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.)

High School 'Hoop Squad' Close to Heart as Hughes Continues Coaching Climb

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

July 11, 2024

Jareica Hughes had a Hall of Fame collegiate basketball career playing at University of Texas-El Paso and has played professionally overseas, but her most prized possession is something she earned playing high school basketball in Michigan. 

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosA standout at now-closed Southfield-Lathrup High School during the early-to-mid 2000s, Hughes proudly displays a signature symbol of Lathrup’s Class A championship team in 2005. 

“I have my state championship ring on me right now,” said Hughes, now an assistant head coach for the women’s basketball program at UTEP. “I wear this ring every single day. Not so much for the basketball aspect. Inside of the ring it says ‘Hoop Squad.’ It’s more the connection I’ve had with those particular young ladies. Friends that I’ve known since I was kid. Every once in a while when we talk, we go back in time.”

Believe it or not, Hughes and her high school teammates next year will have to go back 20 years to commemorate a run to the title that started when they were freshmen. 

It was a gradual build-up to what was the first girls basketball state championship won by a public school in Oakland County. Lathrup, which has since merged with the former Southfield High School to form Southfield Arts & Technology, remained the only public school in Oakland County to win a state girls basketball title until West Bloomfield did so in 2022 and again this past March. 

Lathrup lost in the District round to Bloomfield Hills Marian during Hughes’ freshman year, and then after defeating Marian in a District Final a year later, lost to West Bloomfield in a Regional Final.

When Hughes was a junior, the team got to the state’s final four, but a bad third quarter resulted in a heartbreaking one-point Semifinal loss to eventual champion Lansing Waverly. 

A year later, when Hughes and other core players such as Brittane Russell, Timika Williams, Dhanmite’ Slappey and Briana Whitehead were seniors, they finished the job and won the Class A crown with a 48-36 win over Detroit Martin Luther King in the Final.

However, the signature moment of that title run actually came during the Semifinal round and was produced by Hughes, a playmaking wizard at point guard who made the team go. 

Trailing by three points during the waning seconds of regulation against Grandville and Miss Basketball winner Allyssa DeHaan – a dominant 6-foot-8 center – Hughes drained a tying 3-pointer from the wing that was well beyond the 3-point line. 

Lathrup went on to defeat Grandville in overtime and prevail against King.

Hughes said the year prior, she passed up on taking a potential winning or tying shot in the Semifinal loss against Waverly, and was reminded of that constantly by coaches and teammates. “I just remember in the huddle before that shot, that just kept ringing in my mind,” she said. “That was special. I cried for weeks not being able to get a shot off (the year before) and leaving the tournament like that.”

Growing up in Detroit, Hughes got into basketball mainly because she had five older brothers and an older sister who played the game. In particular, Hughes highlights older brother Gabriel for getting her into the game and taking her from playground to playground.

“I’m from Detroit,” she said. “We played ball all day long. Sunup to sundown. When the light comes on, you had to run your butt into the house.”

Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center.Hughes played for the Police Athletic League and also at the famed St. Cecilia gym in the summer, developing her game primarily against boys.

“My first team was on a boys team,” she said. “I was a captain on a boys team.” 

The family moved into Lathrup’s district before she began high school. 

Once she helped lead Lathrup to the 2005 championship, she went on to a fine career at UTEP, where she was the Conference USA Player of the Year twice and helped lead the Miners to their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Hughes still holds school records for career assists (599), steals (277) and minutes played (3,777). On Monday, she was named to Conference USA’s 2024 Hall of Fame class. 

After a brief professional career overseas was derailed by a shoulder injury, Hughes said getting into coaching was a natural fit. 

“I had to make the hard decision, and I knew as a kid I wanted to be around basketball,” she said. “Once I made that decision (to quit), I knew I was going to coach.”

Hughes started coaching in the Detroit area, first serving as an assistant at Southfield A&T from 2016-20 and then at Birmingham Groves for a season. She then served as interim head coach at Colby Community College in Kansas before being named an assistant at UTEP in May 2023, a month after her former coach Keitha Adams returned to lead the program after six seasons at Wichita State.  

While fully immersed in her job with UTEP, Hughes’ high school memories in Michigan certainly aren’t going away anytime soon – especially with the 20th anniversary of Lathrup’s championship coming up. 

“We are still close friends because we all essentially grew up together,” she said. “They are still my friends to this day.”

2024 Made In Michigan

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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Southfield-Lathrup’s Jareica Hughes drives to the basket against Detroit Martin Luther King during the 2005 Class A Final; at right, Hughes coaches this past season at UTEP. (Middle) Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center. (UTEP photo courtesy of the UTEP sports information department.)