DEARBORN – Last April, Dearborn Divine Child assistant girls basketball coach Julie Kaniewski received some news for which she was not prepared.
Kaniewski and head coach Mary Laney have been close friends most of their lives. They played basketball together at Divine Child, graduated the same year and played on two Class B championship teams (in 1993 and ’94). Kaniewski and Laney were putting a close on the season when Laney made a stunning announcement.
“We were working with the returning players,” Kaniewski said. “We were going over some stuff for the summer, and as we were ending things Mary said, ‘By the way, I’m pregnant.’ Being a math teacher, I put it all together. That put her due date near the start of the season. She said she’d be there for tryouts. I said, can you guarantee that?”
On Nov. 24, Laney gave birth to an 8-pound, 8-ounce boy, Owen Michael Laney. He’s the third child for Mary and her husband Chris Laney.
But Owen Michael was the first to be born during the basketball season. Their first child, Ellen, was born on Oct. 26, 2010, and their second, and first boy, Niall, was born Sept. 18, 2012.
The birth of Owen Michael added a little excitement for the Laneys on Thanksgiving, and a bit of consternation for Kaniewski.
“Some things are just out of my control,” Mary Laney said. “It made for a nice Thanksgiving. It was the best Thanksgiving ever. Things will be better when (Owen Michael) gets his days straightened out from his nights.”
Things are already better for Kaniewski. Her best friend is back on the bench and coaching. In fact – and to the relief of Kaniewski – Laney was back coaching Dec. 2, two days before the Falcons’ opener at Chelsea.
No question, it was stressful for both coaches. What helped alleviate some of the pressure is their friendship. There’s nothing Kaniewski wouldn’t do for Laney, and vice versa.
And laughter helped.
“I was a little nervous,” Kaniewski said. “I can joke with her. I told her you’ll be on epidural and I’ll be coaching.”
Their bond extends to their immediate families as well. Kaniewski has two children approximately the same age as Laney’s first two. Kaniewski’s oldest is Elizabeth, who will be 5 years old in May. Thomas will turn 3 in April. Elizabeth and Ellen Laney attend dance class together, and in late October the coaches came to pick up their children when Laney sounded an alarm.
“She said she was having contractions,” Kaniewski said. “I said, no, no, no. That can’t happen.”
It was a false alarm.
Laney did miss nine days with her team, including scrimmages. The preparation would have been a challenge even without the pregnancy. Divine Child was 20-6 last season but all five starters graduated. Add that two players suffered injuries, one a torn knee ligament, the other a concussion.
Formulating tryouts and making cuts tested Kaniewski’s resolve. Both Laney and Kaniewski had ideas on who their starters would be for some time, but things change. Players get better. Some don’t progress as quickly as others.
“That’s been the hard part,” Kaniewski said. “Then there was the parent meetings. I told Mary, no, no. I don’t want to do that alone.”
Laney, for the sake of both, moved the parent meeting up so they could tackle that together.
Then they received some outside help. Mary Lou Jansen, who coached those fine Divine Child teams during the early 1990s, offered her assistance. Kaniewski was grateful.
“She spent a few days with me,” Kaniewski said. “The kids were responsive. It’s just a different set of eyes.”
The lack of experience has forced the two to concentrate on the basics and not over-complicate things. Divine Child had opened 0-3 heading into Saturday night’s game against Saginaw Nouvel.
“Not many teams come back with no starters,” Laney said. “This group has been receptive. We’ve had five of six Division I players over the past several years. We don’t have that. We’re not worried about wins and losses. We want them to play hard and communicate.”
Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Chris and Mary Laney hold their newborn, Owen. (Middle) The Laney children, Ellen, Niall and Owen, smile while wearing their Divine Child hats. (Photos courtesy of the Laney family.)
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.