New-Look Kent City Blazing Same Successful Playoff Path

By Tom Kendra
Special for

March 7, 2022

Taryn Preston doesn’t see why the “in-between” year can’t be the magical year when Kent City wins its first MHSAA Finals girls basketball championship.

Preston scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds as the Eagles stayed unbeaten with a hard-earned 36-33 victory over host Morley Stanwood in Friday’s Division 3 District Final.

“Our experience pulls us through in games like this,” explained Preston, one of just two seniors, along with post Emma Geers.

“We are a different team than last year, but everyone knows what they have to do when they step on the floor, and that’s really important.”

Last year, Kent City made it all the way to the Finals at the Breslin Center before losing to top-ranked Grass Lake 52-50 in the championship game.

Most outsiders expected a letdown this winter as the Eagles graduated two of the state’s best 3-point shooters in Kenzie Bowers (Illinois State) and Jenna Harrison (Siena Heights), and the team’s two best players this year are underclassmen – sophomore Maddie Geers and junior Lexie Bowers.

Adding to the question marks, 12-year head coach Scott Carlson resigned in October and took an assistant coaching job at Western Michigan University, turning the reins over to his former player and five-year junior varsity coach Aleah Holcomb, who is just 26 years old.

The final hurdle was injuries, as both of the team’s seniors missed extended time with injuries – Emma Geers six weeks with a knee injury and Preston three weeks with an Achilles strain.

Despite all of that, the Eagles have found a way to win every game to maintain their lofty No. 2 state ranking, winning their fifth-straight Central States Activities Association Silver title and now their fifth-straight District title.

Kent City (22-0) will face Muskegon Western Michigan Christian (17-4) in Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. Division 3 Regional opener at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian.

“I am amazed by the determination and drive of these girls – that never changes,” said Holcomb, who is assisted by Mikayla Loew, another former Kent City player. “We have a great system in place here. We just had to tweak a few things, the way we do every year, and these girls have made it an easy transition.”

Kent City basketballHolcomb’s calm sideline demeanor and respect for her players has helped with the coaching transition, to be sure.

Holcomb and her team kept their cool in Friday’s District title game, even after Morley tied the game at 32 with four minutes remaining, bringing the upset-minded home crowd to its feet.

The first-year coach actually went to a four-corners offense, keeping the ball away from the Mohawks and eventually drawing fouls. The Eagles made 4-of-6 free throws down the stretch to pull out the win.

“We were in foul trouble, so the more time we could spend on offense, the better,” explained Holcomb. “I believe in our girls’ ability to handle the ball. It was a risky call, but it worked out.”

Kent City made a statement during the first month of this season, registering a huge, season-opening road win at Muskegon, then downing Ada Forest Hills Eastern and Grand Rapids Christian to capture the Cornerstone University Holiday Tournament Gold division title. Maddie Geers won the tournament Most Valuable Player honor.

While Carlson’s KC teams were known statewide for their 3-point shooting prowess, this year’s team is more diverse in its attack.

Maddie Geers and Bowers are excellent at slashing to the basket, while the senior duo of Emma Geers and Preston have proven their toughness inside.

“We can still knock down the 3s, but we revolve more around our inside game,” said Holcomb, who played college basketball at Davenport University in Grand Rapids. “Having girls that can get inside and make tough shots is just another asset that we have on this team.”

One of those girls is Preston, a three-sport athlete who is the star on her other two teams and more of a role player on the basketball court.

Preston, who is near the top of her class academically, is an all-state hurdler who signed in December with Cornerstone University, where she will run track and study nursing. She was also the leading hitter for the Eagles’ volleyball team, averaging 4.5 kills per game last fall.

She credits her teammates with helping her improve on the hardcourt.

“The girls on the basketball team have pushed me, and this year I’m a lot more confident in myself,” said Preston. “I don’t have a sister of my own, but I consider every single one of them to be a sister.”

Preston is a versatile player who is willing to do all of the little things the team needs to win, according to Holcomb.

