Saints Finish Perfect Run with 4th Title

March 16, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Saturday’s Class D Final at the Breslin Center lined up to finish with another celebration for Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, and one that would be etched into MHSAA history as the Lakers aspired for a fourth-straight title. 

But St. Ignace also has been a regular in East Lansing the last four seasons. And the Saints had a little bit of history to contend with as well.

St. Ignace, owners of three MHSAA titles, had never finished a season perfect – until Saturday, when the Saints outlasted the Lakers for a 59-44 win to finish this winter 27-0.

“I kinda had a little worry there because we’ve never been a state championship team with an undefeated season,” St. Ignace senior Sarah Cullip said. “We’ve always had that pain of a loss, and we didn’t want that to happen again. We had a lot of inspiration from outside ourselves, and even within ourselves, I think.”

St. Ignace entered the postseason ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press’ Class D poll, while Our Lady (21-5) was No. 9. This was the Saints’ fourth straight trip to East Lansing; they made the Class C Semifinals a year ago, beat Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett for the title in 2011 and lost to Flint Hamady in overtime in the 2010 Final.

In fact, St. Ignace was the only team in East Lansing this weekend that could match Breslin experience with the Lakers. Cullip played in her seventh tournament game at MSU, while senior Morgan LaVake and juniors Kelley Wright and Emily Hinsman all played in their fifth Saturday.

Coach Dorene Ingalls has coached all four champions during her 14 seasons running the program.  

“Any time you win, it’s like the first time,” she said. “It’s a new group, with different reasons, different themes. It’s just like the first time. It’s been a journey. We’ve all grown together. I’m just thankful.”

Waterford Our Lady finished 21-5 and 88-19 over the last four seasons. Seniors Lexie Robak and Ava Doetsch started for all four of those teams, and in all four Breslin championship game appearances.

For much of Saturday’s game and especially the start, it looked like they and their teammates would join Flint Northern’s 1978-81 teams as the only ones to win four straight MHSAA girls hoops titles.

The Lakers opened in a fullcourt press that forced four straight turnovers to start the game. Robak hit two 3-pointers and senior Jessica Parry completed a three-point play as Our Lady jumped to a 9-5 lead a little more than five minutes in.

But St. Ignace soon figured out the press – and responded with a similar strategy that eventually would lead to the Lakers’ undoing.

A few plays in particular got Ingalls thrusting a fist in the air. The first came on the last shot of the first quarter. The Saints broke the press, and Wright found Cullip crossing to the basket behind the defense for an easy lay-in. St. Ignace ended the first quarter up 15-12.

The next came 3:35 into the third quarter. Hinsman broke through the defense, scored, was fouled and finished the three-point play while Ingalls gave an approving nod from the bench. Those points pulled the Saints within one of the lead, and Hinsman’s bucket a minute later gave them their first lead since the first minute of the second quarter.

“They’re good at what they do. They’re here for the fourth time for a reason,” Ingalls said of Our Lady’s defense. “We were trying to get Emily to come to the middle and execute strong. When we tried to get up the right side and pass it up the right, it didn’t turn out well for us.

“The kids were able to keep their composure, keep at it.”

And turn the tide. Riding a matchup zone with halfcourt pressure, St. Ignace made it 38-38 with a quarter to play and then opened the fourth on a 9-0 run. The Lakers never recovered.

For the game, St. Ignace had only 11 turnovers to Our Lady’s 27, and scored 30 points off those turnovers to Our Lady’s 11 after takeaways. 

“Looking at my players, they didn’t necessarily look open. That was the pressure they were putting on me,” said Doetsch, who mostly ran the point. “I didn’t have to pass, but nobody looked open. So it made it difficult to get the offense going.”

Hinsman finished with 20 points for St. Ignace, with Cullip adding 16 and grabbing nine rebounds and Wright scoring 10 and dishing five assists.

Lexie Robak led the Lakers with 25 points, including six 3-pointers – which tied her for second-most in an MHSAA girls basketball championship game. Parry added 10 points and six rebounds.

She also played in all four championship games, and the rest of the team’s six seniors – Brianna Topolewski, Marina Anderson and Haley Howell – all made their second title game appearances Saturday.

“My shot was going in, so I was kinda happy throughout the game. We had a good four years,” Robak said. “I just wanted to come out and have fun, and that’s what I did. It was a good last game with these cats.”

“That’s what it comes down to,” Our Lady coach Steve Robak agreed. “Of course, we all wanted to win. We left our hearts out there in the fourth quarter, gave it everything we had. At some point there are some tears, and you’re upset. But I feel a lot like Lexie; while it’s sad we didn’t win, and I wish we’d done some things differently, I’m just so proud of this group.

“To get here four times in a row, and win three, I don’t know how you could feel too much sadness for too long.”

Click for a full box score.  

PHOTOS: (Top) St. Ignace players celebrate during the final seconds of their Class D championship game win over Waterford Our Lady. (Middle) St. Ignace's Sarah Cullip (left) attempts to drive around the Lakers' Ava Doetsch. (Top photo by; middle photo by 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.)