Newaygo Finds Way Past Country Day, Back to Finals

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

April 7, 2021

GRAND RAPIDS – To make a long story short, the Newaygo girls basketball team is headed to the MHSAA Finals for the first time in almost 40 years.

The Lions leaned on the Long sisters to earn their spot after pulling away in the fourth quarter to knock off Detroit Country Day 55-39 in Wednesday’s first Division 2 Semifinal at Van Andel Arena.

Senior Jaylee Long and junior Jaxi Long combined for 23 points, eight assists, seven steals and six rebounds to help lift Newaygo to the victory. The Lions were led by junior Emmerson Goodin, who had 15 points and nine rebounds.

Newaygo (21-1) will play Portland in Friday’s 5:30 p.m. Final at Breslin Center.

“I love playing with my sister, especially because this is my last year, and so playing with her and going to the state championship game is pretty amazing,” said Jaylee Long, who recorded 11 points, five assists and four steals. 

“I’m going to miss playing with her, and I will try to convince her to go to Cornerstone with me, but it is definitely going to be fun for our last game.”

Jaylee Long said a majority of the players on the team have played together since third and fourth grade.

“We’ve all played together since we were younger.” she said. “We played together on AYBT teams and just all the way up. It’s been fun.”

Newaygo hasn’t been to the Finals since 1985, when it won the second of back-to-back Class C championships.

“It’s really a cool experience, and it is really a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Jaxi Long, who added 12 points. “It’s not like you get to come here every year, and I really love this team. This is a great team, and we love to hang out with each other.”

Jaylee Long is one of three seniors along with Anna Brummel and Lily Ruehmeier, who both hit shots in the second half.

“This is definitely the way to go out,” Jaylee Long said. “I’m really happy about this opportunity since last year we weren’t able to finish. It’s been kind of crazy, but to see our community come out to support us has been pretty amazing. They love us and want us to do well, and hopefully we can finish it off and get it.”

The Lions needed a fourth-quarter surge to stave off the youthful Yellowjackets (15-3), whose roster was primarily made up of freshmen and sophomores.

Detroit Country Day scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to pull within one (39-38); however, Newaygo went on a 16-0 run and held the Yellowjackets scoreless for more than six minutes.

“It was just a championship moment,” Lions coach Nate Thomasma said. “Someone makes a run on you, and how are you going to respond? They responded, and they tightened up defensively and we hit some big shots.

“That’s what you have to do in this tournament, because there’s always highs and lows. You have to keep playing hard, and we got the job done. Hopefully we can do that one more game, and I’m just really proud of these girls.”

Detroit Country Day was unable to withstand the Lions’ run and struggled to score throughout the fourth quarter.

The Yellowjackets were 0 for 7 from 3-point range in the final quarter and a dismal 4-22 (18 percent) from beyond the arc for the game. 

“They took us out of what we wanted to do,” first-year Country Day coach Jerica Williams said. “We are a three-point shooting team and we didn’t get off that many in the first half, and they took us out of our identity. They are a tough team top to bottom.”

Freshman Emma Arico led Country Day with a team-high 18 points. Chelsea Abulu, the Yellowjackets’ lone senior, grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and finished with 18 total. She also had four blocked shots.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Country Day's Victoria Miller (0) works to wall off Newaygo's attack during Thursday's Division 2 Semifinal at Van Andel Arena. (Middle) Newaygo's Jaylee Long pushes the pace during Thursday's win. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.