By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Girls Basketball Semifinals and Finals weekend could return to the Breslin Student Events Center as quickly as this upcoming 2019-20 season, with Michigan State University hosting the event this winter and in future seasons when the Spartans women’s basketball team is not selected as an opening-round host for the NCAA Tournament.
Breslin hosted the Girls Basketball Semifinals and Finals from 2004-06 and 2010-17. However, the potential for a conflict with the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament led to the MHSAA moving the event for the past two seasons. The NCAA awards top-four seeded teams an opportunity to host the first two rounds of its Division I tournament, and the NCAA event falls almost annually on the traditional dates of the MHSAA girls basketball championship weekend – setting up the possible conflict of both events being scheduled to play at Breslin at the same time.
During an initial three-year contract beginning this winter, Breslin tentatively will be the host of the MHSAA Girls Basketball Semifinals and Finals. If, beginning in 2021, the Spartans are seeded fourth or higher for the NCAA Tournament and selected to host first and second rounds, the MHSAA Girls Semifinals and Finals will be played at Read Fieldhouse’s University Arena on the campus of Western Michigan University. Hope College’s DeVos Fieldhouse in Holland will serve as the alternative site if Breslin is not available in 2020, as Read is hosting the Mid-American Conference Gymnastics Championships during the weekend of the MHSAA Girls Semifinals and Finals.
“We are thankful for the graciousness of all parties involved to allow for this opportunity to bring the Girls Basketball Semifinals and Finals back to the Breslin Center,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “From the Breslin Center staff, to coach Suzy Merchant and the MSU women’s basketball program, to MSU law enforcement, ticketing and hospitality and then Western Michigan and Hope College and their facilities people for agreeing to reserve their arenas for us in case it’s needed – this agreement happens only because of the immense cooperation by everyone involved.”
The MHSAA Girls Basketball Semifinals will be played this upcoming season March 19-20, 2020, with all four championship games March 21. The NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament’s opening weekend is March 20-23, with the bracket and seeds to be announced Monday, March 16.
The MHSAA Boys Basketball Semifinals and Finals traditionally are played at the Breslin Center the following weekend, this upcoming season March 26-28. All games for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament are played at neutral sites, and there is no possible conflict between the two events.
Read Fieldhouse, home to Broncos teams including the women’s and men’s basketball programs, unveiled a new basketball court at the start of the 2015-16 season among a variety of improvements to the facility over the last five years. The MHSAA Girls Basketball Finals were played at Read from 1983-85, and WMU also hosted the MHSAA Girls Volleyball Finals from 1996 through the 2007 winter season, the last before the MHSAA season for the sport moved to the fall.
DeVos Fieldhouse, the 2020 provisional site, is home to Hope’s hoops teams among other athletic programs and previously hosted the 2013 NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Final Four.
The St. Ignace girls basketball teams is off to a 2-0 start – and great starts and finishes certainly have been the norm over the last 25 seasons under the leadership of head coach Dorene Ingalls and her assistant, and husband, Doug.
Tuesday’s season-opening win over Brimley made Dorene Ingalls 500-94 beginning her 25th season guiding the program – now 501-94 after Thursday’s 63-27 victory over Boyne City. She entered this season 16th on the state list for most girls basketball coaching victories, and seventh among active coaches.
For all 501 wins, Doug Ingalls has been by her side as an assistant within the program – while also serving as boys varsity basketball coach from 1992-2008, 2011-16 and again currently in the fifth season of his latest tenure. His Saints also have opened 2-0, and he has a 355-175 record leading the boys program.
The Ingalls have led the girls program to five MHSAA Finals championships, most recently in Class D in 2015, and four runner-up finishes, most recently in Division 4 in 2019.
Dorene Ingalls received the MHSAA Women In Sports Leadership Award in 2021.
PHOTOS (Top) Doug and Dorene Ingalls, far left and right, respectively, take a photo with 2003 Miss Basketball Krista Clement. (Middle) Dorene and Doug Ingalls. (Photos by David Latva.)