By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING — The chant "U.P. power" isn't just a catchy phrase that rocks arenas whenever a school from the Upper Peninsula reaches the final round of an MHSAA tournament.
To the Calumet girls' basketball team, it had real meaning on Saturday.
The Copper Kings huddled in their hotel around a television to watch the 10 a.m. Class D Final in which St. Ignace from just north of the Mackinac Bridge rallied from a 20-point third-quarter deficit to beat Pittsford in overtime.
One U.P. team brought home a championship and another was inspired to do the same six hours later.
Unranked Calumet won its first MHSAA girls basketball championship, shaking off an early nine-point deficit to beat fifth-ranked Flint Hamady, 57-49, in the Class C Final on Saturday at the Breslin Center.
Hamady had leads of 17-8 and 19-11 during the first two minutes of the second quarter before Calumet got back in the game on the strength of its 3-point shooting. It wasn't as epic a comeback as St. Ignace's record-setting performance, but the game was on the verge of getting away from the Copper Kings against a talented Hamady team that has won three MHSAA titles.
"We were able to sit in our hotel room this morning and enjoy that St. Ignace game," first-year Calumet coach Jeff Twardzik said. "Hat's off to them and congratulations. They helped us mentally, like big-time. When they went down, we thought, 'Oh, no. This is a U.P. team and we're behind them.' When they chipped away at that and came back and showed how gritty they were, they gave us a lot coming into this game. We can do this. We talked to these kids about the ups and downs of a basketball game and we have to stay consistent."
Calumet's victory gave the U.P. two MHSAA girls basketball champions for the first time in the 42-season history of the tournament. It's happened only four times in boys basketball, the last in 1957 when Negaunee and Chassell won titles.
The initial inspiration for this unlikely championship came many years earlier, when six of Calumet's seniors played on a third-grade team coached by Twardzik.
"Ever since third grade, he said this group would win a state championship this year," said senior guard Alexis Rowe, whose 3-point shooting barrage in the second quarter settled down the Copper Kings.
It no doubt made the 500-mile drive home much sweeter for the Copper Kings, who left town at 9 a.m. Monday to play a Quarterfinal game on Tuesday in Petoskey. They practiced in Gaylord on Wednesday before heading to East Lansing that night to play the next day at Michigan State.
"I've been through this experience before in volleyball," said 5-foot-10 Calumet senior Ellen Twardzik, the daughter of the head coach. "You pack for a week before the Quarterfinals and hope to make it to the Finals. We've lost three years in a row in the Quarterfinals. You have to expect the best. You pack all your gear and all your faith."
All-stater Jalisha Terry had 12 of Hamady's first 17 points, as the Hawks got out to a 17-8 lead with 7:04 left in the second quarter. Calumet responded by going 5 for 9 from 3-point range the rest of the quarter, with Rowe hitting three shots from beyond the arc.
Rowe finished with a season-high 22 points, going 4 for 7 on 3-pointers. She came in averaging 1.8 3-pointers a game.
"I know I'm not a 3-point shooter," Rowe said. "I'm more of an inside shooter. When I feel like I'm going, I know I'm going."
An 8-0 run gave Calumet its first lead at 24-23 late in the first half. After four straight Hamady points, a 3-pointer by Rowe with two seconds left in the second quarter created a 27-27 halftime tie.
Hamady's last lead came with 2:50 left in the third quarter when a 3-point play by Terry put the Hawks ahead, 34-33. Calumet led 37-36 going into the fourth quarter, then opened up some breathing room by starting the final period with a 9-0 run. Two free throws by Leah Kiilunen with 4:24 left in the fourth quarter gave Calumet its biggest lead at 46-36.
Hamady was able to score off turnovers to get back in the game, cutting the Copper Kings' advantage to 47-44 on two free throws by Sasha Penn with 1:52 remaining.
Calumet came up with two huge rebounds off of its own missed free throws, the first by Terilynne Budreau after Abby Bjorn went 1 for 2 from the line and the next by Twardzik after Clara Loukus went 1 for 2. Calumet outrebounded Hamady, 42-29.
"It was more of a mentality that I'm going to get that and you're not going to stop me," said Twardzik, who had eight of her 11 rebounds on the offensive glass.
A 3-pointer by Deajah Cofield got Hamady within 55-49 with 53 seconds left, but the Hawks didn't score again.
"It's still been a good season," Hamady coach Keith Smith said. "We would've still loved to have finished on top. The girls have nothing to be ashamed of."
Terry, a junior guard, finished with 26 points.
"I'm taking each loss as a lesson to be learned," she said.
Before this season, Calumet had won only one Regional championship, losing 57-43 to Mount Pleasant in the 1977 Class B Quarterfinals.
"It's just going to breed more success," said coach Twardzik, who led the junior varsity team before this season. "These kids, even before we did this, the enthusiasm they are giving back to our community. In the third through sixth grades in the elementary program, we have 81 young ladies coming out from a small town. It has everything to do with these guys. They give up every Saturday for these young women to come in and learn basketball and have fun along the way. It's going to mean a ton. I hope we can keep this ball rolling."
Calumet finished 24-2, its two losses coming to rival Houghton, which was a Class B Regional finalist.
Hamady finished 26-2.
PHOTOS: (Top) Calumet coach Jeff Twardzik holds the MHSAA championship trophy up to his players Saturday. (Middle) Calumet’s Alexis Rowe works to get past Hamady’s Jalisha Terry.
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.