By Geoff Kimmerly
Flint Northern, from 1978-81 in Class A, is the only school in MHSAA history to win four straight Girls Basketball Finals championships.
Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes can become the next to achieve that feat by claiming the Class D title this weekend.
The Lakers' pursuit will be one of the most followed storylines at Michigan State University's Breslin Center. Class C and D Semifinals are Thursday, with all four championships games Saturday.
Semifinals - Thursday
Manchester (25-1) vs. Riverview Gabriel Richard (16-7), 1 p.m.
Saginaw Nouvel (24-2) vs. Houghton (23-2), 2:50 p.m.
St. Ignace (25-0) vs Climax-Scotts (20-5), 6 p.m.
Athens (22-3) vs Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (20-4), 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 and available on a pay-per-view basis for $3.95 per day, $6.95 for the weekend or $9.95 for all girls and boys Semifinals over the next two weekends. All four Finals will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.
And now, a look at the Semifinalists in Class C and D.
Record/rank: 23-2, tied for No. 7
League finish: First in Western Peninsula Athletic Conference
Coach: Julie Filpus, 14th season (307-34)
Championship history: Class C champion (2005).
Best wins: 61-47 and 64-62 over Calumet, 76-41 and 58-42 (District Final) over L’Anse, 67-36 over Ishpeming (Regional Final), 56-47 over Shelby (Quarterfinal).
Players to watch: Elisa Jurmu, 5-8 jr. F (19.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg); Blaire Zenner, 5-10 sr. F (8.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg).
Outlook: Houghton has made at least the Regional round all 14 of Filpus’ seasons and won league titles every one of the last 13. Although the Gremlins didn’t see ranked teams this season, they did split against Class A Marquette, which finished 18-4. Jurmu received all-state special mention from The Associated Press on Wednesday and is one of four starters shooting better than 50 percent from the floor this winter.
Record/rank: 25-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Cascades Conference
Coach: Cori Kastel, seventh season (95-63)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 57-42 over honorable mention Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (District Final), 58-51 over honorable mention Adrian Madison (Regional Final), 67-43 over No. 2 Niles Brandywine (Quarterfinal).
Players to watch: McKenna Erkfritz, 6-1 sr. F (14.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.8 bpg); Jessie Manders, 5-6 soph. G (9.6 ppg, 2.9 apg); Taylor Manders, 5-5 sr. G (14.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 3.0 spg).
Outlook: The Jackson area is generally strong for girls basketball, and Manchester emerged champion of a league that included six teams with at least 11 wins and four that won 15 or more games. Erkfritz earned all-state special mention and teams with Taylor Manders and guard Jesse Coltre as the team’s lone seniors – although all three start.
RIVERVIEW GABRIEL RICHARD
Record/rank: 16-7, unranked
League finish: Tied for first in Detroit Catholic League AA
Coach: William Jones, second season (36-11)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 52-48 over Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, 47-44 (OT) over honorable mention Flint Hamady (Quarterfinal).
Player to watch: Ashley Henderson, 5-8 sr. G (16.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.8 apg, 2.6 spg).
Outlook: Gabriel Richard has reached the Quarterfinals both seasons under coach Jones, but Tuesday’s win over Hamady still had to be considered a bit of an upset considering Hamady’s championship history. Henderson has proven she can find the basket when it's needed most, scoring 30 in the Regional Final and 31 in the Quarterfinal.
Record/rank: 24-2, No. 4
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Kris Hengesbach, 12th season (252-54)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (2008), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 47-45 over No. 1 Reese (Regional Semifinal), 55-34 over honorable mention Kent City (Regional Final), 60-50 and 57-48 (District Final) over No. 10 Saginaw Valley Lutheran, 58-47 over Class B No. 1 Freeland, 59-58 over Class B honorable mention Clare, 44-40 over Class B honorable mention Haslett, 51-22 over Class D No. 9 Waterford Our Lady.
Players to watch: Taylor Hengesbach, 5-10 G/F sr. (12.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.4 bpg); Rachel McInerny, 6-2 jr. C (14.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg).
Outlook: Nouvel has beaten the top-ranked teams from two classes and the three-time reigning champion from a third. The Reese win avenged a 10-point loss from earlier this season, and Nouvel’s only other defeat came against No. 7 Carson City-Crystal. Taylor Hengesbach made the all-state team and McInerny earned honorable mention Wednesday as the leading scorers from a team that outscores its opponents on average 55-26.
Record/rank: 22-3, honorable mention
League finish: Second in Big 8 Conference
Coach: Calvin Quist, eighth season (145-50)
Championship history: Class D runner-up 2012.
Best wins: 41-33 over No. 7 Mendon (District Semifinal), 68-42 over No. 10 Hillsdale Academy (Regional Final), 55-44 over Climax-Scotts, 48-47 over Class C honorable mention Concord.
