Breslin Bound: Girls A-B Semis Preview

March 12, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The most fun angle to this weekend's Class A and B Girls Basketball Finals at the Breslin Center is that none of the eight teams still alive in those classes has won an MHSAA championship since at least 1998. 

In fact, four of the eight have never played in an MHSAA championship game.

That's not to say this is new ground for all of the teams making the trip. Aside from reigning champion Goodrich, the rest of the 2013 Class B final four returns intact. And Detroit Catholic League rivals Farmington Hills Mercy and Bloomfield Hills Marian have six champioships between them – with the guarantee one will be playing Saturday for the Class A title. 

Here's a look at Friday and Saturday's schedule (Class C and D teams were previewed in a separate story earlier Wednesday): 

Semifinals - Friday
Class A
Canton (21-4) vs. Grand Ledge (24-2), 1 p.m.
Farmington Hills Mercy (25-1) vs. Bloomfield Hills Marian (23-2), 2:50 p.m.

Class B
Grand Rapids South Christian (25-0) vs. Midland Bullock Creek (24-1), 6 p.m.
Flint Powers Catholic (23-2) vs. Eaton Rapids (21-5), 7:50 p.m.

Finals - Saturday
Class A - Noon
Class B - 6 pm
Class C - 4 pm 
Class D - 10 am 

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, the Class D and A title games on FOX Sports Detroit's primary channel and the Class C and B games on FOX Sports Detroit-PLUS. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on

Here's a look at all eight Class A and B teams playing this weekend:

Class A

Record/rank: 23-2, No. 5
League finish: Tied for first in Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Mary Cicerone, 31st season (558-193) 
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 1998), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 49-38 over honorable mention Canton, 57-54 over No. 3 Farmington Hills Mercy, 41-27 over No. 9 Farmington Hills Harrison in District Semifinal, 56-48 and 66-40 over Class B honorable mention Dearborn Divine Child.
Players to watch: Brittany Gray, 5-11 jr. F (10.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg); Kara Holinski, 5-9 jr. G (10 ppg).
Outlook: The Mustangs have returned to the Semifinals for the first time since 1998 despite only one senior. Marian has been engaged in a tug of war with Catholic League rival Mercy all season, also losing twice to the Marlins, and that continues Friday. Cicerone is the sixth-winningest coach in MHSAA girls basketball history and leads one of the most consistently successful programs with only three sub-.500 finishes since taking over in 1983. Individuals' stats don’t stick out, but balance is a strength – six players average between six and 10 points per game.

Record/rank: 21-4, honorable mention
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association South
Coach: Brian Samulski, ninth season (165-48)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final. 
Best wins: 42-33 over honorable mention Holly in Regional Semifinal, 31-28, 31-29 and 48-34 (District Final) over Plymouth, 36-25 over Class B honorable mention Dearborn Divine Child.
Players to watch: Paige Aresco, 5-10 sr. F (14.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg); Taylor Hunley, 5-1 sr. C (10 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.4 bpg).
Outlook: Canton has lost only twice more since opening with defeats to Marian and Mercy, and defensively has been incredible – the Chiefs are giving up an average of only 28 points per game and grabbing 11.6 steals per. They are seeking their first championship game berth, but missed advancing back-to-back in 2009 and 2010 falling by a total of four points.

Record/rank: 25-1, No. 3
League finish: Tied for first in Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Gary Morris, 10th season (164-73) 
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 1982), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 58-46 over No. 1 Detroit Martin Luther King in Regional Final, 73-60 over No. 2 Grosse Pointe South in Regional Semifinal, 55-54 and 40-38 over No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Marian, 37-33 over honorable mention Canton, 62-59 over Class B No. 2 Goodrich, 59-46 over Class B No. 8 Flint Powers Catholic.
Players to watch: Taylor Jones, 5-7 jr. G (12.5 ppg); Candice Leatherwood, 5-6 sr. G (10.3 ppg, 4.0 apg).
Outlook: Emerging from the most competitive Regional in any class in recent memory, Mercy looks like a strong favorite this weekend. That lone loss came to Marian, by four in overtime, and the Marlins have won 20 straight including beating both the No. 1 and 2-ranked teams by double digits last week. Balance is a strength of this team as well – nine players have scored 10 or more points in at least one game this winter.

