Saginaw Heritage junior – Basketball
On back-to-back days, Heritage’s 6-foot-1 forward put together back-to-back standout performances at Van Noord Arena to lead the Hawks to their first MHSAA girls basketball title since 2002. She had 12 points, seven rebounds and four steals in a 46-28 Semifinal win over Grosse Pointe North, then 12 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in Saturday’s 57-36 Class A championship victory over East Lansing to earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”
This season, Strickland-Gills averaged 12.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 2.2 assists and two steals per game as Heritage finished 27-1 – its only loss was in double overtime to eventual Class C champion Detroit Edison. She also started as a sophomore when the Hawks finished 20-2 and was a varsity sub when they were 22-2 in 2015-16.
Strickland-Gills still has plenty of time to figure out her future, of course, but she'll choose from Division I college basketball opportunities and is interested in a career in the medical field, perhaps as a physician’s assistant. She’s also played volleyball and participated in track & field at Heritage, although she’s unsure if she’ll compete in either sport moving forward.
Coach Vonnie DeLong said: “Shine has developed into one of the best post players in the state. She has come so far since her freshman year, physically, mentally and emotionally. She has always been a very hard worker and spends hours in the gym. But this year there is a maturity about her that really took her to the next level. Her hard work was finally paying off and as she started seeing the results it just motivated her even more. She has developed a great understanding of the game. She has also become one of our vocal floor leaders, which allows her to ‘quarterback’ the back of our defense. I always tell my kids, ‘I can't give you confidence. The only way you gain more confidence is by putting the time in and transferring it to game situations. It comes down to preparation.' Shine has done that and is now a pretty confident basketball player. She has also become a great teammate. We don't win the state championship without her. … I'm excited to see what the next year holds for Shine. She seemed to get better every game this year, and after another offseason of workouts and AAU, I am sure she will be even better next year. I'm just happy I get the opportunity to coach her for another season. She is a very coachable, kind, fun-loving kid that I am really going to miss when she moves on.”
Performance Point: “What’s sticking out the most is how relentless we are and how focused we are because it’s extremely hard to play back-to-back like that, especially two really tough games,” Strickland-Gills said of her memories from the weekend. “That we came out and performed hard, and did the best we can, I was very proud of that. We knew that if we came to play Friday, we would have a sure chance of winning and to play on Saturday. And if Saturday we came to play, we could really do it. … There’s been a lot of congratulations. Every time I come down the hallway, every teacher I’ve had, and I got lots of teacher emails and stuff like that.”
Shining Moment: “When (Coach DeLong) took us out with two minutes to go, when everybody sat down, we were all just like, ‘We did it. Finally, we just really did it.’ And it really hit – we just won states. It was a very proud moment.”
Expectations met: “In the past we’ve had really good groups. But this year was something special because we had a better mindset before we got into the tournament. Everybody bought in, and our practices were a lot, lot better. We even got better as a team during the tournament. … We never stopped getting better and we never stopped going hard, and I think that was a major difference that helped us.”
Pride in my roles: “My team is really good at scoring. That’s what they do. My team doesn’t always need somebody to score 20 points a game. We just need to play defense – you can’t win without stopping your opponent from scoring. My team (also) really needs me to rebound, so that’s what I focus on. I know if I do my job, I can really reap the benefits. … ‘Coming out, I need to score 10, 15 points,’ has never been a thought in my head. I just need to come to play and do what my coach tells me to do, and we’ll get it done. I take a lot more joy in my teammates scoring and seeing how happy they get, how happy the crowd gets, rather than just me.”
Making her name: “I was born in spring. At the beginning of April, it isn’t too warm, but it was super hot that day. (My mother) was like, ‘I don’t know what to name her.’ So my original name was going to be J. My dad wanted to name me Erma after his mom. So my mom said, ‘You know, it’s hot outside. So we’re just going to name her Shine.”
- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor
Every week during the 2017-18 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.
The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster.
Previous 2017-18 honorees:
March 15: Skyler Cook-Weeks, Holland Christian swimming - Read
March 8: Dakota Greer, Howard City Tri-County wrestling - Read
March 1: Camree' Clegg, Wayne Memorial basketball - Read
February 23: Aliah Robertson, Sault Ste. Marie swimming - Read
February 16: Austin O'Hearon, Eaton Rapids wrestling - Read
February 9: Sophia Wiard, Muskegon Oakridge basketball - Read
February 2: Brenden Tulpa, Hartland hockey - Read
January 25: Brandon Whitman, Dundee wrestling - Read
January 18: Derek Maas, Holland West Ottawa swimming - Read
January 11: Lexi Niepoth, Bellaire basketball - Read
November 30: La'Darius Jefferson, Muskegon football - Read
November 23: Ashley Turak, Farmington Hills Harrison swimming - Read
November 16: Bryce Veasley, West Bloomfield football - Read
November 9: Jose Penaloza, Holland soccer - Read
November 2: Karenna Duffey, Macomb L'Anse Creuse North cross country - Read
October 26: Anika Dy, Traverse City Central golf - Read
October 19: Andrew Zhang, Bloomfield Hills tennis - Read
October 12: Nolan Fugate, Grand Rapids Catholic Central football - Read
October 5: Marissa Ackerman, Munising tennis - Read
September 28: Minh Le, Portage Central soccer - Read
September 21: Olivia Theis, Lansing Catholic cross country - Read
September 14: Maddy Chinn, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball - Read
PHOTOS: (Top) Saginaw Heritage's Shine Strickland-Gills works to get past East Lansing's Jaida Hampton during Saturday's Class A Final. (Middle) Strickland-Gills goes up for the opening jump.
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:
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.