16 semifinalists (with rankings by MPR and statistics through Regional Finals for most teams):

Division 1

Record/rank: 24-2, No. 4
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association East and overall
Coach: Jason Wilkins, fourth season (66-19)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 44-39 over No. 30 Holt in Quarterfinal, 49-38 over No. 17 Saline in District Final, 61-23 over No. 25 Canton in Regional Final, 54-46 over No. 15 Howell, 59-31and 61-50 over No. 16 Wayne Memorial, 64-44 over Division 2 No. 3 Detroit Country Day.
Players to watch: Sydney Savoury, 6-0 fr. G (25 ppg, 7.0 rpg); SeCrette Carter, 5-8 soph. G (14 ppg); Daria Shelby, 5-7 sr. G (11 ppg, 5.0 rpg).
Outlook: Belleville is making its first trip to the Semifinals, after winning its first Regional title since 2001, but perhaps with more in store as Savoury is among the state’s elite freshmen and Shelby the team’s only senior starter. The Tigers’ only losses were to Mason (Ohio) in mid-January and Edison near the end of the regular season, and Holt was the first playoff opponent to give Belleville a single-digit game. Junior guard Rylan Buschell adds another 10 points and seven assists per contest. Wilkins formerly was the varsity coach at Dearborn Heights Robichaud for six seasons and has led the Tigers to add to their win total every year under his leadership. Shelby has signed with Nebraska-Omaha.

Record/rank: 22-4, No. 9
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League
Coach: Bob Taylor, first season (22-4)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 49-27 over No. 8 Rochester Hills Stoney Creek in Quarterfinal, 44-42 over No. 10 Clarkston in Regional Final, 44-39 over No. 15 Howell in Regional Semifinal, 45-37 over No. 6 Midland Dow, 62-40 over No. 14 Traverse City Central, 52-40 over No. 26 East Lansing, 47-46 over Division 2 No. 25 Flint Powers Catholic.
Players to watch: Chelsea Bishop, 5-10 sr. G (17 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.2 spg); Rayven McQueen, 6-0 jr. F (10.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 3.3 spg); Malaya Brown, 5-9 jr. G (8.1 ppg, .6 rpg, 2.7 spg).
Outlook: Grand Blanc’s only other trip to the Semifinals came in 1977, but the Bobcats have been building toward this with 18 and 19 wins the last two seasons. Taylor has won nearly 1,000 games between the high school and college levels and took Oakland University’s women’s team to the Division II Final Four in 1990. Grand Blanc is 19-2 over its last 21 games, the losses during that run to Goodrich by two points and West Bloomfield at the end of the regular season. Sophomore guard Parc Liggins (7.3 ppg, 27 3-pointers) and senior guard/forward Kate DeWitt (6.7, 29) round out a starting lineup filled with scoring options. Bishop has signed with Alabama A&M.

Record/rank: 26-1, No. 2
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Coach: Brad Wilson, seventh season (134-34)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2023.
Best wins: 52-36 (Quarterfinal), 70-54 and 61-42 over No. 11 Holland West Ottawa, 39-22 over No. 6 Midland Dow in Regional Final, 62-54 over No. 5 East Kentwood, 48-39 and 55-38 over No. 13 Grand Haven, 62-34 over No. 24 Byron Center, 55-48 over Division 2 No. 16 Lansing Catholic, 49-36 over Division 2 No. 8 Chelsea, 71-57 over Division 2 No. 3 Grand Rapids West Catholic, 67-44 over Division 2 No. 2 Frankenmuth.
Players to watch: Anna Wypych, 6-0 jr. G (16.5 ppg, 40 3-pointers, 3.2 apg); Grace Lyons, 5-9 sr. G (10 ppg, 47 3-pointers, 4.6 rpg); Kate Higgins, 6-0 soph. C (6.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg).
Outlook: The Rams have two starters back from last season’s championship game win and 25 of their 40 points from that victory including Lyons’ go-ahead 3-pointer with 40 seconds to play. That would be three starters and 31 points returning with 6-0 sophomore Sienna Wolfe (13.1 ppg, 42 3-pointers, 4.1 rpg), who was injured during the first District game and hasn’t returned. Lyons became the program’s all-time leading scorer this season and Rockford has continued to test itself against top competition, with the lone loss to East Kentwood and avenged a month later. Higgins and 5-10 sophomore forward Jordan Mateer (6.2 ppg, 32 3-pointers) provide additional boosts. Lyons has committed to Ferris State.

