Class C: Knights will Return to Final

March 15, 2012

EAST LANSING – Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett is the only Class C Semifinalist that didn’t bring a perfect record to the Breslin Center on Thursday. The No. 9-ranked Knights have lost four times, including in their final game before the start of the District tournament.

But a loss to end 2011 pushed the Knights through those momentary disappointments and back into the season’s final day for the second year in a row.

University Liggett finished Class C runner-up a year ago in its first MHSAA Final appearance. But the Knights now need just one more win to finish a year-long quest for their championship.

They earned that opportunity with a 49-27 win over No. 2 Concord in the day's first Semifinal.

“Last year we lost and it was pretty heart-breaking. Everyone was pretty upset. But throughout the course of the year it motivated us because we wanted to be here as bad as anything,” said senior guard Madison Ristovski, who was named the state’s Miss Basketball on Monday.

“So yeah, we feel pressure. But at the same time, we want it so bad that it overrides it.”

University Liggett (23-4) will face No. 1 Morley-Stanwood (27-0) in Saturday’s 4 p.m. Final. 

Ristovski, who has signed with the University of Michigan, is arguably the best-known player at Breslin this weekend – and the regular catalyst for the Knights over the last few seasons.

But Thursday, junior sister Haleigh Ristovski got University Liggett rolling.

She made her first 3-pointer with the Knights trailing by five points seven minutes into the game. But she finished with six 3-pointers – and 22 points, 12 above her average – along with four steals.

"We just tried to pick it up," Haleigh Ristovski said. "Once I hit the first one, I knew I was going to make more. I just felt it.”

Along with freshman sister Lola, the Ristovskis scored University Liggett’s first 37 points before junior Julie DeRoo scored with 1:30 to go in the third quarter. Madison Ristovski finished with 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists and Lola had six steals.

The teams were tied after the first quarter, but the Knights built a 30-17 lead by the end of the second.

"Sometimes in our games, we start off a little slow. It takes one good shot, one good block, and everybody looks at each other and says, 'All right, now it's time. Let's go,'" Madison Ristovski said. "I'm not going to lie. We were probably a little nervous coming out. But as soon as Haleigh knocked down that first 3, it was like 'All right, here it is. Let's go.'

"It's not the first time she's done that. I've seen her hit seven, eight before."

Concord finished 26-1. Junior Megan Redman had eight points. Junior Maycee Brigham added seven.

They are two of eight juniors who will work to get back to Breslin next season. The Yellow Jackets started four juniors Thursday, and had only three seniors on the roster.

"I'd say that we got a lot farther than we thought (we would)," Brigham said. "We set our minds to get here, and I think it was just a great experience to play here."

Click for the box score. Watch the game and both teams' postgame press conferences at

PHOTO: University Liggett junior Haleigh Ristovski drives for two of her game-high 22 points Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Terry McNamara Photography.)

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

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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.)