The senior nailed two crucial 3-pointers Friday night, and when the team went cold from downtown, she drove to the basket and made a pair of key buckets. Kent City had one of its poorest shooting nights of the year, making just 4-of-25 shots from behind the arc.

Preston knows the team will have to shoot better if it hopes to win another Regional title – but she believes in her team.

“We are very versatile this year, so we can overcome a bad shooting night,” Preston said. “We have the skills and we have the mindset, so I really believe that we can get back (to the Breslin).”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Kent City celebrates its Division 3 District title win Friday against Morley Stanwood. (Middle) Lexie Bowers (23) begins making her move toward the basket. (Photos courtesy of the Kent City athletic department.)

St. George's Senior Season Filled with Historic Trip, Sizzling 3-Point Shooting

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 21, 2024

Delaney St. George helped Kingston reach its first MHSAA Girls Basketball Final this winter – and along the way finished her high school career among the most prolific 3-point shooters in state history.

The four-year varsity senior made 87 3-pointers this season for the Division 4 runner-up Cardinals, good to tie for 10th on the single-season list after she made 93 as a junior to rank fourth all-time.

She finished her Kingston career with 290 3-pointers in 793 attempts over 94 games – good for second on the career 3-pointers list.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA girls basketball record book, and click on the heading to see the record book in full.

Girls Basketball

Hemlock’s 18-6 run this season was fueled in part by more successful 3-point shooting. The Huskies made single-season lists with 170 3-pointers and 552 attempts, and also for making 14 3-pointers Jan. 5 against St. Louis.

Senior Mia McLaughlin made nine of 15 3-point shots for Frankenmuth in a Feb. 6 win over Birch Run as the Eagles made the team record book list with 15 3-pointers total. They also were added for 14 3-pointers in a Feb. 20 win over Bay City John Glenn. McLaughlin will continue her career at Ferris State.

McBain sophomore Peyton Grant scored all 27 of her points Jan. 17 against Houghton Lake on nine 3-pointers to make the single-game list in that category.

Seniors Autumn Tremblay and Ceara LeBlanc earned Brimley’s first girls basketball record book listings this season. Both made single-game lists in a Feb. 27 win over Harbor Springs Harbor Light Christian – Tremblay scored 21 points during the first quarter and LeBlanc had 16 steals for the game – and LeBlanc also was added for 141 steals total over 25 games this past winter.

Reed City’s run at the Central State Activities Association title this winter was fueled in part by 3-point shooting. The Coyotes finished one game out of first, but made the records with 517 3-point attempts over 24 games – and just missed the made 3-pointers list connecting on 143.

Howell sophomore Gabrielle Piepho added her third record book listing over her first two seasons this winter making 89.2 percent of her free throw attempts to rank eighth on that single-season list. Howell as a team also made the 3-point attempts list with 536 over 25 games, and also just missed the 3-pointers made list with 146.

Saline finished the 2023-24 season among the all-time leading 3-point shooters again, this time with 192 – 14th-most for one season – in 587 attempts over 24 games. Sophomore Keira Roehm led the way with 78 3-pointers, tying for 21st on that list.

Junior Tamerah Peterson led Sterling Heights Parkway Christian to a District title this season, providing a record-setting defensive boost in addition to her offensive skills. She finished with 173 steals – eighth-most for one season – over 21 games.

Niles Brandywine reached Breslin Center this season with another stellar distance shooting display, making the record book with both 186 3-pointers and 610 attempts from beyond the arc in finishing Division 3 runner-up.

Alie Bisballe capped her career at Lake City this winter by helping her team reach the Division 3 Semifinal at Breslin Center – and by reaching the MHSAA girls basketball record book in two categories. The 6-foot-4 post player made the lists with 329 rebounds and 188 blocked shots, both in 28 games as Lake City finished 25-3. She will continue her career at Wisconsin.

Ironwood junior Hanna Vaughn will enter her final season next winter already on the career 3-pointers list. She’s made 155 3-pointers over her first three seasons and 70 games on varsity.

PHOTO Kingston’s Delaney St. George (10) pulls up for a shot during the Division 4 Final against Ishpeming.