By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – The way Canton wins would be easy to overlook, if not for the key word in that statement.
It’s become impossible to ignore the defensive-minded Chiefs, who entered this postseason as only an honorable mention in the final Associated Press Class A poll – and advanced to their first MHSAA Final on Friday at the Breslin Center.
Canton prides itself on defense, giving up only 28 points per game this season.
And the Chiefs made that average stick in handing No. 4 Grand Ledge a 35-28 defeat to advance to Saturday’s championship game against Bloomfield Hills Marian.
“Sometimes we haven’t been thought of as a leading team or whatever, underestimated,” Canton senior center Taylor Hunley said. “It’s great to work so hard to make the final day of the season and be able to spend as much time with each other as possible.”
The Chiefs just missed advancing to the Class A championship games in both 2009 and 2010. But this team is different in that its run is a bit unexpected.
Canton’s only losses were to Marian, Mercy, and a couple more contenders in Grosse Pointe South and Waterford Mott. But it was lack of flashiness in their wins that maybe made this team easier to forget – and yet now, unforgettable.
“We always talk about playing on the last day. The first two (Canton) teams that came, that was sort’ve expected because they were ranked in the top three all year and there was a lot of pressure to get here,” Canton coach Brian Samulski said. “These guys have really been able to enjoy this run they’ve put us on. There’s no real pressure. No one talked about them. But we refuse to lose and keep plugging away, and go from there.”
The first few minutes Friday ended up a good indicator of what was to come; Grand Ledge scored the game’s first basket, but not until more than three minutes had been played.
The Comets entered the week with three players averaging double figures scoring – senior sisters Hannah (15 ppg) and Lindsay Orwat (13.4) and 6-foot-3 junior Cori Crocker (10.7). As a team, Grand Ledge averaged nearly 58 points per game before Friday.
But the trio combined for only 21 points, led by Lindsay Orwat’s nine.
“Me and my sister love to shoot off ball screens, but they were right there in our faces,” Hannah Orwat said. “We’d dump it in to Cori, and there would be five girls on her. We couldn’t get in a flow.”
The teams identically took 39 shots, both making 11. But whereas Canton has been used to this kind of game, the Chiefs could sense by the second quarter that the Comets were getting frustrated.
They were knotted 19-19 heading into the fourth quarter before Hunley and senior Paige Aresco keyed an 8-0 run that seemingly put this low-scoring game out of reach for Grand Ledge.
“A lot of great teams are focused on offense, offense, offense. And then they come up against us,” Aresco said. “We’ve done a great job shutting them down, and it’s been kinda shocking for them, I think.”
The Comets, who will graduate six players, were in their first Semifinal appearance. They finished 24-3.
“This group of Grand Ledge girls has been going to school together their whole lives, and we kept focusing on that as the year went on,” Grand Ledge coach David Jones said. “Experiencing this together, being together, we’re proud of accomplishing getting this far. And a lot of the credit goes to this senior class.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Canton’s Paige Aresco (14) works to drive against Grand Ledge’s Hannah Orwat. (Middle) Orwat searches for an open teammate as two Chiefs converge.
HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Grand Ledge grabs a 17-15 third-quarter lead against Canton on a pull-up jumper by Lindsay Orwat. (2) Canton scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to break the game open. This layup by Aresco starts the run.
We finish our “Title IX at 50” this week highlighting the latest Detroit Edison basketball star – who will no doubt continue to dazzle now that she’s moved on to the college ranks.
Ruby Whitehorn became the fourth-straight Miss Basketball Award winner from Edison last winter on the way to leading the Pioneers to the Division 2 championship. The 6-foot guard also was a contributor off the bench as a freshman when Edison won the Division 2 title in 2019, and the Pioneers were 23-0 in 2020 when that season was ended due to COVID-19.
Edison was 80-4 total over her four seasons on varsity. Whitehorn is continuing her career at Clemson University.
"It means everything to me, but it’s because of everyone who got me to this point – my coaches and teammates and (everyone else).
"They’ve just helped me along the way, and it feels good to give back to them."
The MHSAA will conclude its yearlong celebration of Title IX with this weekend’s 25th Women in Sports Leadership Conference in Lansing. The event remains the first, largest and longest-running of its kind in the country.
This year’s conference is themed “Power of the Past – Force of the Future” and is again sold out, as Crowne Plaza Lansing West will be filled Sunday and Monday mostly by Michigan high school female student-athletes but also administrators, coaches, officials, trainers and others who contribute to school sports.