Record/rank: 25-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Darrin McAllister, third season (74-4)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2022, Division 1 runner-up 2023, Class A runner-up 1989.
Best wins: 54-32 over No. 12 Temperance Bedford in Quarterfinal, 61-48 over No. 3 Detroit Renaissance in Regional Semifinal, 67-28 over No. 9 Grand Blanc, 78-16 and 60-19 over No. 8 Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, 73-33 and 66-15 over No. 10 Clarkston, 67-27 over No. 23 Salem, 61-42 over Division 2 No. 1 Detroit Edison, 60-37 over Division 2 No. 5 Detroit Country Day.
Players to watch: Summer Davis, 5-9 sr. G (17.9 ppg, 68 3-pointers, 4.0 apg, 4.4 spg); Indya Davis, 5-9 sr. G/F (15.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 3.8 spg); Kendall Hendrix, 5-9 sr. F (12.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.0 bpg).
Outlook: West Bloomfield’s run under McAllister has been unprecedented in program history, as the Lakers followed up their 2022 title by finishing runner-up in 2023 and enter this weekend with the lone loss this season to Whitehouse Anthony Wayne from Ohio. The Davis twins were Miss Basketball Award finalists and will continue their careers together at Georgia, and Hendrix and senior guard Destiny Washington (7.6 ppg, 3.3 apg, 2.9 spg) also started during last year’s Breslin run and were top subs the championship season. Sophomore guard Sheridan Beal (7.6 ppg) has moved into the lineup this winter, adding to a starting group that as a whole had made 50 percent of its shots from the floor entering this week. Hendrix has signed with Loyola of Chicago.

Division 2

Record/rank: 27-0, No. 4
League finish: First in Catholic High School League Central and Bishop Tournament
Coach: Tim Cain, fifth season (87-26)
Championship history: Class D champion 1993, runner-up 1981.
Best wins: 50-45 over No. 6 Tecumseh in Quarterfinal, 70-28 over No. 14 Redford Westfield Prep in Regional Final, 43-30 over No. 16 Lansing Catholic, 56-41 over No. 13 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 54-39 over Division 1 No. 3 Detroit Renaissance, 65-45 over Division 1 No. 6 Midland Dow, 50-35 over Division 3 No. 1 Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.
Players to watch: Vanessa Rodriguez, 5-5 soph. G (13.5 ppg, 50 3-pointers, 4.3 rpg, 3.7 apg, 3.5 spg); Charlotte Miller, 5-8 jr. G (11.2 ppg, 49 3-pointers, 4.5 apg); Cora Williams, 6-0 jr. C (10.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg).
Outlook: Father Gabriel Richard will play its first Semifinal since 1993 but has built to this moment also reaching the Quarterfinals in 2021 and then adding to its win total all of the next three seasons. Only Tecumseh and Farmington Hills Mercy have gotten within single digits of the Irish. Rodriguez made the all-state first team as a freshman and leads a lineup with only one senior starter, center Veronica Fredericks (5.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg). Sophomore guard Ava Rodriguez (9.1 ppg, 40 3-pointers, 3.3 apg) and junior forward Saige Edmondson (7.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg) are two more reasons to be optimistic this weekend and for the future.

Record/rank: 21-3, No. 1
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Monique Brown, 12th season (216-47)
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2022).
Best wins: 50-33 over No. 7 Goodrich in Quarterfinal, 59-57 (Regional Semifinal) and 62-53 over No. 5 Detroit Country Day, 64-57 over No. 13 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 57-46 over Division 1 No. 4 Belleville, 65-41 over Division 1 No. 16 Wayne Memorial, 46-38 over Division 1 No. 3 Detroit Renaissance, 58-46 over Division 3 No. 1 Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.
Players to watch: Isis Johnson-Musah, 5-9 jr. G (16.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg); Devin Hagemann, 5-5 sr. G (10.2 ppg, 3.5 apg); Nabrea Lane, 5-7 sr. F (6.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg).
Outlook: After ending last season in the Regional Finals, Edison is back at Breslin with Hagemann and senior guard Na’kiya Bonner (7.2 ppg, 3.3 apg) having started on the 2022 championship team and senior guard Myana Cooksey (5.9 ppg) a top sub as a sophomore that season. The only in-state losses this winter came to West Bloomfield and Frankenmuth, and the Pioneers went 5-1 against a tough slate of out-of-state opponents. Hagemann has signed with East Carolina, Cooksey has signed with Niagara and Bonner will continue at Indiana Tech.

