Breslin Bound: Girls District Preview

February 27, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We’ve spent the regular season trying to get a grasp of which teams might be the ones to beat once the MHSAA Tournament began.

Starting tonight, every girls basketball team in Michigan gets to start over – and those favorites can show if what they’ve accomplished the last three months will carry over to the most important three weeks of this winter.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll alter the format of our Breslin Bound reports – powered by MI Student Aid – still looking at some of the key results from last week but also at three of the most eye-catching brackets in each class for the upcoming week of playoffs. This week, that means we’ll take closer looks at 12 Districts total in addition to some scores from last week that could be telling as we roll into March.

Week in Review

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

1. Detroit Martin Luther King 48 Farmington Hills Mercy 45 (OT) – Mercy gave the Crusaders their toughest challenge in two months, but King won the Operation Friendship headliner to finish 19-1.

2. Bark River-Harris 73, Crystal Falls Forest Park 60 – Not only did the Broncos upset a Class D championship favorite, but they also ended up finishing ahead of the Trojans for the Skyline Central Conference West title.

3. Traverse City St. Francis 49, Gaylord St. Mary 39 – The Lake Michigan Conference co-champ downed the Ski Valley Conference winner in a matchup of teams that are a combined 37-3.

4. Hartland 61, Wayne Memorial 48 – The Eagles went from second in the West division last season to overall Kensington Lakes Activities Association champions with this win Friday.

5. Saginaw Heritage 52, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 22 – The Hawks finished 19-1 with this Saginaw Valley League crossover win over South champion Carman-Ainsworth, which suffered two of its three losses this season to Heritage.

Districts at a Glance

These could be among our most competitive brackets. Host sites are in bold:


Grand Haven (14-6), Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills (5-15), Grand Rapids Union (2-17), Muskegon (11-9), Muskegon Mona Shores (17-3), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (15-5).

The three Muskegon teams took turns pushing each other this winter in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Black as Mona Shores won the league title, Reeths-Puffer was second and Muskegon High finished third. The Sailors – led by Miss Basketball finalist Jordan Walker – won a District title last year and made the Regional Final, and this season avenged their lone league loss to Reeths-Puffer on Jan. 20 with a two-point victory in the rematch Feb. 17. Grand Haven was the runner-up to East Kentwood in the O-K Red and hardly would be a surprise champion with wins this season over Reeths-Puffer and Muskegon (and an 11-point loss to Mona Shores.)

Saginaw Heritage
Bay City Central (4-16), Bay City Western (13-7), Midland (14-6), Midland Dow (18-2), Mount Pleasant (7-13), Saginaw Heritage (19-1). 

Heritage and Dow shared the Saginaw Valley League North title, so it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the winner of a Wednesday Semifinal between the two determines the eventual champion of this District. Heritage won the first meeting by three in overtime, but Dow won the rematch by two Feb. 10. Midland, on the other side of the bracket, could be ready to pounce in the championship game if that Wednesday winner has a letdown.

Auburn Hills Avondale (14-6), Birmingham Groves (18-2), Birmingham Seaholm (9-11), Bloomfield Hills (19-1), Bloomfield Hills Marian (15-5), Troy (6-14).

Bloomfield Hills has won 18 straight since losing early to Caledonia, running the table in the Oakland Activities Association White and earning a notable one-point nonleague win over Clarkston along the way. That’s a jump from 14-7 a year ago, when the Black Hawks fell in their District opener to Marian. The Mustangs went on to reach the Regional Final in 2016, and remain among the elite in Class A – especially considering three of this season’s losses came to Detroit Catholic League champion Farmington Hills Mercy. Bloomfield Hills and Marian would meet in the District Final this week – but Avondale will try to break into the mix as well.


Allendale (1-19), Coopersville (8-12), Hamilton (19-1), Holland Christian (16-4), Hudsonville Unity Christian (12-8), Zeeland West (9-11).

The top four finishers from the O-K Green will square off again, with Hamilton coming off a perfect league run but with a one-point win over Unity in January and a two-pointer over Holland Christian last month. Hamilton and Unity meet in the 5:30 opener tonight. Coopersville, fourth in the O-K Blue, comes in with five wins over its last eight games.

Birch Run
Birch Run (17-3), Bridgeport (7-13), Carrollton (5-15), Frankenmuth (15-5), Saginaw Swan Valley (15-5). 

