D3 Preview: Contenders Earn Another Championship Chance

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 16, 2022

Three contenders who surely felt just a few steps away from claiming last season’s Division 3 championship are making the trip to Breslin Center this weekend to decide this year’s title, joined by a fourth set to make history when Thursday’s second Semifinal tips off.

Kent City was last season’s runner-up, losing 52-50 to Grass Lake in last year’s Final. Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, the overall top seed in Division 3 this winter, had lost to Grass Lake two games earlier in a Regional Final. And Maple City Glen Lake is back following its second-straight undefeated regular season and after suffering its lone defeat last year in the Quarterfinals.

They’re joined by Madison Heights Bishop Foley, which will play in its first Semifinal after also seeing last year’s run end a game shy of East Lansing.

DIVISON 3 Semifinals – Thursday
Maple City Glen Lake (25-0) vs. Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (23-2), noon
Kent City (25-0) vs. Madison Heights Bishop Foley (20-3), 2 p.m.
FINAL – Saturday – 4 p.m.

Tickets for this weekend’s games are $12 for both Semifinals and Finals and are available via the Breslin Center ticket office. All Semifinals will be broadcast and viewable with subscription to MHSAA.tv, and all four Finals will air live Saturday on Bally Sports Detroit’s primary channel as well as on the BSD website and app. Audio broadcasts of all Semifinals and Finals will be available free of charge from the MHSAA Network.

Here’s a look at the four Division 3 semifinals (with rankings by MPR and statistics through Regional Finals):

Record/rank: 25-0, No. 5
League finish: First in Central State Activities Association Silver
Coach: Aleah Holcomb, first season (25-0)
Championship history: Division 3 runner-up 2021.
Best wins: 34-33 over No. 6 Schoolcraft in Quarterfinal, 42-39 over No. 11 Hart, 43-23 over Division 2 No. 13 Sparta, 33-27 over Grand Rapids Christian.
Players to watch: Lexie Bowers, 5-7 jr. G (17 ppg, 71 3-pointers, 3.8 apg, 3.3 spg); Madelyn Geers, 5-9 soph. G (14.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.0 bpg); Taryn Preston (7.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg).
Outlook: The Eagles will return this weekend with four of the six players who saw minutes in that championship game, with 5-11 senior forward Emmalyn Geers (4.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg) joining Preston and Madelyn Geers as returning starters. Holcomb is a former Kent City standout as well and served five seasons as junior varsity coach before taking over the program this season. Preston and Emmalyn Geers are the only seniors.

Record/rank: 20-3, No. 7
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Intersectional #1
Coach: Ray Joseph, third season (50-15)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 55-48 over No. 14 Reese in Quarterfinal, 51-46 over Division 2 No. 18 Wixom St. Catherine, 60-23 over Clawson, 52-50 over Detroit Country Day.
Players to watch: Melanie Moore, 6-0 sr. C (17.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg); Alyssa Samartino, 5-7 jr. G (6.0 ppg, 3.0 apg); Ryan Moorer, 5-7 soph. G/F (10.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg).
Outlook: Bishop Foley has added its first Semifinal trip to its first Regional title won last week. The Ventures have won 16 games by double digits., with all three losses to teams with at least 15 wins including Division 3 overall top seed Arbor Prep by only five (66-61) in the regular-season finale. Moore and Samartino earned all-state honorable mentions last season, and Moore is the only senior starter and one of only two on the team.

Record/rank: 25-0, No. 8
League finish: First in Northwest Conference
Coach: Jason Bradford, 14th season (254-69)
Championship history: Class D champion 1978, runner-up 1979.
Best wins: 50-29 over Lake City in Quarterfinal, 53-39 over No. 3 Calumet in Regional Final, 53-34 over No. 2 St. Ignace in Regional Semifinal, 57-47 (District Final) and 59-40 over Traverse City St. Francis, 48-41 over No. 10 Elk Rapids, 63-41 and 60-23 over Kingsley.
Players to watch: Grace Bradford, 5-11 sr. G (22.9 ppg, 40 3-pointers, 10.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 4.1 spg); Jessica Robbins, 5-8 sr. F (9.3 ppg, 4.3 spg, 1.4 bpg); Ruby Hogan, 5-7 jr. G (11.3 ppg, 3.2 spg).
Outlook: Glen Lake’s only loss over the last two seasons was last year’s to Calumet in a Quarterfinal, and the Lakers avenged it last week. This will be their third trip to the Semifinals over the last six seasons and first since 2018. The seven-point win over Elk Rapids on Dec. 7 was the only one by single digits this season. Grace Bradford made the all-state first team last season, and junior 6-foot center Maddie Bradford is another top contributor at 8.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

Record/rank: 23-2, No. 1
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Scott Stine, fifth season (96-24)
Championship history: Class C champion 2016, two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 66-61 over No. 7 Madison Heights Bishop Foley, 65-38 over No. 4 Grass Lake, 66-38 over No. 16 Jonesville, 67-41 over Division 1 No. 16 Wayne Memorial, 63-48 over Division 1 No. 19 South Lyon East, 54-51 over Division 2 No. 2 Redford Westfield Prep, 65-39 over Division 2 No. 7 Lansing Catholic, 75-45 over Division 2 No. 5 Frankenmuth, 89-57 over Division 2 No. 12 Imlay City, 57-47 over Division 2 No. 16 Lake Fenton.
Players to watch: Mya Petticord, 5-9 sr. G (22.9 ppg, 43 3-pointers, 5.0 apg, 4.3 spg); Karianna Woods, 5-8 sr. G (12.1 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.6 spg); Stacy Utomi, 5-11 soph. F (11.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg).
Outlook: Arbor Prep will play its first Semifinal since 2019, when a freshman Petticord was the high scorer and Woods played 12 minutes in an overtime loss to eventual champion Pewamo-Westphalia. Three seasons later, Petticord was a Miss Basketball Award finalist and will continue her career at Texas A&M, and Woods will continue at Bethune-Cookman. The Gators have played one of the state’s strongest schedules in any division with their only losses to Division 1 No. 11 Parma Western and Division 2 No. 1 Detroit Edison. Sophomore Stephanie Utomi adds another 9.5 points and nearly a block per game.

PHOTO Kent City’s Lexie Bowers (23) and her teammates defend during Tuesday’s Quarterfinal win over Schoolcraft. (Photo courtesy of the Kent City athletic department.)


JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)