King Rises Again to Reach Class A Final

March 18, 2016

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.

Now she and her teammates are receiving that support in return as they pursue a first Class A title since 2006.

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.”

Click for the full box score.

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.

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.)