Performance: Renaissance's Kailee Davis

February 20, 2020

Kailee Davis
Detroit Renaissance junior – Basketball

The Phoenix’s guard scored a team-high 34 points with seven 3-pointers to lead Renaissance past Detroit Cass Tech 81-55 in Friday’s Detroit Public School League Tournament championship game, earning the MHSAA “Performance of the Week.” The PSL overall championship was Renaissance’s first since 2011, and Davis has set the pace as the team has since improved to 17-2 with one more game next week before the postseason begins.

Phoenix coach Shane Lawal called Davis the best junior in the state after the Cass Tech win, and he has plenty to back that up. The 5-foot-4 Davis was averaging a team-leading 16.8 points per game on 50-percent shooting from the floor heading into Wednesday night’s win over Flint Carman-Ainsworth. She had made 35 3-pointers and also was averaging 3.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game. Her numbers have come against a schedule loaded with MHSAA title contenders – Renaissance’s opponents have a combined .643 winning percentage – and she often defers to a talented group of teammates, which include four other starters already holding college basketball scholarship offers. The Phoenix’ only loss came to reigning Division 2 champion Detroit Edison, 54-52 on Feb. 1, and Davis scored a game-high 22 points against the Pioneers’ star-studded lineup. She should get a chance to show her skills on the playoff stage over the next month; Renaissance currently is ranked No. 3 in Division 1 in the MHSAA's Michigan Power Ratings.

Davis also played baseball growing up and is considering playing softball at Renaissance as a senior. She’s been on the basketball varsity since freshman year and continues to be all hoops right now, and has made a variety of campus visits and picked up eight Division I scholarship offers with interest from a number of other programs. She is interested in studying criminal justice after high school with aspirations of becoming a detective. 

Coach Shane Lawal said: “Basketball is a game of height. So height is always measured into talent, unfortunately. (But) as far as shooting off the dribble, shooting off the catch, finishing with her left or right hand, finishing in traffic, ball-handling – not just bringing the ball up but under pressure, her shiftiness, her passing ability. ... There's a lot of great juniors in the state, but a lot of them have that height that's added to their attributes. I think if she was four inches taller, everybody would be saying the same things I'm saying. She can score on all three levels. That's something that a lot of high school kids can't do – rim, mid-range and 3-point. Defensively, she’s really underrated; she leads us in steals, covers lots of ground. Her IQ offensive and defensively is extremely high. She just sees the game, and she knows how to make reads and just make the right play. ... I have five great starters. I think if she's playing for a lot of teams she's averaging 25 points a game. She averages 17 because she only needs to average 17. She has so much talent around her that she doesn't have to be superwoman.”

Performance Point: “Coming into the game, I didn't really think I'd have to score a lot of points and take over in the game,” Davis said of the PSL final. “But the way the game was coming to me at the beginning, I just had a feeling that I was going to have a good game. Then my coach just told me to keep shooting, so in the third quarter and fourth quarter I was just shooting the rock when I was open, and just taking good shots. ... (Early) I was getting my points off of playing defense. My shots were just falling. I was going to the rim and to the free throw line, getting my teammates the ball. ... We just work hard every practice. We practice to get to the bigger picture, because our goal is to win a state championship. And we know we've got what it takes to beat any team that's in front of us, so we just came in wanting to play hard.”


Energized: “I feel like our energy is different, like energy from the coach and the coaching staff. And we just all want it more this year because we know we could've had it the last two years, and we know we were good. We just didn't have the drive. … A lot of (the energy) came from our coach. When he first came in, he came in telling us that our goal from the beginning of the season was to win a state championship. Every practice we just set our goal, and we just practice hard all the time and play hard all the time.”


Big game: “I feel like me being shorter, or smaller, gives me an advantage because I'm quicker than most people. I just try to show people that even though I'm small, I can still do all of the things that anybody bigger than me can do. (Bigger players) think they either can shoot over me or block all of my shots. So I like the challenge when I play against them.”


Finding her groove: “Right now the best part (of my game), I’m letting the game come to me. Playing hard, so I don't have to force my shots. I get my teammates involved first, and then I'll get my groove going. (And) each year my shooting has gotten better. I shoot a lot at practice, and the advantage is me shooting with more confidence.”


