Marian Encores with Repeat Performance

March 21, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – There’s pressure, and then there’s the expectation Bloomfield Hills Marian had for this season. 

Nothing less than another Class A championship would suffice for a team returning four starters from last year’s title run. 

It just so happens the Mustangs are especially good under pressure – and exceptional at the Breslin Center.

Top-ranked Marian ran its Breslin Finals winning streak to four and championship streak to two Saturday with a 51-37 win over No. 4 DeWitt. 

“I feel like it’s the big stadium. I know there’s a lot of pressure to perform well, so I want to go out there and try my hardest,” said Marian sophomore guard Samantha Thomas, who has averaged 14.2 points in four Finals weekend games over the last two seasons. “I try to do that every game, but I guess I just do it more at Breslin.

“Sam’s a real people pleaser. She wants everyone to be happy,” Marian coach Mary Cicerone added, “and she knows we were counting on her big-time today.” 

Total, the Mustangs have now won six girls basketball championships – tying with two other schools for second-most in MHSAA history. Their seven appearances in MHSAA Finals are tied for fifth-most among girls basketball programs.

They looked more than comfortable after the opening tip this time. Marian (25-1) scored the first 10 points of the game and held DeWitt without a point until the final 28 seconds of the first quarter. 

But it wouldn’t be that easy the rest of the afternoon.

The Panthers (25-2), playing in their first MHSAA Final since 1977 and only a 10-minute drive from home, were led by five seniors who all had spent at least three seasons on varsity. They wouldn’t fold quickly.

In fact, the Panthers took a 17-16 lead on junior Lilly George’s basket with 1:31 to go in the first half. 

Twice more Marian built a lead. Twice more the Panthers fought back, taking their final lead at 32-31 with 6:54 to play. But they couldn’t withstand a final rush by the Mustangs and the Thomas sisters in particular.

“It just says that we never want to give up,” DeWitt senior guard Claudia Reid said. “Even though it was a hard loss for us, it was a great journey we went on. We went on it together, and we’ll always remember this.” 

Marian outscored DeWitt 20-5 the rest of the way. Samantha Thomas had four of those points and junior sister Bailey scored nine despite both playing with four fouls. The Panthers made only one of 10 shots during those final seven minutes.

“I got my fouls pretty early, so I was sitting on the bench for a long time and it’s hard to watch knowing you’re in foul trouble and can’t play,” Bailey Thomas said. “But once I got to go back out there I was going to give it all I’ve got because I didn’t want to be back on the bench.” 

Samantha Thomas finished with 17 points and five steals, while Bailey had 12 points, although both played only 18 minutes. Senior guard Kara Holinski picked up some of the scoring load with 10 points, and senior forward Brittany Gray had seven points and eight rebounds. 

Reid had 12 points and four assists for DeWitt, and George added 10 points and 10 rebounds. Junior forward Summer Ward hit a pair of 3-pointers off the bench for the second straight day and finished with 11 points and six rebounds.

Gray, Holinski and senior guard Jaeda Robinson all played on the Marian varsity as freshmen and were part of the program’s only losing season since 1986. But they finished that winter with a District title and went a combined 68-7 over the last three. 

“They came every day to practice hard. They worked. Thanksgiving Day, ‘Can we come in and have practice? And I said I’ve gotta cook, so we came in early,” Cicerone said. “When we look at their picture on our gym wall, I’m going to tell everybody that if you want to get back there, you’ve gotta work. These kids were the epitome of what hard work and dedication are about, and that’s their legacy.”

Click for the full box score and video from the postgame press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Brittany Gray blocks a shot during Saturday’s Class A Final at the Breslin Center. (Middle) Samantha Thomas looks for open teammates while DeWitt’s Abby Nakfoor (42) and Lilly George (44) defend.

Hemlock, Rockford Follow 3-Point Success to 1st Titles, Record Book Fame

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

September 1, 2023

Hemlock and Rockford's drives to their first Girls Basketball Finals championships in March were paced in part by some of the strongest 3-point shooting in MHSAA history.

The Division 1 title-winning Rams connected on 243 3-pointers – third-most all-time – over 29 games in tying the single-season wins record while finishing 28-1. Grace Lyons, a senior this fall, made the single-season individual list with 70 3-pointers.

The Huskies won in Division 3 having connected on 229 3-pointers over 29 games, seventh-most in MHSAA history, on 678 attempts, which ranks 12th on that list. Chloe Watson made the single-season list with 75 3-pointers, and Regan Finkbeiner did as well connecting on 67.

Watson also made the career 3-pointers list with 224 and Finkbeiner with 194, and 2017 Hemlock graduate Samantha Krauss was added for 65 3-pointers as a junior in 2015-16 and 188 for her career. Additionally, past Hemlock standout Karli Herrington was added for her 317 rebounds in 2012-13, and Peyton Apsey was added for 144 steals in 2010-11.

