Perhaps the most obvious sign that the Centreville girls varsity basketball program had made a complete turnaround was the fact that it won a handful of games last winter that it shouldn’t have.
The Bulldogs also won a boatload of games decisively. After starting the year with a loss to Constantine, head coach Jill Peterson’s program rattled off 19 consecutive victories and won a Berrien-Cassopolis-St. Joseph Blue championship on its way to a 19-2 final record.
Under Peterson’s guidance, the Bulldogs went from a 4-15 squad her first season in 2013-14 to last year’s unprecedented run that included a No. 3 state ranking in The Associated Press Class C poll. In between were 13-10 (2014-15) and 14-7 (2015-16) seasons.
“We played Athens and we were down four with four seconds [left] and hit a couple free throws, stole the inbound and tied it, went into overtime and won,” Peterson recalled. “That shows a lot in terms of your resiliency as a team and just experience.”
Still, the program’s first District championship eluded it once again with a loss to Schoolcraft in the Final. It was the fourth straight year the Eagles ended Centreville’s season. This might have been the year the Bulldogs got revenge, but the District draws have been shuffled a bit, and the two schools will compete in different Districts in 2018.
Centreville returns eight players this season with varsity experience, and they “get along better than any team I’ve coached,” Peterson explained. After a short stint in the BCS, the Bulldogs are now members of the first-year Southwest 10 Conference.
The senior class consists of senior guard/forward Carly Todd, who averaged 4.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 2.6 steals per contest last year, Kayla Gest, a guard who registered 5.6 points, 2.5 rebounds and was a 28-percent 3-point shooter as a junior, guard Carlee Odom, who posted 6.7 points and 3.2 rebounds per outing, Brittany Morris, who averaged 3.1 points and 4.9 rebounds, and Morgan Walton, who is in her first year on the varsity team.
After making the all-BCS team as a freshman, sophomore forward Joanna Larsen is back and looking to retain the momentum from her rookie campaign that resulted in 7.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Fellow all-conference selection Samara Schlabach, who was also named an all-state honorable mention following her sophomore season last year, produced 9.3 points and six rebounds per game.
Those players, combined with juniors MaKenzi Troyer (guard), Abby Nighswonger (guard) Whitney Morris (guard) and Molly Kirby (forward), and sophomores Olivia Deeds (guard) and Kenleigh West-Wing (guard), have made Centreville’s practices just as competitive as their games so far.
Centreville is 1-1, dropping an overtime battle on the road against a talented Bronson squad.
“They push each other more than any team I’ve coached,” Peterson said. “That really speaks volumes for the progress we’ve made over the last four years — not just what the coaching staff is doing but what the players have put in and what they’re bringing to the table.”
The Bulldogs are set up this year inside and on the perimeter. Schlabach is a matchup nightmare in the paint on top of boasting a reliable jumper, and Larsen is equally tough to stop down low. The two come together defensively to all but shut down the lane and limit opponents’ second opportunities by clearing the boards.
Todd has accepted every challenge thrown at her over the years, including a post assignment as an undersized underclassman. Now she’s a big threat with the ball in her hands as a slashing guard with a good outside shot. Odom also has an eye and the ability to carve through defenses as the team’s floor leader. She’s another scoring concern for opponents, but her most important role will be feeding the post.
As a senior, Todd now realizes she has an even bigger responsibility to help mold the team’s attitude on a daily basis.
“What I’ve noticed is when it’s one of those days when I don’t really feel like talking, it’s like, ‘Come on, Carly, you’ve got to put on that mask like you’re in a good mood,’” she said. “If the leaders are in a bad mood, everybody else could be in a bad mood. I just have to be conscious of it.”
What might be the most crucial aspect of this team is the players’ complete disregard for winning streaks and rankings.
“Honestly, it didn’t even hit me that we were winning that many games or that we were ranked in the state,” Odom said. “I didn’t think about it much and still worked hard. But it was cool winning all those games.”
Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and ESPNChicago.com, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of JoeInsider.com. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.
Centreville team photo courtesy of JoeInsider.com.
The MHSAA and Holly school communities are grieving this week after the sudden loss of Tony Coggins, a shining light in his educational community and an enthusiastic supporter of school sports as a public address announcer for several of our largest championship events.
But while that cheerful tone has been quieted, it surely will not be forgotten by the many fortunate to enjoy an event in the presence of that voice and the joyfulness he brought into every arena, press box and classroom.
Coggins, 51, died Saturday. He is survived by his wife Kristy and children Emma and Bradlee, among several family and friends from his local and greater sports communities.
His career as a PA announcer began during his freshman year of high school in 1985, when his father Dale Coggins – Flushing’s athletic director at the time – couldn’t find anyone else to announce middle school football games. That was 39 years ago, and this fall Tony Coggins was in his 24th announcing at Holly, where he taught and served as an administrator in addition to his role as “Voice of the Holly Bronchos” for football, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, competitive cheer and swimming & diving over the years.
Coggins has been a mainstay among MHSAA Finals PA announcers over the last decade in football, basketball, softball and most recently volleyball. He lent his voice to college sports at University of Michigan as well. “Tony was a huge part of our Finals events. It’s hard to imagine it being the same without him,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said.
As part of the run-up to the MHSAA public address announcers clinic in 2018, Coggins said this about what drew him to the microphone:
“I have zero athletic ability whatsoever, which is interesting because my father was an all-state running back. But I enjoy being involved, and I've always been the one for history and statistics and knowing what's going on,” Coggins said. “This is a way for me to be involved. It's a way for me to use a talent I've been given; public speaking has always come pretty naturally for me.
“So I worked at my craft to get better. I got better from watching the people around me, from studying the people I like, and the people – if I saw someone I didn’t care for – I'd make a note and say to myself, ‘Don't do that.’ I take feedback from people very personally, and I mean that in a good way. If somebody takes the time to come up and say, ‘You did this well; I think you should change this,’ that means they care about the program also. We all have the same goal in mind, and that's to make the experience good for the high school student and the parents, the fans, that come there.”
Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, at St. John Vianney, 2415 Bagley Street in Flint. There will be visitation from 2-8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, at the Swartz Funeral Home, 1225 West Hill Road, and at the church from 10 a.m. Saturday until the time of the Mass.
The Holly volleyball team played for something bigger tonight
Beloved PA announcer Anthony Coggins died on Friday night from a heart attack
— Brandon Green🍀 (@BGreenReports) October 24, 2023