By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half
BANGOR TOWNSHIP — Laying on the basketball court in pain, Kalle Martinez didn't need a medical opinion to know she was in trouble.
"I knew that the pain I felt I'd never felt before, so I knew something was definitely wrong," she said.
The diagnosis: A torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee.
What followed was one of the toughest periods in Martinez's young life — life without basketball.
The injury happened during a team camp at Central Michigan University during the summer of 2014, putting her sophomore season at Bay City John Glenn in jeopardy.
While going through rehab was physically and emotionally challenging, she approached the grind of getting healthy with the same work ethic that made Martinez a star as a freshman on a strong varsity team.
"It just gave me motivation when I found out what happened to get better and keep playing like I know how," said Martinez, who said she first picked up a basketball at age 4.
As a result, she was back on the court by mid-January, well ahead of schedule for someone with a torn ACL. She played in 13 out of the Bobcats' 19 games, averaging 10 points a game after putting up 18.8 per game as a freshman.
"Basketball is her life," John Glenn coach Cory Snider said. "When a huge portion of your life gets taken away from you, it's pretty tough. I tell you what, the same way she plays basketball, she attacked her rehab. She came back in 7½, 8 months from an ACL, which is normally a full year's recovery time. She wasn't herself, obviously, for those first couple months, but we kept saying 60 percent of Kalle is better than no Kalle."
"I was not 100 percent at all, but I wanted to play with my friends," the 5-foot-6 point guard said. "I knew I wasn't able to do what I used to do, so I worked with what I had and built from there."
Unable to physically work on her game during her rehab, Martinez tried to improve herself in other ways.
"I watched a lot of film," said Martinez, who received all-state honorable mention as a freshman. "I really just paid attention to detail and how to correct myself."
"She's back to where she was athletically her freshman year," Snider said. "She looks the same. However, she's become a much more intelligent basketball player, which is a huge difference. She sees the floor so much better. That was part of the process of going through that injury last year. She was forced to learn how to play the game instead of just beating everybody."
Martinez was healthy enough by summer to impress the staff at Central Michigan, which offered her a scholarship before the start of her junior year. Martinez accepted, removing the pressure of the recruiting process for her final two years of high school.
"It's a good feeling," she said. "I feel I made the right decision going there. I feel I'm going to fit in really well. It's kind of a relief to know I don't have to go to this camp to get noticed. I feel at home at CMU."
She also feels more like her old self at John Glenn, leading the Bobcats to a 5-0 start that included a 53-44 victory over a Southfield-Lathrup team ranked No. 1 regardless of class in several preseason polls. Martinez had 18 points in that game, hitting five 3-pointers.
"I feel good," Martinez said. "I feel 100 percent now. I'm blessed, because not everyone can say they came back completely."
Martinez doesn't need to fill up the net every night, because she runs an offense that includes Grand Valley State University recruits Jenai LaPorte and Cassidy Boensch.
LaPorte is a three-time honorable mention all-state pick who is John Glenn's all-time leading scorer with 1,223 career points. She averages 14.2 points per game this season, and Martinez adds 12.6. The 6-foot-3 Boensch averages 15.8 points and 8.3 rebounds. Jamie Brisson averages 8.3 points.
"This is the best team we've had by far," LaPorte said. "Just the way we've been playing together for some people four years, for some three years. We have a lot of experience. We know what everyone likes to do."
It's an experienced lineup that has its sights set on winning John Glenn's first District championship since 1991 — and more.
The Bobcats have been a District championship-caliber team in recent years, but were eliminated by Midland Bullock Creek the past three seasons. Bullock Creek reached the MHSAA Class B Semifinals in 2013 and 2014 and was ranked No. 1 last year when it won a 40-39 overtime thriller against John Glenn in the District Semifinals. The Bobcats reached the District Final four straight years before losing in the semis last season.
In order to be better prepared for the postseason, John Glenn loaded up its nonconference schedule. The first five games included Class A contenders Southfield-Lathrup and Detroit Renaissance, 26-time District champion Frankenmuth and Class A Midland. The Bobcats face five-time MHSAA champion Saginaw Nouvel on Wednesday.
"Coming into the year, our mindset was we'd rather go 15-5 and make a deep run in the playoffs than go 20-0 and possibly not be ready for tournament time," Snider said. "We want to make sure we're battle-tested and ready to go once that tournament rolls around. This first two weeks for us has been killer."
Bill Khan served as a sportswriter at The Flint Journal from 1981-2011 and currently contributes to the State Champs! Sports Network. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTO: Kalle Martinez sets up Bay City John Glenn's offense during last season's game against Saginaw Nouvel. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.