By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half
CUTLERVILLE – Jenn DeBoer remembers the thrill of playing in the MHSAA Class B Final when she was a sophomore.
The South Christian standout would like nothing better than to revisit that feeling in her final season.
DeBoer, a 5-foot-7 point guard, is currently leading the Sailors toward what they hope is another extended postseason run.
South Christian is 16-1 with three games remaining in the regular season before Districts tip off in March.
“That was a lot of fun, and obviously it was different because I was a sophomore and I knew that I had two more years after that,” DeBoer said. “But this year it’s a big goal for all of us seniors. We’ve talked about how we want to get back there and end our senior season strong.”
Led by DeBoer and a cast of veteran senior teammates, the Sailors have displayed the potential to make some noise in the MHSAA tournament.
They’re seeking an Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold title and currently own a perfect 7-0 mark in league play. Their championship hopes hinge on upcoming showdowns with Wayland and Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
“It’s been a blast so far,” DeBoer said. “I couldn’t ask for a better senior season. Our team chemistry is so amazing, and the other seniors and I get along so well. Obviously, winning has been fun too, and it’s probably one of the best teams I’ve been on.”
DeBoer, a four-year varsity player who committed to Division II Grand Valley State University before her junior season, has been the floor general of this year’s squad.
She has contributed in every aspect of the game, averaging 16.8 points, 6.0 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 steals per contest.
First-year South Christian coach Kim Legge has watched DeBoer improve and mature throughout the past years.
“She has made strides because of her work ethic, and she always wants to learn,” said Legge, a longtime assistant under recently-retired coach Jim DeBruyn.
“She’s like a sponge, and she’s been to a point guard camp the past two summers. That has really helped with her decision-making and leadership skills.”
DeBoer recently established two new school records for her 3-point shooting prowess.
During a recent win over Hastings, she set a new mark for career 3-pointers that had stood since 2003 while also surpassing the single-season record.
DeBoer toppled Leah Pettinga’s career record of 93 3-pointers made. She currently has 45 on the season.
“It’s a huge honor to have the record now,” DeBoer said. “I knew I was pretty close because I focus on shooting 3s. It’s my favorite thing to do, and that’s just what I do. I wasn’t sure if I would ever make it, so it is definitely really cool to know that I have the record now.”
Legge didn’t know DeBoer was approaching the milestone until a few weeks ago, but she wasn’t surprised by the accomplishment.
“Anything that girl puts her mind to she seems to get done,” Legge said. “I got clued in a couple games before that she was getting close, but she would have never said anything to me. That’s how she is. She is so humble. It was a goal of hers, but it never would’ve come out of her mouth.”
DeBoer said the transition from DeBruyn to Legge wasn’t a difficult one.
“They both have similar coaching styles, but coach Legge is a lot more centered on defense so our defense this year has really picked up,” she said. “We have done a lot of the same things we’ve been doing in the past.”
DeBoer’s early commitment to the Lakers has allowed her to enjoy a stress-free final two seasons. It’s allowed her to focus strictly on helping her team succeed instead of lamenting over which college to choose.
“The pressure has been off, and I’ve been able to focus on my last basketball season at South,” DeBoer said. “The last four years have gone by pretty fast, and it doesn’t feel like I’m a senior until I think about it and look at old pictures. In a couple months I will be graduating, but I’m trying to enjoy high school while I’m still here.”
DeBoer is anticipating the jump to college, but is committed to ending her career on a high note.
“I’m definitely looking forward to playing in college next year, but I would really like to have a good ending to this season,” DeBoer said. “If we keep working hard, then I think we will do pretty well in the postseason.”
Legge isn’t one to look ahead, but with a starting line-up consisting of all seniors, expectations are high for the remainder of the season.
“We have a hard road ahead of us the last week of conference (play) and I don’t feel like we have peaked,” she said. “I really focus on what my team needs to do to grow on a day-to-day basis. Every coach in the state hopes their team makes a tournament run, and at this point of the season, it’s a goal of ours.”
Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids South Christian's Jenn DeBoer defends against Grand Rapids Catholic Central earlier this season. (Middle) DeBoer, 4, is one of a cast of experienced teammates hoping to finish with another Finals run; she takes the floor with Markayla Vander (24) and Sydney DeYoung (22). (Photos by Tracy DeYoung.)
Hemlock and Rockford's drives to their first Girls Basketball Finals championships in March were paced in part by some of the strongest 3-point shooting in MHSAA history.
The Division 1 title-winning Rams connected on 243 3-pointers – third-most all-time – over 29 games in tying the single-season wins record while finishing 28-1. Grace Lyons, a senior this fall, made the single-season individual list with 70 3-pointers.
The Huskies won in Division 3 having connected on 229 3-pointers over 29 games, seventh-most in MHSAA history, on 678 attempts, which ranks 12th on that list. Chloe Watson made the single-season list with 75 3-pointers, and Regan Finkbeiner did as well connecting on 67.
Watson also made the career 3-pointers list with 224 and Finkbeiner with 194, and 2017 Hemlock graduate Samantha Krauss was added for 65 3-pointers as a junior in 2015-16 and 188 for her career. Additionally, past Hemlock standout Karli Herrington was added for her 317 rebounds in 2012-13, and Peyton Apsey was added for 144 steals in 2010-11.