All shark: “We learned that we have to play hard every game. We can't just turn it on when we want to. We have to go out playing hard every game, no matter who we're playing against. (That idea) kicked in in the beginning of this year. On the back of our shooting shirts we have this slogan that says "#ClownsAndSharks" And it's like, which one are you? So we treat all of the teams the same way. We don't underestimate any team.”

– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Past honorees

Feb. 13: Jamison Ward, Carson City-Crystal wrestling - Report
Feb. 6:
Elena Vargo, Farmington United gymnastics - Report
Jan. 31:
Michael Wolsek, Trenton swimming - Report
Jan. 24:
Kensington Holland, Utica Ford bowling - Report
Jan. 17:
Claycee West, White Pigeon basketball - Report
Jan. 10: 
Seth Lause, Livonia Stevenson hockey - Report
Dec. 5: Mareyohn Hrabowski, River Rouge football - Report
Nov. 28:
Kathryn Ackerman, Grand Haven swimming - Report
Nov. 21:
Emily Van Dyke, Southfield Christian volleyball - Report
Nov. 14:
Taylor Wegener, Ida volleyball - Report
Nov. 7:
Carter Solomon, Plymouth cross country - Report
Oct. 31: 
Jameson Goorman, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Oct. 24:
Austin Plotkin, Brimley cross country
- Report
Oct. 17:
Jack Spamer, Brighton cross country - Report
Oct. 10:
Kaylee Maat, Hudsonville volleyball - Report
Oct. 3:
Emily Paupore, Negaunee cross country - Report
Sept. 26: 
Josh Mason, South Lyon soccer - Report
Sept. 19: Ariel Chang, Utica Eisenhower golf - Report
Sept. 12: Jordyn Shipps, DeWitt swimming - Report

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Renaissance's Kailee Davis makes a move toward the basket against Detroit Cody this season. (Middle) Davis prepares to pull up for a jumper during last week's PSL final against Cass Tech. (Photos courtesy of State Champs Sports Network.)

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for

April 5, 2024

It won’t be hard for Jayden Marlatt to remember opening day on the softball field from any of her four years at Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAs a freshman, she missed the opener due to needing to quarantine. Her sophomore and junior years started on the road because the Cardinals’ field was under construction.  

This season the Cardinals will open up — weather permitting — on their brand-new field, hosting Mio on Monday, April 8.  Marlatt is slated to be the starting pitcher again and add to her school record collection.

While Johannesburg-Lewiston is looking forward to playing on the new diamond, Marlatt and her teammates have high hopes of finishing the season almost 200 miles south. They’re looking to get back to Michigan State University – the site of the Division 4 Semifinals and Final.

The Cards have had their sites on that goal since they fell 4-2 to Mendon in last year’s Semifinal at Secchia Stadium. The loss ended a 30-4-1 campaign that saw the Cardinals play every game on the road for a second consecutive year, but come up only one victory short of a first championship game appearance.

The trip to East Lansing also came after the Cards won the program’s first District title since 2008 and advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 1981.

“It has been a long two seasons on the road,” said eighth-year head coach Kim Marlatt, noting the team utilized a Little League field for practices during the stretch. “They’ve been putting in a lot of work in the offseason, so it is excited to get going.”

Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. The new field isn’t the only new things this spring. The Cardinals will have a junior varsity team for the first time during the Marlatt’s tenure. The JV squad is coached by Ryan Marlatt, who has been serving the program the past eight years as assistant coach. He also has been the head girls basketball coach at JoBurg the past two seasons.

The Marlatt coaches are the proud parents of Jayden, who continues to garner recognition as perhaps the greatest athlete in Johannesburg-Lewiston’s history. 

The three-sport star had a huge hand in all that JoBurg accomplished last season leading the team in batting average (.670), home runs (13) and runs batted in (61). As the team’s ace pitcher, she collected 249 strikeouts and compiled a 1.32 ERA.

