By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – As all-girls schools located 7.2 miles apart in the Detroit suburbs, Bloomfield Hills Marian and Farmington Hills Mercy have plenty in common.
And then there’s the basketball rivalry they took up a level this winter.
They had a combined tie score of 149-149 over their first three games entering Friday’s Class A Semifinal at the Breslin Center. They split regular-season meetings, and hence, the Detroit Catholic League Central championship. Mercy won their third matchup, in the Catholic League Tournament final, but by just a point. The Marlins were ranked No. 3 at the end of the regular season, and the Mustangs were No. 5.
Those similarities are easy to point out. But it might’ve been even easier to measure how badly Marian wanted to move on to Saturday’s championship game while simultaneously ending its rival’s season.
“After that loss … we just picked each other up. From that moment on, every sprint we ran was to get back at Mercy,” Marian senior forward Laura Bruton said. “We knew we were going to meet them later on, in this game, and it just means everything. It’s been our dream to get here too, but just beating Mercy here is so much more important to us as a team than basically being here, in my opinion.”
Marian (24-2) will be in East Lansing one more day and with one more celebration in mind, thanks to a 67-55 defeat of Mercy in their fourth and final meeting of 2013-14. The Mustangs will face Canton in the noon Saturday Final.
As closely as Marian and Mercy had played each other this season – and with many of these same players over the last few – there wasn’t much left to surprise.
And that meant the Mustangs were plenty prepared for the multiple Mercy press defenses that had slowed them down, especially in their most recent meeting.
That also allowed Marian coach Mary Cicerone to predict to her team a 15-point win Friday if it found a way to break the Marlins’ pressure.
“We kept saying, ‘Here is comes,’ and it came,” Cicerone said. “We panicked a little bit, somebody traveled, somebody threw the ball away. We took a timeout and got organized. Mercy made runs; we made our runs back.”
Marian did lead the final 26 minutes of the game – although that and the final score were not good indicators of the closeness of the game until the Mustangs took control for good with a 13-4 final run beginning midway through the fourth quarter.
And it certainly hurt Mercy’s effort when senior starting guard Allie Grocyca left with an injury after playing only 11 minutes, and senior Candice Leatherwood was slowed by a knee injury as well.
“I said to the kids, we got behind early and it seemed like we were trying to dig ourselves out of the hole, climb back over the mountain,” Mercy coach Gary Morris said. “Every time we’d get close, something else would happen.”
Junior guard Kara Holinski scored a game-high 20 points to go with five rebounds and four assists for Marian. Junior forward Brittany Gray added 14 points and nine rebounds, and freshman guard Samantha Thomas scored 13 points.
Junior guard Taylor Jones scored 15 points to lead Mercy (25-2), and Leatherwood scored 14 including the 1,000th of her four-year varsity career. Senior Tyler Parlor came off the bench with eight points and 11 rebounds
“I told my assistants I thought I’d be retired before we ever got back here,” said Cicerone, who has totaled 559 wins over 31 seasons and last led the Mustangs to an MHSAA title in 1998. “But this junior group came in, and you just can’t boot them out of the gym. … They just work and work and work. We knew we had something.”
“We’ve been definitely looking forward to this game for a long time,” Holinski added. “Not in our wildest dreams did we think we’d be able to play Mercy again after the Catholic League loss. Coming into (this) game, we were so focused, so determined to beat them. We love each other so much, and we wanted to do it for each other.”
Click for a full box score.
PHOTOS: (Top) Marian guard Samantha Thomas works to get by Mercy’s Candice Leatherwood on Friday. (Middle) Marian’s Laura Bruton brings the ball upcourt surrounded by teammates and Mercy’s Taylor Jones.
HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Mercy tightens things up against Marian in the third quarter when Sierra LaGrande cans a 3-pointer and Taylor Jones follows with a steal and a layup. (2) Kara Holinski scores on a putback after Marian beats Mercy's pressure to start a 9-3 run midway through the third quarter.
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:
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.