By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Senior Sarah Cullip and junior Kelley Wright learned a few things during their previous trips to Breslin Center that surely came to mind during Thursday’s Class D Semifinal against Climax-Scotts.
And with neither team able to find the back of the net, both had to call on those lessons to lift the top-ranked and undefeated Saints back to a familiar spot among those who will play on the final day of the season.
Wright made only 6 of 20 shots from the field, but connected on the go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:54 left in regulation. Cullip missed more than half the game because of foul trouble, but made two free throws with her team up only three and 25 seconds to play as the Saints held on for a 42-36 victory.
St. Ignace (26-0) will face three-time reigning champion Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes at 10 a.m. Saturday to try to earn a second MHSAA championship in three seasons. The Saints fell in last season’s Class C Semifinals, but won Class C in 2011 and finished runner-up in 2010.
“I think it was really crucial that I’d been here and played in this gym multiple times before, to know I have to calm down in a pressure situation,” said Cullip, who has been on the floor during all four of her team’s Breslin trips. “It’s just another free throw. It could be the first play of the game or the play that saves the game.”
The Saints have proven plenty this season that they can win big. Their first and only game closer than 10 points before Thursday came in the Regional Final, a 74-68 win over No. 6 Posen. St. Ignace has scored more than 80 points six times this season and more than 90 on three occasions.
But unranked Climax-Scotts (20-6) didn’t allow the Saints to get into their usual rhythm.
The Panthers finished with more field goals, 17-15, and the same number of rebounds. They actually shot better from the floor, 38 percent to 32. But Climax-Scotts got to the free throw line for only two attempts and had 20 turnovers. St. Ignace made 10 of 20 free throw tries and turned the ball over only 10 times.
The trip to Breslin was Climax-Scotts’ first to Finals weekend since finishing Class D runner-up in 1986.
“I can’t be prouder of my girls. They took on the number one ranked team in the state – number one from the get-go – and gave them probably the best game they’ve played all year,” Climax-Scotts coach Dana Perrin said. “I told the girls after the game they had nothing to hang their heads about, be sad about.”
St. Ignace coach Dorene Ingalls, meanwhile, recalled some of the tears in her players’ eyes after they fell during last season’s Class C Semifinals to eventual champion Morley-Stanwood – and how those likely paid off in extra resolve this time around.
Senior guard Brook Chambers could play only seven minutes Thursday because of an ankle sprain she re-aggravated during the Quarterfinal. Cullip, the team’s second-leading scorer and best defender, played only 15 minutes because of foul trouble.
“It obviously wasn’t the prettiest of games,” Ingalls said. “But at this state of the game, if you can win ugly, it’s a good thing."
Senior center Fallon Froberg led Climax-Scotts with 14 points and seven rebounds, but she had nearly half of her team’s 17 field goals. “Just them making chaos is the toughest thing,” Climax-Scotts senior guard Janae Langs said of the Saints’ defensive pressure.
Wright finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and three steals. Freshman forward Abbey Ostman grabbed 13 rebounds for the Saints.
PHOTOS: (Top) St. Ignace three-year starter Kelley Wright pushes the ball up court during Thursday's Semifinal. (Middle) Wright defends Climax-Scotts' Destiny Froberg (10). (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
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.