Record/rank: 26-1, No. 3
League finish: First in O-K Blue
Coach: Jill VanderEnde, 10th season (169-56)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 1990), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 35-27 over No. 12 Vicksburg in Quarterfinal, 48-36 (Regional Final), 45-37 and 58-21 over No. 22 Spring Lake, 43-36 (District Final) and 60-54 over No. 13 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 41-19 and 41-33 (OT) over No. 19 Holland Christian, 52-47 over Division 1 No. 11 Holland West Ottawa, 49-35 over Division 1 No. 33 Muskegon.
Players to watch: Elisha Dykstra, 6-0 jr. F (11.4 ppg, 4.0 apg); Reese Polega, 6-0 sr. G (11.2 ppg, 45 3-pointers, 6.6 rpg, 1.6 bpg); Alexis Asekomeh, 5-10 fr. F (9.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg).
Outlook: West Catholic is a combined 52-2 over the last two seasons, its only loss a year ago to Lansing Catholic in a Semifinal and its only defeat this winter to Rockford in December. West Catholic also went 25-2 in 2021-22 in finishing Division 2 runner-up to Edison, and Dykstra has started during all three runs while Polega and junior guard Anna Ignatoski (8.5 ppg) were top subs two seasons ago. Polega and senior forward Emma Tuttle (5.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg) joined the starting lineup a year ago, and senior guard Rebecca Tuttle (5.4 ppg) and junior guard Paige Seely-London (7.0 ppg, 41 3-pointers) have built up plenty of experience over the last two championship pursuits. Dykstra made the all-state second team in 2022-23. Polega has signed with Purdue-Fort Wayne.

Record/rank: 26-1, No. 11
League finish: Tied for first in Western Peninsula Athletic Conference East
Coach: Mike O’Donnell, fifth season (95-22)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 50-45 over No. 25 Flint Powers Catholic in Quarterfinal, 38-21 over No. 26 Sault Ste. Marie in District Final, 54-41 over No. 29 Houghton, 57-50 over Division 3 No. 17 Manton, 65-56 over Division 4 No. 1 Ishpeming, 63-48 over Division 4 No. 13 Baraga.
Players to watch: Ella Mason, 5-8 sr. G (19.7 ppg, 50 3-pointers, 4.8 rpg); Aubrey Johnson, 5-7 jr. G (9.0 ppg, 3.3 apg, 4.3 spg); Callie Rajala, 5-10 sr. G (7.6 ppg, 32 3-pointers).
Outlook: Negaunee moved into Division 2 from Division 3 this season and not only reached the Quarterfinals for the first time since 1998 but will play in its first Semifinal as well. Mason made the Division 3 all-state second team last season and has played a sizable role in helping the Miners take these next steps after reaching Regional Finals the last two seasons. Negaunee’s only defeat this winter was to Ishpeming, by four points and avenged a month later. The Miners have had only three single-digit games aside from that loss and total given up an average of 35 points per game this season.

Fowler's Elizabeth Hufnagel eyes her next move during a Regional Final win over Gobles.

Division 3

Record/rank: 25-2, No. 5
League finish: First in Highland Conference
Coach: Bill Tisron, 10th season (183-44)
Championship history: Class D champion 1976.
Best wins: 36-28 (Quarterfinal) and 44-40 over No. 6 Elk Rapids, 54-41 over No. 12 Sanford Meridian in Regional Final, 44-28 (Regional Semifinal), 37-29 and 68-34 over No. 17 Manton, 47-30 (District Final) and 51-31 over No. 20 Evart, 49-37 over No. 11 Morley Stanwood, 49-36 over Division 2 No. 23 Hart.
Players to watch: MacKenzie Bisballe, 6-1 sr. G (22.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.0 spg, 1.6 bpg); Alison Bisballe, 6-4 sr. F (11.4 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 3.8 apg, 4.2 bpg); Payton Hogan, 6-0 sr. F (7.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg).
Outlook: Losses to Frankenmuth and Evart the first week of this season were just a warmup, as Lake City hasn’t been defeated since and downed Evart twice including in their District Final on the way to returning to the Semifinals for the first time since 2019. The Trojans have clear inside presence outrebounding their opponents by nearly 10 per game and with Alison Bisballe leading an effort that’s seen 7.2 shots blocked per contest as well. MacKenzie Bisballe made the all-state first team last season and has signed with Grand Valley State, and cousin Alison Bisballe signed with Wisconsin.

