D1 Preview: Powers Ready to Prevail

March 21, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This weekend’s Division 1 girls basketball bracket is filled with stars and storylines.

All four semifinalists have won at least 20 games, and none has lost more than four. Last season’s Class A champ is back, as is another semifinalist and a semifinalist from two years ago – while the fourth team is playing this late for the first time.

Two semifinalists feature Miss Basketball Award finalists. All four teams have at least one player who earned all-state recognition last season.

Division 1 Semifinals  Friday
Saginaw Heritage (23-2) vs. Wayne Memorial (24-2), Noon
Southfield Arts & Technology (23-1) vs. Muskegon (21-4), 2 p.m.

Division 1 Final – Saturday, 12:15 p.m.

Tickets cost $10 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session (Divisions 4 and 1). All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a pay-per-view basis. All four Finals will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit and streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com and the FOX Sports app. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.

Below is a glance at all four semifinalists. Click on the name of the school to see that team’s full schedule and results from this season. (Statistics are through teams' Regional Finals.)

21-4, No. 10
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Black
Coach: Rodney Walker, fifth season (72-20)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 53-51 over No. 5 DeWitt in Quarterfinal, 67-46 over East Kentwood in Regional Semifinal, 52-47 over honorable mention Grand Haven in District Quarterfinal, 55-50 over Division 3 No. 8 Kent City.
Players to watch: Alyza Winston, 5-6 sr. G (24.5 ppg, 39 3-pointers, 3.2 apg, 3.3 spg); Brianna Alexander, 5-2 sr. G (8.7 ppg, 2.6 spg, 2.5 apg).
Outlook: Muskegon reached the Quarterfinals last season for the first time and now will play in its first Semifinal. Winston was a Miss Basketball Award finalist and will continue her career at Michigan State, and the lineup is bolstered by three more contributors averaging at least 6.8 ppg. Four seniors and a junior start and have led the team to 17 straight wins on the court, with the East Kentwood victory avenging a season-opening loss.

23-2, No. 3
League finish: Second in Saginaw Valley League Red 
Coach: Vonnie DeLong, sixth season (130-16)
Championship history: Class A champion 2018 & 2002, runner-up 2001.
Best wins: 49-34 over No. 4 Midland Dow in Regional Final, 55-53 over No. 7 East Lansing, 45-43 over No. 1 Southfield Arts & Technology, 65-52 over Division 2 No. 9 Harper Woods Chandler Park, 51-31 over Division 2 No. 7 Freeland.
Players to watch: Moira Joiner, 5-9 sr. G (18.8 ppg, 40 3-pointers, 3.2 apg); Shine Strickland-Gills, 6-1 sr. F (12.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.3 bpg).
Outlook: Last season’s Class A champion returns to Van Noord with Joiner, Strickland-Gills and senior guard Mallory McCartney (10.5 ppg, 40 3-pointers, 3.1 apg) again leading the way. Joiner was a Miss Basketball Award finalist and also will play next at MSU, while Strickland-Gills was a star of last season’s championship game and will continue at Central Michigan. She and McCartney earned all-state honorable mentions last season while Joiner was the Class A Player of the Year. McCartney will continue her career at Ferris State.

23-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Michele Marshall, 24th season (417-133)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 67-36 over No. 9 Grosse Pointe North in Regional Final, 57-25 over Detroit Mumford in District Final, 50-30 and 60-47 over Royal Oak.
Players to watch: Alexis Johnson, 5-10 sr. F (19.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg); Cheyenne McEvans, 5-10 jr. G (17.1 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 3.5 apg, 3.5 spg).
Outlook: Southfield A&T will play in the Semifinals for the second time in three seasons and three years as a school (made up of the former Southfield High and Southfield-Lathrup). Johnson – who will continue her career at Marshall University – made the all-state first team last season and McEvans earned an honorable mention, and senior guard Soleil Barnes (11.4 ppg) adds another double-digit scoring boost. The Warriors’ lone loss came by two to Heritage on Dec. 8, and they could meet again Saturday.

24-2, No. 6
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association East and overall 
Coach: Jarvis Mitchell, fifth season (79-37)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 50-28 over Temperance Bedford in Quarterfinal, 53-35 over Ann Arbor Pioneer in Regional Final, 61-48 over Brighton, 61-33 over Division 2 No. 6 Williamston.
Players to watch: Jeanae Terry, 5-10 sr. G (20.3 ppg, 51 3-pointers, 7.0 rpg, 8.0 apg, 3.2 spg, 1.8 bpg); Sammiyah Hoskin, 5-8 sr. G (12.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.8 spg).
Outlook: Wayne graduated a Miss Basketball finalist off last season’s Semifinals team, but brings back the other four starters and top sub from the most successful team in program history. Terry earned an all-state honorable mention last winter and will continue at Illinois. Both of Wayne’s losses were to Division 2 power Detroit Edison. Senior forward Jayah Hicks adds 10.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.2 steals and 3.4 assists per game, and total seven players average at least 6.8 ppg.

PHOTO: Southfield’s Alexis Johnson is defended by a pair of St. Clair Shores Lakeview players during Tuesday’s Quarterfinal. (Photo courtesy of C&G Newspapers.)