Next Coach, Same Success as Gobles Drives On

By Pam Shebest
Special for

March 9, 2021

GOBLES — One coach retired and one coach was hired, but both have one reason in common: family.

Southwest CorridorAfter 18 years leading the Gobles girls basketball team, John Curtis hung up his whistle.

“My two boys are the biggest reason,” Curtis said of Kellen, 13, and Gibson, 11.

“I just wanted to spend more time with them. Instead of being in a gym coaching on Tuesday and Friday, I would rather be with them studying or just having some Friday night fun.”

Greg Barber took over the position after coaching the junior varsity girls for five years.

That gives him more time to spend with his daughter, Amanda, a junior in her third year on varsity.

His other daughter, Erica, is an eighth grader who also plays basketball.

“I brought my daughters up through the youth program, so I was involved in that when they were in the third grade on up,” Barber said. “I just like coaching.”

One goal for the 8-3 Tigers is continued success in the MHSAA postseason which begins March 22 with District play.

Last year, Gobles won their District and then lost a 42-41 heartbreaker to Schoolcraft in a Division 3 Regional Semifinal. (Soon after, the season was put on hold and final rounds eventually canceled due to COVID-19.)

Gobles girls basketball 2Last year’s success was actually another factor that prompted Curtis’ retirement.

“I didn't want to be one of those coaches that retired when the program was struggling,” he said. 

“We have a great group of young ladies back and some solid young talent that helped in my decision as well.”

He said handing the coaching reins to Barber was easy.

“He has been in the program for a very long time as a youth and JV coach and has a great rapport with the team,” Curtis said.

“Having (current junior varsity) Coach V. (Marc VanHeukelum) around was a big help as well. He's been by my side forever, and they will keep the program at an elite level.”

Junior guard Amanda Barber, who joined the varsity midway through her freshman season, did not see much of a change when her father took over as coach.

“They have different coaching styles, I would say, but overall they both are good coaches so it’s not hard to be coached by one or the other,” she said.

Gobles girls basketball 3“Mr. Curtis is probably a little more in-your-face, and he’ll tell you how it is. My dad’s a little more laid back.”

The 5-foot-4 Barber leads the team in points, averaging 16 per game, and assists with three per game. Senior Karlee Henderson leads with seven rebounds per game.

“Amanda’s put hours and hours in the gym working on her game and her shooting,” he dad said. “Just countless hours of work.”

Other juniors on the team are Madi Brady, McKenzie Lisowski and Emily Baxter.

Other seniors are Keaghan Kelly, Abby Sandahl and Deven Thompson. The lone sophomore is Kaya Huizenga.

Moving Up, Staying Together

Kennadi Killeen made the jump from eighth grade hoops to varsity without playing a game of JV.

That took a bit of adjustment.

Gobles girls basketball 4“The game just got a lot faster and the girls got a lot bigger,” the freshman guard said. “You don’t have as much time between shots to think about everything, so you just have to know what you’re going to do before you do it.”

The pandemic restrictions limiting fans in the stands actually helped Killeen.

‘It did make the transition a lot easier because there weren’t a lot of people watching,” she said. “There weren’t as many people to be afraid of making a mistake in front of,” she added, laughing.

Killeen has worked her way into the starting lineup.

“She’s averaging five or six points a game and about five rebounds as a freshman, so she’s doing real well,” Barber said.

Deanna Wood is the other freshman on the team.

The coach said team unity is a key to their success.

“The junior class has played together since third grade so they’ve played the travel ball, some AAU stuff,” he said. “They’ve stuck together.

“It’s a very talented, athletic group. A couple young freshmen on the team this year have played a lot of basketball.”

Barber said working with the girls when he coached the JV team helped him with the move to varsity.

“I’ve coached them all through their JV years, so it was a pretty simple transition,” he said.

“They know what we do, they know what we want, they know what we like, so it went pretty smooth.”

Impressive numbers

In his 18 years as head coach, Curtis’ teams compiled a 304-107 record, won 10 conference, eight District and two Regional championships, making it to the Semifinals once.

Gobles girls basketball 5There are a few things Curtis will not miss.

“If I’m going to be 100 percent honest,” he said, “I won't miss dealing with all of the aspects off the court. The players and parents are changing just like society, which can make the job really tough.

“I've realized that as a coach you can't make everyone happy, and not too many people can see the entire picture these days.”

But since retiring, “the one thing I miss is those tough Friday night road games,” he said. “There is nothing better than going to an opponent's gym with a buzz in the gym and silencing their crowd with a win.

“I always took pride in how mentally tough my teams were, and that competitive feeling after those types of wins will be missed.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Gobles junior McKenzie Lisowski looks to break a trap against Allegan this season. (2) Gobles varsity girls basketball coach Greg Barber. (3) Tigers junior Amanda Barber makes her way through Coloma's defense. (4) Gobles freshman Kennadi Killeen. (5) Recently retired Gobles varsity coach John Curtis with sons Gibson and Kellen. (Action photos by Gala Rock. Head shots by Pam Shebest. Curtis photo courtesy of Curtis family.)