Watson is continuing her career at Mid-Michigan College, and Finkbeiner is playing softball at Madonna. Herrington went on to play at Central Michigan and Northwood, Krauss played at Ferris State and Apsey played at Oakland.

Read on for more recent record book additions for girls basketball:

Girls Basketball

Hudsonville’s Maddie Petroelje joined the list of top 3-point shooters in MHSAA history as a junior in 2021-22, when she connected on 70 (in just 147 attempts) to make the single-season list. She graduated this spring 16th on the career list as well with 226 3-pointers in 512 attempts over 92 games and four seasons. She is continuing at Loyola (Ill.).

Byron Center’s Avery Zeinstra also finished her career among those top 3-point shooters. She also made the single-season list with 70 in 147 attempts as a freshman in 2018-19, and she capped her career in 2021-22 with 206 3-pointers (tied for 20th-most) in 502 attempts over four seasons and 80 career games. She is continuing at Grand Valley State.

Hannah Thompson was best known for her soccer scoring at Schoolcraft. But she’s made a second MHSAA record book for her 15 steals in a Jan. 28, 2022, basketball win over Galesburg-Augusta. She’s continuing her soccer career at Eastern Michigan.

Baraga’s run to the Division 4 Semifinals in 2022 received big boosts from Corina Jahfetson’s 3-point shooting and Reide Osterman’s defense. Jahfetson was added to the record book with 66 3-pointers over 25 games, including nine in a game against Carney Nadeau – when Baraga as a team made the record book with 14 3-pointers total. Osterman made the record book with 153 steals. Jahfetson graduated this spring, and Osterman is playing at Northern Michigan.

Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy’s Audrey Mileski had one of the busiest games at the free throw line in MHSAA history Dec. 14, 2021. She made 23 free throws – third-most in a single game – against Wyoming Kelloggsville. Mileski graduated this spring.

Sophia Bussell had set Monroe’s single-game 3-pointers record of eight as a freshman two seasons ago, and she bettered it last Dec. 13 by tying for the 10th-most in MHSAA history. She made 10-pointers including the game-winner of a 58-56 victory over Ypsilanti Lincoln. A little less than 10 months earlier, Adrian Lenawee Christian then-senior Kylie Summer also made 10, on 17 attempts, during a 57-34 win over Lansing Christian on Feb. 24, 2022.

Lydia Meredith enjoyed a memorable senior season for Portland St. Patrick in 2021-22, finishing her four-year varsity career with 453 steals over just 80 games. She also was added for drilling 17 free throws in 22 attempts against Fowler. She plays now at Saginaw Valley State.

Gabby Piepho got off to a fast start at Howell as a freshman last season, and at a record-setting pace at the free-throw line. She made 93 of 107 attempts over 25 games, for an .869 percentage that made the single-season list. That included a string of 47 straight free throws that ranks as the second-longest in MHSAA history. As a team, Howell tied for sixth all-time with 301 free throws over 25 games, on 439 attempts.

Kent City’s Lexie Bowers reached the single-season 3-pointers list for the second time last season, connecting on 72 of 233 tries over 26 games (after making 77 as a junior), and finished her four-season varsity career 16th on that 3-pointers list with 225 in 693 attempts over 99 games. She’s continuing her career at Northwood. Kent City as a team also reached the single-season 3-pointers made and attempted lists again, ranking fourth with 753 attempts and tying for eighth all-time by connecting on 202.

Posen then-junior Faith Cousins earned a par of record book entries during 2021-22 for assists. Her 16 in a District Final win on March 4, 2022, remain tied for fifth-most in one game, and she finished with 165 over 22 games for the season. She’s set to begin her softball career at Alma College.

Niles Brandywine went over 20 wins again this past season, finishing 21-3, and again the 3-pointer was a key tool in that pursuit. Brandywine made the record book with back-to-back games of 13 3-pointers to close the regular season, and finished with 175 3-pointers in 592 attempts over 23 games (with one won by forfeit).

Greenville’s Megan Leslie averaged more than two 3-pointers a game during her four-season varsity career, making the record list with 153 total over 76 games through graduation this spring. She’s continuing her career at Alma College.

Successful 3-point shooting played a major role in Saline finishing 21-4 with league and District titles last winter. The Hornets attempted 704 3-pointers – ninth-most all-time for one season – and connected on 191, which is 12th on that list. They made a season-high 14 against Ypsilanti Lincoln on Nov. 29 to make the single-game list.

Marcellus senior Brooklyn VanTilburg enjoyed a big finish to her high school career last winter, making the record book with 16 blocked shots in a game against Centreville and 135 blocks total for the season. She’ll continue at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

Kennedy Gustafson made headlines last winter as a sophomore and earned a pair of record listings for her rebounding. She grabbed 26 in a March 3 District Final win over Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, and she finished with 376 rebounds over 25 games for the season.

PHOTO Hemlock's Regan Finkbeiner, left, follows through on a free throw attempt during last season's Division 3 Final, and Rockford's Grace Lyons launches the game-winning 3-pointer in Division 1.