C-D Preview: Perfection & Possibilities

March 15, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

One of the state’s most impressive winning streaks in any sport this decade will take the main stage again this weekend at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.

Reigning Class D champion Pittsford will attempt to finish a second straight undefeated season and build on a run that has seen the Wildcats win 101 of their last 103 games over the last four winters.

Meanwhile, four of eight semifinalists in Class C and D are seeking their first championships ever, with a fifth playing for its first title in nearly four decades.

All four Class C and D Semifinals will be played Thursday, with all four championship games Saturday. 

Semifinals - Thursday
Class C

Detroit Edison PSA (19-5) vs. Flint Hamady (19-5)
, 1 p.m. 
Pewamo-Westphalia (23-2) vs. Maple City Glen Lake (23-3), 2:50 p.m.

Class D
Engadine (19-5) vs. Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (17-9),
6 p.m. 
Pittsford (26-0) vs. Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (25-1), 7:50 p.m.

Finals - Saturday
Class A - Noon
Class B - 6 p.m.
Class C - 4 p.m. 
Class D - 10 a.m.

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, A and C Finals on the network’s PLUS channel and Class B on the primary channel. 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. Click on the name of the school to see that team’s full schedule and results from this season. (Statistics are through teams' Regional Finals.) The Girls Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System.

Class C

Record/rank: 19-5, No. 5 
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Monique Brown, sixth season (80-35)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 58-42 over No. 10 Blissfield in the Quarterfinal, 43-39 over Flint Hamady 58-55 over Detroit Mumford, 57-56 over Class A No. 6 Southfield Arts & Technology, 57-45 over Chicago Whitney Young.
Players to watch: Gabrielle Elliott, 5-10 fr. G (17.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.2 spg); Rickea Jackson, 6-3 soph. G (17.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.1 apg, 3.4 spg, 2.3 bpg).
Outlook: It’s difficult to not point out immediately that Edison has no seniors, two juniors, one sophomore and nine freshmen – and that they’ve been tested this season against top teams from Classes A and B as well as C. All five losses came to larger schools, including two still alive this weekend. Elliott – one of three freshman starters – made the all-state first team and Jackson was named to the second, while Brown was named Coach of the Year by The Associated Press.

Record/rank: 19-5, unranked 
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference Blue.
Coach: Keith Smart, 15th season (332-44)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2010), two runner-up finishes. 
Best wins: 38-36 over No. 1 Sandusky in the Regional Final, 75-67 over Dearborn Heights Robichaud, 51-46 over Goodrich, 81-27 over Lake Fenton, 55-50 over Flint Beecher in the District Final.
Players to watch: Deajah Cofield, 5-7 sr. G (15 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 5.0 apg); Sasha Penn, 5-7 jr. G (statistics not available for Penn).
Outlook: Hamady was unranked after taking losses to one Class A and three Class B teams, plus Detroit Edison. But Cofield was named Class C co-Player of the Year by The Associated Press and Penn and senior Krystal Rice earned all-state honorable mentions (although Rice is out for the season with a knee injury). This is Hamady’s third Semifinal this decade; the Hawks were Class C runners-up in 2015.

Record/rank: 23-3, unranked
League finish: First in Northwest Conference.
Coach: Jason Bradford, ninth season (146-58)
Championship history: Class D champion 1978, runner-up 1979. 
Best wins: 63-52 over No. 7 St. Ignace in the Quarterfinal, 50-44 over No. 2 Traverse City St. Francis in the District Semifinal, 55-40 and 42-38 over Kingsley.
Players to watch: Kelly Bunke, 5-6 sr. G (10.3 ppg, 4,4 rpg, 2.9 apg); Jennifer LaCross, 5-8 jr. F (10.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.0 apg).
Outlook: Glen Lake has won 20 games two seasons in a row for Bradford, with two league titles, and has shown it belongs among the elite in the postseason with two wins over ranked opponents, including avenging its opening-night defeat to St. Francis. The only other losses were to eventual Class B quarterfinalist Cadillac and in overtime to McBain. This will be Glen Lake’s first Semifinal since 1995. Bunek earned an all-state honorable mention.

