The clock is ticking as the Countdown to Calvin will be over by the time this evening is done.
Our final “Countdown to Calvin” report of 2018-19 – powered by MI Student Aid – takes a glance at all 16 Quarterfinals, which tip off at 7 p.m. unless noted. All Quarterfinals will be broadcast and viewable with subscription on MHSAA.tv. Come back Wednesday night for a more in-depth look at our 16 finalists as they head into this weekend.
Saginaw Heritage (22-2) vs. Hartland (22-3) at Grand Blanc
Reigning Class A champion Heritage avenged a league title-deciding loss to Midland Dow with a 15-point win in the Regional Final, and a heralded group of seniors – Miss Basketball Award runner-up Moira Joiner (18.8 points per game), Shine Strickland-Gills (12.8) and Mallory McCartney (10.5) – are leading the repeat charge. Hartland is the power on the rise – the Eagles don’t have a senior starter. Junior Whitney Sollom (10.9 ppg, 8.6 rebounds per game) leads a balanced attack. Heritage won their Dec. 11 meeting 55-35.
Temperance Bedford (20-5) vs. Wayne Memorial (23-2) at West Bloomfield, 5 p.m.
There may not be a more balanced team left in the playoffs than Bedford, as no player averages more than 7.8 ppg and the two leading scorers don’t even start. The team’s only in-state losses this season came by two to 19-win Ann Arbor Pioneer – avenged by a six-point victory – and by one to 15-win Saline, avenged by 10 points in the rematch. Wayne is back after making the Semifinals a year ago, and its only losses this season were both to Division 2 favorite Detroit Edison. Senior guard Jeanae Terry, a University of Illinois recruit, leads an experienced group looking to take the final steps.
Southfield Arts & Technology (22-1) vs. St. Clair Shores Lakeview (19-5) at West Bloomfield
Only an early two-point loss to Heritage has kept Southfield A&T from a perfect run so far. The Warriors, semifinalists two years ago, boast a dangerous 1-2 punch of senior Alexis Johnson (19.2 ppg) and junior Cheyenne McEvans (17.1 ppg). Lakeview can win 20 games for the third straight season and is coming off its first Regional championship in this sport. The Huskies avenged one of their defeats in downing Fraser in the District Final.
Muskegon (20-4) vs. DeWitt (23-2) at Kalamazoo Loy Norrix
The Big Reds are repeat Regional champions and looking to take the next step as Miss Basketball finalist Alyza Winston (24.5 ppg) finishes her high school career. Muskegon has won 16 straight on the court and avenged its opening-night loss to East Kentwood in the Regional Semifinal. DeWitt has won at least 21 games the last three seasons and four of the last five, breaking through for its first Regional title since finishing Class A runner-up in 2015. Senior Annie McIntosh (14.8 ppg) has helped set pace for the Panthers, who have two losses by a combined eight points to rivals East Lansing and St. Johns – and avenged both.
Cadillac (21-3) vs. Freeland (22-2) at Mount Pleasant
Freeland is coming off its third straight Regional title to set up this rematch of a 2017 Quarterfinal won by the Falcons. Junior Kadyn Blanchard (14.9 ppg) leads three players scoring in double figures for a team that has won 18 straight and lost only to Division 1 Heritage and Dow. Cadillac won the Big North Conference title by a wide margin on the way to its second Regional title. Sophomore guard Molly Anderson (16 ppg) also leads three scoring in double digits.
Grand Rapids South Christian (15-9) vs. Hamilton (24-0) at Hope College
Somewhat quietly, Hamilton is a combined 71-6 over the last three seasons with two straight Regional titles. The Hawkeyes will try to follow last year’s first-ever Quarterfinal berth with a first trip to the Semifinals, and beat South Christian 62-42 in their season opener. Sophomore 6-foot-2 center AJ Ediger leads at 20.2 ppg. The Sailors have rebounded from a 2-5 start and upset Muskegon Oakridge in the Regional Final. Senior guard Sydney Cleary (12.3 ppg) leads a balanced lineup.
Haslett (18-6) vs. Chelsea (24-1) at Fowlerville
Chelsea has reached the Quarterfinals for the first time, its only loss by two to Division 1 Ann Arbor Pioneer in the regular-season finale. Haslett has won 13 of its last 15 and avenged two losses to Williamston and one to Jackson Northwest by eliminating both during the postseason. Both teams have one player scoring in double digits – for Chelsea, senior guard Abigale Fullerton leads at 11.6 ppg, while senior guard Ella McKinney paces Haslett at 13.7 ppg.
Detroit Edison (24-1) vs. Goodrich (14-10) at St. Clair County Community College
Edison is the reigning Class C champion and features newly-honored Miss Basketball winner Rickea Jackson (22.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg). Junior Gabrielle Elliott (17.4 ppg) and sophomore Damiya Hagemann (14 ppg, 8.1 apg) would star for most other teams in the state. Edison’s only loss came to Ohio power Columbus Africentric, by five. Goodrich won its sixth Regional title this decade after entering the postseason .500. Junior guard Maddie Voelker (24.2 ppg) leads a rising team with no seniors.
