Powerful Post Pair Fueling Columbia Central's Postseason Hopes

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

February 25, 2022

BROOKLYN – The gymnasium at Brooklyn Columbia Central High School has been the site of some intense battles among two high-energy post players for the past three years. But only a handful of people have been in attendance to watch.

That’s because most of them have come during the Golden Eagles’ practices. 

It is at those practices, run by Columbia Central coach Codi Cole, where 6-foot-2 junior Zoie Bamm and 6-3 senior Tadessa Brown have scrapped, battled, and molded themselves into future Division I college basketball players.

“It doesn’t do me a lot of good to practice and post up against someone 5-2,” Brown said. “Zoie and I have had some great battles. I love going against her. She’s strong and has some muscle. We battle hard, usually until the coach makes us stop.”

Those battles have launched some great success for Columbia Central, which clinched its fourth-consecutive Lenawee County Athletic Association championship Thursday with a win over Dundee. The Golden Eagles had a streak of 37 straight conference wins snapped earlier this season but have rebounded nicely and are eying a deep tournament run.

Cole is a basketball junkie who graduated from East Jackson in 2003. He was coaching travel basketball through the Michigan Sports Facility in Jackson, where he works, when he applied and landed the Columbia Central job.

“One of the parents encouraged me to apply,” Cole said. “I wasn’t their first or second choice and when I got the job. I was told they wanted someone with more varsity experience.”

It didn’t take long for Cole to bring a championship attitude to the program.

CC went 10-11 in his first season in 2017-18. Since then, however, it’s been championship after championship. Over the last four years, the Golden Eagles have gone 15-5, 20-3, 16-4 and they are 14-4 this year. In the LCAA, Columbia Central is 49-2 since the start of the 2018-19 season. 

“I’m blessed to be at a school where there are some people obsessed with basketball,” Cole said. 

Brooklyn Columbia Central basketballHe has as familiar face on his bench – his high school coach Jim Nelson has been an assistant the last four years. Nelson has coached basketball for 40 years in the Jackson area.

“When I came to coach, I asked him to coach with me,” Cole said. “It’s great having him with me.”

This season some of the younger players on the team had to grow up faster than expected. The team lacked experience other than Bamm and Brown, and Bamm was slowed at the start due to an injury.

“We played (Parma) Western in the first game and lost and scored 17 points,” Cole said. “Frankly, that’s not what we are used to. We didn’t have Zoie and had a lot of inexperience. It took a second to get going with the new crew. There were some struggles.”

After the season-opening loss, Columbia Central won three games, then ran into Onsted. The Wildcats ended up winning, 46-34.

“That was a big eye-opener for us,” Cole said. “After that, we started rolling.”

Since the Onsted loss, Columbia Central has lost only to 2021 Division 3 champion Grass Lake and Division 1 Temperance Bedford.

“I’d say we came together as a team,” Bamm said. “We were young coming into the season, and we needed to make things work. I expected us to develop as the season went on.”

Bamm eased into the season. She tore her ACL last April and spent the entire offseason rehabilitating her knee. When this season started, she didn’t get the approval from her surgeon to play right away.

Brooklyn Columbia Central basketball“He didn’t think I was ready,” Bamm said. “He wanted me to keep practicing.”

After the opening-game loss, however, Bamm returned to the court. At first her minutes were limited, but that didn’t last long. Now her and Brown both average about 14 points a game. In Thursday’s win over Dundee, Bamm had 25 points, 19 rebounds and nine blocks in one of her best games of the season. Junior Anna McCollum leads the team in 3-pointers and is third on the team in scoring. 

“There is always room to grow,” Brown said. “There’s so much more we can do to get better. We want to keep playing for as long as we can.”

Besides the practice battles between Brown and Bamm, the Golden Eagles also spend time watching film to get better.

“We watch a lot of film,” Brown said. “I watch film with Coach. We are always looking for things that can make us better. We try and change the small things, especially with the younger girls on the team.”

Brown, the only senior, and Bamm, started playing together when Brown was in eighth grade on a travel team.

“We became friends even then,” Bamm said. “We’ve been training together a long time.”

Brown said the duo has enjoyed their practice battles. 

“She’s so great to practice with,” Brown said. “She’s going to be a Division I player too.”

Brown had some college offers, but she couldn’t quite find the right fit. That’s when she assembled some of her film and sent an email to Division I coaches around the country.

“Clemson was one of the schools that contacted me back,” she said. “We started communicating and I made an unofficial, virtual visit and I loved the campus and everyone there. It is such a family atmosphere there. They accept you for who you are, and their coaches are amazing. I cannot wait to get my career started there.”

Before college, however, Columbia Central has more work to do. The Golden Eagles open the postseason as the No. 2 seed in a Division 3 District that includes Big 8 Conference champion Jonesville. They have a final regular-season game tonight to try and wrap up a 13-1 LCAA campaign.

“The other day in practice I started looking around and thought we only have a few practices left,” Brown said. “It was truly like, ‘Where did the time go?’ moment. On senior night, I realized this was the last time I am going to play in this gym. It’s so surreal. I’m happy with everything that happened here.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Tadessa Brown, right, and Zoie Bamm take a photo together during Brown’s college signing event. (Middle) Bamm and Brown’s friendship goes back to middle school. (Below) Bamm calls for the ball during a game against Hudson. (Photos courtesy of Amanda Bamm.)

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

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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.