Record/rank: 25-1, No. 2
League finish: First in Lakeland Conference
Coach: Josh Hood, 16th season (329-49)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 43-34 over No. 23 Grand Rapids Covenant Christian in Quarterfinal, 59-42 over No. 4 Kalamazoo Christian in Regional Final, 45-43 over No. 3 Blissfield, 62-52 over Division 2 No. 23 Hart, 70-44 over Division 4 No. 2 Colon.
Players to watch: Ellie Knapp, 5-6 sr. G (14 ppg, 40 3-pointers, 4.6 apg, 3.8 spg); Miley Young, 5-6 jr. G (9.4 ppg, 2.8 apg); Kadence Brumitt, 5-10 sr. F (8.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg).
Outlook: Brandywine won its first Regional title since 2019 and will play in its first Semifinal since 2016. Its only loss this season came to Division 2 Vicksburg, which also reached the Quarterfinals this week. Aside from that loss, Covenant Christian and Blissfield are the only teams that have given the Bobcats single-digit games this winter – and Brandywine is allowing only 29.5 points per game. Knapp and Brumitt are the team’s only seniors, and Knapp will continue her career at Holy Cross College (Ind.) with Brumitt set to play volleyball at Valparaiso. Junior guard Adelyn Drotoz (6.6 ppg, 42 3-pointers) combines with Knapp to stretch defenses, and junior guard Adeline Gill fills out the starting lineup adding six more points a game.

Record/rank: 18-9, No. 55
League finish: Second in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue
Coach: Jimmy Mehlberg, 10th season (147-73)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 38-16 over No. 14 Sandusky in Quarterfinal, 59-48 over No. 73 New Haven in Regional Semifinal, 52-50 over No. 30 Plymouth Christian Academy, 47-43 over Division 4 No. 27 Genesee Christian, 43-38 over Division 4 No. 32 Dryden.
Players to watch: Morgan Griswold, jr. F (8.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.3 spg); Keaira Spiehs, 5-8 fr. C (7.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 3.1 bpg); Charlotte Gramzow, 5-10 soph. F (9.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg).
Outlook: Lutheran Northwest last week won its first Regional title and made this run even more memorable Tuesday reaching the Semifinals by handing Sandusky just its second loss this season. The Crusaders started with their fifth District title under Mehlberg and opened the playoffs by avenging a regular-season defeat to Madison Heights Bishop Foley, which made the Semifinals last season. Guard Aliya Ozias is the team’s only senior, and sophomore forward Addie Troska adds another 5.9 ppg off the bench. Mehlberg is assisted in part by his father Ed – who led the Auburn Hills Oakland Christian girls and boys teams to a combined record of 922-323 over nearly four decades.

Record/rank: 23-4, No. 1
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Scott Stine, seventh season (139-34)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2022), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 38-34 over No. 16 New Lothrop in Quarterfinal, 56-28 over No. 41 Brooklyn Columbia Central in Regional Final, 43-34 over No. 18 Grass Lake in District Final, 55-33 over No. 30 Plymouth Christian Academy in District Semifinal, 61-39 and 59-29 over Division 3 No. 26 Stockbridge, 59-56 over Division 1 No. 16 Wayne Memorial, 51-46 over Division 1 No. 32 Lowell, 39-36 over Division 2 No. 14 Redford Westfield Prep, 51-43 over Division 2 No. 25 Flint Powers Catholic, 53-40 over Division 2 No. 27 Lake Fenton.
Players to watch: Stephanie Utomi, 5-11 sr. F (12.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.7 spg, 1.1 bpg); Stacy Utomi, 5-10 sr. F. (10.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg); Taylor Wallace, 5-6 sr. G (13.1 ppg, 87 3-pointers).
Outlook: Arbor Prep is back at the Semifinals for the fourth time in Stine’s seven seasons and after last year’s run ended in a Regional Final. Stephanie Utomi made the all-state first team last season and with twin Stacy also started on the 2022 championship team, with Wallace and junior guard Eliza Bush (4.0 apg) coming off the bench in that title game. The Gators’ only losses this winter were to Division 1 and 2 opponents, including once apiece to Detroit Edison and Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard. The Utomi twins both have signed with Mercer.