Ishpeming Westwood (24-1) vs. Lake City (21-2) at Gaylord
Westwood is making its first Quarterfinal appearance since 2008; Lake City is making its first since 1976. The Patriots’ only loss came to rival Negaunee and has been avenged twice. Junior guards Madelyn Koski (15.8 ppg) and Tessa Leece (15.2) make up a strong backcourt. After finishing second to Manton in the Highland Conference, Lake City hasn’t had a playoff game closer than 14 points. Junior forward Rylie Bisballe (16.8 ppg) leads three averaging double-digit scoring.
Royal Oak Shrine (20-5) vs. Flint Hamady (19-5) at Lapeer, 6 p.m.
Hamady is back for its seventh Quarterfinal this decade after missing the final week last season. All of the Hawks’ losses were to Division 1 and 2 teams, including one to Goodrich (noted above), and they handed Hemlock its only loss this season in winning the Regional Final. Shrine is making its first Quarterfinal appearance since 1995 after winning league regular-season and tournament titles and beating two league champs in last week’s Regional. Senior guard Grace Murray leads at 15 ppg.
Adrian Madison (23-1) vs. Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (18-6) at Tecumseh
Madison is riding high from its first Regional championship, with only a four-point loss to 15-win Manchester keeping it from perfection so far this winter. Center Laura Teunion-Smith (13 ppg, 12 rpg) is one of four senior starters who have contributed to this historic run. Arbor Prep has made six straight Quarterfinals and is seeking to make its fifth straight Semifinal. Freshman Mya Petticord has stepped in big this winter at 19.3 ppg and 3.3 assists per game.
Pewamo-Westphalia (24-1) vs. Niles Brandywine (23-2) at Middleville Thornapple Kellogg
The Pirates, the 2017 Class C runners-up and 2018 semifinalists, also have lost only to Edison this season as they seek their first championship. Junior forward Hannah Spitzley and junior guard Ellie Droste are the leading scorers, both at 13.9 ppg. Brandywine won its seventh Regional title this decade and first since 2016, with losses only to Division 2 Comstock. Junior guard Zakiyyah Abdullah leads at 14.1 ppg.
Baraga (21-3) vs. St. Ignace (25-0) at Escanaba
St. Ignace has made the Quarterfinals every season this decade and is seeking to return to the Semifinals for the first time since 2015. Senior 6-foot forward Emily Coveyou scores 22.9 points and grabs 10.2 rebounds per game for a team that has won all five of its postseason matchups by at least 42 points. Baraga steps in coming off its first Regional title since 1993 and with a win over 2018 Class D runner-up Chassell along the way. Five of the team’s seven players are underclassmen, with sophomore Rylie Koskinen (11.2 ppg) and senior Martina Jahfetson (11 ppg) leading the way.
Clarkston Everest Collegiate (14-9) vs. Kingston (23-2) at Burton Bendle, 6 p.m.
Kingston is playing in its fourth Quarterfinal in five seasons and again seeking to make the Semifinals for the first time. Senior Lily Lyons (11.2 ppg) is the lead scorer for a team that has fallen only to Division 1 Utica Eisenhower and Oxford. Everest Collegiate also is seeking its first Semifinal berth and has made it this far once before, in 2014. The Mountaineers are paced by 6-0 senior center Katelyn Allen (15 ppg, 11.1 rpg).
Gaylord St. Mary (22-2) vs. Fowler (16-7) at Clare
After winning its fifth Regional title this decade, St. Mary is looking to reach the Semifinals for the first time since 2002. The Snowbirds’ only losses were to Division 2 Escanaba and Division 3 Traverse City St. Francis. Senior guard Livee Jeffers leads at 14.4 ppg. Fowler is in its first Quarterfinal and seeking its first Semifinal both since finishing Class D runner-up in 1999. The Eagles, playing in the same league as Pewamo-Westphalia among a group of strong teams from larger schools, are paced by freshman guard Mia Riley (11.7 ppg) and sophomore guard Sarah Veale (11.3).
Fruitport Calvary Christian (20-5) vs. Adrian Lenawee Christian (23-2) at Richland Gull Lake
Calvary Christian has built on seven straight league and six straight District titles with its first Regional championship. Junior 6-0 guard Kelsey Richards leads three in double figures averaging 20.5 ppg. Calvary now must face reigning Class D champion Lenawee Christian, led again by 6-2 sophomore forward Bree Salenbien (23.6 ppg, 9.0 rpg) and junior guard Dani Salenbien (13.6 ppg).
Second Half’s weekly “Countdown to Calvin” reports are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Student Financial Services Bureau located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information, including various student financial assistance programs to help make college more affordable for Michigan students. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 savings programs (MET/MESP) and eight additional aid programs within its Student Scholarships and Grants division. Click for more information and connect with MI Student Aid on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTO: Kingston's Hannah James goes to the basket against Akron-Fairgrove in a Division 4 District Semifinal win. (Click for more from Varsity Monthly.)
