Edison Becomes Champion Again to Close 2021-22 Girls Hoops Season

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 19, 2022

EAST LANSING – Detroit Edison girls basketball is back on top. 

After having their past two seasons ended without a postseason loss, the Pioneers took back their throne Saturday night with a 73-55 Division 2 Final win against Grand Rapids West Catholic at the Breslin Center.

“Winning a state championship, it means everything to me,” Edison senior Ruby Whitehorn said. “Not getting it the last couple years really has been our motivation to get it this year. All our previous teammates, that’s why it’s so important to me, because they didn’t get the chance to do it.”

The title was the fourth for the Edison program, which won three straight from 2017-19 – the first two coming in Class C and the third in Division 2.

The tournament was canceled midway through in 2020 because of COVID-19, and Edison was forced to pull out of the 2021 tournament, also because of COVID-19. Both of those seasons, Edison was at least among the title favorites.

When given the opportunity to finish it on the court again, the Pioneers took full advantage. 

Whitehorn, this season’s Miss Basketball Award winner and a Clemson signee, led the way, scoring 28 points and grabbing nine rebounds. DePaul signee Madisen Wardell added 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Edison/West Catholic basketballThe only two seniors on the Edison roster came up biggest at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth, when the Pioneers turned a tight game into a comfortable victory.

“I would say it was our defense and talking on defense that always brings us back in the game,” Wardell said. “We weren’t down by much, but I know if we talk on defense, it’ll bring us back.”

The defense was led by Dakota Alston, who switched onto West Catholic star Abbey Kimball in the second half. Kimball, a Michigan State signee, scored 26 points in the game, but just seven during the second half, thanks in large part to the move to switch the bigger Alston onto her.

“I just made sure I didn’t let her have the ball,” said Alston, who added 10 points. “Coach (Monique) Brown said the best way to stop a good scorer is to make sure she doesn’t get the ball.”

Kimball noticed the change, and gave credit to Edison (19-3) for making things more difficult for her over the final 16 minutes.

“The first half, obviously I hit shots, got open and my teammates found me,” Kimball said. “In the second half they started to do more face guarding throughout the whole court. That was different. Kudos to them, they had really great defense and it’s tough to score on them regardless.”

The game was back and forth into the third quarter, and West Catholic (25-2) had a 36-35 lead about midway through it. 

But with Whitehorn picking up her third foul and getting a quick breather, the Pioneers not only held on, but grabbed a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, thanks to some free throws and a putback by Wardell.

“That was a competitive game,” West Catholic coach Jill VanderEnde said. “I thought we did a really nice job with our gameplan, really attacking Detroit Edison, and showing them that we wanted to come and we wanted to show them our best game. I thought we started out the game very physical and aggressive. Throughout the game we had that effort and tried to stay positive, which was really (a proud moment) for me.”

Edison/West Catholic basketballWhen Whitehorn came back, she took over, with several tough drives to the basket, eventually putting her team up 11 points in the fourth.

“We tried to contain her in a couple different ways with a couple different strategic defenses,” VanderEnde said. “And she’s just so athletic, she just maneuvered all around what we were trying to do strategically.”

Whitehorn is the fourth straight Miss Basketball to come from Edison, following Damiya Hageman, Gabrielle Elliott and Rickea Jackson. What she displayed Saturday was what Edison coach Monique Brown called a combination of all her predecessors, as she also added four assists and three steals to the stat sheet.

“I think Ruby, the last four years, she was able to, first of all, learn from each and every one of those players,” Brown said. “She has something that each one of those players were good at – she has a piece of all of those. She can pass the ball, she can score the ball, she plays good defense, she’s a good slasher. Gabrielle was a good slasher, Rickea Jackson could score, Damiya Hageman can pass the ball. She’s blended all of those three young ladies, and she can do a lot of different things on the court to help us be who we are.”

Devin Hageman had eight points and eight assists for Edison. Cadence Dykstra had nine points for West Catholic, and Emma Tuttle grabbed nine rebounds.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Detroit Edison celebrates Saturday’s final championship after clinching in Division 2. (Middle) Edison’s Ruby Whitehorn beats a pair of defenders to the basket for a layup. (Below) Dakota Alston (4) launches a pass over West Catholic’s Abbey Kimball. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

'Go-To Guy' Kanitz Sets Selfless Example in Helping Make St. Francis Sports Go

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

August 26, 2022

Traverse City has had a few head football coaches named Kanitz.

But Mike Kanitz has no interest in becoming a head football coach. In fact, no interest in being a head coach of any sport.

So far he’s worked for nine head coaches. He’s seen what it takes to be a head varsity coach and he’ll stay where he is, which is pretty much anywhere there is a high school sporting event.

Kanitz spends his days and nights dedicated to the Traverse City St. Francis student-athletes, staff, administration and Gladiators community. He is the junior varsity girls basketball coach, volleyball game manager, volleyball announcer and volleyball scorekeeper, football press box manager, and the Glads’ soccer game manager. Additionally, as director of basketball operations at St. Francis, he finds himself at the scorer’s table for boys basketball games.

The volleyball, soccer and football duties are performed at every home game. He doesn’t take a paycheck for any of it. If the school does pay for his services, he promptly donates the funds to the source.

