By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Class A – made up of the largest high schools in Michigan – also has the most star power to offer this weekend at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena in Grand Rapids.
This season’s Miss Basketball plus two more finalists, not to mention some of the likely contenders in 2019, all will take the floor during Friday’s Semifinals and Saturday’s championship game.
And much is at stake, of course. Three of these teams have won MHSAA titles, but none since at least 2010. The fourth will compete during the final weekend of the season for the first time.
Class A Semifinals – Friday
Grosse Pointe North (20-5) vs. Saginaw Heritage (25-1), noon
East Lansing (25-0) vs. Wayne Memorial (22-4), 2 p.m.
Class A Final – Saturday, 12:15 p.m.
Tickets cost $10 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session (Class D and Class A). 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.)
Record/rank: 25-0, No. 2
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Blue
Coach: Rob Smith, 16th season (record N/A)
Championship history: Class A champion 2010, runner-up 2008.
Best wins: 63-45 over No. 8 Muskegon in Quarterfinal, 54-40 over No. 6 Coldwater in Regional Semifinal, 50-38 (District Final) and 52-51 over No. 4 DeWitt, 63-43 over Class B honorable mention Williamston.
Players to watch: Jaida Hampton, 5-11 sr. F (15 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 57 3-pointers); Aaliyah Nye, 5-11 soph. F (13 ppg, 4.6 rpg).
Outlook: After getting stopped in Quarterfinals three times this decade, East Lansing broke through to make its first Semifinal since the championship season of 2010. The Trojans have won four of five postseason games by at least 12 points. Hampton is the recently honored Miss Basketball Award winner, and she’s got plenty of help not only from Aaliyah Nye, but also senior guards Aazhenii Nye (11.7 ppg) and Amelia McNutt (9.5 ppg), among others. All four of those players also had connected on at least 24 3-pointers entering this week.
GROSSE POINTE NORTH
Record/rank: 20-5, unranked
League finish: Tied for first in Macomb Area Conference Red.
Coach: Gary Bennett, 35th season (576-221)
Championship history: Class A champion 2008.
Best wins: 47-44 over Detroit Martin Luther King in Quarterfinal, 53-51 (Regional Semifinal) and 66-63 over No. 9 Macomb Dakota, 44-32 over St. Clair Shores Lakeview in District Semifinal.
Players to watch: Julia Ayrault, 6-2 jr. G/F (19 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 4.4 spg); Christina Braker, 5-9 soph. F (6.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg).
Outlook: North will be returning to the Semifinals for the first time since the title-winning season of 2008, when it defeated East Lansing in the championship game. Ayrault is considered a contender for next season’s Miss Basketball Award and helped her team navigate what annually is one of the state’s strongest leagues. Lakeview (20-2) was another league champion North had to get past along the way. This could be a preview of next season as well; the Norsemen have only one senior.
Record/rank: 25-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League.
Coach: Vonnie DeLong, fifth season (105-14)
Championship history: Class A champion 2002, runner-up 2001.
Best wins: 63-40 (Regional Final) and 60-44 over No. 7 Flint Carman-Ainsworth, 59-49 over Class B No. 1 Detroit Country Day, 51-35 over Class B No. 5 Freeland.
Players to watch: Moira Joiner, 5-9 jr. G (14.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.2 apg); Shine Strickland-Gills, 6-1 jr. F (12.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg).
Outlook: Heritage has won 20 or more games the last four seasons and made the Semifinals again to go with its 2015 appearance. The Hawks’ only loss was by a basket in overtime to reigning Class C champ Detroit Edison, and no other opponent got closer than 10 with wins as well over Clarkston (20-5), Hartland (20-6), Midland Dow (17-6) and Bay City Western (17-4). Joiner is another highly-regarded junior who could be in the Miss Basketball conversation in 2019. Four players average at least seven points per game, with senior guard Jessica Bicknell also in double digits at 10.8.
Record/rank: 22-4, No. 10
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Black.
Coach: Jarvis Mitchell, fourth season (55-34)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 54-44 (Quarterfinal) and 45-40 over Hartland, 50-46 over Howell, 73-70 over Class B No. 2 Detroit Country Day.
Players to watch: Camree’ Clegg, 5-5 sr. G (23.7 ppg, 6.4 apg); Jeanae Terry, 5-10 jr. G (Statistics not submitted).
Outlook: Wayne went 0-20 in Mitchell’s first season, then won a league title his second, league and District championships his third and added the Regional title for the first time in program history this winter. Clegg was a Miss Basketball Award finalist and has led the Zebras to double-digit wins in every postseason game. The losses came twice to Detroit Edison – including by just two points the second time –Williamston early when it was full strength and considered a Class B favorite and Ohio semifinalist Toledo Rogers (25-3).
PHOTO: Saginaw Heritage's Moira Joiner (4) works to get past a Flint Carman-Ainsworth defender during last week's Regional Final victory. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.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.)