Players to watch: Audrey Oswalt, 5-9 jr. F (9.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.8 spg); Chantel Davenport, 5-9 sr. F (9.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg).
Outlook: Few teams can boast such scoring balance, with sophomore guard Allison Fuller (10.2 ppg) and junior guard Allysha Beal (9.8 ppg) the leading scorers and joining Oswalt and Davenport to give the team four players who average double figures or close. It’s tough to see how Athens couldn't crack the top 10 with its losses only to Mendon, Concord and Homer – all teams the Class D reigning runner-up eventually split with this winter.
Record/rank: 20-5, unranked
League finish: First in Southern Central Athletic Association
Coach: Dana Perrin, third season (61-12)
Championship history: Class D runner-up 1986.
Best wins: 42-40 over No. 8 Gaylord St. Mary (Quarterfinal), 52-48 over Class C honorable mention Concord.
Players to watch: Destiny Froberg, 5-7 sr. F (13.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.4 apg, 2.7 spg); Fallon Froberg, 5-8 sr. C (11.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.4 spg).
Outlook: Climax-Scotts has won at least 20 games all three seasons under Perrin, and will play Thursday for its first championship game berth in nearly three decades. Five seniors of seven total fill the starting line-up. Guard Stephanie Cochran joins the Froberg twins scoring in double figures averaging 10.5 points per game with 54 3-pointers through her first 24 games this season.
Record/rank: 25-0, No. 1
League finish: First in Straits Area Conference
Coach: Dorene Ingalls, 14th season (289-57)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recently 2011), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 70-54 over No. 3 Crystal Falls Forest Park (Quarterfinal), 74-68 over No. 6 Posen (Regional Final), 70-21, 78-16 and 67-23 (Regional Semifinal) over honorable mention Pickford, 53-38 over Class A honorable mention Petoskey, 55-41 over Class A honorable mention Brighton.
Players to watch: Kelley Wright, 5-10 jr. G (19.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.3 apg, 6.8 spg); Sarah Cullip, 5-11 sr. G (13.4 ppg); Abbey Ostman, 5-8 fr. F (10.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg).
Outlook: The Saints are making their fourth-straight trip to Breslin Center but first of this run in Class D after playing in Class C previously. Wright, Cullip and junior guard Emily Hinsman also started last season, and senior guard Morgan LaVake played the most minutes off the bench during the Semifinal. Wright was named all-state Tuesday.
WATERFORD OUR LADY OF THE LAKES
Record/rank: 20-4, No. 9
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League East
Coach: Steve Robak, sixth season (126-27)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recently 2012).
Best wins: 40-26 over No. 5 Lansing Christian (Regional Final), 28-24 (OT) over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (Quarterfinal), 45-25 over Riverview Gabriel Richard, 50-38 over Livonia Ladywood.
Players to watch: Ava Doetsch, 5-6 sr. G (14.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.7 apg, 2.8 spg); Lexie Robak, 5-9 sr. G (14.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.4 apg).
Outlook: The Lakers, and especially Doetsch and Lexie Robak, will attempt to add to an incredible run that’s included the last three Class D championships – and those two started on all three of those teams. Both were named to the all-state team this week and are dangerous from the perimeter – Robak had 67 3-pointers and Doetsch 37 heading into the week. Our Lady is 87-18 over their four seasons.
PHOTO: Riverview Gabriel Richard celebrates its Class C Quarterfinal win over Flint Hamady on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Anna Fedor/Riverview Gabriel Richard.)
Championship time is quickly approaching this girls basketball season.
We’re still three weeks out from the start of District play. But league contenders are clashing all over the state, with a handful of conferences finishing up their schedules this week and several favorites facing off soon with titles on the line. We make mention of a number of those below.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. West Bloomfield 59, Detroit Edison 49 Last season, West Bloomfield (15-2) became the first in-state team to defeat Edison (12-3) since 2018 – and the Lakers have become the only one to do so again this winter.
2. Maple City Glen Lake 51, Traverse City St. Francis 45 The Lakers (13-2) are up to No. 2 in Division 4 MPR, while St. Francis (12-2) sits No. 4 in Division 3.
3. Holt 55, DeWitt 53 The Rams (14-2) sit alone atop the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue after sending the Panthers (13-2) into second in a matchup of top Division 1 teams statewide.
4. Hancock 50, Calumet 47 The Bulldogs (13-1) maintained their one-game lead in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference West with their second win this season over third-place Calumet (11-3). Both are among the top seven statewide in Division 3 MPR.
5. Detroit Edison 44, Farmington Hills Mercy 42 The Pioneers bounced back from the West Bloomfield loss with a pair of close wins, this one over Mercy (14-2) followed by a one-pointer over Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Saturday.
