Calumet Claims 1st MHSAA Hoops Crown

March 21, 2015

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. 

Click for the full box score and video from the postgame press conference

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.

High School 'Hoop Squad' Close to Heart as Hughes Continues Coaching Climb

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

July 11, 2024

Jareica Hughes had a Hall of Fame collegiate basketball career playing at University of Texas-El Paso and has played professionally overseas, but her most prized possession is something she earned playing high school basketball in Michigan. 

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosA standout at now-closed Southfield-Lathrup High School during the early-to-mid 2000s, Hughes proudly displays a signature symbol of Lathrup’s Class A championship team in 2005. 

“I have my state championship ring on me right now,” said Hughes, now an assistant head coach for the women’s basketball program at UTEP. “I wear this ring every single day. Not so much for the basketball aspect. Inside of the ring it says ‘Hoop Squad.’ It’s more the connection I’ve had with those particular young ladies. Friends that I’ve known since I was kid. Every once in a while when we talk, we go back in time.”

Believe it or not, Hughes and her high school teammates next year will have to go back 20 years to commemorate a run to the title that started when they were freshmen. 

It was a gradual build-up to what was the first girls basketball state championship won by a public school in Oakland County. Lathrup, which has since merged with the former Southfield High School to form Southfield Arts & Technology, remained the only public school in Oakland County to win a state girls basketball title until West Bloomfield did so in 2022 and again this past March. 

Lathrup lost in the District round to Bloomfield Hills Marian during Hughes’ freshman year, and then after defeating Marian in a District Final a year later, lost to West Bloomfield in a Regional Final.

When Hughes was a junior, the team got to the state’s final four, but a bad third quarter resulted in a heartbreaking one-point Semifinal loss to eventual champion Lansing Waverly. 

A year later, when Hughes and other core players such as Brittane Russell, Timika Williams, Dhanmite’ Slappey and Briana Whitehead were seniors, they finished the job and won the Class A crown with a 48-36 win over Detroit Martin Luther King in the Final.

However, the signature moment of that title run actually came during the Semifinal round and was produced by Hughes, a playmaking wizard at point guard who made the team go. 

Trailing by three points during the waning seconds of regulation against Grandville and Miss Basketball winner Allyssa DeHaan – a dominant 6-foot-8 center – Hughes drained a tying 3-pointer from the wing that was well beyond the 3-point line. 

Lathrup went on to defeat Grandville in overtime and prevail against King.

Hughes said the year prior, she passed up on taking a potential winning or tying shot in the Semifinal loss against Waverly, and was reminded of that constantly by coaches and teammates. “I just remember in the huddle before that shot, that just kept ringing in my mind,” she said. “That was special. I cried for weeks not being able to get a shot off (the year before) and leaving the tournament like that.”

Growing up in Detroit, Hughes got into basketball mainly because she had five older brothers and an older sister who played the game. In particular, Hughes highlights older brother Gabriel for getting her into the game and taking her from playground to playground.

“I’m from Detroit,” she said. “We played ball all day long. Sunup to sundown. When the light comes on, you had to run your butt into the house.”

Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center.Hughes played for the Police Athletic League and also at the famed St. Cecilia gym in the summer, developing her game primarily against boys.

“My first team was on a boys team,” she said. “I was a captain on a boys team.” 

The family moved into Lathrup’s district before she began high school. 

Once she helped lead Lathrup to the 2005 championship, she went on to a fine career at UTEP, where she was the Conference USA Player of the Year twice and helped lead the Miners to their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Hughes still holds school records for career assists (599), steals (277) and minutes played (3,777). On Monday, she was named to Conference USA’s 2024 Hall of Fame class. 

After a brief professional career overseas was derailed by a shoulder injury, Hughes said getting into coaching was a natural fit. 

“I had to make the hard decision, and I knew as a kid I wanted to be around basketball,” she said. “Once I made that decision (to quit), I knew I was going to coach.”

Hughes started coaching in the Detroit area, first serving as an assistant at Southfield A&T from 2016-20 and then at Birmingham Groves for a season. She then served as interim head coach at Colby Community College in Kansas before being named an assistant at UTEP in May 2023, a month after her former coach Keitha Adams returned to lead the program after six seasons at Wichita State.  

While fully immersed in her job with UTEP, Hughes’ high school memories in Michigan certainly aren’t going away anytime soon – especially with the 20th anniversary of Lathrup’s championship coming up. 

“We are still close friends because we all essentially grew up together,” she said. “They are still my friends to this day.”

2024 Made In Michigan

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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Southfield-Lathrup’s Jareica Hughes drives to the basket against Detroit Martin Luther King during the 2005 Class A Final; at right, Hughes coaches this past season at UTEP. (Middle) Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center. (UTEP photo courtesy of the UTEP sports information department.)