Comstock 'Stampedes' to Elusive Title

By Pam Shebest
Special for

February 21, 2017

COMSTOCK — It took almost a quarter century, but the Comstock girls finally put their mark on the basketball banner hanging in their gym.

They have to share the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Red title with Buchanan, but that is OK with them.

“It’s been (24 years) since Comstock girls won conference,” junior Ahkyla Blakely said. “I’m very excited. We’ll get our year up on the banner.”

With a junior and three sophomores among the starting five, one might have thought the team was in a rebuilding season.

But when it comes to experience, there is nothing young about this team.

The Colts have a 17-2 overall record, 9-1 in the conference.

The team may be young, but the girls grew up playing together in the youth program called “The Stampede” that started when the current sophomores were in fourth grade and with coaches that included Justin Ansel, the girls varsity coach for the last five years.

“Our junior class started when they were in fifth grade, so they grew up together with their class,” Ansel said. “Last year, the combination of the two classes, we had a whole year of playing together.”

This year, that experience is paying rewards.

Sophomore Daisy Ansel leads the Colts, averaging 15.2 points per game, followed by junior Blakely at 12.4 and sophomore Caylin Lopez at nine.

Ansel and Lopez also started last year as freshmen.

Abby House, who was pulled up from the junior varsity team midway through last season, is the other sophomore starter along with Blakely and senior Miranda Cannon.

Friends & Family

Having her dad as a coach can be both good and bad, Daisy Ansel said.

“It’s challenging at times, but it makes me better because he pushes me harder as an individual player,” she said.

“At home we talk about basketball all the time. It’s probably brought us together more as a family.”

Her brother, Seth, is a junior on the boys varsity basketball team.

Justin Ansel said the day his daughter does not feel comfortable with him as her coach is the day he will step down – as tough as that would be.

“We do have a relationship that at the end of every season I tell her if you don’t want me to coach any more, I’ll gladly step away and be a parent in the stands and support you in that respect,” he said.

“Each year, she’s always wanted me to be her coach. That feels good.”

He added that it is not just her he would miss coaching.

“You develop a relationship since fourth grade with these girls, and it’s not just your daughter,” he said. “I feel like I have a bunch of daughters out there.”

Senior Arreona Blakely said the turning point in the season was defeating Buchanan, 54-33, on Feb. 3.

The Colts lost to the Bucks 37-33 the month before.

“(Our win) was probably our best game, communication and defense-wise,” Blakely said.

She has no problem with her younger sister starting while she waits for the nod.

“I’m used to it,” the senior said. “It’s more I know my position, which is to be a leader and a communicator versus being the one out there scoring points. She’s more the athletic one versus me.

“I’m not really that athletic like her, but I’m good to support her. When she’s going through a rough time, I’m the only one who really knows how to pick her back up, spirit-wise, and get her going.”

Ahkyla Blakely said two things have helped the team improve from its 13 wins last year.

“It’s conditioning and practice,” she said. “Our coach makes us run these Sweet 16s every practice, and we’ve got to try to beat a time. He pushes us.

“We’ve been waiting for (last year’s) freshmen to come up, and now they’re sophomores and we’ve all been together for a long time. It feels like family.”

Daisy Ansel said the girls have a connection.

“We know who our shooters are, who we’re trying to get open,” she said. “We know all the plays. We have over 10 plays we can run against any team, and we all know them.

“When we’re out there together, we all just click like in middle school, and outside of basketball we get along.”

Ansel is a captain along with the Blakely sisters.

“Normally, sophomores aren’t captains, but going through travel ball has taught me so much, like the communication part of basketball,” Ansel said.

“I used to think you had to work the hardest and had to win everything, but now you’ve got to pump up everybody on your team to have the strongest practice. I work on giving more energy and communication in practice because it plays a bigger part than you think on the basketball court.”

House is a five-sport athlete, playing volleyball and golf in the fall, basketball and bowling in the winter and softball in the spring.

“It’s pretty tough between homework and all the practices and games, but I try to make it work,” she said. “Coaches work with me a lot.”

She said it is an advantage to have been coached by Justin Ansel on the Stampede team.

“He’s been our coach since we were little, so we know what he wants us to do,” she said. “He challenges us more because he knows what we can do.”

This season, “We’re generating a lot more offense. We’re all playing together as one team instead of as individuals, and our defense has tremendously improved since last year.”

Sophomore Madelyn Caswell is the tallest on the team at 5-foot-9, but “with my lankiness, my coach says I’m about 5-11,” she said, laughing.

Playing her first year on varsity, “The competitiveness is a lot more intense,” she said. “We have big goals and working to get there is a lot more competitive, and we’re a lot more driven than we were on jayvee.”

