Lansing Catholic Starts Rolling Late, Never Stops in Clinching Title Game Trip

By Tom Kendra
Special for

March 17, 2023

EAST LANSING – It took Lansing Catholic nearly three quarters to get going Saturday, but the Cougars flipped the switch just in time.

They never led until the closing seconds of the third quarter, but a 3-point barrage to open the fourth proved to be the difference in a 62-41 victory over previously-unbeaten Grand Rapids West Catholic in a Division 2 Semifinal at the Breslin Center.

“These kids are fighters,” said 10th-year Lansing Catholic coach Kacee Reid. “They take punches and they take punches and it looks like they’re down and out, but they come back. I never doubted that we were going to make a comeback tonight.”

Lansing Catholic (23-5) opened the final quarter with three consecutive triples from Gabby Halliwill, Anna Richards and Hannah Pricco to quickly turn a one-point deficit into an eight-point lead.

That run was just the start of a 32-10 scoring edge in the fourth quarter – turning that one-point deficit after three quarters into a 21-point victory.

The Cougars, who were in the Semifinals for the first time since 2004 and are seeking their first title since winning Class C in 1995, said playing one of the state’s most difficult regular-season schedules helped them prevail.

“Those tough games really prepared us,” said Lansing Catholic junior Anna Richards, who scored 17 of her game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter. “We’ve been down at halftime quite a few times, so we’ve learned we can come back from that.”

The Cougars’ Leah Richards (22) and West Catholic’s Reese Polega (32) contend for the opening tip-off.The Cougars, who won the Capital Area Activities Conference White, advance to take on Frankenmuth in the Division 2 title game at 6:15 p.m. Saturday.

West Catholic bolted out to a 15-4 lead early on and 17-6 by the end of the first quarter, but the Falcons struggled offensively for the rest of the night – scoring just three points in the second quarter, 11 in the third and 10 in the fourth.

One of the turning points came when Lansing Catholic switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense, which threw the Falcons out of rhythm.

West Catholic, which finished 26-1 with just three seniors, went through its longest power outage of the entire season at just the wrong time – going nearly 6 minutes without a point to open the fourth quarter.

“Those shots usually fall, and then they stopped falling,” said ninth-year West Catholic coach Jill VanderEnde, whose team is now 90-5 over the last four seasons. “We were unable to stop the bleeding fast enough.”

Senior Cadence Dykstra, who is headed to Division I Toledo next season, finished with a team-high 13 points and four rebounds. Reese Polega and Elisha Dykstra both scored nine points, and Emma Tuttle added six points and six rebounds.

Once the Cougars grabbed the lead early in the fourth quarter, they put the game away with an impressive showing at the free-throw line. Lansing Catholic made 27-of-33 free throws (82 percent), compared to 7-of-14 (50 percent) for West Catholic.

Another key to the win was rebounding, as the Cougars held a 32-22 edge on the boards and allowed very few second chances.

Lansing Catholic has now won 22 in a row, with its last loss coming in the sixth game of the season against Grafton Midview (Ohio). West Catholic hadn’t lost in almost a full calendar year, dating back to last year’s Division 2 title game against Detroit Edison.

The Cougars showed that remarkable composure and focus despite being a junior-led team. Five of the six players that Reid brought to the postgame press conference were juniors, with the only senior being Pricco.

“These girls are pretty composed,” Reid said. “We don’t get rattled too often, and that really showed tonight.”

Leah Richards scored 14 points with a game-high nine rebounds, Halliwill scored nine points and Pricco added five points and eight rebounds.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Lansing Catholic celebrates its Division 2 Semifinal victory Friday night at Breslin Center. (Middle) The Cougars’ Leah Richards (22) and West Catholic’s Reese Polega (32) contend for the opening tip-off.

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for

April 5, 2024

It won’t be hard for Jayden Marlatt to remember opening day on the softball field from any of her four years at Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAs a freshman, she missed the opener due to needing to quarantine. Her sophomore and junior years started on the road because the Cardinals’ field was under construction.  

This season the Cardinals will open up — weather permitting — on their brand-new field, hosting Mio on Monday, April 8.  Marlatt is slated to be the starting pitcher again and add to her school record collection.

While Johannesburg-Lewiston is looking forward to playing on the new diamond, Marlatt and her teammates have high hopes of finishing the season almost 200 miles south. They’re looking to get back to Michigan State University – the site of the Division 4 Semifinals and Final.

The Cards have had their sites on that goal since they fell 4-2 to Mendon in last year’s Semifinal at Secchia Stadium. The loss ended a 30-4-1 campaign that saw the Cardinals play every game on the road for a second consecutive year, but come up only one victory short of a first championship game appearance.

The trip to East Lansing also came after the Cards won the program’s first District title since 2008 and advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 1981.

“It has been a long two seasons on the road,” said eighth-year head coach Kim Marlatt, noting the team utilized a Little League field for practices during the stretch. “They’ve been putting in a lot of work in the offseason, so it is excited to get going.”

Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. The new field isn’t the only new things this spring. The Cardinals will have a junior varsity team for the first time during the Marlatt’s tenure. The JV squad is coached by Ryan Marlatt, who has been serving the program the past eight years as assistant coach. He also has been the head girls basketball coach at JoBurg the past two seasons.

The Marlatt coaches are the proud parents of Jayden, who continues to garner recognition as perhaps the greatest athlete in Johannesburg-Lewiston’s history. 

The three-sport star had a huge hand in all that JoBurg accomplished last season leading the team in batting average (.670), home runs (13) and runs batted in (61). As the team’s ace pitcher, she collected 249 strikeouts and compiled a 1.32 ERA.

“Jayden has put in the hard work,” Kim pointed out.  “She is a very humble athlete. ‘She doesn’t like to talk about herself. She likes to compete, and she likes to be on the top of her game for her teammates.”

Jayden has been named all-conference and all-state in softball, basketball and volleyball nearly every season over her four years at JoBurg. She’s led her teams to Ski Valley Conference, District and Regional titles along the way.

She’s also been named Player of the Year by multiple publications. And she’s a front runner to be voted the Most Valuable Player of the Ski Valley Conference in softball. Earlier this year, league coaches voted her the MVP for both basketball and volleyball.  

“The Ski Valley never used to vote on an MVP,” Ryan Marlatt said. “Hopefully she can add the triple crown and get softball this year.”

Jayden Marlatt, who has played all three sports all four years, acknowledged softball is perhaps her most treasured, and she’ll continue in that sport at Ferris State. Her career total of more than 500 strikeouts, and her 14 home runs last season, are both JoBurg school records. "I like them all but probably softball,” she confirmed when asked to name her favorite sport.

She averaged 12 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and four steals per game this winter helping the Cards basketball team to a conference runner-up finish. She was key to JoBurg's ability to put a 12-game winning streak together, and she topped the 1,000-point career mark along the way.

Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season.Her outstanding senior year on the basketball court and this spring’s possibilities nearly vanished as the volleyball season ended.

She suffered what looked to be a serious lower-leg injury in the final game of the JoBurg volleyball season. “She finished in the emergency room,” Kim Marlatt said.  

Diagnosed a high ankle sprain, it was an aggravation to an injury from her junior year in basketball. She wasn’t quite at 100 percent on the basketball court this season until the holiday break. She’s starting the softball season healthy, though.

Before the injury, Jayden led the Cards to their third volleyball conference championship over the last four years. After becoming JoBurg's all-time kills leader during her junior season, and with many of her teammates from her first three seasons graduating, Jayden had to fill a variety of roles while anchoring the offense from her outside hitter spot.

She ended up leading the team in both kills with 421 and digs, with 431, in her final season on the volleyball court. And she is listed among MHSAA’s all-time leaders in kills for a single match and career.

It’s more than Marlatt’s stats that stand out for Kristine Peppin, the school’s volleyball coach the past 15 years.

“It is not about the size of the school or the size of the player, it’s the heart that they have inside,” she proclaimed. “This girl would be a successful player on whatever team she was on. 

“Yes we’re a small school, small town,” she continued. “That kind of leadership and heart and drive to be the best is what’s given her that success.”

Marlatt’s work ethic is second to none, Peppin noted. She never saw Jayden give less than a “1,000” percent in practice or games in her career. 

Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt.“She’s a super hard worker and extremely modest for the kind of skill she possesses and the success she’s had,” Peppin said. “Her teammates think it’s amazing to be on her team.”

Marlatt’s volleyball skills caught the eye of at least one of her conference opponents’ coaches back in junior high. Ron Stremlow was performing one of his many coaching duties for Fife Lake Forest Area when he first saw Jayden on the volleyball court.

“I could tell then this girl was somebody special,” said Stremlow, who became one of the winningest coaches in state volleyball history with the Warriors. “When she got in high school, it just took off.

“She puts the time into it, and she works hard,” Stremlow continued. “Kids like that get what they deserve – they work for it.”

Stremlow, now retired, also acknowledged he’s enjoyed being able to watch the hard-throwing Marlatt on the softball field the last couple of seasons as Forest Area hosted the Cardinals consecutively due to JoBurg’s lack of a home field.

It’s something he’ll have to travel to do this year though, as JoBurg is scheduled to host the Warriors on April 15.

The Cardinals also will host a Regional on their new field June 8. The winners of District play at Rogers City, Harbor Springs, St. Ignace and Gaylord St. Mary will participate.

To play in the Regional, the Cards will have to emerge from the Rogers City District featuring the host Hurons, Atlanta, Hillman, Onaway, and Posen.

Tom SpencerTom 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 [email protected] 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) Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Jayden Marlatt drives a pitch during softball season. (2) Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. (3) Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season. (4) Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt. (Action shots by Dylan Jespersen/Petoskey News-Review; family photo by Breya Domke.)