Division 4

Record/rank: 24-3, No. 5
League finish: Second in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Nathan Goerge, 14th season (202-125)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2022), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 51-32 over No. 15 Mendon in Quarterfinal, 72-38 over No. 8 Gobles in Regional Final, 64-58 (District Final) and 69-63 over No. 3 Portland St. Patrick, 40-34 over Division 3 No. 16 New Lothrop, 46-41 (OT) and 58-34 over Division 3 No. 29 Bath, 49-43 and 37-35 over Division 3 No. 35 Pewamo-Westphalia, 47-33 over Division 3 No. 26 Stockbridge.
Players to watch: Katie Spicer, 5-7 jr. G (11.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.4 apg); Grace O’Hare, 5-10 sr. F (8.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg); Brooke Weber, 5-8 jr. F (7.6 ppg, 50 3-pointers).
Outlook: Fowler is making its fifth-straight trip to the Semifinals (not counting COVID-canceled 2020) and just missed making a third-consecutive Final last year, falling by two points to Baraga in the Semifinal. The Eagles are seeking their third Division 4 title in four seasons after winning back-to-back in 2021 and 2022. After opening this winter with a loss to Division 1 Midland Dow, Fowler fell only to Division 3 Dansville and rival St. Patrick and avenged both. O’Hare and senior center Rebecca Smith (4.8 rpg) both played more than a quarter of last year’s Semifinal, and freshman guard Isabella Halfmann (6.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.5 spg) has provided a boost as a major part of a mostly new rotation.

Record/rank: 22-5, No. 23
League finish: Third in Northwest Conference
Coach: Tim Reznich, 22nd season (371-147)
Championship history: Class D champion 2006 and 2005.
Best wins: 56-46 over No. 12 Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart in Quarterfinal, 64-37 over No. 31 Gaylord St. Mary in Regional Final, 45-42 over No. 10 Maple City Glen Lake in Regional Semifinal, 53-47 (District Final) and 57-53 over No. 24 Onekama, 59-45 over No. 21 St. Ignace, 39-35 over Division 2 No. 38 Kingsley.
Players to watch: Evelyn VanTol, 5-11 sr. F/C (14.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg); Savina Anhalt, 5-11 jr. F (11.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.5 apg, 3.8 spg, 2.9 bpg); Addison Jarosz, 5-10 soph. F (10.1 ppg, 5.3 ppg, 3.4 spg).
Outlook: Frankfort will play in its first Semifinal since 2015, and it’s been an impressive climb over the last six weeks as the Panthers have won 11 straight games and avenged four of their losses over the second half of the season – including one from Onekama and two to Glen Lake. They’ve continued to excel despite losing starting senior Noelle Rommell to injury at the start of the playoffs. VanTol and guard Kylee Harris (7.5 ppg) give the starting lineup two more seniors, and several underclassmen are part of the rotation and gaining valuable experience.

Record/rank: 26-1, No. 1
League finish: Tied for first in West-PAC East
Coach: Ryan Reichel, ninth season (119-76)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 65-45 over No. 21 St. Ignace in Quarterfinal, 70-42 over No. 29 Ewen-Trout Creek in Regional Final, 79-46 over Carney-Nadeau in Regional Semifinal, 63-31 (District Final) and 70-43 over No. 13 Baraga, 78-32 over No. 36 Munising, 54-51 over Division 3 No. 19 Bark River-Harris, 61-50 over Division 2 No. 29 Houghton, 57-53 over Division 2 No. 11 Negaunee.
Players to watch: Jenessa Eagle, 5-7 soph G (16 ppg, 63 3-pointers, 4.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, 3.8 spg); Jenna Maki, 5-10 sr. G (15.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.5 spg); Mya Hemmer, 6-1 soph. F (10.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 3.1 spg, 1.4 bpg).
Outlook: Ishpeming has made a significant jump from five wins just four seasons ago to 12, then 16 and now 26 as the Hematites head into their first Semifinal after winning their first Regional title since 1974. More than half the roster (7 of 12) is made up of seniors, but with the key sophomores helping lead the way. Senior 5-10 forward Addie Morton is another contributor in the post at 5.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. The team’s only loss came to Negaunee, playing in Division 2 this weekend, but only two other games (and against only other opponent) were decided by single digits.

