Miller's Stunning 'Victory' Earns Father Gabriel Richard Chance at History

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

March 22, 2024

EAST LANSING – The name given to the final play in Friday’s Division 2 Semifinal was fitting.

It was called “Victory” – and Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard ran it to perfection to stun Grand Rapids West Catholic.

Junior Charlotte Miller buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Irish a thrilling 35-33 win at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.

“We put it in last year; the play is called ‘Victory,’” Father Gabriel Richard coach Tim Cain said. “We practice it a lot, and we ran that same play last year against Renaissance when they were undefeated and she hit that shot too to send it into overtime.

Miller, 13, pulls up for the clinching 3-pointer.“We have confidence in it, we have confidence in everything we do at practice and it worked out.”

With the Irish trailing 33-32 with 5.9 seconds left, Miller raced down the floor and received the pass from teammate Veronica Fredericks.

She made one move to the right, stepped to her left and launched the uncontested shot.

“I felt confident that I could make it,” Miller said. “I made it last year and I trusted my teammates that they would make the right pass, and I trusted all the work that we've put in for months and I believed in myself and I knew I could make it.”

Father Gabriel Richard trailed by four points with 10 seconds left when Vanessa Rodriguez was fouled attempting a 3-point shot.

She made all three free throws to cut the deficit to one point.

“We’ve been there before,” Cain said. “And their heads never go down. There is a no-quit mentality.”

The Irish will meet Detroit Edison in Saturday’s Division 2 championship game at 6:15 p.m. It’s an opportunity to both win a Final for the first time since 1993, when FGR won Class D, and finish the season undefeated.

“We put a lot of work in during the offseason, and we've been preparing for this moment,” said Rodriguez, who led the Irish with 13 points and added four assists.

Miller makes a move across the arc earlier in the game.“That was one of our goals as a team, and it's actually an unbelievable thought to even be in this position.”

The Irish (28-0) held West Catholic to its lowest scoring output of the season.

“We take a lot of pride in our defense, and when we’re cold, as long as we defend we have a chance,” Cain said. 

During a tightly-contested first half that saw neither team lead by more than five points, Father Gabriel Richard edged ahead 11-10 to finish the first quarter and West Catholic had the advantage in the second, 10-9, to forge a 20-20 tie at the half. 

West Catholic (26-2), which advanced to the Breslin for the third straight season, only had one made field goal over the last five minutes of the game and missed five consecutive free throws during the last 38 seconds.

“That was a tough one, obviously, because we felt like we had control of the game,” Falcons coach Jill VanderEnde said. “Obviously, we were trying to execute down the stretch like we have done 26 other times this season, and things just didn’t fall into place the way we had hoped.

“Kudos to number 13’s incredible shot at the end, and we will probably relive that last two minutes in our heads for a little while. But I know these seniors, and the girls gave it everything they had tonight and should be really proud that they got us to this point in the season. It was not easy getting back to the Breslin.”

Junior Elisha Dykstra scored a team-high nine points for West Catholic, while senior Reese Polega had five points, seven rebounds and three steals.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Teammates topple Charlotte Miller after her game-winning shot for Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard on Friday at Breslin Center. (Middle) Miller, 13, pulls up for the clinching 3-pointer. (Below) Miller makes a move across the arc earlier in the game. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

High School 'Hoop Squad' Close to Heart as Hughes Continues Coaching Climb

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

July 11, 2024

Jareica Hughes had a Hall of Fame collegiate basketball career playing at University of Texas-El Paso and has played professionally overseas, but her most prized possession is something she earned playing high school basketball in Michigan. 

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosA standout at now-closed Southfield-Lathrup High School during the early-to-mid 2000s, Hughes proudly displays a signature symbol of Lathrup’s Class A championship team in 2005. 

“I have my state championship ring on me right now,” said Hughes, now an assistant head coach for the women’s basketball program at UTEP. “I wear this ring every single day. Not so much for the basketball aspect. Inside of the ring it says ‘Hoop Squad.’ It’s more the connection I’ve had with those particular young ladies. Friends that I’ve known since I was kid. Every once in a while when we talk, we go back in time.”

