By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
There will be some who arrive for the MHSAA Class C and D Semifinals on Thursday already quite familiar with the Breslin Center.
Reigning Class D champion St. Ignace is back, this time in Class C. The reigning runner-up from that class, Saginaw Nouvel, also returns. So too does Athens, a Class D Semifinalist a year ago as well.
But the most discussed player will be the one preparing to make herself most at home. Crystal Falls Forest Park is back for the second time in three seasons and features Miss Basketball winner Alexis Gussert, who has signed with Michigan State University for next season.
All four Class C and D Semifinals will be played Thursday, with all four championship games Saturday.
Semifinals - Thursday
Saginaw Nouvel (20-4) vs. Gobles (26-0), 1 p.m.
Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (20-3) vs. St. Ignace (23-2), 2:50 p.m.
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (20-5) vs. Marine City Cardinal Mooney (19-5), 6 p.m.
Crystal Falls Forest Park (25-0) vs. Athens (22-3), 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 MHSAANetwork.com.
And now, a look at the Semifinalists in Class C and D.
Record/rank: 26-0, No. 6
League finish: First in Southwest Athletic Conference North
Coach: John Curtis, 12th season (183-91)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 49-40 (Quarterfinal) and 39-35 over honorable mention Mendon, 56-52 over New Buffalo in Regional Final, 44-40 over Otsego.
Players to watch: Michaela DeKilder, 5-10 sr. F (15.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.2 spg); Ellen Doyle, 5-10 soph. G (12 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 5.3 apg).
Outlook: Gobles is making its first trip to the MHSAA Semifinals after its second Quarterfinal ever Tuesday. The Tigers dominated the SAC North, winning all of their league games by double digits. Gobles is 46-3 combined over the last two seasons, and DeKilder has been a force throughout. But she has plenty of help – all five starters average at least seven points per game.
GROSSE POINTE WOODS UNIVERSITY LIGGETT
Record/rank: 20-3, unranked
League finish: First in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue
Coach: Omar Ahart, second season (42-6)
Championship history: Class C runner-up 2012 and 2011.
Best wins: 50-47 over No. 1 Blissfield in Quarterfinal, 48-25 over Class D No. 8 Birmingham Roeper.
Players to watch: Jessica Rotzoll, 5-8 jr. F (13.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg). Nia Ahart, 5-7 fr. G (11.6 ppg, 4.6 apg); Lauren Ristovski, 5-9 jr. G (9.8 ppg, 3.9 apg).
Outlook: Three starters return to Breslin after also playing on the 2012 team that finished runner-up, including the team’s lone senior, guard Angelina Evangelista. Sophomore forward Kendall McConico adds another 10.6 points per game to make this lineup full of scoring threats, especially from the perimeter as only one player is taller than 5-9. Rotzoll also had made 40 3-pointers heading into this week.
Record/rank: 23-2, No. 9
League finish: First in Straits Area Conference
Coach: Dorene Ingalls, 15th season (314-59)
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2013), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 54-37 over honorable mention McBain in Quarterfinal, 68-34 over Class D No. 10 Brimley, 58-52 over Detroit Renaissance.
Players to watch: Kelley Wright, 5-10 sr. G (16.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 4.2 apg, 6.7 spg); Abbey Ostman, 5-9 soph. F (12.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.2 spg).
Outlook: The Saints are making their fifth straight trip to Breslin Center and are back in Class C after a one-season hiatus to Class D – where St. Ignace won last season’s championship. Wright was a starter the last two trips to East Lansing as well, and Ostman and senior guards Emily Hinsman (9.1 ppg) and Morgan LaVake (5.3 ppg) also started in that 2013 title game win. Wright is a returning all-stater.
Record/rank: 20-4, No. 10
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Mary Jo Skiendziel, first season (8-0)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2008), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 49-43 and 51-40 (Regional Semifinal) over No. 3 Reese, 47-35 over No. 5 Sandusky in Regional Final, 47-40 over honorable mention St. Louis in Quarterfinal, 57-37 over Class B No. 5 Clare, 53-47 over Class B No. 8 Flint Powers Catholic.
Players to watch: Rachel McInerny, 6-2 sr. C (11.7 ppg), Laurel Jacqmain, 5-7 soph. G (12.4 ppg)
Outlook: There have been some big changes in the Nouvel program since its last trip to Breslin, but plenty has stayed the same as well. Assistant coach Skiendziel was promoted to head coach last month and has kept the team rolling with three starters back from last season’s five-point loss to Manchester in the championship game. McInerney can be a force in the post, while Jacqmain and junior forward Nicole Buckingham also played big parts as starters during last season’s run.
