By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
GRAND RAPIDS – Pewamo-Westphalia has played in three MHSAA Girls Basketball Finals. Three more teams have ended seasons in the Semifinals. Four more teams on top of those reached Quarterfinals and were done.
Total, that’s 10 teams that had made the final week of the season before this one. And now the Pirates have earned another opportunity to celebrate for all of them.
P-W will play for its first championship thanks to a 37-33 overtime win over Ypsilanti Arbor Prep on Thursday that also set the record for the lowest-scoring Semifinal in MHSAA girls basketball history.
Despite scoring six or fewer points during the second, third and fourth quarters, the Pirates outscored Arbor Prep 7-3 in the extra period to reach their second Final in three seasons.
“We’ve been here so many times before, and it’s frustrating when you just miss it by such a short amount,” P-W junior guard Ellie Droste said. “So this year being able to make it to the Finals again, and hopefully we can come out with the win … at practice every single day we work for these moments. We work on defense, we work on offense, we work on pressure situations. And that’s what got us here.”
The Pirates (26-1) will take on Flint Hamady in Saturday’s 4 p.m. Division 3 championship game at Calvin College.
Droste and Hannah Spitzley were freshmen on the P-W team that fell 46-44 to Detroit Edison in the 2017 Class C Final. Rachel Huhn was a sophomore sub on that team and then played 20 minutes as a junior in last season’s Semifinal loss to the Pioneers.
But the program’s drive for this opportunity goes back much farther than the last few years. The 1983 and 1984 teams both lost in Class C Finals – the 1983 Pirates to Hamady.
Arbor Prep (19-7) was last season’s Class C runner-up and playing in its fifth straight Semifinal.
“I was a 10-year-old boy back in 1984, 85, watching Carol Bogard Rademacher take teams to Western Michigan back at that time and fall short with great teams and great kids that were extremely well-coached,” Pirates coach Steve Eklund said. “It’s that hurdle we just haven’t been able to get over. So I’m excited for these kids, I’m excited for our community, I’m excited for all of these girls basketball teams we’ve had over the last 30 years that have been there and just not gotten over the hurdle. It just burns inside of me to go get that win Saturday, and we’re going to do everything in our power to go get that win for all of the teams from the past.”
To earn the opportunity, P-W had to hop a few hurdles Thursday. Arbor Prep featured one of the top freshmen in the state in guard Mya Petticord and 2018 all-state honorable mention Mahri Petree. And both teams struggled to get the ball through the hoop – P-W made 33 percent of its shot from the floor and Arbor Prep checked in at 29 percent, and combined they connected on just 7-of-33 3-point shots.
The Pirates ended the first quarter up 14-7. Arbor Prep stormed back to make it 18-18 at the break. For the game, the score was tied five times and the lead changed seven.
Droste scored to give P-W the first lead of overtime 28 seconds in, and she made two free throws to make the advantage 34-30 with 1:28 to play. Senior Karli Waddell came up with a huge 3-pointer for Arbor Prep to cut the lead to one with 33 seconds left on the clock. But Spitzley made 3-of-4 free-throw tries over the final 12 seconds, and Arbor Prep got off only one shot after Waddell’s 3-pointer.
“I think we lost to the state champion,” Arbor Prep coach Scott Stine said. “(I’m) disappointed we couldn’t score a few more points, questioning whether we should’ve been more aggressive defensively. That’s a coaching call … we’ll look at after today and decide if we should’ve been more aggressive, should’ve pushed the tempo.
“If you’d told me the score would be 34-30, I would’ve said it was 50/50 who would win the game. If you’d told me someone got to 50 points, I’d have said Arbor Prep would’ve won.”
Petticord led Arbor Prep with 14 points, and senior Kashyra Jackson had 10 and eight rebounds. Spitzley scored 16 to lead P-W, while Droste had 15 points and four assists. Junior Addison Bauer didn’t score a point and attempted just one shot, but grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
“My players made adjustments. Defensively after the first quarter, I thought they were extremely solid,” Stine said. “I thought we made things tough on them, just the same way they made things tough on us.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Pewamo-Westphalia’s Ellie Droste makes a move toward the basket during Thursday’s second Division 3 Semifinal. (Middle) Arbor Prep’s Alaya Mack seeks an opening.
Championship time is quickly approaching this girls basketball season.
We’re still three weeks out from the start of District play. But league contenders are clashing all over the state, with a handful of conferences finishing up their schedules this week and several favorites facing off soon with titles on the line. We make mention of a number of those below.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. West Bloomfield 59, Detroit Edison 49 Last season, West Bloomfield (15-2) became the first in-state team to defeat Edison (12-3) since 2018 – and the Lakers have become the only one to do so again this winter.
2. Maple City Glen Lake 51, Traverse City St. Francis 45 The Lakers (13-2) are up to No. 2 in Division 4 MPR, while St. Francis (12-2) sits No. 4 in Division 3.
3. Holt 55, DeWitt 53 The Rams (14-2) sit alone atop the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue after sending the Panthers (13-2) into second in a matchup of top Division 1 teams statewide.
4. Hancock 50, Calumet 47 The Bulldogs (13-1) maintained their one-game lead in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference West with their second win this season over third-place Calumet (11-3). Both are among the top seven statewide in Division 3 MPR.
