Performance: Mancelona's Eileene Naniseni

January 22, 2017

Eileene Naniseni
Mancelona senior – Basketball

The 6-foot-3 center has had a monumental impact on the Ironmen girls basketball program over the last four seasons, and recently reached an individual milestone as part of that team-elevating effort. Naniseni scored her 1,000th point (and 32 in the game) during her team’s 54-40 win over Fife Lake Forest Area on Jan. 11 to earn the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.” 

Mancelona had lost 41 straight games before Naniseni took the court for the varsity for the first time and helped the Ironmen to a streak-breaking win in the 2013-14 season opener. Her team is 6-6 this winter, but Mancelona won only four games both last season and in 2014-15 and led during the fourth quarter of four of this winter’s losses. Naniseni is averaging 21.5 points, 13.9 rebounds and 5.6 blocked shots per game making 51 percent of her shots from the floor – she has five triple-doubles over the last four seasons including two this winter. She’s approaching the MHSAA record book list in rebounds with 878 over her career, and her 332 career blocked shots already rank 12th all-time. 

Naniseni – whose first name is pronounced “I-lee-nay” in nods to her maternal great-grandmother Eileene and her father’s Tongan roots – became the third in school history and first since 1996 to reach 1,000 points. She made the all-Ski Vally Conference first team last season after making the second team both of her first two seasons, and she also has earned all-league honors in volleyball and will compete again this spring in track & field running the 400 and participating in discus and high jump. She’s also built a 3.98 grade-point average in earning a basketball scholarship to Lake Superior State University, serving as a basketball team captain for three seasons in addition to providing leadership as well as part of National Honors Society, student council, the school’s peer leaders group and SAFE (Substance Abuse Free Environment).

Coach Ben Tarbutton said: “Eileene has been a great leader and captain for this basketball program. E is one of those players that every coach wishes everyone could be like on a team. Not because of her scoring or rebounding ability, but her determination in building this program up from multiple one or two-win seasons. This is why she has earned the leadership and captain role of the team over the last three years. This year has been one of the most fun years to coach. What is different about this year is we are beating teams that we have not beat in 10 years, and four of our six losses we were leading at one point in the fourth quarter. The only way this is possible is because of the senior group of Eileene Naniseni, Caitlin Ancel, and Jill Smigielski. … Without these three and the leadership of E, our season would not be where it is today. E is a leader in both academics and athletics. She is an individual that exemplifies what a student, athlete, and leader should look like for younger students to follow.

Performance Point: “We don’t normally get a lot of spectators for our games,” Naniseni said. “But the first thing I remember was more people in the stands, more in the student section than I’d seen the past three or four years playing. All my family and friends were there to watch me; that was awesome. And my teammates were so unselfish with the ball – I think I had to get 31 points (to get to 1,000), and whenever they’d get the ball they were thinking ‘E’. I think because it was so close, we wanted to push and get it that night.”

Transformer: “When I first came into (Mancelona) freshman year – I moved to this school in eighth grade (from Central Lake) – I wasn’t aware of how the varsity had been doing, and I didn’t even understand how much that (streak) was until we won our first game. Now that we look back on it, these last couple of years we haven’t been super successful, but I notice right now, I know I’m making an impact. I see it at the younger ages. We do these camps every year … and when I started out there would be two eighth graders or five seventh graders, but this past year the seventh and eighth grade teams have 38 together, and the JV has 12 (players). I want people to get more excited about girls basketball. I want Mancelona to keep growing and progressing. My sophomore year we had six or seven on the varsity team, so it was hard; this year we have nine girls, so that’s the most interest I’ve ever seen and it makes me excited.”

More to accomplish: “We wanted to win more games than in the past, and we’ve already achieved that. We recently beat Onaway and Joburg (Johannesburg-Lewiston), which we hadn’t beaten in 12-15 years. We want to beat them again and beat teams that we’ve been underdogs to for years and that no one expects us to beat. I can tell (from opponents) when we’re warming up that because they’re playing Mancelona, they think it’s going to be an easy win. But I want them to be surprised … because they always underestimate us.” 

Born to lead: “When I was a freshman, I had a really good art teacher who really was into leadership stuff, and the athletic director then let me go to a lot of leadership programs. Those definitely helped shape my leadership qualities and opened my eyes to what a leader should be, and I took a lot of notes. I try to be trustworthy and always try to work hard too – the captain of the team is expected to work hard – and if someone has questions they need to ask or if they need to confide in you, you can listen, but be strong too; you can’t be a pushover. When I was younger, I guess my confidence level, I didn’t realize how much that played a role in being a leader. … I want to build confidence in my teammates to show them that they are good players.”

Dr. Naniseni: “I would like to be a pediatric oncologist, or really anything in pediatrics because I love children. I think I’ll go into biology when I get up to Lake State; I’ve thought about being a teacher, but my family always has been medical-related, and the medical field fascinates me. I like how if (people) are hurting, you can give them something and make them better. That blows my mind sometimes.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2016-17 school year, Second Half and the Michigan 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 2016-17 honorees:
Jan. 12: Rory Anderson, Calumet hockey – Read
Dec. 15: Demetri Martin, Big Rapids basketball Read
Dec. 1: Rodney Hall, Detroit Cass Tech football Read
Nov. 24: Ally Cummings, Novi volleyball Read
Nov. 17: Chloe Idoni, Fenton volleyball Read
Nov. 10: Adelyn Ackley, Hart cross country Read
Nov. 3: Casey Kirkbride, Mattawan soccer – Read
Oct. 27: Colton Yesney, Negaunee cross country Read
Oct. 20: Varun Shanker, Midland Dow tennis Read
Oct. 13: Anne Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country – Read
Oct. 6: Shuaib Aljabaly, Coldwater cross country – Read
Sept. 29: Taylor Seaman, Brighton swimming & diving – Read
Sept. 22: Maggie Farrell, Battle Creek Lakeview cross country – Read
Sept. 15: Franki Strefling, Buchanan volleyball – Read
Sept. 8: Noah Jacobs, Corunna cross country – Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Eileene Naniseni, dribbling, works to get past a defender. (Middle) Naniseni, middle, holds up with teammates a banner celebrating her 1,000th point after reaching the milestone Jan. 11 against Fife Lake Forest Area. (Photos by Joanie Moore/

Hemlock, Rockford Follow 3-Point Success to 1st Titles, Record Book Fame

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

September 1, 2023

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:

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.