By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half
RAVENNA – As Zara Weber explains it, part of growing up in Kent City is learning how to properly shoot the basketball.
“They start us young at camps, working on our form and things like that,” said Weber, one of two senior starters for Kent City (18-4), which rolled over Holton 55-13 on Wednesday and into Friday’s Division 3 District Final against Muskegon Western Michigan Christian at Ravenna.
“They get us started, and then it’s up to all of us to put in the time. We spend a lot of time in the gym. A few of us made it our goal to shoot 10,000 3-pointers over the summer.”
So, for Weber, the 3-pointer that she made late in the first quarter on Wednesday was just another shot – but it was also the shot that tied the team state record for most 3-pointers made in a season.
It was fitting that the record-breaking trey, which came less than a minute later, was made by a reserve, senior Janelle Krueger – because all of these Eagles can shoot.
“Almost every girl on the team can shoot it,” said 10th-year Kent City coach Scott Carlson, who knows something about scoring as the all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,263 career points. “I don’t think the record really mattered. We knew we were getting close. I just have a great shooting team.”
Kent City, which was ranked No. 8 in the final Associated Press Division 3 poll, finished with eight 3-pointers on Wednesday, pushing its season total to 244 – and breaking the old record of 237 triples by Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central set in 2005.
The boys state record is 356 by Whitmore Lake in 2009-2010.
Carlson did not make a big deal about the state record. The game was not stopped after Krueger’s record-setting shot, and no announcement was made; in fact, most of the Eagles did not know until after the game.
Earlier this year, Kent City broke the state record for 3-pointers in a single game, making 25 in a home win over Holton. Kent City had the previous record of 23 in a single game, set during the 2012-2013 season, when current assistant coaches Kendal Carlson and Aleah Holcomb were on the roster.
How do they do it?
The Eagles’ motion offense normally features four players spotted up at different points along the 3-point arc, with players taking turns driving and kicking it back out to one of those players, who are always ready to shoot. KC shoots 32 percent from 3-point range and averages 11 treys per game.
The “big three” for KC all season long has been Weber and sophomore standouts Jenna Harrison and Kenzie Bowers – who have all made more than 50 3-pointers this season. The other starters for the Eagles are sophomore Audrey Dreyer and senior Lauren Freeland, an all-state track and cross country standout who will run at Michigan State next year.
“Shooters got to shoot,” explained Harrison, who led all scorers on Wednesday with 13 points, including two 3-pointers. “We know that we have to shoot if we are open; that’s the way our offense works. If the defense comes out on us, then we have to drive.”
The Eagles know their games will keep getting tougher, starting with Friday’s District championship game against Western Michigan Christian. If the Eagles prevail, it could set up a blockbuster Regional Semifinal matchup at home Monday against top-ranked Pewamo-Westphalia.
“That’s the game everyone in town is talking about, but we’re just taking them one at a time,” Harrison said.
The Eagles’ outstanding season has been a pleasant diversion for Carlson, who has experienced more family tragedies resulting from car crashes than any one man should ever have to endure.
In 1989, his younger brother Todd was paralyzed in a car accident. One year later, his younger sister Shannon was paralyzed and suffered a closed head injury in a car accident. In 2009, his mother, Jane, died in another car accident (Todd lost his right leg in the same accident).
Then last August, Todd – who served as an assistant coach for the Eagles and helped run Kent City’s youth basketball program for 15 years – died in yet another crash at the age of 49.
“It’s been tough because he was such a big part of this team,” said Carlson. “I’ve learned you just have to keep going forward. Basketball is something we have always had to focus on and work on.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Kent City’s Jenna Harrison lines up to shoot a 3-pointer against Cedar Springs during a Feb. 19 win. (Middle) Mikayla Loew (21) looks for an opening around the perimeter. (Photos courtesy of the Kent City athletic department/Sue Harrison.)
Championship time is quickly approaching this girls basketball season.
We’re still three weeks out from the start of District play. But league contenders are clashing all over the state, with a handful of conferences finishing up their schedules this week and several favorites facing off soon with titles on the line. We make mention of a number of those below.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. West Bloomfield 59, Detroit Edison 49 Last season, West Bloomfield (15-2) became the first in-state team to defeat Edison (12-3) since 2018 – and the Lakers have become the only one to do so again this winter.
2. Maple City Glen Lake 51, Traverse City St. Francis 45 The Lakers (13-2) are up to No. 2 in Division 4 MPR, while St. Francis (12-2) sits No. 4 in Division 3.
3. Holt 55, DeWitt 53 The Rams (14-2) sit alone atop the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue after sending the Panthers (13-2) into second in a matchup of top Division 1 teams statewide.
4. Hancock 50, Calumet 47 The Bulldogs (13-1) maintained their one-game lead in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference West with their second win this season over third-place Calumet (11-3). Both are among the top seven statewide in Division 3 MPR.
5. Detroit Edison 44, Farmington Hills Mercy 42 The Pioneers bounced back from the West Bloomfield loss with a pair of close wins, this one over Mercy (14-2) followed by a one-pointer over Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Saturday.
