Carney-Nadeau Starts Strong, Building Toward Big Finish

By John Vrancic
Special for

March 5, 2021

CARNEY — This basketball season has been well worth the wait for the Carney-Nadeau girls as they’re off to an 11-0 start.

The Wolves continued to roll Tuesday night in a 67-22 win at Crystal Falls Forest Park.

C-N is led by 6-foot-3 junior center Tessa Wagner, who averages 22 points and 17 rebounds a game.

She collected 22 points, 15 boards and four blocked shots in Tuesday's contest, three days after scoring a career-high 27 points in a 64-24 victory over Munising.

"The fact that we're 11-0 is special," said coach Ken Linder. "Our ability to shut other teams down is also special.

“This is as good a team (as) I've been around. … It's hard to believe we're already more than halfway done."

Tuesday's triumph also enabled the Wolves to improve to 8-0 in the Skyline Central Conference.

"This is really awesome," senior point guard Haley Ernest said after Monday's 61-42 victory over Felch North Dickinson. "We're super happy with our season. We're a well-balanced team. When one is having an off night, another is ready to step up. It's hard to go an entire season without having an off night, especially with games packed in."

Due to the condensed season, the Wolves are playing or practicing 6-7 days a week.

"When we don't have a Saturday game, we take that day off," said Ernest. "Otherwise, we're playing or practicing every day. Sunday is game film day. After we're done with that, we have a shoot-around which is part of the easiest practice all week."

The Wolves, like other teams, had to endure numerous delays due to COVID-19.

"We're just happy to be playing,” Wagner said. “I actually love wearing the mask. I also have a little mouthpiece to keep from sucking it in."

Wagner says Coach Linder often reminds them to stay focused. The Wolves have been especially impressive defensively, as C-N is giving up only 28.6 points per game.

"He tells us not to look at the scoreboard and play the game," she added. "Our defense has definitely been a key, and I think we have good ball movement. We're definitely a fast team."

Sophomore forward Shae Linder also noted a variety of reasons why the Wolves are successful.

"We work together," she said. "We're like a machine out there. Our defensive intensity is a key, and our guards have good court awareness. Tessa is an amazing player. We know she's going to play hard overtime and she works for every rebound. A lot of people focus on her.

"Nobody is selfish on our team. We don't care who's putting up the points, just as long as somebody is putting them up. Our opponents have nothing to lose, and we have everything to lose. We're going to give it our all overtime. I think Haley is our (floor) leader. She brings our defense together and runs our offense."

Shae Linder said the Wolves decided to stay committed despite the extensions.

"We were looking forward to our first game," she added. "We agreed we were going to work hard every day (during the extensions). We love the game. All we could do was keep getting better and hope for the best. We were real excited when we found out we could start playing. We felt we had a pretty good chance to start 11-0.

The Wolves resume at home against Stephenson on Saturday.

John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTO: Carney-Nadeau's Tessa Wagner, here last season against Rock Mid Peninsula, is averaging 22 points and 17 rebounds per game. (Photo courtesy of the Escanaba Daily Press.)

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

July 10: Nightingale Embarking on 1st Season as College Football Head Coach - Read
June 28:
 E-TC's Witt Bulldozing Path from Small Town to Football's Biggest Stage - Read

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.)