Second Half's weekly Title IX Celebration posts are sponsored by Michigan Army National Guard.
Previous Title IX at 50 Spotlights
Sept. 27: Eliana Bommarito's Story - Read
Sept. 20: Anna Tracey's Story - Read
Sept. 13: Lola Korpi's Story - Read
Sept. 6: Meah Bajt's Story - Read
Aug. 30: Morgan Brunner's Story - Read
Aug. 23: Ava Brizard's Story - Read
Aug. 16: Paige Miller's Story - Read
Aug. 9: Gracie Olsen's Story - Read
Aug. 2: Maddy Stern's Story - Read
July 26: Reese Miller's Story - Read
July 19: Macy Irelan's Story - Read
July 12: Bridget Boczar's Story - Read
July 5: Ella Boose's Story - Read
June 28: Kaila Jackson's Story - Read
June 23: We Celebrate Our Past, We Look Forward to Our Future - Read
June 21: Assistant Directors Have Been Difference Makers - Read
June 14: Girls Lacrosse Finals Officials Set Empowering Example - Read
June 7: From Gymnastics to Wrestling, Girls Opportunities Continue to Grow - Read
May 31: Mumford Sprinter's Magnificent 2006 Final Remains Unmatched - Read
May 24: Scane, Whiteside Alone on 400-Goal, 500-Point Girls Lacrosse Lists - Read
May 17: Over 8 Days in 1988, Pair of Champs Set No. 1 Singles Standard - Read
May 10: Portage Central's Tarpley Scores as State's Superstar, U.S. Soccer Hero - Read
May 3: Prychitko 'Legend In Her Own Time,' Legend for All Time - Read
April 26: Braddock vs. Verdun Still Striding Among All-Time Sprint Matchups - Read
April 19: Holmes' Strikeout Record Rarely Approached, May Be Unbreakable - Read
April 12: Anticipation High as 45,000 Girls Return to Spring Sports - Read
April 5: Regina's Laffey Retiring as Definition of Legendary - Read
March 29: Edison's Whitehorn named 2022 Miss Basketball - Read
March 22: Carney-Nadeau Sets Girls Hoops Standard with 78-Win Streak - Read
March 15: Binder Among Voices Telling Our Story on MHSAA Network - Read
March 8: 28 Years, Thousands of Cheers - Read
March 1: Kearsley Rolls On Among Girls Bowling's Early Successes - Read
Feb. 22: Marquette Ties Record for Swim & Dive Finals Success - Read
Feb. 15: Jaeger's 2004 Winter Run Created Lasting Connection - Read
Feb. 8: Marian's Cicerone to Finish Among All-Time Elite - Read
Feb. 1: WISL Award Honors Builders of State's Girls Sports Tradition - Read
Jan. 25: Decades Later, Edwards' Legend Continues to Grow - Read
Jan. 18: Iron Mountain Completes Championship Climb - Read
Jan. 11: Harrold's Achievement Heralds Growth of Girls Wrestling - Read
Dec. 20: Competitive Cheer Gives Michigan Plenty to Cheer About - Read
Dec. 14: Evelyn's Game Had Plenty of Magic - Read
Dec. 7: Council Term Ends, But Leinaar Leaves Lasting Impact - Read
Nov. 30: Basketball Season Ready to Add to Rich Tradition - Read
Nov. 23: Marysville Builds Winning Streak Yet to be Challenged - Read
Nov. 16: Wroubel Has Championed Girls School Sports from Their Start - Read
Nov. 9: Pioneer's Joyce Legendary in Michigan, National Swim History - Read
Nov. 2: Royal Oak's Finch Leading Way on Football Field - Read
Oct. 26: Coach Clegg Sets Championship Standard at Grand Blanc - Read
Oct. 19: Rockford Girls Set Pace, Hundreds After Have Continued to Chase - Read
Oct. 12: Bedford Volleyball Pioneer Continues Blazing Record-Setting Trail - Read
Oct. 5: Warner Paved Way to Legend Status with Record Rounds - Read
Sept. 28: Taylor Kennedy Gymnasts Earn Fame as 1st Champions - Read
Sept. 21: Portage Northern Star Byington Becomes Play-by-Play Pioneer - Read
Sept. 14: Guerra/Groat Legacy Continues to Serve St. Philip Well - Read
Sept. 7: Best-Ever Conversation Must Include Leland's Glass - Read
Aug. 31: We Will Celebrate Many Who Paved the Way - Read