Northwest Draws Closer to Dream Finish

March 16, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

GRAND RAPIDS – Like kids in every community, future Jackson Northwest athletes grow up dreaming of winning championships.

But there’s something more to say about the opportunity earned by the Mounties with their 56-47 Class B Semifinal win Friday over Michigan Center.

A championship Saturday would be the first in program history. It would be the second in school history, in any sport – joining the Division 2 girls bowling title won in 2013.

“It would be good for our community, because everybody has brought so much support,” Northwest senior Sydney Shafer said. “And the fact that we’ve never done this makes it better because we’re making history.

“We’re hanging numbers – that was our thing, kind’ve – and it’s just surreal. Not many people get to experience what we’re going through right now.”

The Mounties already will hang a few “numbers” – maybe a few 18s on the banners in their gym for winning their first Regional and making their first girls basketball championship game this winter.

They’ll get a chance to add one more against Detroit Country Day in Saturday’s 6:15 p.m. Class B Final at Van Noord Arena.

Northwest (25-1) has put together a nice run in girls basketball with a combined 79-17 record and three District titles moving between Class B and Class A over the last four seasons.

The Mounties fell four points shy of claiming that first Regional title in Class A in 2016, losing to East Lansing by four points in the Regional Final.

“This has been our goal the last four years. This year, this team is special,” senior Ella Bontrager said. “We knew that from the beginning. We’ve taken one game at a time, worked hard on offensive and defensively, and this team play together more than any team too. We want it, every single game, and we don’t want to be done.”

Northwest came out Friday draining shots. Bontrager knocked down two 3-pointers during the game’s first two minutes, and sophomore sister Jozie Bontrager’s 3-pointer two minutes later made the score 13-4.

Jozie Bontrager connected on a pair of 2-pointers during the second quarter to keep Northwest’s lead at 31-22 by halftime.

But Michigan Center, a Class C runner-up twice last decade, had some shooting bottled up for the second half. Despite trailing by 17 during the first minute of the fourth quarter, the Cardinals cut that deficit to seven over the next two minutes in part on 3-pointers by senior Brianna Wolvin, sophomore Morgan Morris and senior Masyn Shannon.

The comeback wasn’t unexpected, as the two schools are 14 miles apart and a number of players know each other from the offseason circuit.

“Every game we’ve played, we seem to allow those runs,” Northwest coach Ryan Carroll said. “I know that’s not a strong trait, but we also then respond.

“These guys are fearless. It’s just another game for them, just another run. We knew Michigan Center was very capable of knocking down shots.”

In the end, Northwest knocked down a few more, especially at the line. The Mounties connected on 13 of 23 free-throw attempts, but Michigan Center was only 7 of 18.

Schafer finished with 21 points, along with 13 rebounds and six steals. Jozie Bontrager had 13 points and 12 rebounds and Ella Bontrager added 11 points. Senior Masyn Shannon had 14 points and seven rebounds to lead Michigan Center (23-3) and was the only senior to see the floor for her team.

The Cardinals finished a combined 43-7 over the last two seasons after going 6-15 in 2015-16. They’ve most recently been in Class C, but moved into Class B this school year.

“It was such a journey for us,” Shannon said. “We were excited every single game. Every game we won in this tournament, we bawled our eyes out because we were so happy. It’s something to be excited about, something to be nervous about – a lifetime experience and something me and the rest of the team will never forget.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Jackson Northwest players celebrate Friday’s Semifinal win over Michigan Center. (Middle) Michigan Center’s Morgan Morris works for position in the post with Jozie Bontrager guarding her. 

Lansing Catholic Closes Season With Memorable Victory Close to Home

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

March 18, 2023

EAST LANSING – The Lansing Catholic girls basketball team took a short drive to end a long wait.

Playing just three miles from their high school, the Cougars defeated Frankenmuth 43-29 Saturday at the Breslin Center to win the MHSAA Division 2 Final. It was the first Finals title for the program since 1995.