Record/rank: 26-1, No. 4
League finish: First in North Central Thumb League Stars
Coach: Jay Green, 17th season (342-59)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 36-21 over No. 28 Morenci in Quarterfinal, 47-26 over No. 6 Clarkston Everest Collegiate in Regional Final, 61-44 over Division 1 No. 29 Lake Orion, 48-41 over Division 2 No. 49 Croswell-Lexington, 69-33 over Division 3 No. 21 Harbor Beach.
Players to watch: Delaney St. George, 5-6 sr. G (16.2 ppg, 84 3-pointers, 3.0 apg); Molly Walker, 5-9 soph. F (13 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.1 apg, 3.3 spg); Gracy Walker, 5-8 sr. G (7.8 ppg, 5.7 apg).
Outlook: After just missing making the Semifinals last season with a four-point Quarterfinal loss to Fowler, Kingston is back for the first time since 2019 and with its only defeat to Division 2 Goodrich – which suffered its only loss in a Division 2 Quarterfinal this week. St. George made the all-state second team last season, and her 84 3-pointers entering the week were 12th-most for one season in MHSAA history. She and Gracy Walker are joined by two more seniors in the starting lineup and another playing major minutes off the bench. Forward Abby Walker is another of those senior starters and adds  7.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game; she, Gracy and Molly Walker are sisters. Kingston has won 12 straight league titles under Green. 

PHOTOS (Top) Detroit Edison's Na'kiya Bonner (12) passes to teammate Devin Hagemann during Tuesday's Quarterfinal win over Goodrich. (Middle) Fowler's Elizabeth Hufnagel eyes her next move during a Regional Final win over Gobles. (Top photo by Terry Lyons; middle photo by Kolleth Photography.)

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for

April 5, 2024

It won’t be hard for Jayden Marlatt to remember opening day on the softball field from any of her four years at Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAs a freshman, she missed the opener due to needing to quarantine. Her sophomore and junior years started on the road because the Cardinals’ field was under construction.  

This season the Cardinals will open up — weather permitting — on their brand-new field, hosting Mio on Monday, April 8.  Marlatt is slated to be the starting pitcher again and add to her school record collection.

While Johannesburg-Lewiston is looking forward to playing on the new diamond, Marlatt and her teammates have high hopes of finishing the season almost 200 miles south. They’re looking to get back to Michigan State University – the site of the Division 4 Semifinals and Final.

The Cards have had their sites on that goal since they fell 4-2 to Mendon in last year’s Semifinal at Secchia Stadium. The loss ended a 30-4-1 campaign that saw the Cardinals play every game on the road for a second consecutive year, but come up only one victory short of a first championship game appearance.

The trip to East Lansing also came after the Cards won the program’s first District title since 2008 and advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 1981.

“It has been a long two seasons on the road,” said eighth-year head coach Kim Marlatt, noting the team utilized a Little League field for practices during the stretch. “They’ve been putting in a lot of work in the offseason, so it is excited to get going.”

Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. The new field isn’t the only new things this spring. The Cardinals will have a junior varsity team for the first time during the Marlatt’s tenure. The JV squad is coached by Ryan Marlatt, who has been serving the program the past eight years as assistant coach. He also has been the head girls basketball coach at JoBurg the past two seasons.

The Marlatt coaches are the proud parents of Jayden, who continues to garner recognition as perhaps the greatest athlete in Johannesburg-Lewiston’s history. 

The three-sport star had a huge hand in all that JoBurg accomplished last season leading the team in batting average (.670), home runs (13) and runs batted in (61). As the team’s ace pitcher, she collected 249 strikeouts and compiled a 1.32 ERA.