Record/rank: 22-3, No. 5
League finish: First in Big 8 Conference
Coach: Calvin Quist, ninth season (166-53)
Championship history: Class D runner-up 2012.
Best wins: 42-39 over honorable mention St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic in Regional Semifinal, 38-20 over honorable mention Wyoming Potter’s House Christian in Regional Final, 38-30 over Concord.
Players to watch: Audrey Oswalt, 5-9 sr. F (12.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.6 spg); Allison Fuller, 5-7 jr. G (13.5 ppg, 3.5 spg).
Outlook: Athens has become a regular at Finals weekend, with this its third straight trip emerging from a competitive Big 8 Conference. Fuller was named an all-state honorable mention Tuesday. Senior guard Allysha Beal (9.3 ppg) joined Oswalt and Fuller in the starting lineup for last season’s Semifinal loss to Waterford Our Lady, and all three were among that team’s top scorers as well.
CRYSTAL FALLS FOREST PARK
Record/rank: 25-0, No. 1
League finish: First in Skyline Conference
Coach: Jeff Syrjanen, ninth season (169-37)
Championship history: Class D runner-up 1995.
Best wins: 69-56 over No. 2 Posen in Quarterfinal, 69-52 over No. 4 Eben Junction Superior Central in Regional Final, 56-21 over honorable mention Dollar Bay in Regional Semifinal, 82-38 (District Semifinal) and 61-28 over honorable mention Watersmeet.
Players to watch: Alexis Gussert, 6-0 sr. F (29.4 ppg, 7.7 apg, 11.9 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 4.0 spg); Maria Stankewicz, 5-5 soph. G (7.6 ppg, 2.8 apg).
Outlook: Forest Park is making one more run at its first MHSAA championship with one of the leading scorers in MHSAA history in Gussert, who was named Associated Press Class D Player of the Year on Monday. Gussert – who also led the Trojans to the Semifinals as a sophomore – broke a single-season MHSAA record with her 101st 3-pointer in the Quarterfinal. Senior center Kendra Campbell and junior guard Sierra Robarge join Stankewicz in adding 7.5 points per game.
MARINE CITY CARDINAL MOONEY
Record/rank: 19-5, No. 9
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League East
Coach: Susan Everhart, 26th season (record N/A).
Championship history: Class D runner-up 2009.
Best wins: 39-20 over honorable mention Kingston in Regional Final, 43-34, 53-51 and 43-36 (Quarterfinal) over Clarkston Everest Collegiate, 49-34 over Class B No. 6 Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.
Players to watch: Katie Theut, 5-10 sr. G (20.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.4 bpg); Madison Southers, 6-0 sr. C (11 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 5.2 bpg).
Outlook: Cardinal Mooney is back at Breslin for the first time since that runner-up season of 2009 and with a starting lineup featuring four seniors. Theut was named all-state Tuesday and Southers received an honorable mention. The Cardinals feature further frontcourt strength with 5-9 senior forward Lauren Higgins, who averages 10.8 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. Cardinal Mooney played a host of Class A, B and C schools as well, with four losses coming to those more sizable programs.
MOUNT PLEASANT SACRED HEART
Record/rank: 20-5, unranked
League finish: Tied for first in Mid-State Activities Conference
Coach: Damon Brown, sixth season (107-33)
Championship history: Class D runner-up 2008.
Best wins: 49-35 over No. 3 Frankfort in Quarterfinal, 55-40 and 46-34 (District Final) over honorable mention Big Rapids Crossroads Academy, 34-23 over Class C No. 8 Carson City-Crystal.
Players to watch: Sara Hansen, 5-6 sr. G (19.1 ppg, 3.1 apg, 5.4 spg); Averi Gamble, 6-3 soph. C (12.7 ppg 8.0 rpg, 2.3 bpg).
Outlook: The Irish were stopped in the Quarterfinals two of the last four seasons, but broke through with an upset Tuesday. Still, it can’t be considered a huge surprise, given Sacred Heart’s losses – one to Class C Quarterfinalist Saginaw Nouvel, another to Class C No. 8 Carson City Crystal and a third to Class B No. 5 Clare. Hansen is the lone senior, but gets additional help in the backcourt from junior Riley Terwilliger (9.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.7 apg.).
PHOTO: Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart's Sara Hansen (2) will lead the Irish in its first MHSAA Semifinal since 2008.
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.