Pittsford Caps Finals Return as Champ

March 19, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

EAST LANSING – Laura Smith's emotions whirled like a tornado Saturday afternoon.

After her team came so close a year ago to winning its first MHSAA championship, the Pittsford senior was ecstatic. 

But realizing immediately that her four-year varsity career was done after an incredible 91-8 run, she was sad as well.

What a way to finish. The Wildcats, who ended their first MHSAA Finals trip with an overtime loss a year ago, all but wrapped up their first championship during the third quarter of a 48-30 Class D victory over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart at the Breslin Center.

“Just coming here last year, I was so nervous. Then we lost, and it was devastating,” Smith said. “This year, when we won, I didn’t know how to feel. I was so happy, and then I started crying because it was my last game. I don’t want to leave these girls; they’re my best friends, and we play so well together on the court. But I’ll come back next year and watch them win again.”

Pittsford closed this winter 27-0, to go with finishes of 16-6, 22-1 and 26-1, respectively, over the last three seasons.

And “tornado” was the operative word of the day, the result of the Wildcats’ most meaningful lesson learned during last season’s championship game loss to St. Ignace.

Pittsford led that game 34-21 at halftime and by eight with a  quarter to play before the Saints came back to tie it by the end of regulation and win 64-60 with the extra period. 

Hence “tornado,” Pittsford’s appropriately named halfcourt pressure defense that led to many of Sacred Heart’s 29 turnovers – off which the Wildcats scored 37 of their 48 points. 

“We kept our intensity up the entire game, pressuring the entire game,” Pittsford junior guard Jaycie Burger said. “Last year … we came out and our defense just fell apart. The whole game (today), at halftime, we told each other we have to play defense, we’re still playing defense, and that’s what helped us out.

“We really wanted to win this game a lot, and every time we scored a basket, got a turnover, we were just that much closer to winning the game.”

That began to become apparent during Pittsford’s 9-0 run to end the first half that included six Sacred Heart turnovers and put the Wildcats up 22-13.

The run continued with the first seven points of the third quarter, coming off three more turnovers. 

“Their pressure really caused us to move a little faster than we wanted to,” Sacred Heart coach Damon Brown said. “They made it difficult for us to get into our offense, and when you can’t get into your offense it’s difficult to be effective. I thought we did a good job in the first half of managing that, but then they had that run right there at halftime. I think that got us on our heels, and we were scrambling a bit to try to adjust from there.”

The Irish (24-2) had been held to 30 or fewer points three more times this season, but had won all three of those games. 

“We can still work on it,” Pittsford coach Chris Hodos joked. “No, our defense is outstanding. You saw it in our Semifinal game. Our Quarterfinal game, I think we had 24 steals. I asked them to work harder (earlier this winter). We went to some different drills halfway through the season. They did what I asked them – a pretty easy team to coach.”

Like Waterford Our Lady on Thursday, Sacred Heart also couldn’t contain Pittsford junior forward Maddie Clark. She made 10 of 15 shots for 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to go with her 24 points and 16 rebounds in the Semifinal.

She and senior Madison Ayers also combined to stifle Irish senior center Averi Gamble, who got off only five shots and finished with eight points – half her average. Freshman guard Scout Nelson was the team’s leading scorer with nine. 

Gamble and senior guard Megan English also started on the team that won the Class D championship in 2014. This season they were joined in the starting lineup by three underclassmen and mentored a team that should return the other five players who saw the floor Saturday.

“It doesn’t always have to be about winning. Just being with these girls is a blessing in itself,” Gamble said.

“The way these girls competed all 32 minutes, that was just amazing,” English added. “I wouldn’t want to play with any other team and finish with any other team.” 

Ayers, who like Smith played on the varsity as a freshman and sophomore, took off last season but returned this winter after being persuaded by her past and now current teammates and also by how much desire they showed during last season’s run. Ayers finished with eight points and Burger had 11, three assists and four steals.

All but Smith and Ayers should be back next season, when the Wildcats will attempt to add to the current juniors’ career record of 75-2.

“From (when we were) little, we’ve always wanted to win,” Clark said. “Seventy-five and two, that’s pretty amazing. We want to keep it going; (we've) got one more year. 

