DeWitt Sees Way to 1st Final since 1977

March 20, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – DeWitt girls basketball coach Bill McCullen has seen the motivation for his team’s longest tournament run in nearly 40 years in the eyes of his players for months.

His five seniors found their determination in the eyes of their former teammates at the ends of the last three seasons.

Most years, McCullen carries a few underclassmen on varsity. That additional time molds those players into the next team leaders – and also has allowed these seniors the chance to experience first-hand the disappointment of ending the last three seasons in the District tournament.

DeWitt played in its fourth MHSAA Semifinal on Friday of McCullen’s 19 seasons as coach. The Panthers will play for its first championship since 1977 on Saturday thanks to a 44-36 win over Saginaw Heritage – and the motivation they gained from falling short earlier in their careers.

“More toward the end of every season, we’re not happy with how we finish. That fuels every season from there after,” four-year varsity guard Claudia Reid said. “We get a little farther each time, but it’s always ended in disappointment.

“… (And) the seniors who graduated before us, that we played with when we were in the younger grades, we saw how they went out,” three-year senior forward Abby Nakfoor continued. “We’ve seen how much heartbreak they had to go through with that, and we didn’t want to go out with a loss.”

DeWitt (25-1) will face reigning champion Bloomfield Hills Marian in Saturday’s noon championship game at MSU.

The Panthers had last played in an MHSAA Semifinal in 2009, in Class B. They made the jump into Class A for the 2011-12 school year, and this winter for the first time found similar tournament success.

Seniors Maria Moss, Cayce Palmer and Alex Bilbo all joined Nakfoor and Reid with the varsity as sophomores in 2012-13 and were part of a league title team that winter. But the team didn’t advance past the second game of the District either of the last two.

“I’ve seen it in their eyes, and this goes back months and months and months,” McCullen said. “These kids … have been through a lot. Knee injuries, blood clots on the brain and all kinds of things. We just have some kids that don’t want to be denied right now.”

They had to answer only once Friday, but at a crucial juncture as the Hawks appeared on the verge of breaking away after pushing to get back even.

DeWitt led by as many as eight points during the first half, but found itself slowed way down by the Hawks’ zone defense and trailing 19-18 three minutes into the third quarter after a basket by Heritage sophomore Haley Brefka.

But the Panthers didn’t allow the Hawks to gain a foothold. The teams traded a few shots and turnovers over the next three minutes before Reid found Moss on a transition bucket that seemed to kick the pace back in DeWitt’s favor.

The Panthers’ seniors scored 21 of the team’s 23 points the rest of the way.

Reid finished with 11 points and six assists and Nakfoor added eight points and five rebounds. Junior center Lilly George added eight points and six rebounds.

Saginaw Heritage coach Vonnie DeLong spoke after of her senior guards Allie Miller and Aubree Snow, who combined for 19 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Her words could've applied to DeWitt’s veterans as well. 

“You don’t get here without guard play. It just doesn’t happen,” DeLong said. “That’s usually who wins it, teams with good guard play. Guards will carry you this far.”

Heritage finished 24-4 after its longest tournament run since winning Class A in 2002.  The Hawks played two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior with their senior guards – and should bring back a number of players with valuable experience for another run next winter after making one that DeLong admitted most in Michigan probably didn’t expect.

“I’m disappointed I couldn’t play one last game here, and with this team,” Snow said. “But we did come this far, so I’m proud of that.”

Click for a full box score and video from the press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) DeWitt’s Claudia Reid drives to the basket with Heritage’s Allie Miller (20) defending Friday. (Middle) Miller looks for an opening with Reid closing off part of the lane.

St. George's Senior Season Filled with Historic Trip, Sizzling 3-Point Shooting

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 21, 2024

Delaney St. George helped Kingston reach its first MHSAA Girls Basketball Final this winter – and along the way finished her high school career among the most prolific 3-point shooters in state history.

The four-year varsity senior made 87 3-pointers this season for the Division 4 runner-up Cardinals, good to tie for 10th on the single-season list after she made 93 as a junior to rank fourth all-time.

She finished her Kingston career with 290 3-pointers in 793 attempts over 94 games – good for second on the career 3-pointers list.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA girls basketball record book, and click on the heading to see the record book in full.

Girls Basketball

Hemlock’s 18-6 run this season was fueled in part by more successful 3-point shooting. The Huskies made single-season lists with 170 3-pointers and 552 attempts, and also for making 14 3-pointers Jan. 5 against St. Louis.

Senior Mia McLaughlin made nine of 15 3-point shots for Frankenmuth in a Feb. 6 win over Birch Run as the Eagles made the team record book list with 15 3-pointers total. They also were added for 14 3-pointers in a Feb. 20 win over Bay City John Glenn. McLaughlin will continue her career at Ferris State.

McBain sophomore Peyton Grant scored all 27 of her points Jan. 17 against Houghton Lake on nine 3-pointers to make the single-game list in that category.

Seniors Autumn Tremblay and Ceara LeBlanc earned Brimley’s first girls basketball record book listings this season. Both made single-game lists in a Feb. 27 win over Harbor Springs Harbor Light Christian – Tremblay scored 21 points during the first quarter and LeBlanc had 16 steals for the game – and LeBlanc also was added for 141 steals total over 25 games this past winter.

Reed City’s run at the Central State Activities Association title this winter was fueled in part by 3-point shooting. The Coyotes finished one game out of first, but made the records with 517 3-point attempts over 24 games – and just missed the made 3-pointers list connecting on 143.

Howell sophomore Gabrielle Piepho added her third record book listing over her first two seasons this winter making 89.2 percent of her free throw attempts to rank eighth on that single-season list. Howell as a team also made the 3-point attempts list with 536 over 25 games, and also just missed the 3-pointers made list with 146.

Saline finished the 2023-24 season among the all-time leading 3-point shooters again, this time with 192 – 14th-most for one season – in 587 attempts over 24 games. Sophomore Keira Roehm led the way with 78 3-pointers, tying for 21st on that list.

Junior Tamerah Peterson led Sterling Heights Parkway Christian to a District title this season, providing a record-setting defensive boost in addition to her offensive skills. She finished with 173 steals – eighth-most for one season – over 21 games.

Niles Brandywine reached Breslin Center this season with another stellar distance shooting display, making the record book with both 186 3-pointers and 610 attempts from beyond the arc in finishing Division 3 runner-up.

Alie Bisballe capped her career at Lake City this winter by helping her team reach the Division 3 Semifinal at Breslin Center – and by reaching the MHSAA girls basketball record book in two categories. The 6-foot-4 post player made the lists with 329 rebounds and 188 blocked shots, both in 28 games as Lake City finished 25-3. She will continue her career at Wisconsin.

Ironwood junior Hanna Vaughn will enter her final season next winter already on the career 3-pointers list. She’s made 155 3-pointers over her first three seasons and 70 games on varsity.

PHOTO Kingston’s Delaney St. George (10) pulls up for a shot during the Division 4 Final against Ishpeming.