Sacred Heart Shows in Class D Comeback

March 15, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

EAST LANSING – A high school senior known statewide finished an incredible career Saturday during the MHSAA Class D championship game at the Breslin Center.

But it was the lone senior on the other side of the floor who accepted the winner’s trophy as her classmates chanted “Thank you Sara” for another job well done. 

Crystal Falls Forest Park’s Lexi Gussert will pick her career back up again on this same floor next season for Michigan State. But Saturday belonged to Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart and its lone senior, Sara Hansen, as they finished up an incredible comeback with a 56-53 win and the Irish’s first MHSAA title.

Unranked Sacred Heart finished on a 14-3 run over the game’s final three minutes to edge past the top-ranked Trojans and Gussert, this season’s Miss Basketball Award winner.

“We were down by nine. We didn’t give up on anything,” Hansen said. “Once we got closer, it was really exciting. And once it ended, it hit me that it was my last game and we won a state championship.” 

“Being the only senior, it’s fun in a way but also kinda tough because you’re the only one going through that. I was really glad we made it this far.”

This was only the second time Sacred Heart had reached an MHSAA Final, after also finishing Class D runner-up in 2008. The Irish made the Quarterfinals two of the last four seasons, including a year ago, but lost both of those games in overtime.

They broke through this week by upsetting No. 3 Frankfort on Tuesday. But there were more surprises in store; the Irish advanced to Saturday by downing No. 9 Marine City Cardinal Mooney in the Semifinal, and then handed Forest Park (26-1) its only loss.

“Wow. That’s all I can say,” Sacred Heart coach Damon Brown said. “It’s been an amazing journey. They found a way to get it done. This team has been in battles like this all season, and their faith in each other and faith in the program never cracked.”

Not even when Sacred Heart trailed 49-40 with 5:40 to play.

The Irish had done an incredible job containing Gussert – who averaged 29 points per game entering the week – to just three during Saturday’s first half. However, the 6-foot do-it-all guard scored eight during the third quarter and the jumper in the fourth to push the Trojans lead to nine.

At that point, Forest Park’s momentum appeared unbreakable – until Sacred Heart’s Riley Terwilliger began punching holes in the lead.

The Irish’s Semifinal star with 19 points, she didn’t score Saturday until dropping her first bucket at the third-quarter buzzer. She knocked down another to pull the Irish within 49-42 – and then finished the comeback with the two plays of the game.

Junior Lexie Methner scored with 1:16 to play to bring Sacred Heart within 50-47, and Terwilliger stole the ensuing inbounds pass and scored to make it a one-point game.

Forest Park made it to the other end of the court after that basket, but instead of holding the ball with a one-point lead launched a shot with 39 seconds to play. It missed, Hansen grabbed the rebound, and at the other end of the floor Terwilliger launched a 3-pointer from the corner that fell with 29 seconds to play.

“We hang our hat on defense, and we’re not going to go down just missing shots,” Terwilliger said. “We wanted to stay up and get them. It just builds off each defensive stop we get, and it builds up the adrenaline, and we just keep going and going and going.”

Sacred Heart made four free throws down the stretch and Forest Park missed two, with only a 3-pointer by Gussert with 3.7 seconds left keeping the score to its final margin.

Disbelief showed on both ends of the court – Forest Park that its lead disappeared, and Sacred Heart that it suddenly stood as champion.

“It’s unlike our team, but I think we cracked a little bit at the end,” Trojans coach Jeff Syrjanen said. “These kids are a veteran team, and they played with pressure the last three years. Sometimes things don’t work the way you wanted them to.

“It’s a really tough loss for us. We thought we could finish the deal this year."

Lost a bit in the comeback was how 6-3 sophomore center Averi Gamble kept the Irish in the game through the first three quarters. Daughter of former Boston Celtics forward Kevin Gamble, Averi had 25 points and 11 rebounds.

Brown recalled how he told Gamble it was her time after all-state honorable mention Erica Hansen graduated last spring. Gamble took it to heart, and took some advice from her dad: “Just to be strong with the ball, jump, pump-fake a little, and just make my shots,” she said.

Senior center Kendra Campbell scored 16 points for forest Park, and Gussert finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots. She’ll end up in the MHSAA record book as one of the top scorers in girls basketball history – but wished for just a few more.

“The third quarter we had a really good run, with a lot of nice passes and a lot of nice looks, but I feel like in the fourth quarter I tried to do too much,” Gussert said. “My team did everything it could possible. I feel bad. I didn’t finish, and that’s the truth.”

Click for the full box score and video from the press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart celebrates with its first MHSAA championship trophy. (Middle) Forest Park’s Lexi Gussert attempts to drive past Sacred Heart’s Megan English.

HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Off the steal, Crystal Falls’ Lexi Gussert passes downcourt to Sierra Robarge, who kicks out to Kendra Campbell for the 3-pointer and an early lead for the Trojans. (2) Coming out of a timeout, Sacred Heart's Riley Terwilliger hits a 3-pointer to give the Irish the lead for good in the Class D Final.

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

By Geoff Kimmerly 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.