Newaygo Finds Way Past Country Day, Back to Finals

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)

Breslin Bound: 2023-24 Girls Report Week 12

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

February 26, 2024

February is nearly at its end, and the girls basketball regular season will finish this week as well. And, of course, anticipation couldn't be higher for what's next as the calendar turns to March.

MI Student Aid

We have a much clearer picture of how this season's MHSAA Tournament will begin to unfold as District brackets were announced Sunday – find them all on the Brackets page. But keep in mind as well, several teams still have much to play for this week, and actually over the next four days, as almost all of our teams will finish up their regular-season schedules by the end of Thursday.

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at MHSAA.com.

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:

1. Ann Arbor Father Gabriel Richard 54, Detroit Renaissance 39 The Irish (21-0) moved within a win of a perfect regular season by defeating the Phoenix (18-3) in the Operation Friendship league champions matchup.

2. Detroit Edison 57, Belleville 46 The Pioneers (16-2) will enter the Division 2 tournament among favorites again, further bolstered by this victory over the Division 1 Tigers (18-2).

3. Goodrich 44, Flushing 26 The Martians (21-0) also are one win from a perfect regular season, and one of those Division 2 contenders, coming off this Flint Metro League Tournament championship clincher over Flushing (14-8).

4. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 45, Jackson Lumen Christi 31 The Eaglets (20-0) are closing in on a possible perfect regular season as well after finishing a Catholic High School League Cardinal Tournament title run against the Titans (17-5).

5. Bark River-Harris 52, Munising 31 The Broncos (20-1) secured an outright championship in the Skyline Central Conference Large schools division by winning this matchup of co-leaders entering the game, with Munising (16-4) finishing runner-up.

Plainwell's Brooklyn Timpe (13) works to wall off Otsego's Audrey Lingbeek during the Bulldogs' 41-37 win earlier this month.

Watch List

With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:

DIVISION 1

Clarkston (15-6) The Wolves have hovered between Nos. 10-20 on the Division 1 MPR list over the last five weeks before bumping up to No. 8 heading into this one. They’ve played tough teams and won key games, the most notable victory lately 53-27 over Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (14-5) to avenge a 43-38 loss three weeks earlier. The other defeats have come to West Bloomfield (18-1) twice, Lake Orion (12-7) by a point, Detroit Country Day (15-5) and Chelsea (17-4) – and Clarkston has six wins over opponents with at least 14 victories, the most recent 50-33 last week over Royal Oak (14-6).

Grand Blanc (16-3) The Bobcats have won three straight District titles and sit a combined 65-17 over the last three-plus seasons, and they’ve created an opportunity to win their first Saginaw Valley League championship during this run of success. Grand Blanc will host Midland Dow on Tuesday in a winner-take-all for the SVL title, as neither has lost a conference game. The Bobcats are riding an 11-game winning streak, with their defeats to Goodrich (21-0), Lake Fenton (15-6) and Hartland (14-7). A 47-46 win over Flint Powers Catholic (17-13) on Feb. 6 factored significantly in creating this championship chance.

DIVISION 2

Vicksburg (17-2) The Bulldogs – 23-1 last season – added an exclamation point to another strong run by handing Portage Central (17-1) its only loss of the season last week, 47-33. Vicksburg did the same to Niles Brandywine (18-1) on Feb. 6, winning 46-38, which followed a 53-49 win over Paw Paw (18-2). That win over the Red Wolves avenged a 60-50 loss during the season’s first week, and has Vicksburg atop the Wolverine Conference with a share of the league title and a chance to clinch it outright Thursday against Otsego. The Bulldogs’ only other loss was 47-31 to Coldwater (17-3) on Jan. 30 – and Vicksburg bounced back for the Paw Paw and Brandywine wins over their next two games.

