Hartland Earns 1st Finals Berth, 1st As Well for Longtime Coach

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

March 18, 2022

EAST LANSING - The girls basketball community in the state of Michigan probably couldn’t have felt any happier for a coach, and despite being focused on the task at hand, Don Palmer did have some time for self-reflection.

After 43 years of coaching both boys and girls, Palmer finally coached in a state Final Four game, leading his Hartland girls squad into a Division 1 Semifinal against fellow KLAA member Wayne Memorial at Michigan State’s Breslin Center. 

“I’ve done it for a long time and you always dream about it, and you don’t think it’s going to happen because it’s so hard to do,” Palmer said. 

It might have taken Palmer more than four decades to reach the semifinals, but he and Hartland didn’t let its historic run stop there, taking charge in the second half and earning a 52-42 win over Wayne Memorial. 

Hartland (25-1) advanced to meet West Bloomfield for the state championship. 

Wayne/Hartland basketball“It’s always in the back of our minds since we were freshman,” said four-year player Amanda Roach, referring to a state championship. “It’s just always been on our mind.”

Hartland and Wayne Memorial might be in the same league, but they didn’t play each other during the regular season.

They were on a collision course to meet in the KLAA semifinals, but Wayne Memorial was knocked out by Howell in a semifinal (Hartland ended up beating Howell in the title game). 

But the anticipated meeting turned to be delayed, not denied. 

Leading 24-19 at halftime, the Eagles started to gain some separation in the third quarter, going on a 10-2 run to take a 35-23 lead with 3:14 remaining in the third. 

Hartland eventually took a 36-26 lead into the fourth quarter. 

The lead continued to balloon in the fourth quarter, with Hartland breaking down Wayne Memorial in the half-court beautifully and making the good shots that ensued, taking a 46-28 lead with 3:42 remaining in the game. 

Wayne Memorial (24-2) couldn’t mount a serious rally for the rest of the game in suffering its fourth straight loss in the semifinals. 

“Hartland is a very tough team and a veteran-led team,” Wayne Memorial head coach Jarvis Mitchell said. “They just played harder. They just didn’t want to lose and it’s hard to beat a team like that, that doesn’t want to lose.” 

Roach led Hartland with 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field and 7-of-10 shooting from the free-throw line. 

Senior Leah Lappin added 13 points for the Eagles, who overcame a 4 of 16 performance from 3-point line by going 13 of 31 on 2-pointers and 14 of 22 from the free-throw line. 

Senior Davai Matthews led the way for Wayne Memorial with 15 points. Junior Mayla Ham added nine points and 11 rebounds. 

Wayne Memorial was just 1 of 11 from 3-point range and 11 of 21 from the free-throw line.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Hartland celebrates advancing to its first Division 1 Final on Friday. (Middle) Wayne Memorial’s Paris Bass (0) cuts to the basket with Gracey Metz defending. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

High School 'Hoop Squad' Close to Heart as Hughes Continues Coaching Climb

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

July 11, 2024

Jareica Hughes had a Hall of Fame collegiate basketball career playing at University of Texas-El Paso and has played professionally overseas, but her most prized possession is something she earned playing high school basketball in Michigan. 

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosA standout at now-closed Southfield-Lathrup High School during the early-to-mid 2000s, Hughes proudly displays a signature symbol of Lathrup’s Class A championship team in 2005. 

“I have my state championship ring on me right now,” said Hughes, now an assistant head coach for the women’s basketball program at UTEP. “I wear this ring every single day. Not so much for the basketball aspect. Inside of the ring it says ‘Hoop Squad.’ It’s more the connection I’ve had with those particular young ladies. Friends that I’ve known since I was kid. Every once in a while when we talk, we go back in time.”

Believe it or not, Hughes and her high school teammates next year will have to go back 20 years to commemorate a run to the title that started when they were freshmen. 

It was a gradual build-up to what was the first girls basketball state championship won by a public school in Oakland County. Lathrup, which has since merged with the former Southfield High School to form Southfield Arts & Technology, remained the only public school in Oakland County to win a state girls basketball title until West Bloomfield did so in 2022 and again this past March. 

Lathrup lost in the District round to Bloomfield Hills Marian during Hughes’ freshman year, and then after defeating Marian in a District Final a year later, lost to West Bloomfield in a Regional Final.

When Hughes was a junior, the team got to the state’s final four, but a bad third quarter resulted in a heartbreaking one-point Semifinal loss to eventual champion Lansing Waverly. 

A year later, when Hughes and other core players such as Brittane Russell, Timika Williams, Dhanmite’ Slappey and Briana Whitehead were seniors, they finished the job and won the Class A crown with a 48-36 win over Detroit Martin Luther King in the Final.

However, the signature moment of that title run actually came during the Semifinal round and was produced by Hughes, a playmaking wizard at point guard who made the team go. 

Trailing by three points during the waning seconds of regulation against Grandville and Miss Basketball winner Allyssa DeHaan – a dominant 6-foot-8 center – Hughes drained a tying 3-pointer from the wing that was well beyond the 3-point line. 

Lathrup went on to defeat Grandville in overtime and prevail against King.

Hughes said the year prior, she passed up on taking a potential winning or tying shot in the Semifinal loss against Waverly, and was reminded of that constantly by coaches and teammates. “I just remember in the huddle before that shot, that just kept ringing in my mind,” she said. “That was special. I cried for weeks not being able to get a shot off (the year before) and leaving the tournament like that.”

Growing up in Detroit, Hughes got into basketball mainly because she had five older brothers and an older sister who played the game. In particular, Hughes highlights older brother Gabriel for getting her into the game and taking her from playground to playground.

“I’m from Detroit,” she said. “We played ball all day long. Sunup to sundown. When the light comes on, you had to run your butt into the house.”

Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center.Hughes played for the Police Athletic League and also at the famed St. Cecilia gym in the summer, developing her game primarily against boys.

“My first team was on a boys team,” she said. “I was a captain on a boys team.” 

The family moved into Lathrup’s district before she began high school. 

Once she helped lead Lathrup to the 2005 championship, she went on to a fine career at UTEP, where she was the Conference USA Player of the Year twice and helped lead the Miners to their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Hughes still holds school records for career assists (599), steals (277) and minutes played (3,777). On Monday, she was named to Conference USA’s 2024 Hall of Fame class. 

After a brief professional career overseas was derailed by a shoulder injury, Hughes said getting into coaching was a natural fit. 

“I had to make the hard decision, and I knew as a kid I wanted to be around basketball,” she said. “Once I made that decision (to quit), I knew I was going to coach.”

Hughes started coaching in the Detroit area, first serving as an assistant at Southfield A&T from 2016-20 and then at Birmingham Groves for a season. She then served as interim head coach at Colby Community College in Kansas before being named an assistant at UTEP in May 2023, a month after her former coach Keitha Adams returned to lead the program after six seasons at Wichita State.  

While fully immersed in her job with UTEP, Hughes’ high school memories in Michigan certainly aren’t going away anytime soon – especially with the 20th anniversary of Lathrup’s championship coming up. 

“We are still close friends because we all essentially grew up together,” she said. “They are still my friends to this day.”

2024 Made In Michigan

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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Southfield-Lathrup’s Jareica Hughes drives to the basket against Detroit Martin Luther King during the 2005 Class A Final; at right, Hughes coaches this past season at UTEP. (Middle) Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center. (UTEP photo courtesy of the UTEP sports information department.)