TECUMSEH – First, the good news: Nearly everyone on the Tecumseh girls basketball team has aspirations to play college basketball – and several of them at a very high level.
Now, the twist: There are only eight girls in the entire program.
Tecumseh head coach Kristy Zajac, starting her seventh season, is unfazed by the lack of numbers. Tecumseh will field just a varsity team this season but should contend for a Southeastern Conference White championship and pursue a deep playoff run as well.
“This is a great group of girls,” Zajac said. “At least six or seven of them want to play college basketball. The basketball IQ is so much higher than we have had in the past. We’ve never had a full team of basketball-first kids.”
Zajac said that dynamic has changed practices and the approach on the court.
“We do a lot more high-level skill stuff and high-level thinking,” she said. “We do more read-and-react stuff where they have to play on the fly, which makes us harder to scout. We want to try and give the kids a chance to use that basketball IQ and make opportunities for themselves on the floor so they can score without having to run a set play.”
The list of college prospects starts with her daughter, 6-foot-2 junior Alli Zajac. She holds about 15 Division I offers, and the list seems to grow daily.
She’s been receiving recruiting attention since before she played a game in high school. As a freshman, she was the Lenawee County Player of the Year and has been all-state both of her first two seasons. Last winter, she scored 433 points as Tecumseh went 20-5.
Her sister, Addi Zajac, hasn’t played a varsity game yet but has received a lot of attention as well as a college prospect after several great years of travel ball. She’s 6-foot and a true center.
“She wears a size 14 shoe,” Zajac said. “We are hoping next year she is 6-3 or 6-4. She has such a strong body; I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone that strong at her age. She can push people around.”
The sisters are very different types of players. They also are extremely competitive, as witnessed when they play 1-on-1 at home.
“It usually ends in a fistfight,” Zajac said. “They are both very competitive.”
The team is loaded with more talent than just the Zajac sisters.
Sophomore Makayla Schlorf made 28 3-pointers last season, and sophomore Chloe Bollinger made 26. Junior Ashlyn Moorhead averaged just under double figures in scoring and averaged 3.7 assists a game last year. Junior Lauren Kilbarger also is back from last season and joined by newcomers Faith Wiedyk, a junior, sophomore Sophia Torres and freshman Amaria Brown.
Maddie VanBlack is another travel ball veteran but is out this season due to tearing an ACL.
Tecumseh athletic director Jon Zajac – Kristy’s husband – said it is disappointing Tecumseh won’t field a junior varsity team this year. He said kids playing travel ball in other sports, along with the youth of the current team, are factors.
“It is frustrating,” he said. “Hopefully this is the only year for that.”
Kristy (Maska) Zajac grew up near Tecumseh in Britton, played four years on the varsity and scored more than 1,800 career points under coach Bart Bartels, now an assistant on her staff. She played at Eastern Michigan University, where she was one of the top scorers in school history. Jon Zajac, played at EMU and professionally overseas.
The entire family is crazy about basketball. In addition to Alli and Addi, son Ryder played four years at Tecumseh before heading off to college to play football, and the youngest in the family, Avery, is a budding star in her own right.
“There were a few travel games this year where my team was short on numbers and Avery got to play with Addi and Alli,” Kristy Zajac said. “That was cool to see. She held her own. She won’t get to play with Alli in high school (Avery is in seventh grade), but she’ll get two years with Addi. I got to play with my sister, and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.”
Jon Zajac stops by practice now and then to coach as well. He and Kristy coach Avery’s travel team.
“He is a great person to have as part of the program,” Kristy Zajac said of her husband. “Anytime I can get him to help with the post players and with the girls is great. He’s a huge help.”
The family often schedules trips around basketball and is seemingly always pulled in multiple directions as the three girls compete at various levels.
“It’s pretty much basketball all day, every day,” Zajac said. “It’s fun to see how the kids enjoy it and love the game.”
Tecumseh, which has won a combined 39 games over the past two seasons, has loaded up its schedule, playing a collection of nonconference teams that made deep tournament runs and won conference championships last season. Tecumseh plays in the Icebreaker event at Ypsilanti Arbor Prep against Detroit Country Day on Saturday and also faces Temperance-Bedford (23-1 last season), reigning Division 3 runner-up Blissfield and Grand Blanc.
Without a senior on the team and no JV squad, Tecumseh will play essentially this group for the next 50 or more games. It’s a two-year window with virtually the same team.
“We’re doing what we can to win this year,” Zajac said. “We want this year to be super successful. We are just taking it one game at a time and going from there. We want to keep building and getting better every day, every game. Hopefully by the end of next year, we’ll be where we need to be.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Tecumseh’s Alli Zajac makes her move toward the lane last season against Adrian. (Middle) Kristy Zajac coaches her team, which finished 20-5 in 2022-23. (Photos by Deloris Clark-Osborne/Adrian Daily Telegram.)