Heartache in Past, Wait Ends as West Catholic Breaks Through to Breslin

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

March 17, 2022

GRAND RAPIDS – Good things come to those who wait.

That has been the case for the Grand Rapids West Catholic girls basketball team.

The Falcons have had to endure two years of disappointment and heartache, but all of that has been washed away with this year’s tournament run.

“It’s really exciting for our team, just because of all the hard work we’ve put in and it's finally showing with this run,” said Falcons senior guard and Michigan State recruit Abbey Kimball, whose team rolled into the Division 2 Semifinals on Tuesday with a convincing 82-27 win over previously-unbeaten Edwardsburg in the Quarterfinals.

“Obviously the past two years haven’t been the best, but we’re just happy we are here and we're just trying to enjoy the moment.”

This moment has eluded West Catholic most recently.

In 2020, the Falcons won their first District title in 25 years and earned a berth in the Regional Finals before the remainder of tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus.

Last season, West Catholic won another District title, but lost to Newaygo, 55-48, in the Regional Final without the services of Kimball and junior standout and Toledo commit Cadence Dykstra.

“You can't predict things like COVID or injuries or whatever circumstance that might come up,” Falcons coach Jill VanderEnde said. “You have to take it day by day, and you have to be resilient and you have to adapt. 

“This year has been about being adaptable and yet continuing to persevere. That's what separates the team from years past, even though we’ve had some great teams the past few years.”

Grand Rapids West Catholic basketballThe Falcons will play Friday in their first Semifinal since 1995, against Detroit Country Day at the Breslin Center.

West Catholic lost to the Yellowjackets, 44-32, in the 1995 Class B Final.

“They’re a great team that is well-coached and very athletic and skilled,” VanderEnde said. “We will have to come up with a savvy gameplan to disrupt the things they do well.”

The Falcons improved to 24-1 as a suffocating defense helped them to their Quarterfinal win.

West Catholic led 26-5 after the first quarter en route to the lopsided victory.

“Our defense has set the tone all season long, and going into the tournament that’s what we were hoping to hang our hat on,” VanderEnde said.

The Falcons’ only loss occurred earlier in the season against Rockford, which advanced to the Division 1 Semifinals.

West Catholic went undefeated in conference play, led by Kimball and a supporting cast of young talent.

All five of its starters, including Kimball, Dykstra, freshman Elisha Dykstra, sophomore Emma Tuttle and junior Ellie Bies, made the all-conference team, while freshman Anna Ignatoski and sophomore Reese Polega earned all-conference honorable mention.

“It’s always satisfying when you can look at your players and know that they put in the hard work and that they've done everything you have asked and more to try and accomplish a goal that the entire team was seeking,” VanderEnde said. “Just to see those kids’ faces and smiles in the locker room (after Tuesday’s win) and the pure excitement and enjoyment of being able to accomplish something that we set out for so many months ago to do was really rewarding.

“That's what coaching is all about. Getting everyone on the same page and going in the same direction and not leaving anyone behind.”

Kimball, a four-year starter, finished runner-up to Detroit Edison’s Ruby Whitehorn in the Michigan Miss Basketball Award voting.

She is the lone senior, and has embraced her role as a veteran leader.

“In other years, there have been other seniors on the team who I’ve looked up to and they’ve really paved a path for me,” Kimball said. “Just to see how to lead a team, and so I’ve taken that role by getting girls in the gym with me and leading by example. They’ve helped me in that way, and it’s been really cool.”

VanderEnde has seen that growth throughout the season.

“Her skill level is off the charts, but there is a lot of responsibility with being the lone senior,” she said. “She has learned how to embrace her teammates and work with the younger kids. In the past she didn’t have to share that load. She could just be herself and be the leading scorer, but with all the seniors gone she has helped hold the other kids accountable in helping achieve the goals for the program. She’s really matured in that area.”

Kimball will now get the rare opportunity to play on her future collegiate court.

“I’m excited, and it will be the first time playing on that court so that will be fun,” Kimball said. “Every game we’ve been super focused because we want to get to the end goal, which is a state championship.”

Dean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for four years after serving at the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years along with shorter stints at the Ionia Sentinel and WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties. 

PHOTOS (Top) West Catholic’s Abbey Kimball (1), Emma Tuttle (15) and Ellie Bies (11) help up a teammate this season. (Middle) Kimball makes her move to the basket. (Photos courtesy of the West Catholic athletic department.)

Jahfetson Makes History from 3-Point Range in Taking Baraga to 2023 Finals

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

April 23, 2024

Baraga’s Corina Jahfetson graduated in 2023 as one of the most accomplished 3-point shooters in MHSAA history and coming off one of the most impressive single seasons from beyond the arc.