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (11-5) After a 2-4 start with those losses to top Division 1 and 2 teams statewide, Reeths-Puffer is 9-3 and tied for first in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green with Muskegon after edging the Big Reds 56-52 on Friday. That avenged a 14-point loss to Muskegon on Jan. 6, and the Rockets have since gone on an eight-game winning streak. They also opened last week with a 42-39 victory over 11-win Ludington.
Wayne Memorial (13-4) The Zebras further solidified their standing atop the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East standings with last week’s 75-57 win over second-place Belleville. That followed up a 44-41 win over the Tigers on Jan. 6, and total Wayne has won 12 straight since a 1-3 start that included two-point losses to Division 1 contenders Detroit Renaissance and Hudsonville and a third defeat to Illinois power Chicago Whitney Young.
Goodrich (14-1) The Martians are locked in another battle atop the Flint Metro League Stars with Lake Fenton and trail the Blue Devils by a game after a 50-44 loss Jan. 20. That’s Goodrich’s only defeat, and they’ll attempt to avenge it in the league finale Feb. 17. In the meantime, the Martians can continue their statewide push upward with 13-win Flushing coming up Wednesday and 15-win Ovid-Elsie next week as well.
Redford Westfield Prep (11-6) The Warriors take on many of the state’s best, evidenced by their No. 8 MPR despite six losses. Westfield has won seven of its last eight games, the lone defeat during that streak 55-53 to still-undefeated Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Jan. 16 – and with perhaps its most notable instate win of the season 46-45 in double overtime Jan. 12 over reigning Division 3 champion Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.
McBain (13-4) The Highland Conference race could go down to the finish, especially after McBain avenged its earlier 17-point loss to second-place Evart with a 51-35 win last week. McBain also has a six-point loss to league leader Lake City from Jan. 20, but can avenge that in the regular-season finale Feb. 23. The Ramblers additionally have a pair of victories over 12-win Beal City and a solid early loss to still-undefeated Division 2 Escanaba.
Ovid-Elsie (15-2) The Marauders haven’t slowed down a bit after last season’s 21-2 finish with league and District titles, the latter in Division 2. This season in Division 3, Ovid-Elsie is up to No. 6 in MPR with a 14-game winning streak since suffering its lone losses early to Pewamo-Westphalia (10-5) and Dansville (15-1). The Marauders handed Mackinaw City its first defeat Saturday, 59-55 on a neutral court, and also has a victory over 14-win Ithaca plus a two-game lead in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference.
Fowler (11-6) Coming off back-to-back Division 4 championships, Fowler put together a schedule featuring solid-to-strong teams from Divisions 1-4 and sit No. 3 in Division 4 MPR. The losses have come to Midland Dow, Haslett, Lansing Catholic, Kent City and league rivals Dansville and Portland St. Patrick, and the Eagles avenged the Shamrocks defeat 51-44 last week. Fowler will need help to catch Dansville in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference, down two games from the league leader, but will try to get one back from the Aggies on Feb. 14.
Norway (16-1) The Knights are leading the large-school division of the Skyline Central Conference with the likely deciding matchup coming at Bark River-Harris next week. Norway has lost only to Niagara (Wis.), by five two weeks ago, and handed Carney-Nadeau (13-2) one of its losses among other strong work – and after ending last season’s 11-10 run with a 15-point District loss to the Wolves.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – Coldwater (15-1) at Jackson Northwest (15-1) – The Mounties lead Coldwater by a win in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference thanks to a 50-46 win in their first meeting Jan. 10.
Tuesday – Utica Ford (14-1) at Grosse Pointe North (13-2) – North has clinched a share of the Macomb Area Conference Red title heading into tonight’s league finale, while Ford won by a large margin in the MAC White.
Thursday – Houghton (13-1) at Hancock (13-1) – As noted above, Hancock leads the West-PAC West by a game – but will face second-place Houghton twice over the next two weeks.
Friday – Standish-Sterling (15-1) at Hemlock (13-3) – Hemlock owns the lead in the Tri-Valley Conference West 10-1 thanks to a 62-31 doubling up in the first meeting Jan. 6. But that remains the Panthers’ lone loss, and they’ve since handed TVC 10-2 co-leader Saginaw Valley Lutheran one of its two defeats.
Friday – Saline (15-2) at Temperance Bedford (16-1) – Saline is first and Bedford second in the Southeastern Conference Red thanks to Saline’s 41-22 win in their first meeting Jan. 27.
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PHOTOS (Top) A trio of Fowler defenders surround a Bath player driving to the basket during a 49-27 win earlier this season; they meet again Thursday. (Middle) Maddie Bradford of Maple City Glen Lake contests a shot by Maggie Napont of Traverse City St. Francis during the Lakers' 51-45 win over the Gladiators last week. (Top photo by Click by Christine McCallister. Middle photo by Rick Sack/TC Rick Photo.)