By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
GRAND RAPIDS – East Lansing found itself playing in the Semifinals again Friday for the first time since 2010.
But the Trojans also found themselves in an unfamiliar situation with potentially only 16 minutes left in their season.
East Lansing entered halftime trailing Wayne Memorial by three points – the first time it hadn’t led at the end of the first half this season.
“That really gave us a shocker and gave us a reality check that we needed to come out and play hard,” Trojans senior Aazhenii Nye said. “This wasn’t how our season was going to end. We worked so hard to get here. And that’s what we did – we just picked each other up and knocked down some big shots.”
And advanced, thanks to a big third-quarter push, with a 60-52 win over the Zebras.
East Lansing (26-0) will play Saginaw Heritage at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at Van Noord Arena hoping to lock down its first Class A title since that 2010 run.
That team featured a Miss Basketball Award winner in Klarissa Bell, who went on to play at Michigan State. The Trojans entered this weekend fresh off the celebration for senior guard Jaida Hampton, this year’s winner.
But they also faced the challenge of taking on another finalist in Wayne senior guard Camree’ Clegg, who over the last three seasons had led a team that didn’t win a game before her arrival as a sophomore to its first Regional title and Semifinals this winter.
Clegg had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists Friday, while Hampton had seven points and nine rebounds. But the matchup was never as much about them individually as it was about East Lansing’s scrappy defense against a Zebras offense that had put up 73 on Detroit Country Day at the start of the season and 81 against a Plymouth team that finished second to Wayne in their league.
During the deciding third quarter, East Lansing made 9 of is 13 shots from the floor – including its first three – and held the Zebras to 3 of 13. The Trojans went on a 23-11 run and got up by as many as 12 before Clegg hit three free throws to close the period.
“I thought those kids played as hard as just about any team we’ve played against,” Wayne coach Jarvis Mitchell said. “Every film that we’ve watched; we’ve seen them live, we’ve seen them on tape. They’re always competing.”
“Going into the third quarter, sometimes we let off a little bit,” Hampton said. “But the last few games we’ve come out really strong because the beginning of the third quarter is the most important. That’s where you see how you’re going to play the rest of the game. … I’m really happy we did make our first few shots, because that gave us a boost of energy to push through and let it keep going through the third and fourth quarter.”
East Lansing pushed the lead to 14 a minute into the fourth quarter before Wayne fought back to get it to the final margin.
Junior guard Sammiyah Hoskin added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Zebras (22-5), who graduate only Clegg off this history-making team.
“Wayne, four years ago 0-20, and now we have the whole community coming out to see us,” Clegg said. “Especially driving two and a half hours (to Calvin), it’s a great feeling. We just wanted to keep it going.”
Senior Amelia McNutt led East Lansing with 20 points and four steals, while Nye added 11 points and six rebounds and junior sister Aaliyah Nye had 16 points and 10 rebounds.
East Lansing had peaked in the Quarterfinals three times since its 2010 title, most recently in 2016 when these seniors were sophomores.
“We’ve been together for four years and it started off pretty rough in terms of how we worked together, with our chemistry,” East Lansing coach Rob Smith said as he sat for the press conference with Hampton, McNutt and Aazhenii Nye. “And in the last four years, these ladies have grown up big-time. They’re three of the most amazing seniors I’ve ever coached. … Right from the get go, we’ve been speaking about this moment all season long.”
PHOTOS: (Top) East Lansing’s Sanaya Gregory pushes the ball upcourt as Wayne’s Jeanae Terry defends. (Middle) Wayne’s Camree’ Clegg works to get space against the Trojans.
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.