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (11-5) After a 2-4 start with those losses to top Division 1 and 2 teams statewide, Reeths-Puffer is 9-3 and tied for first in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green with Muskegon after edging the Big Reds 56-52 on Friday. That avenged a 14-point loss to Muskegon on Jan. 6, and the Rockets have since gone on an eight-game winning streak. They also opened last week with a 42-39 victory over 11-win Ludington.
Wayne Memorial (13-4) The Zebras further solidified their standing atop the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East standings with last week’s 75-57 win over second-place Belleville. That followed up a 44-41 win over the Tigers on Jan. 6, and total Wayne has won 12 straight since a 1-3 start that included two-point losses to Division 1 contenders Detroit Renaissance and Hudsonville and a third defeat to Illinois power Chicago Whitney Young.
Goodrich (14-1) The Martians are locked in another battle atop the Flint Metro League Stars with Lake Fenton and trail the Blue Devils by a game after a 50-44 loss Jan. 20. That’s Goodrich’s only defeat, and they’ll attempt to avenge it in the league finale Feb. 17. In the meantime, the Martians can continue their statewide push upward with 13-win Flushing coming up Wednesday and 15-win Ovid-Elsie next week as well.
Redford Westfield Prep (11-6) The Warriors take on many of the state’s best, evidenced by their No. 8 MPR despite six losses. Westfield has won seven of its last eight games, the lone defeat during that streak 55-53 to still-undefeated Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Jan. 16 – and with perhaps its most notable instate win of the season 46-45 in double overtime Jan. 12 over reigning Division 3 champion Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.
McBain (13-4) The Highland Conference race could go down to the finish, especially after McBain avenged its earlier 17-point loss to second-place Evart with a 51-35 win last week. McBain also has a six-point loss to league leader Lake City from Jan. 20, but can avenge that in the regular-season finale Feb. 23. The Ramblers additionally have a pair of victories over 12-win Beal City and a solid early loss to still-undefeated Division 2 Escanaba.
Ovid-Elsie (15-2) The Marauders haven’t slowed down a bit after last season’s 21-2 finish with league and District titles, the latter in Division 2. This season in Division 3, Ovid-Elsie is up to No. 6 in MPR with a 14-game winning streak since suffering its lone losses early to Pewamo-Westphalia (10-5) and Dansville (15-1). The Marauders handed Mackinaw City its first defeat Saturday, 59-55 on a neutral court, and also has a victory over 14-win Ithaca plus a two-game lead in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference.
Fowler (11-6) Coming off back-to-back Division 4 championships, Fowler put together a schedule featuring solid-to-strong teams from Divisions 1-4 and sit No. 3 in Division 4 MPR. The losses have come to Midland Dow, Haslett, Lansing Catholic, Kent City and league rivals Dansville and Portland St. Patrick, and the Eagles avenged the Shamrocks defeat 51-44 last week. Fowler will need help to catch Dansville in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference, down two games from the league leader, but will try to get one back from the Aggies on Feb. 14.
Norway (16-1) The Knights are leading the large-school division of the Skyline Central Conference with the likely deciding matchup coming at Bark River-Harris next week. Norway has lost only to Niagara (Wis.), by five two weeks ago, and handed Carney-Nadeau (13-2) one of its losses among other strong work – and after ending last season’s 11-10 run with a 15-point District loss to the Wolves.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – Coldwater (15-1) at Jackson Northwest (15-1) – The Mounties lead Coldwater by a win in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference thanks to a 50-46 win in their first meeting Jan. 10.
Tuesday – Utica Ford (14-1) at Grosse Pointe North (13-2) – North has clinched a share of the Macomb Area Conference Red title heading into tonight’s league finale, while Ford won by a large margin in the MAC White.
Thursday – Houghton (13-1) at Hancock (13-1) – As noted above, Hancock leads the West-PAC West by a game – but will face second-place Houghton twice over the next two weeks.
Friday – Standish-Sterling (15-1) at Hemlock (13-3) – Hemlock owns the lead in the Tri-Valley Conference West 10-1 thanks to a 62-31 doubling up in the first meeting Jan. 6. But that remains the Panthers’ lone loss, and they’ve since handed TVC 10-2 co-leader Saginaw Valley Lutheran one of its two defeats.
Friday – Saline (15-2) at Temperance Bedford (16-1) – Saline is first and Bedford second in the Southeastern Conference Red thanks to Saline’s 41-22 win in their first meeting Jan. 27.
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PHOTOS (Top) A trio of Fowler defenders surround a Bath player driving to the basket during a 49-27 win earlier this season; they meet again Thursday. (Middle) Maddie Bradford of Maple City Glen Lake contests a shot by Maggie Napont of Traverse City St. Francis during the Lakers' 51-45 win over the Gladiators last week. (Top photo by Click by Christine McCallister. Middle photo by Rick Sack/TC Rick Photo.)