“It felt like homecourt advantage a little bit,” Lansing Catholic senior guard Hannah Pricco said. “Our bus trip wasn’t super long. It just kind of felt like we were coming to our own court.”

The Cougars treated it that way, dominating from the beginning of the matchup in their first Finals trip since that 1995 title. They scored the game’s first 11 points and never looked back.

The Cougars’ Anna Richards (10) attempts to get a shot up over Frankenmuth’s Lexi Boyke.“This is, as you can imagine, extremely surreal,” Lansing Catholic coach Kacee Reid said. “You’re going through literally every emotion on the bench, especially in a game like that. Frankenmuth is making such a great comeback, and we knew they were going to fight to the end. To go through the anger and sadness and happiness, and now it’s over and we’ve won it. It’s just been a rollercoaster of emotions, and I can’t describe the pride I have in these girls.”

It was the second meeting between the two teams, with Lansing Catholic taking the first 74-42 on Feb. 2. But Reid wasn’t going to let her team come in overconfident.

“They didn’t get here by accident,” Reid said. “They’re in the state championship because they’re playing their best ball of the year. We played them a month and a half ago. … We’re a totally different team, and we knew they were a totally different team. We knew they had been playing some really good basketball, and it didn’t matter at all what that first outcome was. We knew this was going to be a battle.”

Lansing Catholic (24-5) never trailed, and led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter. Leah Richards led the Cougars with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Anna Richards had 14 points. Gabby Halliwill added seven.

The Cougars were spurred by their defense throughout, holding Frankenmuth to 9 of 36 shooting from the field and forcing 13 turnovers.

“For us, defensively, we had to switch it up,” Reid said. “We had to keep switching up between man and zone. They were making adjustments and we couldn’t really sit in one thing for too long; they got comfortable. That’s a credit to their coaching staff always making adjustments. We had to continue to switch things up defensively and try to hopefully make their shooters second-guess their shot, or maybe not know where we were coming from.”

Frankenmuth (25-3) didn’t go away, despite trailing by double digits for the majority of the game. 

That was helped by Lansing Catholic shooting 1 of 11 from the field in the third quarter, and going scoreless for the final 5:26 of the frame.

Tessa Roe (12) works to get past Clare Conzelmann and to the basket.The Eagles cut the lead to seven with 2:45 to play on a steal and layup from Clare Conzelmann, but never got closer.

“There was always belief no matter what detriment we got ourselves in,” Frankenmuth senior Lexi Boyke said. “I wouldn’t want to choose any other girls to play with and be in with at that point. I think we fought back and really prided ourselves on, ‘We can still do it.’ We didn’t stop fighting until the end.”

Lansing Catholic always figured Frankenmuth would make a run to get into the game, but was ready when it came.

“We knew they were going to make runs, we knew we weren’t going to hold them to seven points the whole game,” Anna Richards said. “We knew in the third quarter they were going to score, so we just had to stay composed, work the ball around on offense to get the good shots that we wanted.”

Boyke, who scored Frankenmuth’s first 10 points and was its only scorer well into the third quarter, finished with 16. She also reached 1,000 career points in the game, and had six rebounds, while Izzy Bernthal had seven.

Frankenmuth was making its first Finals appearance since winning the Class C title in 1996, one year after Lansing Catholic. 

“That’s a really good Lansing Catholic team, and you’ve seen that from their postseason run and beating an undefeated West Catholic team, and tonight finishing their season off with a state championship. So, congratulations to them,” Frankenmuth coach Joe Jacobs said. “I’m super proud of our kids. They didn’t quit tonight. They could have. … Fun experience, one that we want to treasure forever, but the motivation to come back again is here after tonight’s loss.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Lansing Catholic celebrates its Division 2 championship Saturday night at Breslin Center. (Middle) The Cougars’ Anna Richards (10) attempts to get a shot up over Frankenmuth’s Lexi Boyke. (Below) Tessa Roe (12) works to get past Clare Conzelmann and to the basket.