By Tom Spencer
Special for Second Half
A lot has changed since David Wheelock coached high school basketball four years ago at Suttons Bay.
Back then the team was called Suttons Bay. He had a freshman moved up from the junior varsity team named Paige Kohler. Northport High School was a local rival. Jim Champion took over as coach and all the school records were intact.
Today, Wheelock is back after a two-year hiatus. The team is now called NorthBay thanks to a co-op with nearby Northport. He has a senior named Paige Kohler in the school’s record book and she’s ready to lead her teammates in tonight’s Division 4 District Final against Lake Leelanau St. Mary.
“It was surreal to watch,” Wheelock exclaimed. “She took everything in stride and showed great leadership and teamwork throughout.
“I had a feeling she would have a great career,” he continued. “I don’t know if I ever envisioned this, but she has earned everything that she accomplished.”
Wheelock returned to the court where he played high school basketball this winter, inheriting back a player who has shown a knack for scoring in multiple sports – not just in basketball but also as a soccer standout during the spring.
Kohler set the single-game basketball scoring record with a 44-point performance Feb. 27 on Senior Night against Ellsworth. It broke the previous record of 43 set in 1993 by a relative, Suzanne Kohler.
“I was not expecting that at all,” Kohler said. “When the game started, I had no idea how it was going to go, but I told myself that I was going to play as hard as possible for my last-ever home game.
“As the game progressed, I continued to play with intensity,” she recalled. “Setting the record on Senior Night, but more specifically in my last home game, I know that I will remember this forever. Senior night is already such a special night for seniors, but adding this on top of it will make it even more of a special memory.”
Breaking her cousin’s record added an extra significance for the senior point guard.
“She's family, and I come from a very competitive family,” noted the younger Kohler. “If it were a stranger, it would have merely been a record. But by knowing the person, and the story behind that record, it made it special.”
Suzanne Kohler still holds the career and single-season scoring marks at Suttons Bay and is a member of the 1,000 point club. Paige Kohler joined her cousin in the club with a 15-point performance Jan. 8 against her opponent in tonight’s District Final. NorthBay won that contest 32-26.
“I was really excited, and it instantly felt like a dream come true,” Kohler said of topping the 1,000 mark. “After scoring the final points, I looked up into the stands, and seeing how happy everyone was, I couldn't help but feel honored to be a part of something so special. Their support means the world to me.”
Kohler’s family also was in the stands to see the single-game scoring record shattered. Her father, Alex, a former Suttons Bay football coach, and mother, Cindy, are among the role models and mentors she has looked up to over the years.
“Number one is my mom,” the record-holder said. “She was an amazing basketball player and essentially taught me everything I know about the game. I was the kid in the gym running drills 30 minutes after practice ended, because I make a mistake or two in a game.
“I also give credit to my dad, not because he knew basketball, but he taught me what a winning attitude was,” she continued. “Every time I played a game or came home after practice he would ask, ‘Did you win?’ Over the years I've had a number of coaches, none were necessarily constant, but credit can be given to both Coach Wheelock and Coach Champion.”
Kohler has collected postseason awards after all three of her previous varsity basketball seasons. She will likely collect more this year.
“She plays fast and hard,” Wheelock said. “She is relentless on both end of the floor and leads by example.
“She is usually the most athletic player on the floor and is always the hardest worker,” he continued. “That makes for a lethal combination.”
The Eagles all know the number “3” Kohler wears. They will be keying on her tonight as she put in 15 points in the first meeting.
When the postseason ends, Kohler will get back on the soccer field for NorthBay. Some argue she is just as much a threat to score in soccer.
“I think that it is safe to say that I play with the same mindset and intensity in soccer as I do in basketball,” Kohler said. “If there is something I can improve on, I will work on it until I get better. I'm not afraid of hard work, and I think that shows on the field and court.”
Her basketball and soccer coaches concur.
“Her athleticism and determination and will to win,” said her second-year NorthBay soccer coach Randy U’Ren, “help her to create many scoring opportunities for both herself and her teammates on the pitch.”
Kohler contributed an average of nearly 20 goals per season during her freshman, sophomore and junior soccer seasons, and also averaged nearly 10 assists. She set the single-season assists record last spring at 14.
“It just shows how much of an athlete she really is,” Wheelock points out. “Specializing in one sport is hard enough and takes a lot of work, so to do it in both at such a high level is astonishing. I honestly don’t know how she does it.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) NorthBay’s Paige Kohler works to get up a shot over Maple City Glen Lake’s Jessica Robbins (23) this season. (Middle) Kohler looks for an opening to the lane with Liliana Valkner defending. (Photos by Ron Kramer.)
We finish our “Title IX at 50” this week highlighting the latest Detroit Edison basketball star – who will no doubt continue to dazzle now that she’s moved on to the college ranks.
Ruby Whitehorn became the fourth-straight Miss Basketball Award winner from Edison last winter on the way to leading the Pioneers to the Division 2 championship. The 6-foot guard also was a contributor off the bench as a freshman when Edison won the Division 2 title in 2019, and the Pioneers were 23-0 in 2020 when that season was ended due to COVID-19.
