By Tim Robinson
Special for Second Half
BYRON — Every team refers to itself as a family in athletics.
But the Byron girls basketball team takes that concept to a new level.
There are two sets of sisters, a set of cousins, and three of the four coaches on the team coach their own daughters.
But, assistant coach Brandy Forgie said, there’s more than that.
“The family aspect doesn’t just come from being blood-related,” she said. “We’re all from Byron, born and raised, all but one of us as coaches, too. We kept our families in Byron, raised our kids here. All of our friends here, we have their kids. We started the basketball when they were little. They played together and grew up together.”
Sarah Marvin, who has averaged a double-double the last two seasons, agrees.
“I think it helps because we all know each other,” she said. “We know what agitates some people and what agitates others. Every day we come ready to work, and because we’re so close, we rely on each other to push each other and keep each other accountable to keep working hard.”
So far, so good.
The Eagles sit atop the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference standings and 8-0 overall with a team that has lofty aspirations.
Coach Theresa Marvin, whose fraternal twin daughters are Becky and Sarah, points out that there’s still a long season ahead.
“It’s just keeping it going through the winter,” she said. “You have to get through illnesses and exams in the middle of the winter and just being tired. It’s a long season. For us, the focus is winning the MMAC outright. We tied for the championship the last two years we were in the (Genesee Area Conference), and we tied for the MMAC title last year. We haven’t won an outright league title in a long time.”
Sarah, who plays guard offensively but also defends the post, played four sports last year as a sophomore. She was a two-way lineman on the JV football team, competed in last year’s inaugural Michigan Wrestling Association girls state tournament (at 215 pounds) and took home two MHSAA Finals championships in track & field, breaking school records set by her older sister Jessica and her mother, who competed in the throwing events at the University of Michigan.
Sarah didn’t play football this past fall, and wrestling might be a non-starter this winter.
“We’re focused on what the basketball team can do this year,” Theresa Marvin said as Sarah nodded in agreement. “We don’t want to take away from that.”
The Marvin twins have been playing together since the third grade and enjoy having each other as teammates — and as sounding boards.
“It’s always nice to have someone, even if we do sometimes get at each other like sisters do,” Sarah Marvin said. “But we can take practice home and talk about things that worked or didn’t work on the court. It’s really good to have her there and people you like to be around at practice.”
The other set of sisters on the team, junior Makayla and freshman Makenna Clement, are in an opposite situation. This is the first high school season they have been teammates.
“It’s pretty fun,” Makayla said. “I honestly forget she’s my sister when we’re on the court. We’re one big family. Everyone’s a sister to me.”
To a point.
“Sometimes I give her little pep talks,” Makayla said. “I do get after her sometimes. I’ll say, ‘Shoot the ball!’ I say that to my other teammates, but I don’t get as personal as I do with her.”
“It’s all good,” Makenna said, laughing, “She’s definitely a good resource. She’ll help me on different post moves and tips on better passing. All that.”
During a recent win over Montrose, Sarah Marvin looked to the bench and barked, “MOM!” to get Theresa’s attention, which came as a shock to Theresa Marvin when she was asked about it after the game.
“Did she? That’s not normal,” she said. “Sarah always says ‘Coach.’ She must have said that to get my attention.”
The other family connections are assistant coach Jim Passig and junior Olivia Passig, and cousins Haley (a senior) and junior Allison Hooley.
Brandy Forgie said that, after years of being a travel head coach, she had to adjust to both coaching her daughter Raegan, a senior, and being an assistant.
“In the beginning, it was hard for me to be there and watch someone coach my daughter,” she said. “But it got a lot easier. Coach Marvin is a fantastic coach and she knows how to deal with Raegan now.
Sort of a good cop/bad cop situation?
“Oh, I’m the good cop,” Brandy said as Raegan snickered.
Overall, Raegan added, it’s been a good experience.
“Not a lot of people get to experience (playing for a parent),” she said. “It can be hard sometimes because there are two different relationships (mother/daughter, coach/player) meshing together. But I really enjoy having her there.”
Theresa Marvin, in her sixth year as girls basketball coach, has coached with Passing and Forgie in the Byron youth program for more than a decade.
Marvin coached her oldest daughter, Jessica, during Jessica’s high school career, and coached Sarah from her freshman year on and Becky also as a sophomore.
“You have to be a coach first, absolutely,” she said. “You have to have guidelines, and we’re really good at it. For example, my girls don’t know anything the team doesn’t know beforehand. I think it puts too much pressure on my girls to be a middleman, and that’s not fair to them.”
After the game, Marvin said, basketball is left at the gym, at least in her case.
“When we get into the car, we won’t even talk about the game,” she said. “Other parents get the opportunity as parents to talk to their kids about the game. I don’t do that. My husband (Tim) will. He’ll play the parent role, but I don’t.”
That doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy watching her daughters play.
“I do enjoy that,” she said. “Sometimes, I wish I could be a parent in the stands and just watch them play, because it’s totally different. But my focus on the bench is (on) decisions I need to make for the team. When they’re out there, it’s not, ‘Oh, those are my daughters.’ I’m in basketball coach mode.”
In many ways, the Byron team’s fast start has been years in the making.
“Jim and Brandy and I spent many years and many weekends when these girls were between the fourth and eighth grades taking them around the state in tournaments,” Theresa Marvin said. “Some played on travel teams, but we kept these units together. It’s automatic for them. It’s about chemistry and the way they work together. As a varsity coach, it’s a dream to have a group of girls who grew up playing together and who all get along.”
There’s a long way to go in the 2019-20 season, but the Eagles hope their family ties, both literal and metaphorical, can lift them to new heights when the postseason begins.
PHOTOS: (Top) Theresa Marvin is in her sixth season coaching the Byron varsity, but has coached most of her players including her twin daughters since they were in the third grade. (Middle) The Eagles defend the lane during a 61-43 win over Goodrich on Dec. 6. (Below) This season's Byron girls basketball team. (Top and below photos courtesy of the Byron girls basketball program; middle photo by Terry Lyons.)
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.