Countdown to Calvin: Girls Report Week 11

February 19, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

It’s championship time in Michigan high school girls basketball.

With all of the recent snow-outs pushing rescheduled games into these final two weeks of the regular season, it seems like hardly a day goes by without at least one team celebrating a league title – and there’s plenty more to come, as we highlight below.

Countdown to Calvin is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at To offer corrections or fill in scores we’re missing, email me at [email protected].

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results: 

1. Ann Arbor Pioneer 53, Monroe 44 – Although Pioneer went on to lose its next game, in overtime to reigning Class D champ Adrian Lenawee Christian, this win over Monroe locked up the program’s first league title since 2000.

2. Detroit Edison 57, Bloomfield Hills Marian 51 – Edison dealt Marian its only loss this season as both turned up for anticipated long tournament runs in Divisions 2 and 1, respectively.

3. Detroit Mumford 59, Detroit Martin Luther King 49 – By an impressive margin, Mumford repeated as Detroit Public School League Tournament champion with this title game win.

4. Rockford 59, Grand Haven 49 (2 OT) – The Rams pushed into first in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red with this victory over Grand Haven and then Friday’s over East Kentwood; those opponents are now tied for second place.

5. East Grand Rapids 71, Grand Rapids South Christian 51 – The Pioneers are a win away from a perfect run through the O-K Gold after finishing second a year ago and clinched the league title outright with this victory over the reigning champ.

Watch List

With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:


• DeWitt (15-1) – The Panthers actually improved to 16-1 on Monday with a 58-46 win over East Lansing – which entered the night as the only undefeated team left in Division 1. The Panthers and Trojans this winter are in the same league for the first time and tied for first in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue, both with a league game to play. DeWitt’s only defeat came to the Trojans by four Dec. 14, and the Panthers own a 12-point win over Ann Arbor Pioneer and 13-pointer over Jenison among other standout victories.

• Grand Rapids Northview (13-1) – The Wildcats have clinched a share of the O-K White and can claim the title outright Friday against second-place Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern. It’s a solid improvement on last season’s 12-8 finish, and comes with an impressive 13-game winning streak after opening this winter with a loss to Rockford.


• Freeland (14-2) – To see the Falcons in the mix locally and statewide is nothing new. Freeland has made Class B Quarterfinals the last two seasons and could have another run ready to launch – although first the Falcons have a chance to clinch the Tri-Valley Conference Central championship Friday against Shepherd. Losses to Division 1 state powers Midland Dow and Saginaw Heritage should prove valuable next month.

• Muskegon Oakridge (15-2) – The end to its 82-game league winning streak Jan. 8 against Whitehall can fall further into the rearview mirror if Oakridge can clinch the West Michigan Conference title again Thursday against Shelby. Oakridge avenged that loss to Whitehall in their rematch Feb. 8 and took its only other defeat Dec. 22 against likely Division 3 contender Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.


• Grass Lake (14-1) – After finishing second to Michigan Center a year ago, Grass Lake could be closing in on its second Cascades Conference title in three seasons. The Warriors have won 12 straight since falling to the Cardinals on Dec. 13 – including a 42-39 victory in the rematch Feb. 1 – and without another loss are guaranteed to at least share the championship. A nonleague matchup with Adrian Lenawee Christian on Feb. 26 could also be an indicator of the program’s potential to win a third straight District title.

• Houghton Lake (14-0) – After finishing 8-13 just two seasons ago, Houghton Lake is a win away from clinching a share of the Jack Pine Conference championship and hasn’t had a game closer than 13 points this season. The Bobcats did show improvement last year finishing 15-8 and winning a District title, but could have their sights set on more with Lake City next week a great test heading into the postseason.


• Ann Arbor Rudolf Steiner (15-1) – The Storm is already three wins better than last season’s 12-10 record, with its only defeat to non-MHSAA Ann Arbor Christ the King on Dec. 17. Rudolf Steiner’s conference dissolved before this season, so it didn’t have that chance to contend this winter – but the Storm can look forward to postseason possibilities in two weeks after reaching the District Final a year ago.

• Baraga (14-2) – The Vikings can clinch a share of the Copper Mountain Conference Copper Country title Thursday against Republic-Michigamme, a nice jump after last season’s third place and 10-11 overall finish. Baraga has won six straight since falling to Ontonagon on Jan. 15, with a 22-point victory over L’Anse avenging its only other defeat this winter.

Can't-Miss Contests

Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up: 

Tuesday – Hartland (15-2) at Wayne Memorial (15-2) – This Kensington Lakes Activities Association semifinal pits the East outright champion hosting the West co-champ.