The soft-spoken and renowned St. Francis supporter is not the slightest bit interested in getting any recognition for his efforts.

Tonight he’ll run the Thirlby Field press box as the Gladiators host Ogemaw Heights. And, he’s ready for the Glads’ first home volleyball match Sept. 8.

“He is one of those unique people that shies away from the spotlight — he is a pure servant, said Aaron Biggar, St. Francis’ athletic director.  “He doesn’t want any accolades or anything like that.”

Kanitz’ father, Hugo Kanitz – who also went by Mike all his life – was the head football coach of Traverse City St. Francis during the 1960s.  Another Kanitz, Dutch — not related to the father-son combo —was at the helm of the Traverse City Central High School football program.

Kanitz walks the sideline during one of his games leading the JV Gladiators. Mike Kanitz finds himself regularly receiving phone calls and letters from former players intended for the Kanitz coaches. He has to explain he’s not the deceased Central coach, nor his father. And he’s glad he gets to pass on positive feedback to his father, also a former athletic director for St. Francis.

“My grandmother said, ‘Never call him Hugo – his name is Mike,’” Kanitz said. “Don’t ask me where it came from, but he was Mike his whole life.

“I am junior in most people’s minds,” Kanitz went on. “Traverse City was a small town back then; to have two Coach Kanitz was confusing.”

His father now lives in Traverse City after retiring as a teacher and professor. The son enjoys picking his brain.

“I am blessed to still be able to run stuff by him (because) that’s really where I got my coaching start,” he said. “I used to get calls after coming back to Traverse City and the callers would say, ‘Is this Coach Kanitz?’ and I started to catch on that these were his former students.

“I don’t think my dad ever knew the impact he was having on kids,” Kanitz continued. “I don’t think coaches really know what an impact they have on kids.”

Hearing from his father’s former players helped shape his coaching.

“It made me realize as a coach you have the ability every time you open your mouth to either hurt a kid or help a kid,” he said. “So helping a kid is my desire.”

Officials, media and visiting coaches for many sports have noted Kanitz’ demeanor and contributions.  They also know he’ll do anything to make sure they have a good experience at St. Francis.

Among other things, Mike reportedly once became a makeshift tailor when a basketball official showed up without his referee pants. Mostly using safety pins, a borrowed pair of pants went from 2XL to large in time for tip-off.

“Mike Kanitz should have a name tag that says, ‘Nicest Man on the Planet,’” said former St. Francis AD Tom Hardy. “Mike is the perfect representative that you can have for any event at school.

Mike Kanitz enjoys his daughter Delin’s Senior Night game with wife Marcy Verplank-Kanitz. “He greets every team, official, and spectator with such grace and compassion, which leads to a very positive experience for all involved,” Hardy continued. “Mike has volunteered too many hours to count at basketball and soccer games as a game manager and coach.”

Hardy believes all sports fans need to follow Kanitz’ lead.

“Mike Kanitz is the example of how people should treat each other at any athletic event,” he said. “You truly would have to look long and hard to find a more compassionate and caring individual, and I would challenge anyone to find a person that has a negative thing to say about him.”

Barb Becket, a longtime MHSAA official and assignor, has similar views of Kanitz. She’s worked with him while he’s served as a coach, game manager and during community activities through her role with the Grand Traverse YMCA.

“Mike is the go-to guy,” she said. “He is a servant in the true sense of the word.

“Besides being the go-to guy for coaches, admin, and players, Mike also acts as the liaison between the sports officials and the sports participants,” she continued. “Mike handles his responsibilities with grace, humility, common sense, and accountability.”

Kanitz’ favorite sport to play is baseball, but his favorite sport to coach is basketball. After graduating from Alma College where he competed in track & field, he was thrilled to move back to Traverse City to start a family with his wife Marcy, a Traverse City obstetrician. 

The couple’s three children graduated from St. Francis, and Kanitz first focused on elementary baseball.  He was able to step away from his pharmaceutical career to step in and fill pretty much any need the St. Francis community had.

Kanitz points to his wife’s passion for caring for women as a motivator for him to get more girls involved in sports and receiving the benefits they provide.

“Marcy spent her whole life taking care of women,” he said. “So she sees the side effects of women not being given opportunities.

“So we’ve got to correct that stuff.”

Kanitz’s first job was as a water boy, along with his siblings born to Hugo and Margo Kanitz. If he ever can’t coach or serve in other capacities for the Gladiators, he hopes to return to the very first job he had as a preschooler.

“I am sincere when I say I started as a water boy, and I am going to finish as a water boy,” Kanitz said. “I am very blessed and I am thankful for the life I’ve had here in Traverse City.

“I am thankful for the school allowing me to be a part of it.”

Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at tomspencer@chartermi.net with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Mike Kanitz fills many roles for Traverse City St. Francis including girls junior varsity basketball coach and game manager for a variety of sports including volleyball. (Middle) Kanitz walks the sideline during one of his games leading the JV Gladiators. (Below) Mike Kanitz enjoys his daughter Delin’s Senior Night game with wife Marcy Verplank-Kanitz. (Top photo by Mike Spencer; middle and below photos by Julie English.)