Edison Closes Dominant Run as Champ Again
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
March 23, 2019
GRAND RAPIDS – The Detroit Edison girls basketball team has been leaving people in awe all season.
On Saturday night, the Pioneers' own coach was a bit star struck after they defeated Freeland 77-58 to claim the Division 2 championship.
“This is a phenomenal group that I have,” Edison coach Monique Brown said. “I don’t even know where to start with this group and what we’ve accomplished together as one unit. Today up and down with our defense, they had so many 3s on us, but we just kept fighting and fighting and pushing and communicating. I’m just so happy to be up here with these young ladies and to say I’m their coach.”
The title is the third straight for Edison, with the previous two coming in Class C. Edison is the sixth school in MHSAA history to win three straight girls basketball titles, and the Pioneers’ run was a dominant one. Through its first seven postseason games, their average margin of victory was 48.7 points, with their closest game prior to the Final coming in a 27-point win against Haslett in the Semifinal.
With that type of run, it could have been easy for the Pioneers to lose focus, but they never did.
“The way we were able to stay focused was our practice and each other,” Edison junior forward Gabrielle Elliott said. “We were always on each other’s back in practice. We were blowing people out, so we had to stay focused. Our biggest competition was ourselves, and we were going so hard in practice. That’s what people didn’t see as to why we were beating people by 50.”
Unfortunately for the rest of the state, Edison’s powerhouse may not be going anywhere. While graduating senior Rickea Jackson, this year’s Miss Basketball Award winner, is certainly going to hurt, she’s the only senior on the Pioneers’ roster.
“Many, many years with more state championships,” Jackson said when asked what’s to come. “It doesn’t just run on me, it was a team effort. There are other great teammates and great shooters, scorers, rebounders that are still here, so I think it can go a long time.”
Jackson was the star again Saturday night, scoring a game-high 28 points and adding five rebounds in her final game. Next year, she’ll be playing at Mississippi State.
“Amazing,” Freeland coach Tom Zolinski said. “She really is. We would make a little run then she’d come back and hit a quick shot, a mid-range shot or even a three. She’s tough.”
During the Division 3 game, which directly preceded the Division 2 Final, Jackson was awarded the Miss Basketball trophy. It could have made an already large target on her back even bigger, but she said that she used it as motivation.
“It made me feel like I had to win this championship even more,” Jackson said. “Why not finish your season with Miss Basketball and a third state championship? If we didn’t get it, I would have been very hurt. It made me more confident. Getting that award definitely made me way more confident just knowing that I could go out there and play my game. There was nothing more I could do to go out there and prove to nobody. I could play my game.”
Edison did struggle from the perimeter in the first half, hitting just 1 of 10 attempts from 3-point range. But the Pioneers made up for that with 12 second-chance points and 11 points off turnovers to lead 37-24 at the half.
Freeland didn’t back down from the state’s top-ranked team, and every time it looked like Edison was about to blow the top off the game, the Falcons found points either from the field or the free-throw line to remain within shouting distance.
While they weren’t great from the field, shooting just 6 of 23, they were perfect on their 10 first-half free-throw attempts.
In the second half, those perimeter shots started falling for the Pioneers as they hit their first four attempts from beyond the arc, three coming from sophomore guard Damiya Hagemann.
“We were rushing a little bit offensively and settling for the 3-point shot,” Brown said. “In the first half we were 1 for 10, and when I’m looking at these numbers, we were 7 for 19 (for the game), so we went 6 for 9 in the second half, which is pretty good. That says a lot about who we are and how we listen and pay attention, and how we go out there and work together as a unit.”
While the lead grew to 19 heading into the fourth quarter, Freeland hit its own shots to again keep the game from getting completely away.
The Falcons were able to cut into the lead a bit in the final quarter, but never got closer than 14 points over the final eight minutes.
Elliott scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds for Edison, while Hagemann had 13 points and nine assists.
Alyssa Argyle led Freeland with 18 points and five rebounds, while Kadyn Blanchard had 16 points, four rebounds and four assists, and Autumn Kloha had 11 points and five assists.
“They made history in Freeland,” Zolinski said. “Tonight, they gave it their all. It was a tough task tonight, and a lot of credit goes to them. But what a group of girls right here. In four years, they won 94 games and lost 11. Never lost a conference game, and I’m definitely going to miss them. They’ve set it up for the future.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Edison players raise their Division 2 championship trophy Saturday night at Van Noord Arena. (Middle) Rickea Jackson gets an open look in the lane.