Her 103 3-pointers as a senior over 29 games were the second-most for one season and included eight in a Quarterfinal win over Mackinaw City – the second-most in an MHSAA Quarterfinal, Semifinal or Final.

She finished with 236 3-pointers over 96 games and four seasons, ranking 12th on that career list, and Baraga finished the season as Division 4 runner-up. She’s continuing her career at Northern Michigan.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA girls basketball record book, and click the heading to view the record book in full.

Girls Basketball

Alma junior Bailey Walkington earned her school’s first single-season individual record book entry for girls basketball in 2022-23. She made the steals list with 143 over 23 games.

Dalton DeBoer became the latest Midland Dow long-range shooting ace to make the records after she drained 70 of 206 3-point attempts over 24 games in 2022-23. DeBoer is a junior this school year.

Durand senior Jordyn Lawrence earned her school’s first girls basketball individual record book entry with 15 steals in her team’s 44-31 win over Flint Kearsley on Dec. 2, 2022. She’s continuing at Mid-Michigan College.

Leah French finished her Engadine career in 2023 with a series of game, season and career record book entries detailing her scoring and defensive skills. She earned single-game listings for 54 points and 19 free throws against St. Ignace on Feb. 6, 2023, and nine 3-pointers against Manistique that Jan. 9. She made the single-season list with 81 3-pointers, 177 free throws and 168 steals over 25 games as a senior. And she made the career lists with 171 3-pointers, 354 free throws and 405 steals over 85 games and four seasons. She’s continuing her career at Aquinas College.

Arieonna Ware earned Battle Creek Central's first girls basketball record book entry with 51 points in a Feb. 11, 2020, win over Portage Northern. She actually finished with a triple-double, adding 12 rebounds and 12 steals. Ware also was added for 47 points in a March 6, 2019, District game against Sturgis.

Mesick senior Kayla McCoy made the MHSAA record in 2022-23 as a junior, totaling 144 steals over 23 games. It was Mesick’s first individual entry in the girls basketball record book.

Coldwater’s Carlee Crabtree made a career-high 52 3-pointers during her senior season of 2019-20 on the way to making the MHSAA career list for long-distance shots with 163, in 469 attempts, over four seasons and 88 games total. She went on to play at Central Michigan and Hope College.

Battle Creek Pennfield’s Kaylee Glidden capped her three-year varsity career in 2023 among the most accurate free-throw shooters in MHSAA history – and also among top 3-point aces. She made 90.6 percent of her free-throw attempts as a senior, good for fifth-highest percentage all-time for one season, and her 84.4-percent success rate ranks fourth on the career list. She also made the single-season 3-pointers list with 67 that winter and the career list with 168. She continued at Kellogg Community College and has committed to Great Lakes Christian College.

Larissa Huffman made a pair of career lists upon completing her four-year varsity career in 2023 at Mackinaw City. She was added for 468 assists and 411 steals, both over 92 games, and she’s continuing her career at St. Norbert (Wis.). Additionally, Mackinaw City was added to the single-game field goals list as a team for making at least 39 in a game six times over the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons, with a high of 45.

Lansing Christian earned a listing on the team 3-pointers list when it sank 14 on 32 attempts against Webberville on Jan. 20, 2023. Seven players drained at least one of the long-distance shots.  

Grayling’s 66-49 win over Houghton Lake on Dec. 19 included one of the most impressive defensive performances of all-time as senior Makayla Watkins had 19 steals – tying for third-most in one game.

Brooklyn Columbia Central’s Zoandria Bamm grabbed 28 rebounds during a Feb. 14, 2023, game against Clinton to make the single-game list in that category and on the way to finishing her senior season with 380 rebounds over 25 games – tying for 13th most on that list. She’s playing at Jackson College.

Riley Abney became the first player to be listed for points scored in a quarter of a girls basketball game when she sank 21 of her 36 total during the fourth quarter of a 64-47 loss to Linden on Jan. 16. The Ortonville Brandon senior has committed to be a preferred walk-on at Oakland.

A pair of Paw Paw standouts earned single-game accomplishments within three days of each other in January. On Jan. 26 against Sturgis, junior AJ Rickli grabbed 31 rebounds, tied for seventh-most for one game. On Jan. 29 against Three Rivers, sophomore Stella Shaefer made the single-game assists list with 14.

Keira Maki joined the single-game points list on Feb. 22 when she scored 47 in Escanaba’s 64-49 win over Sault Ste. Marie. The senior will continue at Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

PHOTO Baraga’s Corina Jahfetson (22) brings the ball upcourt during the 2023 Division 4 Final against Glen Lake at Breslin Center.