Watson is continuing her career at Mid-Michigan College, and Finkbeiner is playing softball at Madonna. Herrington went on to play at Central Michigan and Northwood, Krauss played at Ferris State and Apsey played at Oakland.
Read on for more recent record book additions for girls basketball:
Hudsonville’s Maddie Petroelje joined the list of top 3-point shooters in MHSAA history as a junior in 2021-22, when she connected on 70 (in just 147 attempts) to make the single-season list. She graduated this spring 16th on the career list as well with 226 3-pointers in 512 attempts over 92 games and four seasons. She is continuing at Loyola (Ill.).
Byron Center’s Avery Zeinstra also finished her career among those top 3-point shooters. She also made the single-season list with 70 in 147 attempts as a freshman in 2018-19, and she capped her career in 2021-22 with 206 3-pointers (tied for 20th-most) in 502 attempts over four seasons and 80 career games. She is continuing at Grand Valley State.
Hannah Thompson was best known for her soccer scoring at Schoolcraft. But she’s made a second MHSAA record book for her 15 steals in a Jan. 28, 2022, basketball win over Galesburg-Augusta. She’s continuing her soccer career at Eastern Michigan.
Baraga’s run to the Division 4 Semifinals in 2022 received big boosts from Corina Jahfetson’s 3-point shooting and Reide Osterman’s defense. Jahfetson was added to the record book with 66 3-pointers over 25 games, including nine in a game against Carney Nadeau – when Baraga as a team made the record book with 14 3-pointers total. Osterman made the record book with 153 steals. Jahfetson graduated this spring, and Osterman is playing at Northern Michigan.
Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy’s Audrey Mileski had one of the busiest games at the free throw line in MHSAA history Dec. 14, 2021. She made 23 free throws – third-most in a single game – against Wyoming Kelloggsville. Mileski graduated this spring.
Sophia Bussell had set Monroe’s single-game 3-pointers record of eight as a freshman two seasons ago, and she bettered it last Dec. 13 by tying for the 10th-most in MHSAA history. She made 10-pointers including the game-winner of a 58-56 victory over Ypsilanti Lincoln. A little less than 10 months earlier, Adrian Lenawee Christian then-senior Kylie Summer also made 10, on 17 attempts, during a 57-34 win over Lansing Christian on Feb. 24, 2022.
Lydia Meredith enjoyed a memorable senior season for Portland St. Patrick in 2021-22, finishing her four-year varsity career with 453 steals over just 80 games. She also was added for drilling 17 free throws in 22 attempts against Fowler. She plays now at Saginaw Valley State.
Gabby Piepho got off to a fast start at Howell as a freshman last season, and at a record-setting pace at the free-throw line. She made 93 of 107 attempts over 25 games, for an .869 percentage that made the single-season list. That included a string of 47 straight free throws that ranks as the second-longest in MHSAA history. As a team, Howell tied for sixth all-time with 301 free throws over 25 games, on 439 attempts.
Kent City’s Lexie Bowers reached the single-season 3-pointers list for the second time last season, connecting on 72 of 233 tries over 26 games (after making 77 as a junior), and finished her four-season varsity career 16th on that 3-pointers list with 225 in 693 attempts over 99 games. She’s continuing her career at Northwood. Kent City as a team also reached the single-season 3-pointers made and attempted lists again, ranking fourth with 753 attempts and tying for eighth all-time by connecting on 202.
Posen then-junior Faith Cousins earned a par of record book entries during 2021-22 for assists. Her 16 in a District Final win on March 4, 2022, remain tied for fifth-most in one game, and she finished with 165 over 22 games for the season. She’s set to begin her softball career at Alma College.
Niles Brandywine went over 20 wins again this past season, finishing 21-3, and again the 3-pointer was a key tool in that pursuit. Brandywine made the record book with back-to-back games of 13 3-pointers to close the regular season, and finished with 175 3-pointers in 592 attempts over 23 games (with one won by forfeit).
Greenville’s Megan Leslie averaged more than two 3-pointers a game during her four-season varsity career, making the record list with 153 total over 76 games through graduation this spring. She’s continuing her career at Alma College.
Successful 3-point shooting played a major role in Saline finishing 21-4 with league and District titles last winter. The Hornets attempted 704 3-pointers – ninth-most all-time for one season – and connected on 191, which is 12th on that list. They made a season-high 14 against Ypsilanti Lincoln on Nov. 29 to make the single-game list.
Marcellus senior Brooklyn VanTilburg enjoyed a big finish to her high school career last winter, making the record book with 16 blocked shots in a game against Centreville and 135 blocks total for the season. She’ll continue at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Kennedy Gustafson made headlines last winter as a sophomore and earned a pair of record listings for her rebounding. She grabbed 26 in a March 3 District Final win over Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, and she finished with 376 rebounds over 25 games for the season.
PHOTO Hemlock's Regan Finkbeiner, left, follows through on a free throw attempt during last season's Division 3 Final, and Rockford's Grace Lyons launches the game-winning 3-pointer in Division 1.