By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Three Class B semifinalists will journey to Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena this weekend seeking the first MHSAA Finals title in their programs’ histories.
But to celebrate the ultimate prize for the first time, those hopefuls must contend with the reigning champion and the winningest coach in Michigan girls basketball history.
Detroit Country Day and coach Frank Orlando loom large in Grand Rapids as an intriguing bracket prepares to unfold.
Class B Semifinals – Friday
Jackson Northwest (24-1) vs. Michigan Center (23-2), 5:30 p.m.
Detroit Country Day (20-4) vs. Kingsley (26-0), 7:30 p.m.
Class B Final – Saturday, 6:15 p.m.
Tickets cost $10 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session (Class C and Class B). All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a pay-per-view basis. All four Finals will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit and streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com and the FOX Sports Go! app. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.
Below is a glance at all four semifinalists. Click on the name of the school to see that team’s full schedule and results from this season. (Statistics are through teams' Regional Finals.)
DETROIT COUNTRY DAY
Record/rank: 21-4, No. 2
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Frank Orlando, 37th season (777-117)
Championship history: Twelve MHSAA titles (most recent 2017), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 58-41 over No. 5 Freeland in Quarterfinal, 65-59 over Class A No. 7 Flint Carman-Ainsworth, 66-58 over Midland Dow, 70-58 over Detroit Martin Luther King.
Players to watch: Kaela Webb, 5-7 sr. G (15.9 ppg, 3.6 apg, 3.7 spg); Adrian Folks, 6-0 jr. F (12.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg).
Outlook: Country Day is seeking its third title in four seasons led by Miss Basketball finalist Webb, a standout on last season’s team as well. Senior forward Maxine Moore (9.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and junior guard Jasmine Powell (10.5 ppg, 6.9 apg) also started the 2017 championship game and give the Yellowjackets a veteran presence – even as the team has only three seniors. Although not wins, losses to eventual semifinalists Detroit Edison, Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, Wayne Memorial and Saginaw Heritage surely provided preparation for this weekend. Junior guard Maddie Novak also averages 9.5 ppg.
Record/rank: 26-0, No. 1
League finish: First in Northwest Conference.
Coach: Matt Schelich, 20th season (335-116)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 49-39 over honorable mention Muskegon Oakridge in Quarterfinal, 58-39 over Kalkaska in District Final, 70-66 and 61-45 over Class C No. 10 Maple City Glen Lake, 72-36 over Manton, 71-21 over Petoskey.
Players to watch: Brittany Bowman, 5-3 soph. G (11.5 ppg, 3.0 spg); Rebekah Crosby, 6-0 sr. C (9.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.4 bpg).
Outlook: Friday’s game will be Kingsley’s second Semifinal ever and first since 2008. All five starters average between 8-11 points per game and bring something important to the lineup. Senior Kelsie Bies (8.3 ppg) had 46 3-pointers entering the week, while junior Jacie King (10.1) also averaged three steals per contest and senior Jalynn Brumfield (9.7 ppg) has the team’s high scoring game this winter. Only two of the Stags’ games were decided by single digits this season – made more impressive as Manton and Petoskey were league champions.
Record/rank: 24-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Interstate 8 Athletic Conference.
Coach: Ryan Carroll, seventh season (123-40)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 42-35 over No. 4 Hamilton in Quarterfinal, 48-43 over Fowlerville in Regional Final, 66-64 and 47-37 over Class A No. 6 Coldwater.
Players to watch: Sydney Shafer, 5-9 jr. G (17 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 4.0 spg); Ella Bontrager, 5-8 sr. G (11.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.0 apg).
Outlook: The Mounties have made the final week of the season for the first time after winning their fourth District and second league title over the last six seasons. Northwest emerged from an I8AC that produced three District champions and four teams with at least 16 wins this winter. It has won 22 straight since falling early to Battle Creek Harper Creek (16-7). Seven players contribute at least four points per game; sophomore forward Jozie Bontrager is another key contributor at 6.9 points and seven rebounds per contest.
Record/rank: 23-2, unranked
League finish: First in Cascades Conference.
Coach: Joe Lusk, sixth season (100-39)
Championship history: Class C runner-up 2003 and 2005.
Best wins: 63-49 over Harper Woods Chandler Park in Quarterfinal, 49-36 over No. 8 New Boston Huron in Regional Final, 57-41 over Dearborn Henry Ford in Regional Semifinal, 49-39 over Onsted in District Final.
Players to watch: Masyn Shannon, 5-7 sr. G/F; Alize’ Tripp, 5-6 soph. G. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Michigan Center was a District champ in Class C a year ago, but has continued to rise in Class B and with a roster featuring three seniors with eight underclassmen. The Cardinals have won 18 straight, and only one victory this season has been by fewer than 10 points. After a rare down season in 2015-16 at 6-15, Michigan Center is a combined 43-6 over the last two.
PHOTO: Jackson Northwest's Sydney Shafer drives hard to the basket during Tuesday's Quarterfinal win over Hamilton. (Photo courtesy of JTV.)
Hemlock and Rockford's drives to their first Girls Basketball Finals championships in March were paced in part by some of the strongest 3-point shooting in MHSAA history.
The Division 1 title-winning Rams connected on 243 3-pointers – third-most all-time – over 29 games in tying the single-season wins record while finishing 28-1. Grace Lyons, a senior this fall, made the single-season individual list with 70 3-pointers.