Believe it or not, Hughes and her high school teammates next year will have to go back 20 years to commemorate a run to the title that started when they were freshmen. 

It was a gradual build-up to what was the first girls basketball state championship won by a public school in Oakland County. Lathrup, which has since merged with the former Southfield High School to form Southfield Arts & Technology, remained the only public school in Oakland County to win a state girls basketball title until West Bloomfield did so in 2022 and again this past March. 

Lathrup lost in the District round to Bloomfield Hills Marian during Hughes’ freshman year, and then after defeating Marian in a District Final a year later, lost to West Bloomfield in a Regional Final.

When Hughes was a junior, the team got to the state’s final four, but a bad third quarter resulted in a heartbreaking one-point Semifinal loss to eventual champion Lansing Waverly. 

A year later, when Hughes and other core players such as Brittane Russell, Timika Williams, Dhanmite’ Slappey and Briana Whitehead were seniors, they finished the job and won the Class A crown with a 48-36 win over Detroit Martin Luther King in the Final.

However, the signature moment of that title run actually came during the Semifinal round and was produced by Hughes, a playmaking wizard at point guard who made the team go. 

Trailing by three points during the waning seconds of regulation against Grandville and Miss Basketball winner Allyssa DeHaan – a dominant 6-foot-8 center – Hughes drained a tying 3-pointer from the wing that was well beyond the 3-point line. 

Lathrup went on to defeat Grandville in overtime and prevail against King.

Hughes said the year prior, she passed up on taking a potential winning or tying shot in the Semifinal loss against Waverly, and was reminded of that constantly by coaches and teammates. “I just remember in the huddle before that shot, that just kept ringing in my mind,” she said. “That was special. I cried for weeks not being able to get a shot off (the year before) and leaving the tournament like that.”

Growing up in Detroit, Hughes got into basketball mainly because she had five older brothers and an older sister who played the game. In particular, Hughes highlights older brother Gabriel for getting her into the game and taking her from playground to playground.

“I’m from Detroit,” she said. “We played ball all day long. Sunup to sundown. When the light comes on, you had to run your butt into the house.”

Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center.Hughes played for the Police Athletic League and also at the famed St. Cecilia gym in the summer, developing her game primarily against boys.

“My first team was on a boys team,” she said. “I was a captain on a boys team.” 

The family moved into Lathrup’s district before she began high school. 

Once she helped lead Lathrup to the 2005 championship, she went on to a fine career at UTEP, where she was the Conference USA Player of the Year twice and helped lead the Miners to their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Hughes still holds school records for career assists (599), steals (277) and minutes played (3,777). On Monday, she was named to Conference USA’s 2024 Hall of Fame class. 

After a brief professional career overseas was derailed by a shoulder injury, Hughes said getting into coaching was a natural fit. 

“I had to make the hard decision, and I knew as a kid I wanted to be around basketball,” she said. “Once I made that decision (to quit), I knew I was going to coach.”

Hughes started coaching in the Detroit area, first serving as an assistant at Southfield A&T from 2016-20 and then at Birmingham Groves for a season. She then served as interim head coach at Colby Community College in Kansas before being named an assistant at UTEP in May 2023, a month after her former coach Keitha Adams returned to lead the program after six seasons at Wichita State.  

While fully immersed in her job with UTEP, Hughes’ high school memories in Michigan certainly aren’t going away anytime soon – especially with the 20th anniversary of Lathrup’s championship coming up. 

“We are still close friends because we all essentially grew up together,” she said. “They are still my friends to this day.”

2024 Made In Michigan

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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Southfield-Lathrup’s Jareica Hughes drives to the basket against Detroit Martin Luther King during the 2005 Class A Final; at right, Hughes coaches this past season at UTEP. (Middle) Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center. (UTEP photo courtesy of the UTEP sports information department.)