Caro Closing In on Historic Title Claim

February 12, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

With three seniors who had played at least parts of the last two seasons on varsity, and a standout freshman making her debut, the Caro girls basketball team had plenty of reasons to make winning its league the goal this winter.

But with Reese coming off its 12th-straight conference title – and Caro seeking its first since 1985 – history was not on the Tigers’ side.

That’s changed quite a bit over the last month. Caro has set itself up to make history, with a chance to head into the Feb. 20 rematch with the Rockets already owning a share of the Greater Thumb Conference West championship.

The MHSAA/Applebee’s Team of the Month for January moved to 14-1 overall and 9-0 in league play Tuesday night, a far shout from the three games the Tigers won three seasons ago and 2-19 record they posted when that current trio of seniors were sophomores.

“I’ve learned more history this year (than ever before),” Riley said Monday, a day before picking up win 14 over Vassar. “That it’s only the third winning season in 24 years. And if we hold on to our first place in the league, it would be the first time in 35 years we’d win a league championship.

“It’s been a fun experience. My first two years we won five games combined, and last year we won 10. And if we win both games this week, we’ll match three years of wins in just 16 games this year. That’s kinda special.”

And pretty incredible.

Caro indeed finished 3-17 in 2016-17, with current senior forward Kaitlyn Arebalo a freshman on the varsity.

Now-senior point guard Ellie Hornbacher joined the mix for that 2-19 run in 2017-18 before an injury ended her season six weeks early. Classmate Raegan Ball also came up to varsity for a handful of games at the end of that winter, picking up some valuable experience.

While not necessarily historic, last season certainly was an improvement. The Tigers were at points 7-4 and 10-8 before settling in at 10-11 after losing their final three games – including 63-23 to Reese.

That has to be something of a distant memory at this point. Caro’s only loss this season came in its third game, to Sandusky (13-3). The Tigers handed the only defeat to GTC East leader Ubly (14-1) and also picked up a 23-point win over Croswell-Lexington (10-7) in their first game of calendar year 2020.

Two weeks later, Caro beat the Rockets 46-37.

“Before Reese, I just told them the pressure was still on Reese. They’re the 12-time defending league champs, and we don’t have anything to lose,” said Riley, who served as the junior varsity coach for five years before taking over the program prior to 2016-17. “That’s kinda been our chip on our shoulder all year. The girls came up with the slogan at the beginning of the year of ‘Respect all. Fear none.’ And that’s the mindset they’ve taken.”

Freshman Adelyn Moore is a player area teams likely will fear for the next three years. She’s Caro’s leading scorer (17 ppg), rebounder (10.6) and also averages the most steals (5.6) for a defensive effort giving up 34 points per game.

Arebalo adds 14.6 points and 7.4 rebounds game, and Ball has sharpened her shooting this winter and is averaging 8.4 points per game. Hornbacher, last year’s leading scorer, made a decision this season to become more of a distributor instead – and while she’s down a few points to 6.4 ppg, she’s grabbing 8.2 rebounds per game at 5-foot-6 and dishing a team high 4.4 assists per contest.

That defensive average is a definite difference this season – and has been one of Riley’s points of emphasis from the start. But just as impressive are the 54 points Caro is scoring on average – up from the low 30s of the last few winters.

Riley multiple times Monday threw complete credit to his players, who have bought into the heightened defense and cultivated the offense it has produced. Combine those improvements with strong senior leadership and a freshman standout, and ending the title drought hasn’t seemed at all far-fetched.

“It was just going to be how we blended together,” he said. “I wasn't sure necessarily how that would take off. But the seniors have mentored the other players, and those other players have had some pivotal roles for us.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2019-20

December: Hartland girls basketball - Report
Bridgman girls cross country - Report
Allegan boys tennis - Report
September: Ishpeming Westwood girls tennis - Report

PHOTOS: (Top) Caro's Adelyn Moore pulls up for a shot during her team's 46-37 win over Reese on Jan. 23. (Middle) This season's Caro girls basketball team. (Top photo courtesy of Sports Finest Magazine; middle courtesy of the Caro girls basketball program.)

Jahfetson Makes History from 3-Point Range in Taking Baraga to 2023 Finals

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 23, 2024

Baraga’s Corina Jahfetson graduated in 2023 as one of the most accomplished 3-point shooters in MHSAA history and coming off one of the most impressive single seasons from beyond the arc.