“When we were little we played junior pro together, and our junior pro record growing up was like 100-10, so we don’t really know how to lose,” Burger added. “I mean, we don’t like to lose. … It’s been a great, great opportunity that we’ve had. To go through three years with only two losses is a really special thing, and I’m just thankful we get to do it together.”

Click for the full box score.

The Girls Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System.  

PHOTOS: (Top) Pittsford players including Laura Smith (14) and Madison Ayers (15) celebrate their first MHSAA girls basketball championship. (Middle) Sacred Heart’s Sophie Ruggles works to get to the basket as Pittsford’s Maddie Clark defends.

St. George's Senior Season Filled with Historic Trip, Sizzling 3-Point Shooting

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

May 21, 2024

Delaney St. George helped Kingston reach its first MHSAA Girls Basketball Final this winter – and along the way finished her high school career among the most prolific 3-point shooters in state history.

The four-year varsity senior made 87 3-pointers this season for the Division 4 runner-up Cardinals, good to tie for 10th on the single-season list after she made 93 as a junior to rank fourth all-time.

She finished her Kingston career with 290 3-pointers in 793 attempts over 94 games – good for second on the career 3-pointers list.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA girls basketball record book, and click on the heading to see the record book in full.

Girls Basketball

Hemlock’s 18-6 run this season was fueled in part by more successful 3-point shooting. The Huskies made single-season lists with 170 3-pointers and 552 attempts, and also for making 14 3-pointers Jan. 5 against St. Louis.

Senior Mia McLaughlin made nine of 15 3-point shots for Frankenmuth in a Feb. 6 win over Birch Run as the Eagles made the team record book list with 15 3-pointers total. They also were added for 14 3-pointers in a Feb. 20 win over Bay City John Glenn. McLaughlin will continue her career at Ferris State.

McBain sophomore Peyton Grant scored all 27 of her points Jan. 17 against Houghton Lake on nine 3-pointers to make the single-game list in that category.

Seniors Autumn Tremblay and Ceara LeBlanc earned Brimley’s first girls basketball record book listings this season. Both made single-game lists in a Feb. 27 win over Harbor Springs Harbor Light Christian – Tremblay scored 21 points during the first quarter and LeBlanc had 16 steals for the game – and LeBlanc also was added for 141 steals total over 25 games this past winter.

Reed City’s run at the Central State Activities Association title this winter was fueled in part by 3-point shooting. The Coyotes finished one game out of first, but made the records with 517 3-point attempts over 24 games – and just missed the made 3-pointers list connecting on 143.

Howell sophomore Gabrielle Piepho added her third record book listing over her first two seasons this winter making 89.2 percent of her free throw attempts to rank eighth on that single-season list. Howell as a team also made the 3-point attempts list with 536 over 25 games, and also just missed the 3-pointers made list with 146.

Saline finished the 2023-24 season among the all-time leading 3-point shooters again, this time with 192 – 14th-most for one season – in 587 attempts over 24 games. Sophomore Keira Roehm led the way with 78 3-pointers, tying for 21st on that list.

Junior Tamerah Peterson led Sterling Heights Parkway Christian to a District title this season, providing a record-setting defensive boost in addition to her offensive skills. She finished with 173 steals – eighth-most for one season – over 21 games.

Niles Brandywine reached Breslin Center this season with another stellar distance shooting display, making the record book with both 186 3-pointers and 610 attempts from beyond the arc in finishing Division 3 runner-up.

Alie Bisballe capped her career at Lake City this winter by helping her team reach the Division 3 Semifinal at Breslin Center – and by reaching the MHSAA girls basketball record book in two categories. The 6-foot-4 post player made the lists with 329 rebounds and 188 blocked shots, both in 28 games as Lake City finished 25-3. She will continue her career at Wisconsin.

Ironwood junior Hanna Vaughn will enter her final season next winter already on the career 3-pointers list. She’s made 155 3-pointers over her first three seasons and 70 games on varsity.

PHOTO Kingston’s Delaney St. George (10) pulls up for a shot during the Division 4 Final against Ishpeming.