5. Detroit Edison 44, Farmington Hills Mercy 42 The Pioneers bounced back from the West Bloomfield loss with a pair of close wins, this one over Mercy (14-2) followed by a one-pointer over Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Saturday.
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (11-5) After a 2-4 start with those losses to top Division 1 and 2 teams statewide, Reeths-Puffer is 9-3 and tied for first in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green with Muskegon after edging the Big Reds 56-52 on Friday. That avenged a 14-point loss to Muskegon on Jan. 6, and the Rockets have since gone on an eight-game winning streak. They also opened last week with a 42-39 victory over 11-win Ludington.
Wayne Memorial (13-4) The Zebras further solidified their standing atop the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East standings with last week’s 75-57 win over second-place Belleville. That followed up a 44-41 win over the Tigers on Jan. 6, and total Wayne has won 12 straight since a 1-3 start that included two-point losses to Division 1 contenders Detroit Renaissance and Hudsonville and a third defeat to Illinois power Chicago Whitney Young.
Goodrich (14-1) The Martians are locked in another battle atop the Flint Metro League Stars with Lake Fenton and trail the Blue Devils by a game after a 50-44 loss Jan. 20. That’s Goodrich’s only defeat, and they’ll attempt to avenge it in the league finale Feb. 17. In the meantime, the Martians can continue their statewide push upward with 13-win Flushing coming up Wednesday and 15-win Ovid-Elsie next week as well.
Redford Westfield Prep (11-6) The Warriors take on many of the state’s best, evidenced by their No. 8 MPR despite six losses. Westfield has won seven of its last eight games, the lone defeat during that streak 55-53 to still-undefeated Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Jan. 16 – and with perhaps its most notable instate win of the season 46-45 in double overtime Jan. 12 over reigning Division 3 champion Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.
McBain (13-4) The Highland Conference race could go down to the finish, especially after McBain avenged its earlier 17-point loss to second-place Evart with a 51-35 win last week. McBain also has a six-point loss to league leader Lake City from Jan. 20, but can avenge that in the regular-season finale Feb. 23. The Ramblers additionally have a pair of victories over 12-win Beal City and a solid early loss to still-undefeated Division 2 Escanaba.
Ovid-Elsie (15-2) The Marauders haven’t slowed down a bit after last season’s 21-2 finish with league and District titles, the latter in Division 2. This season in Division 3, Ovid-Elsie is up to No. 6 in MPR with a 14-game winning streak since suffering its lone losses early to Pewamo-Westphalia (10-5) and Dansville (15-1). The Marauders handed Mackinaw City its first defeat Saturday, 59-55 on a neutral court, and also has a victory over 14-win Ithaca plus a two-game lead in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference.
Fowler (11-6) Coming off back-to-back Division 4 championships, Fowler put together a schedule featuring solid-to-strong teams from Divisions 1-4 and sit No. 3 in Division 4 MPR. The losses have come to Midland Dow, Haslett, Lansing Catholic, Kent City and league rivals Dansville and Portland St. Patrick, and the Eagles avenged the Shamrocks defeat 51-44 last week. Fowler will need help to catch Dansville in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference, down two games from the league leader, but will try to get one back from the Aggies on Feb. 14.
Norway (16-1) The Knights are leading the large-school division of the Skyline Central Conference with the likely deciding matchup coming at Bark River-Harris next week. Norway has lost only to Niagara (Wis.), by five two weeks ago, and handed Carney-Nadeau (13-2) one of its losses among other strong work – and after ending last season’s 11-10 run with a 15-point District loss to the Wolves.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – Coldwater (15-1) at Jackson Northwest (15-1) – The Mounties lead Coldwater by a win in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference thanks to a 50-46 win in their first meeting Jan. 10.
Tuesday – Utica Ford (14-1) at Grosse Pointe North (13-2) – North has clinched a share of the Macomb Area Conference Red title heading into tonight’s league finale, while Ford won by a large margin in the MAC White.
Thursday – Houghton (13-1) at Hancock (13-1) – As noted above, Hancock leads the West-PAC West by a game – but will face second-place Houghton twice over the next two weeks.
Friday – Standish-Sterling (15-1) at Hemlock (13-3) – Hemlock owns the lead in the Tri-Valley Conference West 10-1 thanks to a 62-31 doubling up in the first meeting Jan. 6. But that remains the Panthers’ lone loss, and they’ve since handed TVC 10-2 co-leader Saginaw Valley Lutheran one of its two defeats.
Friday – Saline (15-2) at Temperance Bedford (16-1) – Saline is first and Bedford second in the Southeastern Conference Red thanks to Saline’s 41-22 win in their first meeting Jan. 27.
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PHOTOS (Top) A trio of Fowler defenders surround a Bath player driving to the basket during a 49-27 win earlier this season; they meet again Thursday. (Middle) Maddie Bradford of Maple City Glen Lake contests a shot by Maggie Napont of Traverse City St. Francis during the Lakers' 51-45 win over the Gladiators last week. (Top photo by Click by Christine McCallister. Middle photo by Rick Sack/TC Rick Photo.)