Performance: Heritage's Shine Strickland-Gills

March 22, 2018

Shine Strickland-Gills
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.

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.