Record/rank: 23-2, No. 6
League finish: Second in Central Michigan Athletic Conference.
Coach: Steve Eklund, eighth season (154-33) 
Championship history: Class C runner-up 1983 and 1984. 
Best wins: 40-31 and 38-31 over honorable mention Laingsburg, 50-27 over Ithaca, 55-34 over Springport in the Regional Final, 44-28 over Bath in the District Semifinal.
Players to watch: Emily Spitzley, 5-10 jr. F (13.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.2 spg); Hannah Spitzley, 5-10 fr. F (8.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.5 spg).
Outlook: P-W is returning to the Semifinal for the first time since 2002, avenging its two losses by beating CMAC champ Bath to open the postseason. The Pirates start two seniors but also two freshmen – guard Ellie Droste adds 8.6 points and 2.5 steals per game. Defense is this team’s strong point; Schoolcraft (19) in the Quarterfinal marked the 15th time this season P-W held a team under 30 points, and the Pirates have given up more than 31 only twice (in those losses to Bath). Emily Spitzley made the all-state second team.

Class D

Record/rank: 19-5, honorable mention
League finish: Second in Eastern Upper Peninsula Athletic Conference.
Coach: Roger French, seventh season (79-64)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 44-41 over No. 8 Crystal Falls Forest Park in the Quarterfinal, 50-48 (Regional Final) and 40-39 over honorable mention Pickford in the Regional Final, 60-55 and 63-57 over No. 10 Cedarville
Players to watch: Olivia Vaughn, 5-9 sr. F (18.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.2 spg); Aubrey Simmons, 5-10 jr. C (12 ppg, 12.7 rpg).
Outlook: Engadine is playing in its second Semifinals after also making the final weekend in 2005. The Eagles were one of three Class D teams from their EUP conference to receive state poll votes and emerged with eight wins over their last nine games. Vaughn and starting forward Keely Fuller are the only seniors, while freshman guard Sophie Vaughn – Olivia’s sister – adds 8.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Engadine won only four games four seasons ago, but has upped its win total every season since.

Record/rank: 25-1, No. 2
League finish: First in Mid-State Activities Conference.
Coach: Damon Brown (ninth season (178-41)
Championship history: Class D champion 2014, runner-up 2016 and 2008.
Best wins: 48-37 over Frankfort in the Quarterfinal, 52-25 over Fruitport Calvary Christian in the Regional Final, 23-17 over Carson City-Crystal.
Players to watch: Scout Nelson, 5-9 soph. G (13.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.1 apg, 4.0 spg); Sophie Ruggles, 6-0 jr. F (14 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.4 spg).
Outlook: Few Class D teams would have this kind of success the year after graduating an all-state center and three-year starting guard. But the Irish rose again in a league featuring 19-win Class C Carson City-Crystal, and Frankfort was the only playoff opponent to score more than 30 points. Nelson and Ruggles made the all-state first team and with junior Hadyn Terwilliger (8.3 ppg) started in last season’s Class D Final.

Record/rank: 17-9, unranked
League finish: Fifth in Tri-Valley Conference West
Coach: Brian Blaine, first season (17-9)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 56-48 over Waterford Our Lady in the Quarterfinal, 44-39 over Portland St. Patrick in the Regional Semifinal, 56-34 over Bay City All Saints in the District Final, 45-39 over Hemlock.
Players to watch: Meghan Blaine, 5-10 soph. F (12.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.7 apg); Rylee Pankow, 5-10 sr. C (10.ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.0 spg).
Outlook: MLS may not have been the pick to advance farthest from the mostly Class B-C TVC West that had four teams total win at least 16 games. But the Cardinals have won 10 straight games and did make the Quarterfinals as recently as 2012, although this will be the program’s first Semifinal. Meghan Blaine can also score from the outside, with 46 3-pointers entering the week, and total six players have scored at least 12 points in a game this season.

Record/rank: 26-0, No. 1 
League finish: First in Southern Central Athletic Association East
Coach: Chris Hodos, fifth season (117-8)
Championship history: Class D champion 2016, runner-up 2015.
Best wins: 62-19 over No. 6 St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran in the Quarterfinal, 59-47 over Manchester, 59-33 over Bellevue, 57-39 over Grass Lake.
Players to watch: Maddie Clark, 5-9 sr. F (16.4 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 3.4 spg); Jaycie Burger, 5-9 sr. G (19.2 ppg, 5.3 apg, 3.2 spg, 62 3-pointers).
Outlook: Pittsford’s 53-game winning streak is just short of making the MHSAA record book list, and it’s four-season run of 101-2 can’t have many rivals although that statistic hasn’t been kept. Clark was named Class D Player of the Year by The Associated Press and Burger also a first-team all-stater as both continued to star in leading their team to Breslin for the third straight season. Junior guard Marissa Shaw adds another 8.6 points and 6.2 steals per game, and she’d made 56 3-pointers entering this week. 

