By Ryan Boldrey
Special for Second Half
When the Centreville girls hoops season got underway, head coach Jill Peterson gave her players a destination for which to shoot.
And no, it wasn’t the school’s first Regional appearance since 1998 – though after the team’s 14-1 start, that is beginning to look like a distinct possibility.
The destination was Deer Lodge, Montana.
Yet why would a girls basketball coach from southwest Michigan set her team’s collective sight on a place like Deer Lodge, Montana?
“At the beginning of the season we compared our season to a road trip,” Peterson explained, pointing out that Deer Lodge was a spot along I-90 that just seemed the right distance away. “Every day we talk about how far we’ve traveled. If it’s a real good practice (or game) we travel a good distance. If we don’t have a good practice, we talk about it and then set a goal for the next day, which may just be getting to the next city.”
To demonstrate how far the team has gone, Peterson hung a road map in the Bulldogs’ locker room. And while outsiders may not get to glimpse that map and see the marker making its way across South Dakota en route to Deer Lodge, they have witnessed Centreville sprint out to an undefeated start in Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference play and rise to No. 4 in The Associated Press Class C poll – the first time the program has been ranked in recent memory.
“When my girls saw the tweet recently that we were ranked, they texted me and said, ‘What does this even mean?’” said Peterson, who played basketball for the Bulldogs from 2001-2004. “They had no concept. And like I told them, it may change the perception of what other people think of us, but we should still think the same thing we did yesterday.”
Despite the level of excitement that comes with being ranked, remaining grounded has not been an issue.
“I definitely think it caught a lot of us off guard,” sad senior point guard Skyler DeMeyer, who dishes out a team-high 6.5 assists per game. “We weren’t expecting it, but we are trying not to think about it because anything can happen on any given night and we need to keep ourselves to a higher standard. We realize that we can always get better, and every practice we push each other to do so. We know every other team we are going to see is getting better too.”
DeMeyer has been a motivating force both through her words and actions for her teammates, and prides herself on strong communication, tough-nosed defense and creating for her teammates on the offensive end.
“I’m not a huge scorer, but I like to see the floor and I feel very confident with all my teammates,” she said. “If I get them the ball they are going to do something with it. Whether it’s another pass, a score or a foul drawn, they are going to do something.”
And while the offense may run through the scrappy senior, it’s the youthful power in the post on the receiving end of so many of DeMeyer’s passes that has helped propel the program to the top of the BCS Blue and give Bulldogs fans visions of Centreville’s first league title since the school last won a St. Joseph Valley title in 1989, as well as hopes for a bright future.
Freshman Joanna Larsen – who missed the team’s only loss in the season opener against Constantine – and sophomore Samara Schlabach provide a one-two punch down low, leading a balanced attack that sees no Centreville players averaging double figures in scoring this season.
Larsen was originally supposed to be on the junior varsity team this year but impressed Peterson so much during the preseason she was called up to the varsity.
“Joanna, as a freshman, is already so far up there with everything, it’s amazing,” said Schlabach, who leads the team scoring 9.5 points per game and surprised herself when she was named to the varsity club as a sophomore. “I’m really excited to see how far she’ll go, because she is crazy good. I’m really excited for the years to come to play with her.”
Schlabach hopes that they can build in the girls basketball program what the baseball program already has – expectations of success year-in and year-out, and she is excited to be a part of it.
Right now, though, the team is focused on getting from city to city. Destination Deer Lodge and a potential District tournament rematch with Constantine, something they don’t talk about – yet.
“We might get some flat tires along the way,” Peterson said. “But our goal is to just keep moving. If today is a flat tire, tomorrow is going to be a better day. We haven’t peaked yet, and we want to do that at the right time.”
Other players who have stepped up for the Bulldogs this year include Hannah Rice, Carly Todd, Brittany Morris, Carlee Odom and Kayla Gest, the latter of whom has dazzled with her outside shooting touch and lockdown defense.
PHOTOS: (Top) Centreville works to get the offense going during a 21-20 win over White Pigeon on Dec. 2. (Middle) The Bulldogs have held opponents to fewer than 25 points six times this season. (Photos courtesy of JoeInsider.com.)
Another girls basketball season is underway, and the best from 2022-23 are wasting no time seeing how they match up this winter.
Every Monday through the MHSAA Finals in March we’ll look back at the previous week’s results that were most attention-grabbing across the state, highlight a few programs in every division on the rise and glance at some of the games coming up that pop off the page most. One week in, and we’ve already had our share of headline-grabbers with more immediately on the way – read on for details.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
2. Detroit Renaissance 53, Lansing Catholic 46 The Phoenix (2-0), a Division 1 semifinalist last season, earned the headliner for opening week by edging the reigning Division 2 champion Cougars (0-1).
2. Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep 45, Maple City Glen Lake 38 The Irish (3-0) reached the Division 4 Quarterfinals last season, and highlighted the first week of this one with this win over the reigning champion Lakers (2-1).
3. Lake Linden-Hubbell 48, Baraga 45 The Lakes (2-0) went a combined 1-2 against Baraga (1-1) last season – with a District Final loss as the Vikings went on to finish Division 4 runners-up.
4. Howell 60, Farmington Hills Mercy 59 Gabby Piepho scored 34 points to lead Howell (2-0) past Mercy (0-1), a Division 1 Regional finalist last season.
5. Frankenmuth 53, Freeland 51 On a night when Frankenmuth honored late star Keri Frahm, a 2016 grad who died in a car crash in October, the Eagles (2-0) held on for what no doubt will be a key league win over the Falcons (1-1).
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Bloomfield Hills Marian (2-0) A rough start last season turned into a 10-14 finish for Marian, but the Mustangs did win six of their last seven games and picked right back up with a 2-0 start last week. Marian opened with a 57-44 win over Imlay City, avenging a six-point loss from last winter, and then defeated Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest.
Milford (2-0) The Mavericks are off to a quick start under new coach Tim Olszewski, who came to Milford after a successful run at Howell. They edged Fowlerville 27-23 and then defeated Waterford Mott, after ending last season with a District Semifinal loss to Olszewski’s Highlanders.
Detroit Country Day (2-0) Past star Amber Deane’s first season as coach ended impressively with a 17-7 record and triple-overtime loss to Goodrich in a Regional Final, and she has Country Day off to a fast start. The Yellowjackets doubled up Birmingham Groves to open and defeated Tecumseh 66-52 at Ypsilanti Arbor Prep’s Ice Breaker Classic; Tecumseh finished 20-5 last season.
Shepherd (2-0) After building from seven wins two seasons ago to a 10-13 finish last winter, Shepherd may be on the verge of another advance. The BlueJays opened by edging Beal City 42-40 – Beal City won 14 games last season – and then defeated Gladwin 55-50 in double overtime.
Evart (2-0) The Wildcats’ matchups with Lake City last season had Highland Conference and statewide implications – Evart won the first, but Lake City won the next two to claim league and District titles. Evart has the early upper hand again, following up last week’s 20-point win over Reed City with a 42-41 victory over the Trojans.
Perry (2-0) The Ramblers have improved from zero to four to six wins over the last three seasons, respectively, and are well on their way to increasing that total again. Perry opened with a 38-37 win over Morrice (after losing to the Orioles last season) and 44-27 victory over Byron, and have another fresh start moving to the Central Michigan Athletic Conference this winter.
Colon (2-0) The Magi finished 21-5 last season, reaching the Division 4 Regional Finals before falling to Hackett (highlighted above). Colon began this one with a 52-33 win over Adrian Lenawee Christian, which made the Semifinals last winter, before defeating Battle Creek St. Philip big to finish the week.
Lutheran Westland (2-0) The Warriors are another team quickly pursuing an improvement over last season, when they finished 10-14. They opened with a 44-24 win over Ann Arbor Greenhills, then defeated Whitmore Lake 28-19 – Whitmore Lake downed Westland twice last season on the way to winning the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Red title.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Wednesday – Kingston (2-0) at Goodrich (2-0) – These two finished a combined 49-6 last winter, with Kingston reaching the Division 4 Quarterfinals and Goodrich playing in the Division 2 Semifinals.
Thursday – Salem (2-0) at West Bloomfield (0-0) – This is a rematch from last season’s Division 1 Semifinals, won by West Bloomfield, and headlines the Kensington Lakes Activities Association/Oakland Activities Association Challenge.
Friday – Rockford (2-0) at Muskegon (1-1) – The reigning Division 1 champion Rams travel to take on the Big Reds, who are looking to avenge last season’s 19-point loss after which they went 15-5 to finish the winter.
Saturday – Detroit Edison (0-0) vs. Detroit Country Day (2-0) at Belleville – This is arguably the most intriguing matchup from the Best of Michigan Holiday Classic and matches teams with high aspirations in Division 2.
Saturday – Midland Dow (1-1) vs. Salem (2-0) at Belleville – This Best of Michigan game matches a Dow program that’s regularly among Division 1 contenders with a Salem team that joined the elite last season.
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PHOTOS (Top) Flint Powers Catholic and Davison face off in a season opener, won by the Chargers 73-41. (Middle) An Otsego player puts up a shot during her team's 44-35 loss to Portage Central. (Top photo by Terry Lyons; middle photo by Gary Shook.)