Jahfetson Makes History from 3-Point Range in Taking Baraga to 2023 Finals

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 23, 2024

Baraga’s Corina Jahfetson graduated in 2023 as one of the most accomplished 3-point shooters in MHSAA history and coming off one of the most impressive single seasons from beyond the arc.

Her 103 3-pointers as a senior over 29 games were the second-most for one season and included eight in a Quarterfinal win over Mackinaw City – the second-most in an MHSAA Quarterfinal, Semifinal or Final.

She finished with 236 3-pointers over 96 games and four seasons, ranking 12th on that career list, and Baraga finished the season as Division 4 runner-up. She’s continuing her career at Northern Michigan.

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

Girls Basketball

Alma junior Bailey Walkington earned her school’s first single-season individual record book entry for girls basketball in 2022-23. She made the steals list with 143 over 23 games.

Dalton DeBoer became the latest Midland Dow long-range shooting ace to make the records after she drained 70 of 206 3-point attempts over 24 games in 2022-23. DeBoer is a junior this school year.

Durand senior Jordyn Lawrence earned her school’s first girls basketball individual record book entry with 15 steals in her team’s 44-31 win over Flint Kearsley on Dec. 2, 2022. She’s continuing at Mid-Michigan College.

Leah French finished her Engadine career in 2023 with a series of game, season and career record book entries detailing her scoring and defensive skills. She earned single-game listings for 54 points and 19 free throws against St. Ignace on Feb. 6, 2023, and nine 3-pointers against Manistique that Jan. 9. She made the single-season list with 81 3-pointers, 177 free throws and 168 steals over 25 games as a senior. And she made the career lists with 171 3-pointers, 354 free throws and 405 steals over 85 games and four seasons. She’s continuing her career at Aquinas College.

Arieonna Ware earned Battle Creek Central's first girls basketball record book entry with 51 points in a Feb. 11, 2020, win over Portage Northern. She actually finished with a triple-double, adding 12 rebounds and 12 steals. Ware also was added for 47 points in a March 6, 2019, District game against Sturgis.

Mesick senior Kayla McCoy made the MHSAA record in 2022-23 as a junior, totaling 144 steals over 23 games. It was Mesick’s first individual entry in the girls basketball record book.

Coldwater’s Carlee Crabtree made a career-high 52 3-pointers during her senior season of 2019-20 on the way to making the MHSAA career list for long-distance shots with 163, in 469 attempts, over four seasons and 88 games total. She went on to play at Central Michigan and Hope College.

Battle Creek Pennfield’s Kaylee Glidden capped her three-year varsity career in 2023 among the most accurate free-throw shooters in MHSAA history – and also among top 3-point aces. She made 90.6 percent of her free-throw attempts as a senior, good for fifth-highest percentage all-time for one season, and her 84.4-percent success rate ranks fourth on the career list. She also made the single-season 3-pointers list with 67 that winter and the career list with 168. She continued at Kellogg Community College and has committed to Great Lakes Christian College.

Larissa Huffman made a pair of career lists upon completing her four-year varsity career in 2023 at Mackinaw City. She was added for 468 assists and 411 steals, both over 92 games, and she’s continuing her career at St. Norbert (Wis.). Additionally, Mackinaw City was added to the single-game field goals list as a team for making at least 39 in a game six times over the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons, with a high of 45.

Lansing Christian earned a listing on the team 3-pointers list when it sank 14 on 32 attempts against Webberville on Jan. 20, 2023. Seven players drained at least one of the long-distance shots.  

Grayling’s 66-49 win over Houghton Lake on Dec. 19 included one of the most impressive defensive performances of all-time as senior Makayla Watkins had 19 steals – tying for third-most in one game.

Brooklyn Columbia Central’s Zoandria Bamm grabbed 28 rebounds during a Feb. 14, 2023, game against Clinton to make the single-game list in that category and on the way to finishing her senior season with 380 rebounds over 25 games – tying for 13th most on that list. She’s playing at Jackson College.

Riley Abney became the first player to be listed for points scored in a quarter of a girls basketball game when she sank 21 of her 36 total during the fourth quarter of a 64-47 loss to Linden on Jan. 16. The Ortonville Brandon senior has committed to be a preferred walk-on at Oakland.

A pair of Paw Paw standouts earned single-game accomplishments within three days of each other in January. On Jan. 26 against Sturgis, junior AJ Rickli grabbed 31 rebounds, tied for seventh-most for one game. On Jan. 29 against Three Rivers, sophomore Stella Shaefer made the single-game assists list with 14.

Keira Maki joined the single-game points list on Feb. 22 when she scored 47 in Escanaba’s 64-49 win over Sault Ste. Marie. The senior will continue at Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

PHOTO Baraga’s Corina Jahfetson (22) brings the ball upcourt during the 2023 Division 4 Final against Glen Lake at Breslin Center.