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