The Huskies won in Division 3 having connected on 229 3-pointers over 29 games, seventh-most in MHSAA history, on 678 attempts, which ranks 12th on that list. Chloe Watson made the single-season list with 75 3-pointers, and Regan Finkbeiner did as well connecting on 67.
Watson also made the career 3-pointers list with 224 and Finkbeiner with 194, and 2017 Hemlock graduate Samantha Krauss was added for 65 3-pointers as a junior in 2015-16 and 188 for her career. Additionally, past Hemlock standout Karli Herrington was added for her 317 rebounds in 2012-13, and Peyton Apsey was added for 144 steals in 2010-11.
Watson is continuing her career at Mid-Michigan College, and Finkbeiner is playing softball at Madonna. Herrington went on to play at Central Michigan and Northwood, Krauss played at Ferris State and Apsey played at Oakland.
Read on for more recent record book additions for girls basketball:
Hudsonville’s Maddie Petroelje joined the list of top 3-point shooters in MHSAA history as a junior in 2021-22, when she connected on 70 (in just 147 attempts) to make the single-season list. She graduated this spring 16th on the career list as well with 226 3-pointers in 512 attempts over 92 games and four seasons. She is continuing at Loyola (Ill.).
Byron Center’s Avery Zeinstra also finished her career among those top 3-point shooters. She also made the single-season list with 70 in 147 attempts as a freshman in 2018-19, and she capped her career in 2021-22 with 206 3-pointers (tied for 20th-most) in 502 attempts over four seasons and 80 career games. She is continuing at Grand Valley State.
Hannah Thompson was best known for her soccer scoring at Schoolcraft. But she’s made a second MHSAA record book for her 15 steals in a Jan. 28, 2022, basketball win over Galesburg-Augusta. She’s continuing her soccer career at Eastern Michigan.
Baraga’s run to the Division 4 Semifinals in 2022 received big boosts from Corina Jahfetson’s 3-point shooting and Reide Osterman’s defense. Jahfetson was added to the record book with 66 3-pointers over 25 games, including nine in a game against Carney Nadeau – when Baraga as a team made the record book with 14 3-pointers total. Osterman made the record book with 153 steals. Jahfetson graduated this spring, and Osterman is playing at Northern Michigan.
Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy’s Audrey Mileski had one of the busiest games at the free throw line in MHSAA history Dec. 14, 2021. She made 23 free throws – third-most in a single game – against Wyoming Kelloggsville. Mileski graduated this spring.
Sophia Bussell had set Monroe’s single-game 3-pointers record of eight as a freshman two seasons ago, and she bettered it last Dec. 13 by tying for the 10th-most in MHSAA history. She made 10-pointers including the game-winner of a 58-56 victory over Ypsilanti Lincoln. A little less than 10 months earlier, Adrian Lenawee Christian then-senior Kylie Summer also made 10, on 17 attempts, during a 57-34 win over Lansing Christian on Feb. 24, 2022.
Lydia Meredith enjoyed a memorable senior season for Portland St. Patrick in 2021-22, finishing her four-year varsity career with 453 steals over just 80 games. She also was added for drilling 17 free throws in 22 attempts against Fowler. She plays now at Saginaw Valley State.
Gabby Piepho got off to a fast start at Howell as a freshman last season, and at a record-setting pace at the free-throw line. She made 93 of 107 attempts over 25 games, for an .869 percentage that made the single-season list. That included a string of 47 straight free throws that ranks as the second-longest in MHSAA history. As a team, Howell tied for sixth all-time with 301 free throws over 25 games, on 439 attempts.
Kent City’s Lexie Bowers reached the single-season 3-pointers list for the second time last season, connecting on 72 of 233 tries over 26 games (after making 77 as a junior), and finished her four-season varsity career 16th on that 3-pointers list with 225 in 693 attempts over 99 games. She’s continuing her career at Northwood. Kent City as a team also reached the single-season 3-pointers made and attempted lists again, ranking fourth with 753 attempts and tying for eighth all-time by connecting on 202.
Posen then-junior Faith Cousins earned a par of record book entries during 2021-22 for assists. Her 16 in a District Final win on March 4, 2022, remain tied for fifth-most in one game, and she finished with 165 over 22 games for the season. She’s set to begin her softball career at Alma College.
Niles Brandywine went over 20 wins again this past season, finishing 21-3, and again the 3-pointer was a key tool in that pursuit. Brandywine made the record book with back-to-back games of 13 3-pointers to close the regular season, and finished with 175 3-pointers in 592 attempts over 23 games (with one won by forfeit).
Greenville’s Megan Leslie averaged more than two 3-pointers a game during her four-season varsity career, making the record list with 153 total over 76 games through graduation this spring. She’s continuing her career at Alma College.
Successful 3-point shooting played a major role in Saline finishing 21-4 with league and District titles last winter. The Hornets attempted 704 3-pointers – ninth-most all-time for one season – and connected on 191, which is 12th on that list. They made a season-high 14 against Ypsilanti Lincoln on Nov. 29 to make the single-game list.
Marcellus senior Brooklyn VanTilburg enjoyed a big finish to her high school career last winter, making the record book with 16 blocked shots in a game against Centreville and 135 blocks total for the season. She’ll continue at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Kennedy Gustafson made headlines last winter as a sophomore and earned a pair of record listings for her rebounding. She grabbed 26 in a March 3 District Final win over Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, and she finished with 376 rebounds over 25 games for the season.
PHOTO Hemlock's Regan Finkbeiner, left, follows through on a free throw attempt during last season's Division 3 Final, and Rockford's Grace Lyons launches the game-winning 3-pointer in Division 1.