More to achieve

Comstock will host an MHSAA Class B District next week where it could face perennial power and reigning Class B champion Marshall in the second game.

“We play Parchment in the first round and if we win that, Marshall in the finals,” Justin Ansel said. “Marshall is very tough. We’re going to have to be fundamentally strong on both ends of the floor.

“Last year we got to Marshall in the first game. Four out of my five years (coaching Comstock), Marshall has ended my season.”

But the team entered this winter with high aspirations, and already has made good on making history.

“It’s something we talked about, but it wasn’t something we imagined doing,” Caswell said. “Throughout the season we realized we could make (winning conference) more of a reality.”

Marissa Vandyk is the other senior on the team. Juniors are Kierra Lovelace and Kaylee Gilley.

Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Comstock sophomore Caylin Lopez guards a Parchment ball handler this season. (Middle top) Comstock coach Justin Ansel and sophomore Daisy Ansel. (Middle below) Comstock junior Ahkyla Blakely and senior Arreona Blakely. (Below) Sophomore Madelyn Caswell (40) works to defend a shot. (Action photos courtesy of the Comstock girls basketball program; head shots by Pam Shebest.)

St. George's Senior Season Filled with Historic Trip, Sizzling 3-Point Shooting

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 21, 2024

Delaney St. George helped Kingston reach its first MHSAA Girls Basketball Final this winter – and along the way finished her high school career among the most prolific 3-point shooters in state history.

The four-year varsity senior made 87 3-pointers this season for the Division 4 runner-up Cardinals, good to tie for 10th on the single-season list after she made 93 as a junior to rank fourth all-time.

She finished her Kingston career with 290 3-pointers in 793 attempts over 94 games – good for second on the career 3-pointers list.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA girls basketball record book, and click on the heading to see the record book in full.

Girls Basketball

Hemlock’s 18-6 run this season was fueled in part by more successful 3-point shooting. The Huskies made single-season lists with 170 3-pointers and 552 attempts, and also for making 14 3-pointers Jan. 5 against St. Louis.

Senior Mia McLaughlin made nine of 15 3-point shots for Frankenmuth in a Feb. 6 win over Birch Run as the Eagles made the team record book list with 15 3-pointers total. They also were added for 14 3-pointers in a Feb. 20 win over Bay City John Glenn. McLaughlin will continue her career at Ferris State.

McBain sophomore Peyton Grant scored all 27 of her points Jan. 17 against Houghton Lake on nine 3-pointers to make the single-game list in that category.

Seniors Autumn Tremblay and Ceara LeBlanc earned Brimley’s first girls basketball record book listings this season. Both made single-game lists in a Feb. 27 win over Harbor Springs Harbor Light Christian – Tremblay scored 21 points during the first quarter and LeBlanc had 16 steals for the game – and LeBlanc also was added for 141 steals total over 25 games this past winter.

Reed City’s run at the Central State Activities Association title this winter was fueled in part by 3-point shooting. The Coyotes finished one game out of first, but made the records with 517 3-point attempts over 24 games – and just missed the made 3-pointers list connecting on 143.

Howell sophomore Gabrielle Piepho added her third record book listing over her first two seasons this winter making 89.2 percent of her free throw attempts to rank eighth on that single-season list. Howell as a team also made the 3-point attempts list with 536 over 25 games, and also just missed the 3-pointers made list with 146.

Saline finished the 2023-24 season among the all-time leading 3-point shooters again, this time with 192 – 14th-most for one season – in 587 attempts over 24 games. Sophomore Keira Roehm led the way with 78 3-pointers, tying for 21st on that list.

Junior Tamerah Peterson led Sterling Heights Parkway Christian to a District title this season, providing a record-setting defensive boost in addition to her offensive skills. She finished with 173 steals – eighth-most for one season – over 21 games.

Niles Brandywine reached Breslin Center this season with another stellar distance shooting display, making the record book with both 186 3-pointers and 610 attempts from beyond the arc in finishing Division 3 runner-up.

Alie Bisballe capped her career at Lake City this winter by helping her team reach the Division 3 Semifinal at Breslin Center – and by reaching the MHSAA girls basketball record book in two categories. The 6-foot-4 post player made the lists with 329 rebounds and 188 blocked shots, both in 28 games as Lake City finished 25-3. She will continue her career at Wisconsin.

Ironwood junior Hanna Vaughn will enter her final season next winter already on the career 3-pointers list. She’s made 155 3-pointers over her first three seasons and 70 games on varsity.

PHOTO Kingston’s Delaney St. George (10) pulls up for a shot during the Division 4 Final against Ishpeming.