Rockford Turns Breslin Orange On Way to Earning Championship Day Debut
By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com
March 17, 2023
EAST LANSING – Even on St. Patrick’s Day, seemingly the entire town of Rockford managed to turn the normally green Breslin Center into a sea of orange for Friday’s second Division 1 Semifinal at Breslin Center.
Both coaches admitted that the raucous Rockford crowd – almost all wearing orange T-shirts with a Rams logo on the front and filling about half of the lower bowl – had a huge impact on the game, particularly the start, as the Rams bolted to a 24-7 lead after the first quarter.
“How about those Rockford fans?” said sixth-year Rams coach Brad Wilson, before he even introduced his players at the postgame press conference. “When you look out there and see a sea of orange, it’s unbelievable.”
Buoyed by that crowd and equally unbelievable shooting, Rockford blitzed Detroit Renaissance, 65-42, to advance to the Division 1 championship game for the first time in school history.
Rockford, 27-1 and winners of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red, will face reigning champion West Bloomfield in Saturday’s 12:15 p.m. title game.
The game will be a rematch of last year’s epic Semifinal, where West Bloomfield prevailed, 66-63, before knocking off Hartland the next day for the title.
The Rams would love to get off to the type of start they had on Friday.
Rockford made 11-of-13 field goals (84.6 percent) in the first quarter, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range, getting the huge crowd involved early.
“We didn’t come out scared at all,” said Rockford junior sharpshooter Grace Lyons, noting it was helpful that her team played at the Breslin last year. “We came out ready to play from the get-go, and now we want to finish this thing.”
Lyons led all scorers with 23 points, making 3-of-6 from 3-point range, while senior Michigan Tech commit Alyssa Wypych scored 13 points with a game-high seven rebounds and her sophomore sister, Anna Wypych, added 12 points.
The Rams cooled off slightly in the second quarter, but still finished the half 15-of-21 from the floor (71.4 percent), and led 39-26.
Renaissance (23-2), which was seeking its first title since capturing the Class B championship in 2005, came out of halftime fired up and used an 8-0 run to trim the lead to just five points.
“We went back to our identity in the third quarter,” said Renaissance junior guard Christian Sanders, who led her team with 17 points. “Had we done that sooner, it may have been a different story.”
The key point of the game occurred right after the Phoenix made their run, and Wilson called a timeout to calm his team down.
Rockford responded with a 9-0 run of its own – using a pair of two-point baskets by Lyons, a bucket by Anna Wypych and a key 3-pointer off the bench from senior Madee Whitford – to push the lead back to 14 points.
The Phoenix, a young team with only three seniors, were never able to threaten the rest of the game.
“You have to give Rockford credit,” said first-year Renaissance coach Dashaun Wood. “They had a big fan base, and I think they fed off of that. We finally got back to who we normally are there in the third quarter, but sometimes when you dig a hole that deep, you burn all your energy just coming back.”
Amyah Espanol, one of two senior starters for the Phoenix, scored 13 points and junior Makayla Johnson added nine.
Rockford finished the game with 54 percent shooting (compared to 29.5 percent for Renaissance) and held a decisive 33-20 rebounding edge.
The Rams will make the one-hour drive home, which is just north of Grand Rapids, and Wilson said he and his assistant coaches will likely stay up all night preparing for West Bloomfield.
“No sleep ’til Breslin, that’s a real thing,” Wilson said with a grin. “We just need to stick to our brand of basketball. West Bloomfield is very good, but we’re really good, too, and I think we’re going to come out and show that we belong to be there.”
PHOTOS (Top) Rockford’s Sienna Wolfe (33) brings the ball upcourt during Friday’s Semifinal win over Renaissance. (Middle) Anna Wypych (2) makes a move toward the basket around a pick from teammate Grace Lyons.
Performance of the Week: Hemlock's Regan Finkbeiner
March 24, 2023
Regan Finkbeiner ♦ Hemlock
Senior ♦ Basketball
The 5-foot-6 guard capped her high school career at Breslin Center over the weekend with team highs of 24 points and four steals in Thursday’s 57-26 Division 3 Semifinal win over Hart and the team-leading 19 points and four assists in the 59-43 win over Blissfield on Saturday that clinched the Huskies their first MHSAA Finals championship in girls basketball.
Finkbeiner played all but four minutes of 64 total over the two games, and she made a combined 15 of her 27 shots from the floor and 9 of 10 free throw attempts, plus four 3-pointers in the Final. She had entered the season’s final week averaging 17.1 points, 3.5 assists and 4.8 steals per game and in February became the program’s all-time leading scorer breaking the previous record of 1,302. A standout in multiple sports, she’s committed to continue playing softball after high school at Madonna University. Her basketball team finished 26-3 this winter.
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March 16: Alaina Yaney, Grand Ledge gymnastics - Report
March 9: Braeden Davis, Dundee wrestling - Report
March 2: Gabriel Sanchez-Burks, Ann Arbor Pioneer swimming - Report
Feb. 23: Grace Sobczak, Marquette swimming - Report
Feb. 16: Kaitlynn Demers, Gibraltar Carlson competitive cheer - Report
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Feb. 2: Braydon Sorenson, Onekama skiing - Report
Jan. 26: Shayne Hruska, Iron Mountain wrestling - Report
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Dec. 2: Treyton Siegert, Gladwin football - Report
Nov. 24: Lily Witte, Dexter diving - Report
Nov. 17: Navea Gauthier, Shelby volleyball - Report
Nov. 10: Derek Huisman, Holland Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3: Thomas Westphal, New Baltimore Anchor Bay cross country - Report
Oct. 27: Justin Wickey, Colon football - Report
Oct. 20: Owen DeMuth, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood tennis - Report
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Sept. 30: Hannah Smith, Temperance Bedford swimming - Report
Sept. 22: Helen Sachs, Holland West Ottawa cross country - Report
Sept. 15: Nina Horning, Lake Orion volleyball - Report
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Sept. 1: Austin King, Midland Dow tennis - Report
Aug. 25: Olivia Hemmila, Troy Athens golf - Report
PHOTO Hemlock's Regan Finkbeiner drives to the basket during her team's Semifinal win over Hart. (Photos courtesy of the Hemlock girls basketball program.)