Edison was 80-4 total over her four seasons on varsity. Whitehorn is continuing her career at Clemson University.
"It means everything to me, but it’s because of everyone who got me to this point – my coaches and teammates and (everyone else).
"They’ve just helped me along the way, and it feels good to give back to them."
The MHSAA will conclude its yearlong celebration of Title IX with this weekend’s 25th Women in Sports Leadership Conference in Lansing. The event remains the first, largest and longest-running of its kind in the country.
This year’s conference is themed “Power of the Past – Force of the Future” and is again sold out, as Crowne Plaza Lansing West will be filled Sunday and Monday mostly by Michigan high school female student-athletes but also administrators, coaches, officials, trainers and others who contribute to school sports.
Second Half's weekly Title IX Celebration posts are sponsored by Michigan Army National Guard.
Previous Title IX at 50 Spotlights
Sept. 27: Eliana Bommarito's Story - Read
Sept. 20: Anna Tracey's Story - Read
Sept. 13: Lola Korpi's Story - Read
Sept. 6: Meah Bajt's Story - Read
Aug. 30: Morgan Brunner's Story - Read
Aug. 23: Ava Brizard's Story - Read
Aug. 16: Paige Miller's Story - Read
Aug. 9: Gracie Olsen's Story - Read
Aug. 2: Maddy Stern's Story - Read
July 26: Reese Miller's Story - Read
July 19: Macy Irelan's Story - Read
July 12: Bridget Boczar's Story - Read
July 5: Ella Boose's Story - Read
June 28: Kaila Jackson's Story - Read
June 23: We Celebrate Our Past, We Look Forward to Our Future - Read
June 21: Assistant Directors Have Been Difference Makers - Read
June 14: Girls Lacrosse Finals Officials Set Empowering Example - Read
June 7: From Gymnastics to Wrestling, Girls Opportunities Continue to Grow - Read
May 31: Mumford Sprinter's Magnificent 2006 Final Remains Unmatched - Read
May 24: Scane, Whiteside Alone on 400-Goal, 500-Point Girls Lacrosse Lists - Read
May 17: Over 8 Days in 1988, Pair of Champs Set No. 1 Singles Standard - Read
May 10: Portage Central's Tarpley Scores as State's Superstar, U.S. Soccer Hero - Read
May 3: Prychitko 'Legend In Her Own Time,' Legend for All Time - Read
April 26: Braddock vs. Verdun Still Striding Among All-Time Sprint Matchups - Read
April 19: Holmes' Strikeout Record Rarely Approached, May Be Unbreakable - Read
April 12: Anticipation High as 45,000 Girls Return to Spring Sports - Read
April 5: Regina's Laffey Retiring as Definition of Legendary - Read
March 29: Edison's Whitehorn named 2022 Miss Basketball - Read
March 22: Carney-Nadeau Sets Girls Hoops Standard with 78-Win Streak - Read
March 15: Binder Among Voices Telling Our Story on MHSAA Network - Read
March 8: 28 Years, Thousands of Cheers - Read
March 1: Kearsley Rolls On Among Girls Bowling's Early Successes - Read
Feb. 22: Marquette Ties Record for Swim & Dive Finals Success - Read
Feb. 15: Jaeger's 2004 Winter Run Created Lasting Connection - Read
Feb. 8: Marian's Cicerone to Finish Among All-Time Elite - Read
Feb. 1: WISL Award Honors Builders of State's Girls Sports Tradition - Read
Jan. 25: Decades Later, Edwards' Legend Continues to Grow - Read
Jan. 18: Iron Mountain Completes Championship Climb - Read
Jan. 11: Harrold's Achievement Heralds Growth of Girls Wrestling - Read
Dec. 20: Competitive Cheer Gives Michigan Plenty to Cheer About - Read
Dec. 14: Evelyn's Game Had Plenty of Magic - Read
Dec. 7: Council Term Ends, But Leinaar Leaves Lasting Impact - Read
Nov. 30: Basketball Season Ready to Add to Rich Tradition - Read
Nov. 23: Marysville Builds Winning Streak Yet to be Challenged - Read
Nov. 16: Wroubel Has Championed Girls School Sports from Their Start - Read
Nov. 9: Pioneer's Joyce Legendary in Michigan, National Swim History - Read
Nov. 2: Royal Oak's Finch Leading Way on Football Field - Read
Oct. 26: Coach Clegg Sets Championship Standard at Grand Blanc - Read
Oct. 19: Rockford Girls Set Pace, Hundreds After Have Continued to Chase - Read
Oct. 12: Bedford Volleyball Pioneer Continues Blazing Record-Setting Trail - Read
Oct. 5: Warner Paved Way to Legend Status with Record Rounds - Read
Sept. 28: Taylor Kennedy Gymnasts Earn Fame as 1st Champions - Read
Sept. 21: Portage Northern Star Byington Becomes Play-by-Play Pioneer - Read
Sept. 14: Guerra/Groat Legacy Continues to Serve St. Philip Well - Read
Sept. 7: Best-Ever Conversation Must Include Leland's Glass - Read
Aug. 31: We Will Celebrate Many Who Paved the Way - Read