D4 Preview: 2021 Champ Fowler Back Leading 2022 Title Charge

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 16, 2022

The four remaining contenders for the MHSAA Division 4 girls basketball championship won’t be complete strangers when they arrive at Breslin Center for Thursday’s Semifinals.

All three opponents should have some knowledge of reigning champion Fowler, which returns three starters from last year’s title run. The Eagles also faced and defeated Plymouth Christian Academy this regular season, while PCA defeated Adrian Lenawee Christian just a month ago.

The lone outlier in this conversation is Baraga – the only Upper Peninsula team making the trip downstate this postseason. But the Vikings have seen their share of top competition too defeating two of the other three U.P. teams among the final top 20 by the MHSAA’s Michigan Power Ratings (MPR).

DIVISON 4 Semifinals – Thursday
Baraga (23-1) vs. Fowler (22-3), 5:30 p.m.
Adrian Lenawee Christian (19-6) vs. Plymouth Christian Academy (21-4), 7:30 p.m.
FINAL Saturday – 10 a.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 4 semifinals (with rankings by MPR and statistics through Regional Finals):

Record/rank: 19-6, No. 4
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Jamie Salenbien, fifth season (104-16)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2019), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 36-27 (Regional Final) and 48-32 over Athens, 63-31 over Genesee Christian, 38-29 over Onsted.
Players to watch: Kylie Summer, 5-9 sr. G (11.3 ppg, 62 3-pointers); Lizzy Scharer, 5-4 sr. G (10.3 ppg, 2.8 apg, 2.7 spg); Avery Sluss, 5-8 jr. F (8.8 ppg, 42 3-pointers).
Outlook: After ending last season in the Division 3 Regional Semifinals, Lenawee Christian has added another impressive achievement to several over the last half-decade by earning this Semifinal trip after graduating four-time all-stater Bree Salenbien last spring. Four seniors start, and Scharer and forward Cara Anderson saw time during the 2019 championship game win over St. Ignace. Three of Lenawee Christian’s five in-state losses this winter came to opponents in larger-school divisions; the other two were to the top two teams in final Division 4 MPR (PCA and Portland St. Patrick).

Record/rank: 23-1, No. 10
League finish: First in Copper Mountain Conference Copper Country
Coach: Tyler Larson, first season (23-1)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 57-40 over No. 7 Pickford in Quarterfinal, 61-47 over No. 14 Carney-Nadeau in Regional Final, 50-29 (Regional Semifinal) and 40-28 over Ontonagon.
Players to watch: Reide Osterman, 5-8 sr. G (16.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.8 apg, 6.7 spg); Cori Jahfetson, 5-3 sr. G (13.8 ppg, 62 3-pointers, 3.5 apg); Makenna Hendrickson, 5-4 soph. G (8.4 ppg).
Outlook: Baraga is making its first Semifinal trip since 1992, with its only loss this season to Division 2 No. 9 Houghton on Jan. 6. All but two wins came by double digits, including all five during the postseason. Larson coached at every level of the girls basketball program before taking over the varsity this winter, and he inherited a program that has now won four straight league titles and made the Quarterfinals in 2019. Osterman earned an all-state honorable mention last season.

Record/rank: 22-3, No. 3
League finish: Second in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Nathan Goerge, 12th season (156-114)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2021), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 58-26 over No. 8 Gaylord St. Mary in Quarterfinal, 52-42 (Regional Final) and 60-44 over No. 6 Saginaw Nouvel, 50-41 over No. 2 Portland St. Patrick in District Final, 43-35 over No. 1 Plymouth Christian Academy.
Players to watch: Mia Riley, sr. G; Emma Riley, 5-7 jr. G. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: The Eagles avenged a pair of losses to league rival St. Patrick to win the District, and the only other defeat this winter was to 2021 Division 2 champ Portland High. Both Riley sisters made the all-state first team last season, and Mia was the Division 4 Player of the Year by The Associated Press and will continue at Ferris State. Junior guard Avery Koenigsknecht also started in last season’s championship game, and junior Grace Epkey supplied the second-most minutes off the bench and has joined the starting lineup this winter.

Record/rank: 21-4, No. 1
League finish: First in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue
Coach: Rod Windle, 17th season (191-174)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 45-39 (OT – Regional Final), 35-29 and 34-25 over No. 11 Allen Park Inter-City Baptist, 58-56 over No. 4 Adrian Lenawee Christian, 51-36 over Division 3 No. 6 Schoolcraft, 65-49 over Detroit Country Day.
Players to watch: Anna Fernandez, 5-7 sr. G (17.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.3 apg, 3.6 spg); Morganne Houk, 5-7 jr. G (14.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.2 apg, 3.3 spg); Hailey Maulbetsch, 5-8 jr. F (12.6 ppg).
Outlook: PCA is making its first trip to the Semifinals since 2013 paced by returning all-state first-teamer Fernandez and honorable mention Houk. The Eagles loaded their schedule this winter; in addition to the wins above and loss to Fowler, PCA also lost to Division 3 top seed Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, Dearborn Divine Child and Wixom St. Catherine and defeated Genesee Christian during the regular season before also winning the rematch in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal. Fernandez is the only senior.

PHOTO Fowler’s Mia Riley (25) drives do the basket during last season’s Division 4 championship game win over Bellaire. (Photo by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)