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 [email protected] 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.)

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

April 5, 2024

It won’t be hard for Jayden Marlatt to remember opening day on the softball field from any of her four years at Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAs a freshman, she missed the opener due to needing to quarantine. Her sophomore and junior years started on the road because the Cardinals’ field was under construction.  

This season the Cardinals will open up — weather permitting — on their brand-new field, hosting Mio on Monday, April 8.  Marlatt is slated to be the starting pitcher again and add to her school record collection.

While Johannesburg-Lewiston is looking forward to playing on the new diamond, Marlatt and her teammates have high hopes of finishing the season almost 200 miles south. They’re looking to get back to Michigan State University – the site of the Division 4 Semifinals and Final.

The Cards have had their sites on that goal since they fell 4-2 to Mendon in last year’s Semifinal at Secchia Stadium. The loss ended a 30-4-1 campaign that saw the Cardinals play every game on the road for a second consecutive year, but come up only one victory short of a first championship game appearance.

The trip to East Lansing also came after the Cards won the program’s first District title since 2008 and advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 1981.

“It has been a long two seasons on the road,” said eighth-year head coach Kim Marlatt, noting the team utilized a Little League field for practices during the stretch. “They’ve been putting in a lot of work in the offseason, so it is excited to get going.”

Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. The new field isn’t the only new things this spring. The Cardinals will have a junior varsity team for the first time during the Marlatt’s tenure. The JV squad is coached by Ryan Marlatt, who has been serving the program the past eight years as assistant coach. He also has been the head girls basketball coach at JoBurg the past two seasons.

The Marlatt coaches are the proud parents of Jayden, who continues to garner recognition as perhaps the greatest athlete in Johannesburg-Lewiston’s history. 

The three-sport star had a huge hand in all that JoBurg accomplished last season leading the team in batting average (.670), home runs (13) and runs batted in (61). As the team’s ace pitcher, she collected 249 strikeouts and compiled a 1.32 ERA.

“Jayden has put in the hard work,” Kim pointed out.  “She is a very humble athlete. ‘She doesn’t like to talk about herself. She likes to compete, and she likes to be on the top of her game for her teammates.”

Jayden has been named all-conference and all-state in softball, basketball and volleyball nearly every season over her four years at JoBurg. She’s led her teams to Ski Valley Conference, District and Regional titles along the way.

She’s also been named Player of the Year by multiple publications. And she’s a front runner to be voted the Most Valuable Player of the Ski Valley Conference in softball. Earlier this year, league coaches voted her the MVP for both basketball and volleyball.  

“The Ski Valley never used to vote on an MVP,” Ryan Marlatt said. “Hopefully she can add the triple crown and get softball this year.”

Jayden Marlatt, who has played all three sports all four years, acknowledged softball is perhaps her most treasured, and she’ll continue in that sport at Ferris State. Her career total of more than 500 strikeouts, and her 14 home runs last season, are both JoBurg school records. "I like them all but probably softball,” she confirmed when asked to name her favorite sport.

She averaged 12 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and four steals per game this winter helping the Cards basketball team to a conference runner-up finish. She was key to JoBurg's ability to put a 12-game winning streak together, and she topped the 1,000-point career mark along the way.

Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season.Her outstanding senior year on the basketball court and this spring’s possibilities nearly vanished as the volleyball season ended.

She suffered what looked to be a serious lower-leg injury in the final game of the JoBurg volleyball season. “She finished in the emergency room,” Kim Marlatt said.  

Diagnosed a high ankle sprain, it was an aggravation to an injury from her junior year in basketball. She wasn’t quite at 100 percent on the basketball court this season until the holiday break. She’s starting the softball season healthy, though.

Before the injury, Jayden led the Cards to their third volleyball conference championship over the last four years. After becoming JoBurg's all-time kills leader during her junior season, and with many of her teammates from her first three seasons graduating, Jayden had to fill a variety of roles while anchoring the offense from her outside hitter spot.

She ended up leading the team in both kills with 421 and digs, with 431, in her final season on the volleyball court. And she is listed among MHSAA’s all-time leaders in kills for a single match and career.

It’s more than Marlatt’s stats that stand out for Kristine Peppin, the school’s volleyball coach the past 15 years.

“It is not about the size of the school or the size of the player, it’s the heart that they have inside,” she proclaimed. “This girl would be a successful player on whatever team she was on. 

“Yes we’re a small school, small town,” she continued. “That kind of leadership and heart and drive to be the best is what’s given her that success.”

Marlatt’s work ethic is second to none, Peppin noted. She never saw Jayden give less than a “1,000” percent in practice or games in her career. 

Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt.“She’s a super hard worker and extremely modest for the kind of skill she possesses and the success she’s had,” Peppin said. “Her teammates think it’s amazing to be on her team.”

Marlatt’s volleyball skills caught the eye of at least one of her conference opponents’ coaches back in junior high. Ron Stremlow was performing one of his many coaching duties for Fife Lake Forest Area when he first saw Jayden on the volleyball court.

“I could tell then this girl was somebody special,” said Stremlow, who became one of the winningest coaches in state volleyball history with the Warriors. “When she got in high school, it just took off.

“She puts the time into it, and she works hard,” Stremlow continued. “Kids like that get what they deserve – they work for it.”

Stremlow, now retired, also acknowledged he’s enjoyed being able to watch the hard-throwing Marlatt on the softball field the last couple of seasons as Forest Area hosted the Cardinals consecutively due to JoBurg’s lack of a home field.

It’s something he’ll have to travel to do this year though, as JoBurg is scheduled to host the Warriors on April 15.

The Cardinals also will host a Regional on their new field June 8. The winners of District play at Rogers City, Harbor Springs, St. Ignace and Gaylord St. Mary will participate.

To play in the Regional, the Cards will have to emerge from the Rogers City District featuring the host Hurons, Atlanta, Hillman, Onaway, and Posen.

Tom SpencerTom 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 [email protected] 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) Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Jayden Marlatt drives a pitch during softball season. (2) Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. (3) Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season. (4) Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt. (Action shots by Dylan Jespersen/Petoskey News-Review; family photo by Breya Domke.)