Comeback Saints Win Class D OT Thriller

March 21, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – St. Ignace is used to driving three hours to East Lansing for the last weekend of girls basketball season. This marked the sixth straight they’ve made the trip. 

But only one other team has come from so far back to win an MHSAA championship.

With good reason, St. Ignace looked like a 2014-15 runner-up in the making trailing undefeated Pittsford by 20 two minutes into the third quarter of Saturday’s Class D Final. But the Saints never saw it that way – and launched a comeback that tied the largest in MHSAA girls basketball championship game history. 

The Saints needed overtime to finish the run, but edged Pittsford 64-60 to claim their third title in five seasons.

“A lot of heart. You have to come out there and give it your all, after halftime, and we tried to,” said St. Ignace junior Abbey Ostman, whose 31 points tied for 11th most in a girls MHSAA Final. “I felt like my teammates were trying really hard, and I felt I needed to step up to help them. I knew they were here to give it their all.” 

And that’s what it took for the Saints to claim their fifth championship in historic fashion.

The comeback tied Detroit Cass Tech’s in the 1987 Class A Final, when it came back from 20 down in the third quarter to defeat Saginaw 52-51 at Grand Valley State University. 

The Saints (22-5) trailed Pittsford 41-21 just two minutes into the third quarter after a first half that saw St. Ignace uncharacteristically miss all nine of its 3-point attempts and shoot only 32 percent from the floor. The Wildcats, meanwhile, made half of their shots and 5 of 11 from behind the arc.

But a half, and more, remained to play. 

“I told (my players) they were going to make a run. We had to weather it, and we didn’t,” Pittsford coach Chris Hodos said. “I didn’t know if it would be Ostman or (Margo) Brown who would get hot. I just didn’t know. They have two senior players who have been here a lot of times, and they know how to win games.”

Brown was the hero of Thursday’s Semifinal, when the Saints came back from 13 down to beat top-ranked Frankfort on the wave of her seven straight 3-pointers during the second and third quarters. 

She followed Ostman on Saturday with 19 points, and only one 3-pointer this time. But that shot pulled the Saints within 48-43 just 17 seconds into the fourth quarter – and four minutes later she was fouled on a made lay-up and added the free throw to cut Pittsford’s lead to 50-49.

“Margo’s got the biggest heart out of any player I’ve ever coached,” said St. Ignace coach Dorene Ingalls, who has led the Saints for 16 seasons. “It’s heart like that as a senior, to come out and have two comeback wins, down 20, and never give up. 

“When she makes that (3), the kids start to believe, but the other team starts believing, ‘Uh oh. We’re in trouble,’ if they watched the other game’s second half.”

Ostman made the score even for the first time since the game’s second minute with a free throw that tied it 54-54 with 35 seconds left in regulation. Regulation ended that way after a Brown drive during the final seconds was stopped short. 

Ostman scored the first two baskets of overtime, and Pittsford answered. But junior forward Natalee Lee then gave the Saints a 60-58 lead on two free throws – and after two Pittsford turnovers Brown added two free throws as well to make it a four-point game again with 44 seconds to play.

The Wildcats got no closer.

Ostman also grabbed 10 rebounds as the Saints earned the advantage overall in that category, 42-33.

Junior forward Laura Smith led four Pittsford scorers in double figures with 14 points; sophomore Jaycie Burger added 13, senior Morgan Dominique had 12 and sophomore Maddie Clark had 12 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. 

Ostman started in St. Ignace’s 2013 Class D Final win as a freshman, and Smith and guard Autumn Orm came off the bench as sophomores in that game. Senior center Sarah Smith came off the bench to play big minutes as the team finished Class C runner-up a year ago.

All of that experience surely paid off Saturday, and Saturday’s could pay off quickly for a Pittsford team graduating only two players after completing the longest tournament run in program history. 

“We tried not to let the size of it and the pressure of the game get to us,” Burger said. “We learned what it’s like to play in front of all of these people, how not to get caught up in the surroundings, how not to get rattled when they make their runs. We learned how to stay focused and keep ourselves under control.”

Click for the full box score and video from the postgame press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) St. Ignace’s Abbey Ostman breaks to the basket with Pittsford’s Maddie Clark (10) defending. (Middle) Pittsford’s Morgan Dominique looks for an opening in the Saints’ defense, which includes Margo Brown (24).

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.)