Lansing Catholic Closes Season With Memorable Victory Close to Home
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
March 18, 2023
EAST LANSING – The Lansing Catholic girls basketball team took a short drive to end a long wait.
Playing just three miles from their high school, the Cougars defeated Frankenmuth 43-29 Saturday at the Breslin Center to win the MHSAA Division 2 Final. It was the first Finals title for the program since 1995.
“It felt like homecourt advantage a little bit,” Lansing Catholic senior guard Hannah Pricco said. “Our bus trip wasn’t super long. It just kind of felt like we were coming to our own court.”
The Cougars treated it that way, dominating from the beginning of the matchup in their first Finals trip since that 1995 title. They scored the game’s first 11 points and never looked back.
“This is, as you can imagine, extremely surreal,” Lansing Catholic coach Kacee Reid said. “You’re going through literally every emotion on the bench, especially in a game like that. Frankenmuth is making such a great comeback, and we knew they were going to fight to the end. To go through the anger and sadness and happiness, and now it’s over and we’ve won it. It’s just been a rollercoaster of emotions, and I can’t describe the pride I have in these girls.”
It was the second meeting between the two teams, with Lansing Catholic taking the first 74-42 on Feb. 2. But Reid wasn’t going to let her team come in overconfident.
“They didn’t get here by accident,” Reid said. “They’re in the state championship because they’re playing their best ball of the year. We played them a month and a half ago. … We’re a totally different team, and we knew they were a totally different team. We knew they had been playing some really good basketball, and it didn’t matter at all what that first outcome was. We knew this was going to be a battle.”
Lansing Catholic (24-5) never trailed, and led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter. Leah Richards led the Cougars with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Anna Richards had 14 points. Gabby Halliwill added seven.
The Cougars were spurred by their defense throughout, holding Frankenmuth to 9 of 36 shooting from the field and forcing 13 turnovers.
“For us, defensively, we had to switch it up,” Reid said. “We had to keep switching up between man and zone. They were making adjustments and we couldn’t really sit in one thing for too long; they got comfortable. That’s a credit to their coaching staff always making adjustments. We had to continue to switch things up defensively and try to hopefully make their shooters second-guess their shot, or maybe not know where we were coming from.”
Frankenmuth (25-3) didn’t go away, despite trailing by double digits for the majority of the game.
That was helped by Lansing Catholic shooting 1 of 11 from the field in the third quarter, and going scoreless for the final 5:26 of the frame.
The Eagles cut the lead to seven with 2:45 to play on a steal and layup from Clare Conzelmann, but never got closer.
“There was always belief no matter what detriment we got ourselves in,” Frankenmuth senior Lexi Boyke said. “I wouldn’t want to choose any other girls to play with and be in with at that point. I think we fought back and really prided ourselves on, ‘We can still do it.’ We didn’t stop fighting until the end.”
Lansing Catholic always figured Frankenmuth would make a run to get into the game, but was ready when it came.
“We knew they were going to make runs, we knew we weren’t going to hold them to seven points the whole game,” Anna Richards said. “We knew in the third quarter they were going to score, so we just had to stay composed, work the ball around on offense to get the good shots that we wanted.”
Boyke, who scored Frankenmuth’s first 10 points and was its only scorer well into the third quarter, finished with 16. She also reached 1,000 career points in the game, and had six rebounds, while Izzy Bernthal had seven.
Frankenmuth was making its first Finals appearance since winning the Class C title in 1996, one year after Lansing Catholic.
“That’s a really good Lansing Catholic team, and you’ve seen that from their postseason run and beating an undefeated West Catholic team, and tonight finishing their season off with a state championship. So, congratulations to them,” Frankenmuth coach Joe Jacobs said. “I’m super proud of our kids. They didn’t quit tonight. They could have. … Fun experience, one that we want to treasure forever, but the motivation to come back again is here after tonight’s loss.”
PHOTOS (Top) Lansing Catholic celebrates its Division 2 championship Saturday night at Breslin Center. (Middle) The Cougars’ Anna Richards (10) attempts to get a shot up over Frankenmuth’s Lexi Boyke. (Below) Tessa Roe (12) works to get past Clare Conzelmann and to the basket.