The most intriguing matchup would come in the District Semifinal, where the host Panthers could see rival Frankenmuth for the first time since breaking the Eagles’ 105-game winning streak in the Tri-Valley Conference East on Feb. 7. But Birch Run must first fend off Swan Valley, which tied for second in the TVC Central behind undefeated Freeland but got within a point of beating the Falcons in their most recent meeting Jan. 31.

Midland Bullock Creek
Bay City John Glenn (16-4), Essexville Garber (13-7), Freeland (20-0), Midland Bullock Creek (11-9), Sanford Meridian Early College (1-19). 

Freeland has won five straight District titles but will face its biggest test right away tonight in John Glenn, which eliminated the Falcons in the Regional Final last season on the way to making the Class B Semifinals. Garber in the District Semifinal and likely Bullock Creek in the championship game will give whichever team emerges tonight a few more notable obstacles this week.


Carson City-Crystal
Bath (17-3), Byron (16-4), Carson City-Crystal (17-2), Dansville (1-19), Laingsburg (17-3), Pewamo-Westphalia (18-2). 

It would be easy, yet unwise, to look at this District strictly from the point of view that it includes the top three teams from the Central Michigan Athletic Conference, led by champion Bath. The Bees’ losses certainly were impressive – to Class A Howell, Class B favorite Ypsilanti Arbor Prep and to Laingsburg by a bucket. But host Carson City-Crystal has an argument as the favorite; it finished runner-up in the Mid-State Activities Conference to Class D power Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart and split with the Irish. Byron, meanwhile, shared the championship in the Genesee Area Conference Blue and takes on the Eagles tonight.

Gwinn (4-15), Ishpeming (15-5), Munising (20-0), Negaunee (16-4). 

There are only four teams at this District, but it’s quite a group. Munising has won all of its games by at least 13 points and all but one by at least 20. The Mustangs are led by a strong senior class that won last season’s District but was stopped by Crystal Falls Forest Park in the Regional; Forest Park is in Class D this season, and regardless Munising beat the Trojans in that 13-point victory. Negaunee and Ishpeming finished second and third, respectively, in the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference and are formidable as well; Negaunee won its District in 2016.  

Genesee (9-9), Kingston (18-2), Marlette (10-9), Millington (11-9), Reese (18-2), Vassar (2-18), Sandusky (20-0).

We’ve mentioned more than once this season the strength of Class C in the Thumb, and some of those contenders will face off immediately this week. Undefeated Sandusky is on one side of this bracket and could see the winner of a Reese/Kingston Semifinal – although Millington surely will give Kingston a challenge tonight. Sandusky has wins over Marlette (twice), Reese and Kingston this season and hasn’t allowed an opponent to come closer than 10 points.


Auburn Hills Oakland Christian
Auburn Hills Oakland Christian (7-12), Clarkston Everest Collegiate (9-10), Novi Franklin Road Christian (16-4), Waterford Our Lady (15-5).

Our Lady is coming off losses to Class C Royal Oak Shrine and Class B Livonia Ladywood, but made the Class D Semifinals last season and prepped earlier this winter with defeats to Class B Detroit Country Day and Harper Woods Chandler Park and Class A Clarkston. Still, the Lakers could get an early test in Wednesday’s Semifinal against Franklin Road Christian, which has doubled its win total from last season when it won a District title.

Lake Linden-Hubbell
Baraga (17-2), Chassell (15-5), Dollar Bay (8-12), Lake Linden-Hubbell (4-16), Ontonagon (9-11), Painesdale-Jeffers (14-6). 

All but Ontonagon are from the Copper Mountain Conference’s Copper Country division, so it’s expected the field will be chasing league champion Baraga again. The Vikings did split with runner-up Painesdale-Jeffers during the regular season and got by Chassell by only two points in their second game, so this week could be tightly-contested. Chassell won the District a year ago.

Cedarville (12-8), DeTour (12-7), Mackinac Island (4-11), Pickford (16-4). 

Four of six teams in the Eastern Upper Peninsula Athletic Conference won at least 12 games during the regular season, and three of them are in this District. Pickford downed DeTour by 15 and nine in their meetings and split with Cedarville, winning the rematch Feb. 2. The Panthers are playing for a third straight District title.

PHOTO: Muskegon Mona Shores and Muskegon High, facing off earlier this season, are together in one of the strongest Class A Districts this week. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)

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.)