Familiar Faces Ready to Mold Lenawee Christian's New Look

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

November 9, 2021

ADRIAN – A new era began Monday in girls basketball at Adrian Lenawee Christian, but no one is expecting different results for the Cougars. 

LCS tipped off the season with an early evening practice, holding the first round of tryouts.

Head coach Jamie Salenbien, now in his sixth season leading the Cougars, will eventually welcome back nine returning players from last year’s team that advanced to the Division 3 Regional Semifinal. He has another strong group he hopes to mold into contenders in Division 4 this season.

What he is missing is his daughter, 6-foor-4 Bree Salenbien, a four-time Michigan Associated Press Player of the Year, who is now at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash. She scored more than 2,000 points, broke nearly every school record and made her mark on prep basketball in Michigan during an outstanding four-year career, culminating in being named the Gatorade Michigan Player of the Year a year ago.

“It’s going to be a process, like every year,” Coach Salenbien said. “This team will be finding their own identity. They may do things a little differently. We will have that talk along the way. It is a long season – over four months. We’ll get there.”

While it will be hard to miss the talent that Bree brought with her on the court, Salenbien said this year’s team still feels like family.

“I’m so close with all of these kids that it hasn’t felt much different so far,” he said. “It was really exciting to be back out there. We had 11 kids Monday. We still have some volleyball players going strong in volleyball, so we missed them, but they will be here eventually.

“I’m excited. We have the same coaches, five seniors and a lot of experience. Some of these girls have been on the varsity since they were freshmen. We might have to change our approach a little bit, but these girls are talented.”

Adrian Lenawee Christian girls basketballSeniors Lizzy Scharer, Cara Anderson and Kylie Summer all played on Class D/Division 4 championship teams in 2018-19. 

Summer averaged 8.1 points a game last year and Scharer 7.8. Scharer made 23 3-pointers, Anderson, 21, and Summer, 18. Another returning senior, Kelsie Lilly, was second on the team in rebounding. They all bring different talents to the table.

“Obviously, there are some different aspects to this season, some different players,” said Scharer. “We’re different. We have a different style. We are all super thankful for being back on the court.”

Scharer helped the Cougars cross country team place in the top 15 in the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final last weekend. Now, she turns her attention to basketball, her favorite sport. She is a fourth-year varsity player and hopes to continue in college. 

This past summer she played for a couple of different travel teams, taking her to Florida, Kentucky, Indiana, Wisconsin and across Michigan for tournaments. 

“I really like playing good competition,” she said. “It helps me be better prepared for anything.”

Playing good competition has been Salenbien’s mantra at LCS. Over the last several years, the Cougars have maintained one of the top schedules in the state regardless of class.

This year’s schedule is no different as LCS will play several larger schools, such as Temperance Bedford, Chelsea, Michigan Center, Onsted, and Brooklyn Columbia Central along with similar Division 4 powers Portland St. Patrick and Lansing Christian.

“I think it helps us,” Salenbien said. “We’re not in a league, so we can go out and play anyone. These girls have been through so many big games, and big practices to prepare for big games. I feel there’s nothing wrong with sort of exposing what your needs are to get better.”

Scharer concurs.

“I think just playing with good talent helps prepare you because you play to the level you are playing against,” she said. 

Adrian Lenawee Christian girls basketballSalenbien is a Hudson graduate who played college basketball at Siena Heights University. He coached Onsted to three straight Lenawee County Athletic Association championships, took a couple of years off as his daughters Dani and Bree honed their skills, then took over at LCS in 2017-18. His first two teams – led by Dani and Bree – went 26-1 and 26-2, respectively, winning back-to-back Finals championships, the first in Class D, the second in Division 4 after basketball switched from Classes to Divisions. The 2019-20 team went 20-3 and reached the Regional Final before the season was suspended due to COVID-19. Last year LCS went 13-4, losing to Ypsilanti Arbor Prep in the postseason. 

Salenbien stresses fundamentals, family, and fellowship. No matter who is playing for him on the court, that never changes.

“I love playing for him,” Scharer said. “He is strict, but he knows how to make the game fun. We know when we have to put in the work and when we can have fun.”

By coincidence, Salenbien opened practice with a FaceTime call from Dani, now a sophomore on the Hillsdale College team, and ended it with a FaceTime call from Bree, a couple thousand miles away in Washington. 

“I don’t even think they knew we were practicing,” Salenbien said. “The girls on the team were happy to say hello. It is a nice feeling to know these girls are so connected. We miss everybody who we lose from one year to the next.”

The Cougars open the season later this month. How deep they play in March is something that Salenbien will figure out later. Right now, it is the start of another journey, but one familiar to most of the players on the team.

“That experience and knowledge of how to manage stress and the limelight helps so much,” Salenbien said. “We’ve got some long, athletic kids that can jump right out of the gym and some cross country girls that like to get out and run.

“It will take some time, but I think some really cool things can happen with this group.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Adrian Lenawee Christian girls basketball coach Jamie Salenbien talks things over with his team last season. (Middle) Lizzie Scharer makes a move to the basketball during a Regional Semifinal against Ypsilanti Arbor Prep. (Below) Cara Anderson (31) drives the lane against the Gators. (Photos by Mike Dickie.)

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.

The Cougars’ Anna Richards (10) attempts to get a shot up over Frankenmuth’s Lexi Boyke.“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.

Tessa Roe (12) works to get past Clare Conzelmann and to the basket.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.”

Click for the full box score.

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.