Williamston (16-4) The Hornets are winners of 12 straight games and took back the Capital Area Activities Conference Red championship after finishing runner-up to Haslett a year ago. Williamston swept the Vikings (14-7), winning 45-43 and then 57-38, and also owns a 44-34 victory over Ovid-Elsie (18-2) during this nearly two-month run. A 4-4 start surely provided some prep for this success, with the losses to Howell (15-6), Lansing Catholic (16-4), DeWitt (19-2) and Chelsea (17-4) – and Chelsea and Haslett both are on the other side of the bracket from Williamston at the Division 2 District at Fowlerville.

DIVISION 3

Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (18-3) The Kestrels won their first Huron League championship since sharing the title in 2017-18, and clinched this one outright by defeating Monroe Jefferson in the league finale as co-leader Riverview lost to Flat Rock by a point to move into second place. SMCC doubled their win total between 2021-22 and 2022-23, from nine to 18, and the Kestrels can surpass that this season with a victory over Ida on Thursday. Their losses were to Temperance Bedford (18-2), Carleton Airport (13-7) and Grosse Ile (12-9), and SMCC avenged the Airport defeat during this current eight-game winning streak that’s also seen victories over Riverview (15-4) and Flat Rock (13-7).

Sandusky (19-1) The Wolves claimed a fourth-straight Greater Thumb Conference East championship, avenging their lone loss – 30-26 to Harbor Beach on Jan. 2 – by defeating Harbor Beach 36-23 in the rematch Jan. 25. Six more wins have come against teams with 11 or more victories this season, with a chance to add to that list this week against Cass City and Caro before jumping into the District at Vassar as the top seed. Of the Wolves’ 19 wins, 15 have come by double digits.

DIVISION 4

Clarkston Everest Collegiate (13-4) The Mountaineers finished second in the CHSL Intersectional #1 this winter, but defeated champion Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood 46-30 on Saturday to claim the league’s St. Anne Tournament title. The victory also avenged two four-point losses to the Cranes (14-4), and Everest’s other defeats were to two more Division 2 teams, Macomb Lutheran North and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (20-0). The Mountaineers will be the top seed at Auburn Hills Oakland Christian as they seek to win a third-straight District title.

Mio (17-4) Statewide eyes have turned toward 140-student Mio, which didn’t field a varsity in 2021-22, came back and finished 5-16 last winter and has jumped to 17-4 and a shared championship in the North Star League Big Dipper this season. A lot of that attention has come with freshman Mia McGregor, who according to a Bay City Times story from last week was averaging 39.3 ppg at the time. Mio defeated Bay City All Saints (16-4) that night, 61-52, and also has a win over Big Dipper co-champ Oscoda (16-4).

Can’t-Miss Contests

Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up: 

Tuesday – Midland Dow (18-2) at Grand Blanc (16-3) – As noted above, the winner will be the outright Saginaw Valley League champion, and Dow is seeking its second league title over three seasons.

Tuesday – Belleville (18-2) vs. Howell (15-6) at Northville – The winners of the KLAA East and West, respectively, face off for the overall championship.

Tuesday – Frankenmuth (18-2) at Lansing Catholic (16-4) – Frankenmuth starts a substantial final week of the regular season with this rematch of last year’s Division 2 Final, won by the Cougars, before taking on Detroit Edison on Thursday.

Tuesday – Muskegon (16-4) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (20-1) – These champions of the O-K Green and Blue, respectively, should give each other a nice test before they pursue postseason aspirations in Divisions 1 and 2, respectively.

Thursday – Colon (19-2) at Mendon (18-2) – The Magi own a share of the Southern Central Athletic Association West title thanks to a 54-31 win on Jan. 18, but Mendon can finish with the other share by avenging that defeat.

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PHOTOS (Top) Goodrich's Kayla Hairston leads her team on a break during a 61-48 win over Lake Fenton on Feb. 16. (Middle) Plainwell's Brooklyn Timpe (13) works to wall off Otsego's Audrey Lingbeek during the Bulldogs' 41-37 win Feb. 16. (Top photo by Terry Lyons; middle photo by Gary Shook.)