Countdown to Calvin: Regional Preview

March 5, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We're just days removed from one of the most highlight-filled and upset-loaded Girls Basketball District weeks in recent memory. We could spend this entire "Countdown to Calvin" report noting every single game that sent a wave through the brackets.

But the tournament is about advancing and looking ahead, and we've got plenty to preview as Regional Semifinals tip off tonight. 

Below we mention five of the District results that especially made an impression, plus look at three Regionals of particular note in each class – all powered by MI Student Aid. Host sites are bolded, and matchups shown are for Regional Semifinals. (Click for brackets for every Regional in all four classes.)

Week in Review

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

1. Caledonia 46, East Kentwood 45 – A last-second basket pushed Caledonia past the reigning Class A runner-up and undefeated Falcons after East Kentwood has won the first two meetings between the teams.

2. Manchester 46, Pittsford 45 – In Class C, Manchester ended Pittsford’s winning streak at 76, two wins short of the MHSAA record.

3. Big Rapids 49, Stanton Central Montcalm 34 – In Class B, Big Rapids handed Central Montcalm its only loss after falling twice to the Hornets during the regular season.

4. Dexter 41, Ann Arbor Huron 36 – The Dreadnaughts knocked out a Class A contender in the District opener, ending the River Rats’ 18-game winning streak.

5. Ishpeming Westwood 59, Negaunee 44 – Westwood ended the Class C contender Miners’ perfect season after also falling twice to Negaunee earlier this winter.

Regionals at a Glance

These could be among our most competitive brackets. Host sites are in bold:


Mount Pleasant
Marquette (16-6) vs. Saginaw Heritage (22-1), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (21-2) vs. Davison (11-12)

All three of Heritage’s District opponents last week had winning records, and things of course aren’t going to get easier. Marquette was the Great Northern Conference champion, and Carman-Ainsworth finished second to Heritage in the Saginaw Valley League. The Cavaliers’ losses came to the Hawks 60-44 on Jan. 5 and reigning Class B champion Detroit Country Day the next day 65-59. Davison had lost seven of nine to close the regular season, but bounced back at the right time to win three and the title last week.

West Bloomfield
Utica Eisenhower (19-3) vs. Waterford Kettering (16-6), Clarkston (18-4) vs. Bloomfield Hills Marian (18-4)

Eisenhower won the Macomb Area Conference White, Clarkston shared the Oakland Activities Association Red title and Marian shared the Detroit Catholic League Central championship. Kettering only finished second in the Lakes Valley Conference but then won its fifth straight District title. Marian has a 52-38 win over Kettering from Nov. 30 and some tournament experience as well having won the Catholic League A-B title and its seventh straight District championship.

Zeeland East
Caledonia (18-5) vs. Muskegon (21-2), Hudsonville (16-7) vs. East Grand Rapids (20-3)

Caledonia should be riding high after shocking previously undefeated and reigning Class A runner-up East Kentwood last week, and the Fighting Scots ran their winning streak to six in clinching the District title one game later. Next up is Muskegon, which hasn’t lost since Dec. 22 and survived a three-point scare against Grand Haven in their District Final. Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold runner-up East Grand Rapids has won 11 straight, and Hudsonville was one of six teams from the seven-team O-K Red that finished the regular season with a winning record.


Corunna (16-6) vs. Birch Run (20-3), Goodrich (18-4) vs. Freeland (21-2)

Half of the six-team Genesee Area Conference Red won District titles, including champion Goodrich and third-place Corunna. Next up they face two of the best from the Tri-Valley Conference – East champion Birch Run and Central title winner Freeland. The Falcons downed the Panthers 70-55 in a crossover Jan. 30, and also have a 61-43 win over the Martians from Jan. 16.

Comstock Park (19-4) vs. Muskegon Oakridge (20-3), Grand Rapids South Christian (18-4) vs. Howard City Tri-County (15-8)

Oakridge has won six straight West Michigan Conference titles and four Districts during that time, but is seeking its first Regional championship during this string of successes. It won’t come easy if this is the year. Comstock Park won the O-K Blue and has improved 11 wins this season from 2016-17. On the other side of the bracket, South Christian won the O-K Gold and is only two seasons removed from finishing Class B runner-up. And Tri-County is dangerous too; the Vikings claimed a trophy last week after finishing third in the Central State Activities Association Gold behind Stanton Central Montcalm (20-1) and Big Rapids (21-2). 

Ida (19-3) vs. New Boston Huron (20-2), Michigan Center (20-2) vs. Dearborn Henry Ford Academy (16-6)

Ida won the Lenawee County Athletic Association, Huron shared the Huron League title, Michigan Center won the Cascades Conference outright and Henry Ford Academy finished second in the Charter School Conference. Ida finished the regular season with a 19-point win over Huron co-champ Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central, and that could be telling. Henry Ford Academy has the most losses for a reason – all but one came against teams that went on to win District titles as well. Michigan Center and New Boston Huron both found success after playing in different classes last year, Michigan Center Class C and Huron in Class A.