“Jayden has put in the hard work,” Kim pointed out.  “She is a very humble athlete. ‘She doesn’t like to talk about herself. She likes to compete, and she likes to be on the top of her game for her teammates.”

Jayden has been named all-conference and all-state in softball, basketball and volleyball nearly every season over her four years at JoBurg. She’s led her teams to Ski Valley Conference, District and Regional titles along the way.

She’s also been named Player of the Year by multiple publications. And she’s a front runner to be voted the Most Valuable Player of the Ski Valley Conference in softball. Earlier this year, league coaches voted her the MVP for both basketball and volleyball.  

“The Ski Valley never used to vote on an MVP,” Ryan Marlatt said. “Hopefully she can add the triple crown and get softball this year.”

Jayden Marlatt, who has played all three sports all four years, acknowledged softball is perhaps her most treasured, and she’ll continue in that sport at Ferris State. Her career total of more than 500 strikeouts, and her 14 home runs last season, are both JoBurg school records. "I like them all but probably softball,” she confirmed when asked to name her favorite sport.

She averaged 12 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and four steals per game this winter helping the Cards basketball team to a conference runner-up finish. She was key to JoBurg's ability to put a 12-game winning streak together, and she topped the 1,000-point career mark along the way.

Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season.Her outstanding senior year on the basketball court and this spring’s possibilities nearly vanished as the volleyball season ended.

She suffered what looked to be a serious lower-leg injury in the final game of the JoBurg volleyball season. “She finished in the emergency room,” Kim Marlatt said.  

Diagnosed a high ankle sprain, it was an aggravation to an injury from her junior year in basketball. She wasn’t quite at 100 percent on the basketball court this season until the holiday break. She’s starting the softball season healthy, though.

Before the injury, Jayden led the Cards to their third volleyball conference championship over the last four years. After becoming JoBurg's all-time kills leader during her junior season, and with many of her teammates from her first three seasons graduating, Jayden had to fill a variety of roles while anchoring the offense from her outside hitter spot.

She ended up leading the team in both kills with 421 and digs, with 431, in her final season on the volleyball court. And she is listed among MHSAA’s all-time leaders in kills for a single match and career.

It’s more than Marlatt’s stats that stand out for Kristine Peppin, the school’s volleyball coach the past 15 years.

“It is not about the size of the school or the size of the player, it’s the heart that they have inside,” she proclaimed. “This girl would be a successful player on whatever team she was on. 

“Yes we’re a small school, small town,” she continued. “That kind of leadership and heart and drive to be the best is what’s given her that success.”

Marlatt’s work ethic is second to none, Peppin noted. She never saw Jayden give less than a “1,000” percent in practice or games in her career. 

Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt.“She’s a super hard worker and extremely modest for the kind of skill she possesses and the success she’s had,” Peppin said. “Her teammates think it’s amazing to be on her team.”

Marlatt’s volleyball skills caught the eye of at least one of her conference opponents’ coaches back in junior high. Ron Stremlow was performing one of his many coaching duties for Fife Lake Forest Area when he first saw Jayden on the volleyball court.

“I could tell then this girl was somebody special,” said Stremlow, who became one of the winningest coaches in state volleyball history with the Warriors. “When she got in high school, it just took off.

“She puts the time into it, and she works hard,” Stremlow continued. “Kids like that get what they deserve – they work for it.”

Stremlow, now retired, also acknowledged he’s enjoyed being able to watch the hard-throwing Marlatt on the softball field the last couple of seasons as Forest Area hosted the Cardinals consecutively due to JoBurg’s lack of a home field.

It’s something he’ll have to travel to do this year though, as JoBurg is scheduled to host the Warriors on April 15.

The Cardinals also will host a Regional on their new field June 8. The winners of District play at Rogers City, Harbor Springs, St. Ignace and Gaylord St. Mary will participate.

To play in the Regional, the Cards will have to emerge from the Rogers City District featuring the host Hurons, Atlanta, Hillman, Onaway, and Posen.

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Jayden Marlatt drives a pitch during softball season. (2) Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. (3) Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season. (4) Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt. (Action shots by Dylan Jespersen/Petoskey News-Review; family photo by Breya Domke.)