Record-Chasing Pittsford Again 20-0

February 23, 2018

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

Chris Hodos is up for a challenge. In fact, he and his Pittsford girls basketball have been preparing for it for weeks.

The Wildcats on Thursday completed their fourth consecutive 20-0 regular season. Overall, they have won 75 consecutive games, just three shy of the MHSAA record in girls basketball.

If they are going to break the state consecutive wins record and take a third consecutive MHSAA championship trophy home to Hillsdale County next month, they are going to have to do it a rung higher on Michigan’s girls basketball ladder. The Wildcats are Class C this year after claiming Class D titles the last two seasons.

Hodos knows the road will be tougher. 

“I expected to go 20-0,” he said. “We lost two all-staters, and people saw that and figured there was no way we’d go 20-0 again. But, I knew what we had coming back.”

Chief among those returning Wildcats is 5-foot-7 senior guard Marissa Shaw, the team’s leading scorer at 13.6 points per game – and something of a thief. The Jackson College signee has nearly 400 steals in her career.

“She set our school record with 15 steals in a game this year,” Hodos said. “She’s had two triple-doubles with points, steals and assists. She’s been in double figures in assists four times. She’s a real aggressive player.”

Shaw has been on the varsity since her freshman year, playing three minutes in the 2015 Class D Final loss to St. Ignace. That was the last time Pittsford lost a game. All five starters this year have played in multiple MHSAA championship games.

It’s likely no team in the state can match that type of big-game experience.

“All five of my starters have been on the team for three years,” Hodos said. “They’ve been to the Breslin Center through all of this. They know about what it takes to get there and what it’s like to play there. They all have experience. That’s something you can’t teach.”

The deep tournament runs have meant several more weeks of practice than a typical high schooler will play. Pittsford’s played 15 postseason games over the past two seasons alone.

That big-game experience probably played a hand in one of Pittsford’s biggest regular-season wins this year – a 68-56 win over Tri-County Conference champion Morenci. The Class D Bulldogs – who feature a pair of 1,000-point scorers in Mady Schmitz and Daelyn Merillat – were up 10 at halftime. Hodos made a defensive adjustment. and the comeback was on. Pittsford forged a tie at 44-44 going into the fourth quarter and outscored Morenci by 12 during the final eight minutes.

“They are so disciplined,” Morenci coach Larry Bruce said. “They are never out of position on defense. I watched the tape on them four or five times. The girls are never out of position. They made a really good adjustment at halftime, and their depth got to us. They are solid.”

Pittsford won the Southern Central Athletic Association East by six games, going 17-0 in league play. But, that’s all over now. It’s time for the MHSAA tournament. The last time Pittsford played in Class C was 2014-15 when it was erased in the District Final by Adrian Madison.

This year’s Class C tournament starts Monday for Pittsford when it goes on the road to play Clinton, the District host.

As the saying goes, the 101-1 record over the past 102 games is thrown out the window when the tournament starts.

“We’ll run into some good teams,” Hodos said. “I have probably four or five potential teams that we could play on film. I like breaking down film and staying up all night.”

If any potential opponents are staying up all night watching Pittsford on film, they’ll notice something very familiar about the Wildcats’ offense. It’s the same one Hodos has used for at least a decade.

“I run a Bill Self offense, a high-low game,” he said, referring to the Kansas men’s basketball coach. “I’ve ran that since I was a JV coach, and it’s worked. We run it every year. People say you have to change things up or run something different, but, why, if its works? 

"We get all kinds of different looks out of it, but that’s what it starts with. The girls know where to be. The repetition helps us. You see a lot of times where basketball players make bad passes. Often, it’s because they don’t know where someone is going to. They get lost in the play. We run the same thing. The girls know where each other will be.”

Besides Shaw, the other seniors for Pittsford are Hannah Patterson and Sydni Brunette, a 3-point sharpshooter. Junior Kennedy Chesney is a 53-percent field goal shooter averaging nearly eight points a game. Junior Alison Toner averages just under double figures. Hodos has three sophomores on the varsity, too.

“We do it more by committee this season,” he said. “We have a lot of girls contributing. That’s how I knew we’d be pretty good.”

Bruce, who’s coached off-and-on for 50 years, was impressed with what he saw in Pittsford last year and this season.

“They won’t embarrass themselves, I’m sure of that,” Bruce said. “People will have trouble with them. Shaw is really good, but after that there is no drop off for the next seven or eight girls. They all play well.”

Hodos is a Pittsford graduate who played football at Adrian College and returned to Hillsdale County to teach and coach. He currently works with students at the Hillsdale County Youth Home. He sometimes leans on his old college coach or other friends in the business for advice or just to talk about coaching. He’s been an assistant coach for more than 15 years with the Pittsford football team, running the defense.

“I try to get my knowledge from everywhere,” he said.

The record consecutive victory streak for boys basketball in Michigan ended this season when Powers North Central – winners of 84 straight – lost in December to Rapid River. The Jets’ is the longest streak in Michigan prep basketball history.

By beating Camden-Frontier on Thursday, Pittsford became tied with Flint Northern for second place on the all-time girls consecutive victory list with 75 straight wins. To tie Carney-Nadeau’s record of 78 straight, Pittsford will have to win the District. To break the record, they’ll have to win a Regional game.

That’s a long way off, but Hodos isn’t worried about it. He’s embracing it.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “It’s something different. I’m excited about it. I like scheduling different teams every year. A couple of years ago we played a couple of Class A schools that I found that would play us. It’s exciting.”

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 Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Pittsford’s Marissa Shaw brings the ball upcourt during last season’s Class D Semifinal win over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. (Middle) Wildcats coach Chris Hodos talks things over with his team during the championship game victory against Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary. 

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.)