Schoolcraft (23-0) vs. Kalamazoo Hackett (15-8), Niles Brandywine (21-2) vs. Bronson (17-6)

Schoolcraft has followed up its Quarterfinal run of a year ago with perfection, including wins of 13 and 18 over Hackett as they finished first and second, respectively, in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley. All but one of the Eagles’ win have been by double digits; that lone single-digit win came 62-61 over Bronson on Dec. 12. The Vikings tied for third in the strong Big 8 Conference and face Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference Red runner-up Brandywine, which has won Regional titles five of the last six seasons. The Bobcats’ only losses this season were to Class B Comstock (19-2).

Iron River West Iron County (18-4) vs. Ishpeming (19-3), St. Ignace (21-1) vs. Houghton (15-7)

Ishpeming – which finished runner-up to Negaunee in the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference – emerged from their District last week after rival Westwood ended the undefeated Miners’ season. Now the Hematites could get their chance to topple another undefeated power; first up is Western Peninsula Athletic Conference runner-up West Iron, but St. Ignace looms on the other side of the bracket. The Saints open with West PAC champ Houghton, annually one of the Upper Peninsula’s best as well. But St. Ignace’s only loss was to reigning Class C champ Detroit Edison, and it put up an impressive 87-56 win on Class B Goodrich (also noted above) on Feb. 10.

Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian
Pewamo-Westphalia (22-0) vs. Laingsburg (20-2), Grandville Calvin Christian (11-11) vs. Hemlock (20-3)

Reigning Class C runner-up Pewamo-Westphalia has been all but unstoppable, winning by an average margin of 41 points per game. Springport, falling only 34-27 in the District Final, gave the Pirates by far their toughest test; two teams, including Class A District champ Detroit Renaissance, got within 23 during the regular season. Laingsburg got within 24 on Feb. 15, and both of its losses this season were to P-W – this matchup could be even closer. On the other side, Calvin Christian finished second in the O-K Silver despite playing a number of larger schools. Hemlock won the TVC West, with its losses to Class B Freeland and Birch Run (see above) and league runner-up Saginaw Valley Lutheran. The Huskies made the Quarterfinals last season.


Big Rapids Crossroads Academy
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (22-0) vs. Onekama (12-10), Fruitport Calvary Christian (19-3) vs. Bear Lake (17-5)

Sacred Heart is arguably the favorite to win the entire Class D tournament after falling to reigning champion Pittsford in either the Semifinals or Final the last two seasons. Onekama has been on a roll, though, with five wins in its last six games and seven over its last 10 – with the three losses during that run to Class B Kingsley (23-0) and Benzie Central (17-5) and Class C Maple City Glen Lake (20-2). Bear Lake shared the West Michigan D League title and has rattled off nine wins over its last 10 games. The Lakers open against Alliance League champion Calvary Christian, which has won 15 straight and avenged one of those three losses by beating Muskegon Heights Academy in the District Final.  

Bark River-Harris (17-5) vs. Crystal Falls Forest Park (13-9), Munising (22-1) vs. Chassell (22-1)

The second game of the night pits the Skyline Central Conference large-school division champion Mustangs against the Copper Mountain Conference Copper Country title winner Chassell. The Panthers haven’t lost since falling to L’Anse by four in their opener. Munising’s lone defeat came Jan. 4 to Gwinn. Tonight’s first game is a rematch of SCC-Large rivals – the teams split 12-point wins, with Forest Park’s coming in the regular-season finale Feb. 22 as part of a six-game winning streak. Bark River-Harris has won nine of its last 11, however.

St. Ignace
Harbor Spring Harbor Light Christian (19-2) vs. Cedarville (19-3), Gaylord St. Mary (21-1) vs. Rudyard (9-13)

Cedarville has taken a big jump this season after going 13-9 a year ago. Not only did the Trojans win the Eastern UP Athletic Conference, but their lone losses were twice to Class C contender St. Ignace and once to Sault Ste. Marie, a Class B District champ. But Northern Lakes Conference champ Harbor Light Christian will provide an immediate challenge this week. Rudyard, which plays in two leagues including the EUP, upset Engadine to win its District and has won five of its last six games. Gaylord St. Mary has won 21 straight, with a perfect run through the Ski Valley Conference, as it looks to get back to the final week of the season after falling in its Regional Final by three points a year ago.

PHOTO: Unionville-Sebewaing celebrates its Class C District title after defeating Cass City in overtime last week. (Click to see more from Varsity Monthly.)

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.)