PHOTO: Pittsford celebrates last season's Class D championship at the Breslin Center.

Lansing Catholic Closes Season With Memorable Victory Close to Home

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 18, 2023

EAST LANSING – The Lansing Catholic girls basketball team took a short drive to end a long wait.

Playing just three miles from their high school, the Cougars defeated Frankenmuth 43-29 Saturday at the Breslin Center to win the MHSAA Division 2 Final. It was the first Finals title for the program since 1995.

“It felt like homecourt advantage a little bit,” Lansing Catholic senior guard Hannah Pricco said. “Our bus trip wasn’t super long. It just kind of felt like we were coming to our own court.”

The Cougars treated it that way, dominating from the beginning of the matchup in their first Finals trip since that 1995 title. They scored the game’s first 11 points and never looked back.

The Cougars’ Anna Richards (10) attempts to get a shot up over Frankenmuth’s Lexi Boyke.“This is, as you can imagine, extremely surreal,” Lansing Catholic coach Kacee Reid said. “You’re going through literally every emotion on the bench, especially in a game like that. Frankenmuth is making such a great comeback, and we knew they were going to fight to the end. To go through the anger and sadness and happiness, and now it’s over and we’ve won it. It’s just been a rollercoaster of emotions, and I can’t describe the pride I have in these girls.”

It was the second meeting between the two teams, with Lansing Catholic taking the first 74-42 on Feb. 2. But Reid wasn’t going to let her team come in overconfident.

“They didn’t get here by accident,” Reid said. “They’re in the state championship because they’re playing their best ball of the year. We played them a month and a half ago. … We’re a totally different team, and we knew they were a totally different team. We knew they had been playing some really good basketball, and it didn’t matter at all what that first outcome was. We knew this was going to be a battle.”

Lansing Catholic (24-5) never trailed, and led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter. Leah Richards led the Cougars with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Anna Richards had 14 points. Gabby Halliwill added seven.

The Cougars were spurred by their defense throughout, holding Frankenmuth to 9 of 36 shooting from the field and forcing 13 turnovers.

“For us, defensively, we had to switch it up,” Reid said. “We had to keep switching up between man and zone. They were making adjustments and we couldn’t really sit in one thing for too long; they got comfortable. That’s a credit to their coaching staff always making adjustments. We had to continue to switch things up defensively and try to hopefully make their shooters second-guess their shot, or maybe not know where we were coming from.”

Frankenmuth (25-3) didn’t go away, despite trailing by double digits for the majority of the game. 

That was helped by Lansing Catholic shooting 1 of 11 from the field in the third quarter, and going scoreless for the final 5:26 of the frame.

Tessa Roe (12) works to get past Clare Conzelmann and to the basket.The Eagles cut the lead to seven with 2:45 to play on a steal and layup from Clare Conzelmann, but never got closer.

“There was always belief no matter what detriment we got ourselves in,” Frankenmuth senior Lexi Boyke said. “I wouldn’t want to choose any other girls to play with and be in with at that point. I think we fought back and really prided ourselves on, ‘We can still do it.’ We didn’t stop fighting until the end.”

Lansing Catholic always figured Frankenmuth would make a run to get into the game, but was ready when it came.

“We knew they were going to make runs, we knew we weren’t going to hold them to seven points the whole game,” Anna Richards said. “We knew in the third quarter they were going to score, so we just had to stay composed, work the ball around on offense to get the good shots that we wanted.”

Boyke, who scored Frankenmuth’s first 10 points and was its only scorer well into the third quarter, finished with 16. She also reached 1,000 career points in the game, and had six rebounds, while Izzy Bernthal had seven.

Frankenmuth was making its first Finals appearance since winning the Class C title in 1996, one year after Lansing Catholic. 

“That’s a really good Lansing Catholic team, and you’ve seen that from their postseason run and beating an undefeated West Catholic team, and tonight finishing their season off with a state championship. So, congratulations to them,” Frankenmuth coach Joe Jacobs said. “I’m super proud of our kids. They didn’t quit tonight. They could have. … Fun experience, one that we want to treasure forever, but the motivation to come back again is here after tonight’s loss.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Lansing Catholic celebrates its Division 2 championship Saturday night at Breslin Center. (Middle) The Cougars’ Anna Richards (10) attempts to get a shot up over Frankenmuth’s Lexi Boyke. (Below) Tessa Roe (12) works to get past Clare Conzelmann and to the basket.