Her 103 3-pointers as a senior over 29 games were the second-most for one season and included eight in a Quarterfinal win over Mackinaw City – the second-most in an MHSAA Quarterfinal, Semifinal or Final.

She finished with 236 3-pointers over 96 games and four seasons, ranking 12th on that career list, and Baraga finished the season as Division 4 runner-up. She’s continuing her career at Northern Michigan.

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

Girls Basketball

Alma junior Bailey Walkington earned her school’s first single-season individual record book entry for girls basketball in 2022-23. She made the steals list with 143 over 23 games.

Dalton DeBoer became the latest Midland Dow long-range shooting ace to make the records after she drained 70 of 206 3-point attempts over 24 games in 2022-23. DeBoer is a junior this school year.

Durand senior Jordyn Lawrence earned her school’s first girls basketball individual record book entry with 15 steals in her team’s 44-31 win over Flint Kearsley on Dec. 2, 2022. She’s continuing at Mid-Michigan College.

Leah French finished her Engadine career in 2023 with a series of game, season and career record book entries detailing her scoring and defensive skills. She earned single-game listings for 54 points and 19 free throws against St. Ignace on Feb. 6, 2023, and nine 3-pointers against Manistique that Jan. 9. She made the single-season list with 81 3-pointers, 177 free throws and 168 steals over 25 games as a senior. And she made the career lists with 171 3-pointers, 354 free throws and 405 steals over 85 games and four seasons. She’s continuing her career at Aquinas College.

Arieonna Ware earned Battle Creek Central's first girls basketball record book entry with 51 points in a Feb. 11, 2020, win over Portage Northern. She actually finished with a triple-double, adding 12 rebounds and 12 steals. Ware also was added for 47 points in a March 6, 2019, District game against Sturgis.

Mesick senior Kayla McCoy made the MHSAA record in 2022-23 as a junior, totaling 144 steals over 23 games. It was Mesick’s first individual entry in the girls basketball record book.

Coldwater’s Carlee Crabtree made a career-high 52 3-pointers during her senior season of 2019-20 on the way to making the MHSAA career list for long-distance shots with 163, in 469 attempts, over four seasons and 88 games total. She went on to play at Central Michigan and Hope College.

Battle Creek Pennfield’s Kaylee Glidden capped her three-year varsity career in 2023 among the most accurate free-throw shooters in MHSAA history – and also among top 3-point aces. She made 90.6 percent of her free-throw attempts as a senior, good for fifth-highest percentage all-time for one season, and her 84.4-percent success rate ranks fourth on the career list. She also made the single-season 3-pointers list with 67 that winter and the career list with 168. She continued at Kellogg Community College and has committed to Great Lakes Christian College.

Larissa Huffman made a pair of career lists upon completing her four-year varsity career in 2023 at Mackinaw City. She was added for 468 assists and 411 steals, both over 92 games, and she’s continuing her career at St. Norbert (Wis.). Additionally, Mackinaw City was added to the single-game field goals list as a team for making at least 39 in a game six times over the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons, with a high of 45.

Lansing Christian earned a listing on the team 3-pointers list when it sank 14 on 32 attempts against Webberville on Jan. 20, 2023. Seven players drained at least one of the long-distance shots.  

Grayling’s 66-49 win over Houghton Lake on Dec. 19 included one of the most impressive defensive performances of all-time as senior Makayla Watkins had 19 steals – tying for third-most in one game.

Brooklyn Columbia Central’s Zoandria Bamm grabbed 28 rebounds during a Feb. 14, 2023, game against Clinton to make the single-game list in that category and on the way to finishing her senior season with 380 rebounds over 25 games – tying for 13th most on that list. She’s playing at Jackson College.

Riley Abney became the first player to be listed for points scored in a quarter of a girls basketball game when she sank 21 of her 36 total during the fourth quarter of a 64-47 loss to Linden on Jan. 16. The Ortonville Brandon senior has committed to be a preferred walk-on at Oakland.

A pair of Paw Paw standouts earned single-game accomplishments within three days of each other in January. On Jan. 26 against Sturgis, junior AJ Rickli grabbed 31 rebounds, tied for seventh-most for one game. On Jan. 29 against Three Rivers, sophomore Stella Shaefer made the single-game assists list with 14.

Keira Maki joined the single-game points list on Feb. 22 when she scored 47 in Escanaba’s 64-49 win over Sault Ste. Marie. The senior will continue at Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

PHOTO Baraga’s Corina Jahfetson (22) brings the ball upcourt during the 2023 Division 4 Final against Glen Lake at Breslin Center.