Kelsey Carries Well Richards' Legacy

January 9, 2020

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

Kelsey Richards is constantly compared to her older sisters, which doesn’t bother her one bit.

“They were both amazing players, so I’ll take it,” Kelsey said with her big smile, which is on display seemingly everywhere – except during her basketball games.

“I feel like it’s my time. It’s my time to show my senior leadership and my love for Christ as we play.”

Kelsey, a 6-0 senior, like older sisters Taylor and Allyson before her, is a fifth-year varsity starter for Fruitport Calvary Christian, a school of just 72 students which the Richards girls – with the help of their father and 10th-year coach Brad Richards – have transformed into a Division 4 powerhouse in West Michigan.

Fruitport Calvary has averaged 20 wins per season over the past nine years, with seven consecutive Alliance League championships and six straight MHSAA District titles. In five of those seasons, Calvary’s tournament run ended at the hands of state power Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart in Regional Finals.

But last year, the Eagles flew south for Regionals and Kelsey scored 21 points as they broke through with a 49-46 victory over Mendon for the school’s first-ever Regional championship in any sport. Calvary lost in the Quarterfinals to eventual Division 4 champion Adrian Lenawee Christian.

“It’s just a real blessing,” Coach Richards explained after a lopsided victory Tuesday night over visiting Hudsonville Libertas Christian. “We put God first, family second and basketball third. This school has allowed us to do all three of those things at one time, and we are so thankful for that.”

This year, the Eagles are off to a 6-2 start, with losses coming against Division 3 opponents Muskegon Western Michigan Christian and Hart, and the most notable win 50-46 over Division 2 Central Montcalm last week at the Cornerstone University Holiday Tournament. Richards matched her jersey number with 33 points in that game.

Fruitport Calvary will be shooting for its 51st consecutive Alliance League victory when it opens conference play Friday night at Byron Center Zion Christian.

The first constant for the Eagles over the past nine years is an ultra-aggressive style of play, using relentless full-court pressure to break teams down. As a result, Calvary gets to the free-throw line often, with the goal every game to make more free throws than the other team attempts.

The second constant is the dominating play of the Richards sisters.

Taylor Richards put Calvary girls basketball on the map before graduating in 2014. She remains the school’s all-time career leader in points (2,455), rebounds (1,541) and assists (381). Taylor went on to a standout career at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and now coaches eighth-grade girls basketball at Northern Hills Middle School.

Allyson Richards had an amazing prep career of her own, graduating in 2017 as the school’s second-leading career scorer (1,951) and rebounder (1,167). She is now a junior forward for Cornerstone, but has played less than half the team’s games this season due to injuries.

Kelsey, who like her sisters has the ability to play every position on the court, is moving up the school’s record book. The two-time all-stater has scored 1,879 points and needs just 73 to surpass Allyson for second place on the school record list.

Some of Calvary’s best seasons came when the Richards sisters played together. While the three never played varsity at the same time, Taylor and Allyson played together for three years, while Allyson and Kelsey played together for two years.

Kelsey has not had a sibling on the roster for the past three years, but filling that void admirably has been 6-0 senior Lizzie Cammenga. Richards and Cammenga are the only seniors on Calvary’s 10-player roster, and both are fifth-year varsity players and returning all-staters, who can play any position based on the opponent. (Schools with fewer than 100 students may play eighth graders on high school teams, although only their statistics from grades 9-12 count toward MHSAA record book consideration.)

“This team is a joy to coach,” explained Brad Richards, who previously coached girls basketball for 12 years at Ravenna and was named The Associated Press Class C state Coach of the Year in 2002. “Lizzie and Kelsey are our leaders, but all of these girls come from great families and are self-motivated to keep getting better.”

The final piece of the Richards basketball puzzle is younger brother Bradley, a 6-foot-3 seventh grader at Calvary. Coach Richards is considering switching over to boys basketball after this season for the opportunity to coach his son.

Richards retired from teaching history at Ravenna in 2018, which gives him more time to devote to coaching, his second career as a realtor and now an unexpected “mid-life adventure” which has made him a national television figure.

Richards is one of the researchers in “The Curse of Civil War Gold,” a series which premiered on The History Channel in the spring of 2018 and has reached an estimated 24.2 million viewers.

The show theorizes that Union soldiers confiscated millions of dollars in Confederate gold and silver during the final stages of the Civil War, then carried out a plot to smuggle the loot back to Michigan using the railway system and then laundered it through the banking system. According to a lighthouse keeper's deathbed confession years later, part of the stolen Confederate treasury was put into a train car on a barge and pushed off a ferry into Lake Michigan.

“It’s been a lot of fun and people from all over come up to me and talk about it,” said Richards, who has traveled as far away as Utah and Georgia to do research. “I am grateful to be a part of this project. I've been blessed by the Lord through this mid-life adventure.”

On the court, Kelsey and her father are focused on getting better each game to try and make another postseason run.

Kelsey is much happier talking about her teammates than herself, pointing out the improvement of the team’s other three starters – junior Kyra Hamilton, sophomore Cate Anhalt and freshman McKena Wilson.

“Each of the teams I’ve played on has been very different, but I’ve been really surprised how well some of our younger girls have played this year,” said Kelsey, noting Anhalt’s improved shooting and Wilson’s ability to stay calm in pressure situations.

Kelsey does plan to break one family tradition by not going to Cornerstone University, opting instead to play basketball at Spring Arbor College, an evangelical Christian school near Jackson. Brad played basketball at Cornerstone, her mother, Joy, played volleyball there and her two older sisters played basketball – but she chose a different path.

“I felt very comfortable when I visited Spring Arbor and I really like the girls on the team and Coach (Ryan) Frost,” said Kelsey, 17, who plans to sign with Spring Arbor on Jan. 28.

But first, she is determined to make the most of her final prep basketball season and the final five months of high school, where she is one of just 14 seniors.

“I really enjoy that we are small, because we are more like a family here,” said Kelsey, who runs track in the spring. “As big as basketball is for me, I really love being a chapel leader at school and a worship leader for youth group. A lot of people know me as a basketball player, but that part of my life is really important to me.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Kelsey Richards defends during a game earlier this season against Hart. (Middle) Richards works to get past a Muskegon Catholic Central defender last season. (Below) The Richards children, from left: Kelsey Richards, Allyson Richards (junior at Cornerstone), Bradley Richards (6-3 seventh grader at Fruitport Calvary Christian) and Taylor Richards (Cornerstone graduate). (Action photos courtesy of Dr. Tom Watkins; family photo courtesy of the Richards family.)

Hemlock, Rockford Follow 3-Point Success to 1st Titles, Record Book Fame

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

September 1, 2023

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:

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.