Riley Sisters, Fowler Hold Off Baraga Rush to Earn Repeat Opportunity

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

March 17, 2022

EAST LANSING – With Thursday night’s Division 4 Semifinal hanging in the balance, Fowler coach Nathan George knew who he could count on.

In fact, he knew two players he could look lean on in tense moments, and they happen to be from the same family.

Emma and Mia Riley made clutch free throws during the final minute to stave off a furious comeback attempt from upset-minded Baraga.

The Eagles hung on to defeat the Vikings 51-45 at the Breslin Center and advance to the Finals for the second straight year as they seek to repeat as Division 4 champions.

“They play a lot of basketball, so there’s not a lot of situations where they get truly overwhelmed,” George said. “So I had confidence in them that they were going to hit free throws. It got crazy late, but we were lucky the ball bounced our way and we were able to put the game away.”

Mia Riley, a senior, delivered a double-double with a game-high 24 points and 11 rebounds, while Emma, a junior, had 17 points and nine rebounds.

Baraga/Fowler basketballClinging to a one-point lead (45-44) with 54 seconds left, Mia Riley made a pair of free throws to extend the lead.

After Baraga’s Reide Osterman made 1 of 2 free throws, it was Emma Riley’s turn with 29 seconds left, and she too calmly knocked down both to give the Eagles a four-point cushion.

“It’s like everything you’ve ever practiced for and it makes all that hard work pay off when you can be in that position and finally get the chance to prove yourself,” Mia Riley said. “That was the time to step up, and I’m thankful that I did it.”

Said Emma Riley: “It was pretty scary to be up there and just knowing that we needed the free throws, but we just had to do exactly what we always practice and they should fall.”

Fowler (23-3) will have the opportunity to repeat as Division 4 champion facing Plymouth Christian Academy in Saturday’s 10 a.m. Final.

“Since we've been here before, we’re somewhat used to playing at the Breslin so it’s kind of a comforting thing to know that we’ve been here and we’ve done it before,” Mia Riley said. “We can do it again, and we have those capabilities. It’s a lot nicer since we can have the stands filled and it's not so quiet like last year.”

Fowler built a commanding first-quarter lead as its defense forced turnovers that led to easy baskets on the other end.

Avery Koenigsknecht knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cap a 12-0 run as the Eagles held a 17-4 advantage.

Baraga trimmed the deficit to 28-18 by halftime and got as close as one from the lead twice during the decisive fourth quarter.

“Give Baraga a lot of credit because they played a good game and probably worked harder than us overall,” George said. “That's something I didn’t expect, and we need to be much more focused and play with more energy come Saturday. I fully believe we will, but I hope this was a wake-up call for the girls and I know it was for me.”

Baraga (23-2) was making its first trip to the Semifinals since 1992, and was the only Upper Peninsula school to make it this far this week.

First-year coach Tyler Larson was proud of his team’s effort in nearly erasing the early double-digit deficit and upsetting the reigning champion.

“Just a tough one,” Larson said. “We didn’t come out the way we wanted to, but we kept it close enough where we could hang around in the second half.

“It was like a boxing match with taking turns swinging and landing punches. We climbed our way back, and I’m very proud of the way the girls handled a little adversity on such a big stage. We just fell a little short in the end.”

Osterman, a senior, led the Vikings with 17 points and nine rebounds, while sophomore Makenna Hendrickson added eight points and eight rebounds.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Fowler’s Mia Riley (25) drives the lane during Thursday’s Division 4 Semifinal win at Breslin Center. (Middle) Baraga’s Kylie Michaelson (15) gets a shot up over the Eagles’ defense. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)