Bussell Bolstering All-Around Game to Go with Stellar Scoring Skills

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

December 27, 2022

Sophia Bussell doesn’t want to be known just as a shooter. 

Southeast & BorderBut it’s hard to ignore her shooting talents. 

The Monroe High School sophomore recently set two single-game records for the Trojans – most 3-pointers made in a game with 10 and most points in a game with 36. She’s off to a great start in her career with a lot of games – and shots – to go. 

“I personally just love to shoot,” Bussell said. “But I am glad that this season I get to show that I’m more than just a shooter.” 

Bussell burst onto the Monroe County basketball scene last season when she joined her sister Olivia, a senior, on the Trojans varsity. Sophia started gaining local attention right from the opening tip. In January, she etched her name in the school record book when she scored 29 points and made a school-record eight 3-pointers at Ypsilanti Lincoln. 

This season Lincoln was once again the opponent when Bussell went on her hot streak Dec. 13. Her 3-pointer with six seconds left gave Monroe a 58-56 lead – and a school-record 36 points as her team claimed the victory. 

Bussell said Lincoln was in a zone defense, something she rarely sees. 

“In the previous games, teams were face-guarding and double-teaming me,” she said. “This was the first team this season who played zone on us. As a shooter, when you see a zone defense, you get excited because it opens up a lot more shots and opportunities to score.” 

Bussell didn’t waste any of them. 

“My first couple shots went in, which helped build confidence to keep shooting from deep,” she said.  

Her teammates kept feeding her the ball, and she kept shooting. She made 10 of 18 3-point attempts that night. 

Bussell was aware of how many 3-pointers she had made because Monroe’s team manager, Emily Eshenroder, was tracking every shot. 

“She let me know every timeout,” Bussell said. 

Bussell, with the ball, considers her next move. It’s been an adjustment this season for Bussell. Last year as a ninth grader, she had her older sister with her every step of the way.  

“Being able to play my first year of high school basketball with my sister meant the world,” she said. “It took a lot of pressure off me because the defense focused in on her.” 

This year, she’s the leader of the team. 

“At first it was kind of difficult not having my sister around, because the defense started focusing on me, but it’s only going to make me a better player over time,” she said. 

Monroe head coach John Mason, who took over the team mid-season last winter, said Bussell continues to improve, both as a shooter and as an all-around player. 

“It is definitely hard not having big sister around, but she is learning how to deal with it by just playing,” he said. “Our practice environment has a great group of kids that enjoy each other. It’s only a matter of time before this group takes off.” 

Monroe is 2-6 and off until January when the Trojans resume play in the rugged Southeastern Conference Red. 

Bussell is already a veteran on the court. She started playing basketball in the third grade, going to camps in the Monroe area. 

“Whatever camps were doing something (I’d go),” she said. 

By the fifth grade, Bussell was playing travel basketball. She joined the Michigan Mystics out of Clio when she was in the seventh grade and continues with them during the offseason. 

Mason said Bussell is always in the gym and always shooting. 

“Her and a few others stay late after practice and work on their game,” he said. “We work on getting extra shots up that resembles what she will have in games. And before she leaves practice, she hits about 20 makes from the volleyball line.” 

Bussell, who also plays volleyball for Monroe, said basketball has always been a big part of her life. She has long dreamed of playing college basketball, something the 5-foot-7 guard seems to be well on the way toward achieving. 

“I have many goals in basketball, including becoming a strong mental player and a good teammate,” she said. 

For now, she’s not worried about setting more records or how many shots she faces. She also knows defenses will focus on her more and more as her numbers grow. 

“I just need to keep working hard,” she added, “and everything will slowly fall in place for my next two seasons.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Monroe’s Sophia Bussell reaches for a loose ball last season against Temperance Bedford. (Middle) Bussell, with the ball, considers her next move. (Top photo by Dana Stiefel; middle photo by John Discher.)

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

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)