Class A Preview: Stars Sure to Shine

March 14, 2018

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 and viewable on a pay-per-view basis. All four Finals will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit and streamed live on and the FOX Sports Go! app. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on

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. 

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

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for

April 5, 2024

It won’t be hard for Jayden Marlatt to remember opening day on the softball field from any of her four years at Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAs a freshman, she missed the opener due to needing to quarantine. Her sophomore and junior years started on the road because the Cardinals’ field was under construction.  

This season the Cardinals will open up — weather permitting — on their brand-new field, hosting Mio on Monday, April 8.  Marlatt is slated to be the starting pitcher again and add to her school record collection.

While Johannesburg-Lewiston is looking forward to playing on the new diamond, Marlatt and her teammates have high hopes of finishing the season almost 200 miles south. They’re looking to get back to Michigan State University – the site of the Division 4 Semifinals and Final.

The Cards have had their sites on that goal since they fell 4-2 to Mendon in last year’s Semifinal at Secchia Stadium. The loss ended a 30-4-1 campaign that saw the Cardinals play every game on the road for a second consecutive year, but come up only one victory short of a first championship game appearance.

The trip to East Lansing also came after the Cards won the program’s first District title since 2008 and advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 1981.

“It has been a long two seasons on the road,” said eighth-year head coach Kim Marlatt, noting the team utilized a Little League field for practices during the stretch. “They’ve been putting in a lot of work in the offseason, so it is excited to get going.”

Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. The new field isn’t the only new things this spring. The Cardinals will have a junior varsity team for the first time during the Marlatt’s tenure. The JV squad is coached by Ryan Marlatt, who has been serving the program the past eight years as assistant coach. He also has been the head girls basketball coach at JoBurg the past two seasons.

The Marlatt coaches are the proud parents of Jayden, who continues to garner recognition as perhaps the greatest athlete in Johannesburg-Lewiston’s history. 

The three-sport star had a huge hand in all that JoBurg accomplished last season leading the team in batting average (.670), home runs (13) and runs batted in (61). As the team’s ace pitcher, she collected 249 strikeouts and compiled a 1.32 ERA.

“Jayden has put in the hard work,” Kim pointed out.  “She is a very humble athlete. ‘She doesn’t like to talk about herself. She likes to compete, and she likes to be on the top of her game for her teammates.”

Jayden has been named all-conference and all-state in softball, basketball and volleyball nearly every season over her four years at JoBurg. She’s led her teams to Ski Valley Conference, District and Regional titles along the way.

She’s also been named Player of the Year by multiple publications. And she’s a front runner to be voted the Most Valuable Player of the Ski Valley Conference in softball. Earlier this year, league coaches voted her the MVP for both basketball and volleyball.  

“The Ski Valley never used to vote on an MVP,” Ryan Marlatt said. “Hopefully she can add the triple crown and get softball this year.”

Jayden Marlatt, who has played all three sports all four years, acknowledged softball is perhaps her most treasured, and she’ll continue in that sport at Ferris State. Her career total of more than 500 strikeouts, and her 14 home runs last season, are both JoBurg school records. "I like them all but probably softball,” she confirmed when asked to name her favorite sport.

She averaged 12 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and four steals per game this winter helping the Cards basketball team to a conference runner-up finish. She was key to JoBurg's ability to put a 12-game winning streak together, and she topped the 1,000-point career mark along the way.

Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season.Her outstanding senior year on the basketball court and this spring’s possibilities nearly vanished as the volleyball season ended.

She suffered what looked to be a serious lower-leg injury in the final game of the JoBurg volleyball season. “She finished in the emergency room,” Kim Marlatt said.  

Diagnosed a high ankle sprain, it was an aggravation to an injury from her junior year in basketball. She wasn’t quite at 100 percent on the basketball court this season until the holiday break. She’s starting the softball season healthy, though.

Before the injury, Jayden led the Cards to their third volleyball conference championship over the last four years. After becoming JoBurg's all-time kills leader during her junior season, and with many of her teammates from her first three seasons graduating, Jayden had to fill a variety of roles while anchoring the offense from her outside hitter spot.

She ended up leading the team in both kills with 421 and digs, with 431, in her final season on the volleyball court. And she is listed among MHSAA’s all-time leaders in kills for a single match and career.

It’s more than Marlatt’s stats that stand out for Kristine Peppin, the school’s volleyball coach the past 15 years.

“It is not about the size of the school or the size of the player, it’s the heart that they have inside,” she proclaimed. “This girl would be a successful player on whatever team she was on. 

“Yes we’re a small school, small town,” she continued. “That kind of leadership and heart and drive to be the best is what’s given her that success.”

Marlatt’s work ethic is second to none, Peppin noted. She never saw Jayden give less than a “1,000” percent in practice or games in her career. 

Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt.“She’s a super hard worker and extremely modest for the kind of skill she possesses and the success she’s had,” Peppin said. “Her teammates think it’s amazing to be on her team.”

Marlatt’s volleyball skills caught the eye of at least one of her conference opponents’ coaches back in junior high. Ron Stremlow was performing one of his many coaching duties for Fife Lake Forest Area when he first saw Jayden on the volleyball court.

“I could tell then this girl was somebody special,” said Stremlow, who became one of the winningest coaches in state volleyball history with the Warriors. “When she got in high school, it just took off.

“She puts the time into it, and she works hard,” Stremlow continued. “Kids like that get what they deserve – they work for it.”

Stremlow, now retired, also acknowledged he’s enjoyed being able to watch the hard-throwing Marlatt on the softball field the last couple of seasons as Forest Area hosted the Cardinals consecutively due to JoBurg’s lack of a home field.

It’s something he’ll have to travel to do this year though, as JoBurg is scheduled to host the Warriors on April 15.

The Cardinals also will host a Regional on their new field June 8. The winners of District play at Rogers City, Harbor Springs, St. Ignace and Gaylord St. Mary will participate.

To play in the Regional, the Cards will have to emerge from the Rogers City District featuring the host Hurons, Atlanta, Hillman, Onaway, and Posen.

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Jayden Marlatt drives a pitch during softball season. (2) Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. (3) Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season. (4) Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt. (Action shots by Dylan Jespersen/Petoskey News-Review; family photo by Breya Domke.)