Jenna Maki Show Opens Ishpeming's Breslin Run to Rave Reviews

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

March 21, 2024

EAST LANSING — It was the Jenna Maki Show in the first Division 4 Semifinal at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center on Thursday. 

The Ishpeming senior put on quite a display, scoring a game-high 30 points for the Hematites in a 75-40 defeat of Fowler. 

For most of the game Maki was keeping scoring pace with the Eagles by herself. She had 22 points at halftime to Fowler’s 19, and 29 points at the end of three quarters to Fowler’s 27. 

The 5-foot-10 guard sat for most of the fourth quarter, finishing 11 of 22 from the field and 7 of 11 from the free-throw line.

“Obviously watching film and breaking down what they do as a defense and their whole game, we all did that together as a team,” Maki said. “I just tried to play as hard as a I could to break through.”

Maki eclipsed 1,000 career points earlier in the year, and with her last point Thursday became the school’s all-time leading scorer. Ishpeming head coach Ryan Reichel credited her with making a major transformation before the season started – one that has helped Ishpeming advance to a championship game for the first time.

“She changed as a player,” Reichel said. “She went from a me player to a we player over this past summer. We’re not in this position without her change as an athlete.

“She started on varsity all four years, and we’ve often had to look to her to do everything. She went from wanting to score 1,000 points to wanting to play in the Breslin Center.”

Mya Hemmer (14) finishes a break for the Hematites. Fowler has been to the Semifinals five straight seasons and has played several great players at Breslin Center. But head coach Nathan Goerge admitted Maki stood out.

“(Maki) is a special player, and we knew it from watching film,” Goerge said. “We had a difficult time containing her. Our help defense struggled a little bit. When you go up against someone like that, it’s usually a recipe for disaster.”

In addition, Ishpeming’s full-court pressure defense wreaked havoc all game on Fowler, forcing the Eagles into 34 turnovers. 

“When you only get one day (between Quarterfinals and Semifinals), it’s really hard to mimic the chaos we provide,” Reichel said. 

Sophomore Jenessa Eagle flanked Maki by scoring 14 points for Ishpeming (27-1) which will try and complete its dream season in the championship game at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Ishpeming hadn’t won a Regional title since 1974 before this run, and Reichel said his team has tried to pay tribute to that 1974 team in several ways. 

Reichel said those players weren’t awarded a trophy from administrators back in 1974, so members of that team helped accept the trophy when this year’s squad won its Regional last week. 

“They were able to get pictures with this team and kind of relive that journey that they deserved 50 years ago,” Reichel said. “They deserved that more than anybody. Now, they are living through our kids. They are ingrained on this team and are a part of this with us.”

Despite Fowler playing its fifth-straight Semifinal and Ishpeming appearing in its first since 1974, Ishpeming certainly didn’t show signs of jitters from the opening tip, jumping out to a 16-4 lead midway through the first quarter. 

Ishpeming eventually held a 23-6 lead when the quarter was over, making 10 of its 20 shots from the field and forcing 11 Fowler turnovers over the first eight minutes. 

The Hematites continued to grow the lead during the second quarter, taking a 42-17 lead with 51 seconds remaining until halftime.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Ishpeming’s Jenna Maki (1) puts up a shot over the outstretched arm of Fowler’s Sage Myers. (Middle) Mya Hemmer (14) finishes a break for the Hematites. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

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.)