Record/rank: 24-2, No. 4
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Blue 
Coach: David Jones, fifth season (79-36) 
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final. 
Best wins: 45-44 over No. 7 Richland Gull Lake in District Final, 36-32 over No. 6 Haslett in Regional Final, 56-44 over honorable mention Kalamazoo Central in Regional Semifinal.
Players to watch: Hannah Orwat, 5-8 sr. G (15 ppg); Lindsay Orwat, 5-8 sr. G (13.4 ppg); Cori Crocker, 6-3, jr. C (10.7 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 2.6 bpg).  
Outlook: The Comets came into this season with high expectations, then opened 2-2 losing to honorable mention DeWitt and No. 1 Detroit Martin Luther King in December (although Lindsay Orwat was injured for the DeWitt game). Grand Ledge has run off 22 straight wins since to advance past the Quarterfinals for the first time ever after falling to eventual champion Grand Haven in that round last season. Crocker, who has committed to play volleyball at the University of Michigan, is one of three 6-footers in the lineup.  

Class B

Record/rank: 21-5, honorable mention
League finish: Second in Capital Area Activities Conference Gold
Coach: Willis Whitmyer, 15th season (210-122)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.  
Best wins: 53-37 over No. 6 Ypsilanti Arbor Prep in Quarterfinal, 69-29 over No. 9 Olivet in District opener, 33-30, 45-23 (District Final) over honorable mention Jackson Northwest, 57-44 over Class A No. 6 Haslett, 43-38 over Class A No. 10 Southgate Anderson.
Players to watch: Allie Dittmer, 6-1 sr. C (14.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.6 bpg); Kathryn Mills, 5-11 sr. F (10 ppg, 4.8 rpg).
Outlook: This run has been a long time coming for the Greyhounds, who have won four District and three league titles over the last nine seasons but had never advanced to Finals weekend. Eaton Rapids has won all of its tournament games by at least 10 points and eight straight by double digits despite facing a tough road to Breslin. All five starters and a top sub are seniors.

Record/rank: 23-2, No. 8
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley Association South
Coach: Thom Staudacher, third season (52-22)
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2001), four runner-up finishes. 
Best wins: 51-31 over No. 4 Detroit Country Day in Quarterfinal, 58-51 over No. 2 Goodrich in Regional Final, 57-37 over honorable mention Frankenmuth in District Final, 65-22 over honorable mention Flat Rock, 54-26 over Class A No. 8 Midland.
Players to watch: Michela Coury, 6-2 sr. F (11.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.9 bpg), Ally Haran, 5-9 sr. G (12.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.1 apg, 4.4 spg), Sara Ruhstorfer, 5-5 sr. G (10.3 ppg, 2.9 spg).  
Outlook: The Chargers who made an unexpected run for a young team last season are much more seasoned coming into this weekend, and they reinforced that fact by eliminating two of the top four ranked teams over the last week. Three starters from last season’s championship game loss are among those leading the way. The only losses this winter were to Class A Quarterfinalist Farmington Hills Mercy and Class C Quarterfinalist Saginaw Nouvel.

Record/rank: 25-0, No. 1
League finish: First in O-K Gold
Coach: Jim DeBruyn, 25th season (439-131)
Championship history: Class B champion 1988, one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 34-31 and 44-38 (Regional Semifinal) over honorable mention Holland Christian, 40-36, 28-27 and 50-45 (Regional Final) over honorable mention Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
Players to watch: Cassidy Vredevoogd, 6-0 sr. C (9.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg), Renee Broekhuizen, 5-11 sr. F (8.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg).
Outlook: South Christian is hoping to put the crowning achievement on a five-year run that has seen the Sailors improve from 11 to 12 to 21 to 23 and now to 25 wins over the last five seasons. They’ve also won two league, three District and two Regional titles during that time and advanced to last season’s Semifinals. Vredevoogd, Broekhuizen and senior Morgan Torres all started during that run as well.

Record/rank: 24-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference Central
Coach: Justin Freeland, 12th season (218-56)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 51-45 over honorable mention Bay City John Glenn in District Final, 66-32 over No. 5 Clare in Regional Semifinal, 44-32 over honorable mention Frankenmuth, 43-33 over Class C No. 10 Saginaw Nouvel.
Players to watch: Ellie Juengel, 5-8 jr. G (12.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg); Halee Nieman, 5-11 jr. F (12.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.3 spg); Hannah Heldt, 5-7 jr. G (10.9 ppg).
Outlook: After making both the Quarterfinals and Semifinals last season for the first time, Bullock Creek has done the same this winter while suffering its only loss against league co-runner-up Hemlock. Nieman, Juengel, Heldt and sophomore forward Alyssa Mudd all started last season when the Lancers fell in overtime to Flint Powers Catholic in the Semifinal. And they could take this Breslin run to three straight, with only two seniors and no starters graduating this spring.

PHOTO: Bullock Creek's Halee Nieman works to get around Flint Powers' Ally Haran (23) while the Lancers' Ellie Juengel (24) anticipates the play during the teams' 2013 Semifinal. 

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.)