Tuesday – Byron Center (14-3) at Hamilton (16-0) – The Hawkeyes can clinch the O-K Green title outright against second-place Byron Center and after winning their first meeting by 21 on Jan. 22.

Thursday – Brown City (14-2) at Sandusky (13-3) – Brown City holds a one-game lead in the Greater Thumb Conference East after beating Sandusky 48-43 in overtime on Jan. 22.

Friday – Detroit Edison (15-1) at Michigan Center (14-1) – This week’s big game featuring Division 2 favorite Edison sees it traveling to take on an anticipated Division 3 contender.

Friday – Grass Lake (15-1) at Hanover-Horton (12-4) – Hanover-Horton is likely out of the Cascades Conference race, but can mix it up at the top by taking down the leader.

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 and Croswell-Lexington are both leading their leagues as we head into the final two weeks of the girls basketball regular season. (Click to see more from Varsity Monthly.)

Howardsville Christian Striving to Transfer Fall Successes to Basketball Court

By Scott Hassinger
Special for

November 28, 2023

HOWARDSVILLE - There is a sign that hangs inside Howardsville Christian School's tiny gymnasium that accurately depicts the mission for the Eagles during the 2023-24 boys basketball season.

Southwest CorridorIt reads "In Jesus' name we play."

Ken Sparks and the eight players on his varsity basketball roster have challenged themselves to help one another understand what it means to give their season to  God.

"My goal is to help these boys find gratitude in playing for a greater power than themselves," said Sparks, a varsity standout himself at Howardsville from 1996-2000, member of the 1,000-point club and an honorable mention all-stater his senior year.

Nestled on the border between St. Joseph and Cass counties along Bent Road, Howardsville Christian, a Division 4 school for its sports with fewer than 80 students, has enjoyed a rich tradition of spiritual learning both in the classroom and on the court and playing fields.

The contribution of many talented athletes from several families has been instrumental in Howardsville's athletic success for years, especially this school year.

Howardsville won District titles this fall in boys soccer and girls volleyball. Now the Eagles hope to carry that momentum over to the basketball court.

With four starters returning, Sparks is looking for Howardsville’s boys team to battle for supremacy in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph League and improve on a 13-10 record from last season. The Eagles finished 7-7 in the league last winter and endured a disappointing District Semifinal loss to Marcellus. Howardsville Christian had won its District the season in 2021.

"We competed well with all the teams on our schedule and lost to some teams we shouldn't have," Sparks said. "There are eight teams in our conference, and this season we need to beat Benton Harbor Countryside to be the top team. It's been a good league for us."

Senior twin brothers Colin and Dylan Muldoon return for Howardsville, along with junior cousin Kaden Sparks, son of the head coach, and junior John Paul Rose.

The Muldoon brothers both are beginning their third year as varsity starters.

"Working together as a team is something we really want to do well. A lot of teams set a goal of winning Districts. The last two years we've fallen short of that goal. It's definitely something we want to achieve this year," Colin Muldoon said.

Dylan Muldoon echoed that sentiment.

"Our success in soccer makes us want to attain the same goals in basketball. We know we are capable of reaching those, so I think it makes us want to pull things together," Dylan Muldoon said. "There's a lot of long-distance running in soccer, but there's also a lot of quickness and turning in basketball, especially when you're guarding or driving around someone. You just have to be quick."

Eagles varsity boys basketball coach Ken Sparks, far left, is pictured by the school's trophy case with his four returning starters Colin Muldoon, Dylan Muldoon, Kaden Sparks and John Paul Rose. Kaden Sparks, another three-year starter, will be Howardsville's best shooting guard.

"Winning Districts is achievable. We have to learn to work together. I played summer ball, and the biggest takeaway is that it taught me that I have to always give 100-percent effort out there. We had a great soccer season, and It’s taught us a lot about accountability," Kaden Sparks said.

Rose will be Howardsville Christian's starting point guard. He has been a starter since his freshman year, along with Kaden Sparks.

"The team chemistry and communication we had in soccer easily transfers over to basketball. As our point guard, it's important for me to try to get the ball to other guys who have open looks," Rose said. "I want to be more aggressive defensively, push the ball up the floor more and increase my scoring."

In addition, Ken Sparks believes the physicality a majority of his team learned from soccer will be a big benefit on the basketball floor.

"You build up your physicality from playing soccer with having to always body up. Watching them play sometimes hurts me, but that's what I want them to do in basketball. It helps them to want to draw contact and be physical on the floor," Ken Sparks said.