“Jayden has put in the hard work,” Kim pointed out.  “She is a very humble athlete. ‘She doesn’t like to talk about herself. She likes to compete, and she likes to be on the top of her game for her teammates.”

Jayden has been named all-conference and all-state in softball, basketball and volleyball nearly every season over her four years at JoBurg. She’s led her teams to Ski Valley Conference, District and Regional titles along the way.

She’s also been named Player of the Year by multiple publications. And she’s a front runner to be voted the Most Valuable Player of the Ski Valley Conference in softball. Earlier this year, league coaches voted her the MVP for both basketball and volleyball.  

“The Ski Valley never used to vote on an MVP,” Ryan Marlatt said. “Hopefully she can add the triple crown and get softball this year.”

Jayden Marlatt, who has played all three sports all four years, acknowledged softball is perhaps her most treasured, and she’ll continue in that sport at Ferris State. Her career total of more than 500 strikeouts, and her 14 home runs last season, are both JoBurg school records. "I like them all but probably softball,” she confirmed when asked to name her favorite sport.

She averaged 12 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and four steals per game this winter helping the Cards basketball team to a conference runner-up finish. She was key to JoBurg's ability to put a 12-game winning streak together, and she topped the 1,000-point career mark along the way.

Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season.Her outstanding senior year on the basketball court and this spring’s possibilities nearly vanished as the volleyball season ended.

She suffered what looked to be a serious lower-leg injury in the final game of the JoBurg volleyball season. “She finished in the emergency room,” Kim Marlatt said.  

Diagnosed a high ankle sprain, it was an aggravation to an injury from her junior year in basketball. She wasn’t quite at 100 percent on the basketball court this season until the holiday break. She’s starting the softball season healthy, though.

Before the injury, Jayden led the Cards to their third volleyball conference championship over the last four years. After becoming JoBurg's all-time kills leader during her junior season, and with many of her teammates from her first three seasons graduating, Jayden had to fill a variety of roles while anchoring the offense from her outside hitter spot.

She ended up leading the team in both kills with 421 and digs, with 431, in her final season on the volleyball court. And she is listed among MHSAA’s all-time leaders in kills for a single match and career.

It’s more than Marlatt’s stats that stand out for Kristine Peppin, the school’s volleyball coach the past 15 years.

“It is not about the size of the school or the size of the player, it’s the heart that they have inside,” she proclaimed. “This girl would be a successful player on whatever team she was on. 

“Yes we’re a small school, small town,” she continued. “That kind of leadership and heart and drive to be the best is what’s given her that success.”

Marlatt’s work ethic is second to none, Peppin noted. She never saw Jayden give less than a “1,000” percent in practice or games in her career. 

Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt.“She’s a super hard worker and extremely modest for the kind of skill she possesses and the success she’s had,” Peppin said. “Her teammates think it’s amazing to be on her team.”

Marlatt’s volleyball skills caught the eye of at least one of her conference opponents’ coaches back in junior high. Ron Stremlow was performing one of his many coaching duties for Fife Lake Forest Area when he first saw Jayden on the volleyball court.

“I could tell then this girl was somebody special,” said Stremlow, who became one of the winningest coaches in state volleyball history with the Warriors. “When she got in high school, it just took off.

“She puts the time into it, and she works hard,” Stremlow continued. “Kids like that get what they deserve – they work for it.”

Stremlow, now retired, also acknowledged he’s enjoyed being able to watch the hard-throwing Marlatt on the softball field the last couple of seasons as Forest Area hosted the Cardinals consecutively due to JoBurg’s lack of a home field.

It’s something he’ll have to travel to do this year though, as JoBurg is scheduled to host the Warriors on April 15.

The Cardinals also will host a Regional on their new field June 8. The winners of District play at Rogers City, Harbor Springs, St. Ignace and Gaylord St. Mary will participate.

To play in the Regional, the Cards will have to emerge from the Rogers City District featuring the host Hurons, Atlanta, Hillman, Onaway, and Posen.

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Jayden Marlatt drives a pitch during softball season. (2) Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. (3) Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season. (4) Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt. (Action shots by Dylan Jespersen/Petoskey News-Review; family photo by Breya Domke.)