As Capac's Win Wait Ends, Energy & Enthusiasm Drive New Era

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

December 21, 2021

The Capac girls basketball team and its new coach, Ryan Rossi, had been waiting a long time for the events of Dec. 11.

For Rossi, it was the end of a 20-month wait for his wedding, which was originally planned and rescheduled twice – first in April of 2020, then later in December of that year.

That meant, however, he wasn’t in the Capac gymnasium when the team he took over this past September was able to celebrate the end of its own long wait. The Chiefs defeated Flint Southwestern 41-19 that afternoon, picking up their first win since Feb. 20, 2020.

“We screamed a lot,” Capac senior Juliana Closurdo said. “We were really excited. It almost didn’t even feel real because we haven’t experienced that in so long. I know everybody was so ecstatic. (Rossi) actually sent us all a group text and said congrats, and that he had the whole wedding party watching. That felt great, getting that support, that he was at his wedding, and he was watching us and cheering us on.”

Capac is 2-3 to start the season, a big step forward after going 0-14 in 2020-21, and just one win away from matching the program’s total over the past two seasons (three). While the wins are more than welcomed and confirmation the Chiefs are making improvements, the goals for this season are much simpler.

Capac basketball“I feel like we’ve already gotten off to a successful start,” Closurdo said. “A successful year for us is just playing with joy. Last year was really rough on everybody, and I know that I haven’t played with this much happiness in a while. Being able to play and be happy on the court, and not having the pressure of having to get a win and being able to go off that momentum, it’s great.”

Rossi came to Capac from Yale, where he still is a teacher and had previously coached at the middle school and junior varsity levels. Since he wasn’t hired until the fall, he had to learn about his players through a handful of open gyms and by going through old Capac game film and some of his own, as he had coached against a few of the girls with the Yale JV.

“Also, I didn’t really care,” Rossi said. “Last year was last year. Their previous experiences were their previous experiences. Let’s go in, and the first thing we have to do is make this a place where these kids want to be. These girls made it easy. They are a great group, they’re awesome. Right away, they treated me like their family. They were really accepting.”

Rossi was impressed with the players’ enthusiasm and energy coming into the season. They noticed the same thing with their new coach.

“He always wanted us to have high energy, and he’s always telling us to believe in ourselves,” Capac senior Erica Yeashevich said. “Just the high energy he has, I feel like that was really helpful. And he put us all at the same level when he walked in.”

Capac opened the season with a 44-11 loss against Deckerville, but even in that game Rossi said he saw some glimmers of hope. That was followed by the win against Southwestern, which had Capac at .500 for the first time since 2017. 

Capac basketballWhile that win snapped the 16-game losing streak, it was the second win, 32-24 against Kimball Landmark in Game 4, that showed Rossi more about his team.

“As a team, we have really adopted the mindset of we can only control what happens one play at a time,” Rossi said. “Say we’re down 10 points early, there’s not a shot that’s going to score 10 points. We’re not scoreboard watching, we’re taking it one play at a time. If you miss a layup, that has no effect on your next shot. The girls are really adopting that mindset. In the game against Landmark, that was huge, because we were having a very poor shooting night.

“That’s been very player driven. There have been messages that we wanted them to think about, but they have taken it and ran with it. They are very much responding and making it their own, which I think is huge. That speaks to the players we have, especially the seniors.”

That mindset has led to Capac setting smaller, attainable goals as it continues to look for positive momentum within the program. The Chiefs know a Greater Thumb Conference East title isn’t likely, but that doesn’t mean they can’t push teams like Sandusky and Harbor Beach beyond what they’ve been able to in the past. And if more wins are the result of that attitude, even better.

“Honestly, I feel like our expectations aren’t that high, so a successful year for me is reaching all of the small goals, getting better and improving on last year,” Yeashevich said. “The big thing for me is just having fun playing basketball. So far, basketball has already been the highlight of my day every day this season.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Capac coach Ryan Rossi talks things over with his players during a game this season. (Middle) Juliana Closurdo (3) and teammate Trinity Lietz high-five Rossi. (Below) Closurdo defends against Kimball Landmark. (Top photo by Guadalupe Rosales, middle and below photos courtesy of the Capac girls basketball program.)

St. George's Senior Season Filled with Historic Trip, Sizzling 3-Point Shooting

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 21, 2024

Delaney St. George helped Kingston reach its first MHSAA Girls Basketball Final this winter – and along the way finished her high school career among the most prolific 3-point shooters in state history.

The four-year varsity senior made 87 3-pointers this season for the Division 4 runner-up Cardinals, good to tie for 10th on the single-season list after she made 93 as a junior to rank fourth all-time.

She finished her Kingston career with 290 3-pointers in 793 attempts over 94 games – good for second on the career 3-pointers list.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA girls basketball record book, and click on the heading to see the record book in full.

Girls Basketball

Hemlock’s 18-6 run this season was fueled in part by more successful 3-point shooting. The Huskies made single-season lists with 170 3-pointers and 552 attempts, and also for making 14 3-pointers Jan. 5 against St. Louis.

Senior Mia McLaughlin made nine of 15 3-point shots for Frankenmuth in a Feb. 6 win over Birch Run as the Eagles made the team record book list with 15 3-pointers total. They also were added for 14 3-pointers in a Feb. 20 win over Bay City John Glenn. McLaughlin will continue her career at Ferris State.

McBain sophomore Peyton Grant scored all 27 of her points Jan. 17 against Houghton Lake on nine 3-pointers to make the single-game list in that category.

Seniors Autumn Tremblay and Ceara LeBlanc earned Brimley’s first girls basketball record book listings this season. Both made single-game lists in a Feb. 27 win over Harbor Springs Harbor Light Christian – Tremblay scored 21 points during the first quarter and LeBlanc had 16 steals for the game – and LeBlanc also was added for 141 steals total over 25 games this past winter.

Reed City’s run at the Central State Activities Association title this winter was fueled in part by 3-point shooting. The Coyotes finished one game out of first, but made the records with 517 3-point attempts over 24 games – and just missed the made 3-pointers list connecting on 143.

Howell sophomore Gabrielle Piepho added her third record book listing over her first two seasons this winter making 89.2 percent of her free throw attempts to rank eighth on that single-season list. Howell as a team also made the 3-point attempts list with 536 over 25 games, and also just missed the 3-pointers made list with 146.

Saline finished the 2023-24 season among the all-time leading 3-point shooters again, this time with 192 – 14th-most for one season – in 587 attempts over 24 games. Sophomore Keira Roehm led the way with 78 3-pointers, tying for 21st on that list.

Junior Tamerah Peterson led Sterling Heights Parkway Christian to a District title this season, providing a record-setting defensive boost in addition to her offensive skills. She finished with 173 steals – eighth-most for one season – over 21 games.

Niles Brandywine reached Breslin Center this season with another stellar distance shooting display, making the record book with both 186 3-pointers and 610 attempts from beyond the arc in finishing Division 3 runner-up.

Alie Bisballe capped her career at Lake City this winter by helping her team reach the Division 3 Semifinal at Breslin Center – and by reaching the MHSAA girls basketball record book in two categories. The 6-foot-4 post player made the lists with 329 rebounds and 188 blocked shots, both in 28 games as Lake City finished 25-3. She will continue her career at Wisconsin.

Ironwood junior Hanna Vaughn will enter her final season next winter already on the career 3-pointers list. She’s made 155 3-pointers over her first three seasons and 70 games on varsity.

PHOTO Kingston’s Delaney St. George (10) pulls up for a shot during the Division 4 Final against Ishpeming.