The lack of upperclassmen on Howardsville's varsity the last couple of years gave Rose and Kaden Sparks an immediate opportunity to play as freshmen.

"The fact John Paul and Kaden had that early chance at the varsity level is really paying off now,” Ken Sparks added. “Kaden is an excellent shooter. I want him to get the confidence that I had when I was in high school. He tends to be a little more passive on the floor than I like, but he's finally getting that aggressive nature that you need offensively.”

Kaden, Colin Muldoon and Rose all averaged double-digit scoring last season, while Dylan Muldoon is the Eagles' best defensive player. The Muldoon brothers will serve as Howardsville's team captains.

"Kaden is very self-motivated to become a better basketball player. His goal is to be the best player that he can be," Ken Sparks said. "John Paul is explosive and has really refined his jump shot to where he can be a scoring threat. He sees the floor very well and can really push the ball up the floor without turning it over. We're going to see big strides from him because of his determination and drive.

"Colin is a great overall player. He's a threat from the outside and can score inside with his height as well. If we're going to be successful, he and Dylan have to bring the same drive that John Paul and Kaden bring to the court.”

"I've coached all of the guys on our team for the last three seasons except one,” Sparks added. “We talk about being well-rounded. These guys are the best academically and spiritual leaders in our school."

Howardsville Christian’s most well-known alumni is Dylan Jergens, the third-leading scorer in state history with 2,782 career points.

The boys soccer and girls volleyball teams earned District titles during the fall. (During the fall soccer season, the Muldoons, Kaden Sparks and Rose helped Howardsville win a second-straight District title. The Eagles then lost 5-0 in the Regional Semifinal to eventual Division 4 champion Muskegon Western Michigan Christian. Both Muldoons, Kaden Sparks and Rose were named to the first-team all-BCS and District soccer squads.

The Muldoons were the two main catalysts in the Eagles' soccer run, along with Lukas Krueger. Dylan Muldoon had 28 goals and nine assists, while Colin Muldoon posted 14 goals and eight assists. Krueger added 19 goals to go with 16 assists. Kaden Sparks had five goals and four assists, and Rose added three goals and three assists.

Steve Muldoon, Colin and Dylan's father and Howardsville's head boys soccer coach, sees many correlations between soccer and basketball that will bring the Eagles success in hoops this winter.

"Communication is key. A team that doesn't talk on the field/court isn't going to win. They learn how to correct and encourage one another to deal with problems without getting too negative," Steve Muldoon said. "Individually, they learn how to anticipate. There isn't much difference between anticipating a pass and stepping in front of it in soccer or basketball or making a hard run down the court/field to get open for a layup/counterattack. They learn how to react and make the correct decision under pressure. The skills needed to do it in soccer and basketball are different, but most of it is mental and that carries over."

Determination was another big factor for Howardsville's soccer success this fall.

"We beat Lansing Christian this fall in a weekend soccer tournament and they are a much bigger and physical team than us, but we managed to beat them," Colin Muldoon said. "That win gave us a lot of confidence for the remainder of the season that we could beat anyone."


The family dynamic doesn't stop with Howardsville's boys basketball team.

Senior Kyla Sparks, Ken's daughter and Kaden's older sister, is one of three cousins on the roster for a Howardsville girls team that finished 12-11 last year. All five starters are back for that Eagles team as well.

"As a team, we want to improve on last year's record. With all our starters back, we feel we have a good shot to finish at the top of both our conference and District. Most of our basketball team also played volleyball this fall, and we view us all as family," Kyla Sparks said. "Being able to play with my two cousins makes good lifelong memories."

Kyla Sparks, who averaged 12 points per game her junior year, starts with sophomore cousins Kelsie Muldoon and Kate Evans. Those three also started on the varsity volleyball team that captured its first District title since 1997.

Coincidently, the mothers of Kyla, Kelsie and Kate were all on the 1997 District champion volleyball team.

Scott HassingerScott Hassinger is a contributing sportswriter for Leader Publications and previously served as the sports editor for the Three Rivers Commercial-News from 1994-2022. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Colin Muldoon drives to the basket against his twin brother Dylan Muldoon during recent Howardsville Christian boys basketball practice. (Middle) Eagles varsity boys basketball coach Ken Sparks, far left, is pictured by the school's trophy case with his four returning starters Colin Muldoon, Dylan Muldoon, Kaden Sparks and John Paul Rose. (Below) The boys soccer and girls volleyball teams earned District titles during the fall. (Top and middle photos by Scott Hassinger. District championship photos courtesy of Howardsville Christian School.)