By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Micaela Kelly was a big fan of the Detroit Martin Luther King football team in November when it won its first MHSAA championship since 2007.
The Crusaders earned the opportunity for the first time since that championship season with a 56-48 Semifinal win over St. Johns on Friday at the Breslin Center.
King will next face Warren Cousino in the noon Final on Saturday seeking a sixth MHSAA championship – but first in nine seasons.
“It’s my last year of high school and I’ll never get this chance again. And I want to go to college with something,” said Kelly, who will continue her career next season at DePaul University. “(The football players) talk to me all day. They said, ‘We’ve got one. You should get one too.’ I look up to them; they worked hard.”
King (24-1) entered this postseason ranked No. 4 and always is in the conversation of the state’s elite. The Crusaders have made Quarterfinals four of the past five seasons and advanced to the Semifinals a year ago before falling to eventual Class A champion Bloomfield Hills Marian.
But they looked tough to beat Friday.
Kelly said because she’d never played St. Johns, she hoped her team would get off to a quick start – and she played a big part, making two 3-pointers as junior Tia Tedford drilled a third to give the Crusaders a quick 9-6 lead after their first three shots from the floor.
King ended up making half of its 3-pointers – nine total, and kept a 7 to 10-point lead most of the third and fourth quarters until St. Johns made a last run late to get as close as six during the final minute.
The Redwings had defeated three other top-10 teams during the tournament run and another twice during the regular season.
“We’ve played a lot of different styles, but King was a little different in the fact they shot really well from the perimeter consistently,” St. Johns coach Mark Lasceski said. “And shots that normally went in for us the past three weeks went off the front of the rim, rattling out, those types of things. In a game like this against a top-10 team like that, they have to go down for you to have a chance to win.”
Kelly led King with 18 points, hitting 5 of 7 shots from the floor including a pair of 3-pointers. Junior guard Alicia Norman made all three of her 3-point attempts and finished with 14 points, and sophomore guard Erica Whitley-Jackson also made three 3-pointers and finished with 10 points.
“If you’re a 3-point shooting team, you’re always going to have those highs and those lows. We always expect that, and hopefully our defense would hold up until we started hitting again,” 33-year King coach William Winfield said. “We wanted to make sure they were taking good shots, and that was the difference. They played with poise, very sure of themselves.”
St. Johns – playing in its first Semifinal since 1997 – got offensive contributions from a number of players. Sophomore guard Maddie Maloney led with 12 points and six assists, but five others scored at least five points.
Junior forward Jamie Carroll and junior guard Erika Ballinger each added eight. Senior Brooke Mazzolini had seven points, six rebounds and six assists, and with forward Jessica Hafner was one of only two seniors on the team.
“I felt we had a chance to win all game long,” said Lasceski, who completed his 20th season leading the program. “They hit shots, and we struggled at times.
“These kids … made this an outstanding season, for the St. Johns community, for the basketball program and for them. … Through this run, they grew together, as I would say, family. They’ve been one of the closest group of kids that I’ve coached.”
The Girls Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System.
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Martin Luther King’s Alicia Norman drives past a St. Johns defender Friday. (Middle) St. Johns’ Jessica Hafner looks for an open teammate as Jasmine Flowers (55) and Micaela Kelly defend.
STAMBAUGH — Danica Shamion has enjoyed plenty of success in track & field throughout her high school athletic career.
The West Iron County senior is also quite successful in basketball.
Shamion joined the 1,000-point club here Jan. 23 while scoring 34 in a 63-60 loss to Norway.
“That really felt good,” she said after last week’s 93-41 win over Bessemer on Senior Night. “I’m glad I was able to do that at home. Although, it would have been even better had we won that game.”
The Wykons scored five in double digits against the Speedgirls, led by senior Siena Stine with 20 points. Junior center Sidney Storti added 17 points, and Shamion finished with 16 points and 17 assists.
“Sidney is a real asset to our team,” Shamion said. “I can see the floor pretty well, and the other girls are doing a pretty good job getting open. This was our last home game. It definitely meant something to us.”
Shamion, an All-Upper Peninsula Division 1-3 first-team selection a year ago, twisted her ankle in a season-opening 47-40 triumph over Iron Mountain and missed the next three games.
West Iron was 1-3 going into the holiday break before getting back on track with a 42-28 victory over Kingsford on Jan. 2. That enabled the Wykons to improve to 4-3 before dropping six of their next seven games.
West Iron, which was 5-9 after dropping a 73-55 decision at Negaunee, had won four in a row prior to Thursday’s 46-44 loss at Calumet. But the Wykons bounced back with a 51-49 win over Ishpeming Westwood on Tuesday to get back to .500 at 10-10.
“We were trying to forge our identity and weren’t hitting our shots (earlier in the season),” Shamion said. “Although, we’ve been playing better defense lately. We’re pretty good one-on-one and usually play man-to-man. We try to run the floor and score in transition.
“Negaunee is probably the best team we’ve seen this year, although Ishpeming and Houghton are also very good and Calumet and Westwood are tough,” she added.
In track & field, Shamion set U.P. Division 2 Finals record in the 200-meter dash (26.34 seconds) and 400 (57.18) last season. She also won the 100 (12.79) and placed second in high jump at 4 feet, 10 inches. She is a three-time Finals champion in all three sprint races.
Shamion also made the all-U.P. Volleyball Dream Team in the fall.
She will continue on the track at Central Michigan University after she graduates from West Iron this spring.
“I didn’t know much about their program, but I was interested in what they had to offer,” she said. “The girls on the team are nice, which is part of the reason why I chose Central. It’s a relief to have that decided.”
John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
PHOTOS (Top) West Iron’s Danica Shamion (24) blocks a shot during her team’s game at Ishpeming on Jan. 15. (Middle) Shamion maintains possession of the ball. (Photos by Cara Kamps.)