GRAND RAPIDS – Detroit Country Day senior Kaela Webb dribbled out the clock Saturday on a hard-fought Class B title game against Jackson Northwest, and a smile overtook her face.
She looked over at her coach, Frank Orlando, who was about to celebrate his 13th MHSAA title at the school, and her smile grew wider.
She looked at her classmates, Maxine Moore and Destini Lewis, who with her have been at Country Day for three titles, and triumphantly tossed the ball into the air, finishing off the 64-48 victory.
“I just looked over at Max, Destini and Coach O, and I couldn’t do anything but smile,” Webb said. “We just never thought about winning three state championships, but we came in hungry and wanted to continue that. This team was so special because we had to find our own identity. We had to pick up where we left off last year from losing a valuable asset on both sides of the floor, so we knew we had to work even harder than we had the year before.”
The championship was the second straight for the Yellowjackets (23-4), who were making their 17th appearance in the title game, all coming under Orlando, who is the state’s all-time leader in girls basketball coaching victories (785).
Orlando didn’t say whether or not the 13th title would mark his final game at Country Day, but he did say that in the moment, it was just as sweet as the first.
“It’s a blessing -- I just feel like it’s a blessing,” Orlando said. “It’s these kids right here that gave me the blessing. If it has to go down in a certain way, I’ll give it to them.”
The three seniors have no choice but to move on, but they certainly left their mark on a program that was already incredibly rich with tradition.
“I’m so blessed and grateful, and I have to give it up to my teammates and especially Coach O for instilling a tremendous work ethic in all of us,” said Moore, who will play next year at Western Michigan. “In practice every day, this was our common goal, this is where we wanted to be. To have three of these, not a lot of people can say that. Me and Kaela and Destini, we’re so proud of our program, our coaches, everybody.”
Despite the 16-point margin of victory, the Yellowjackets had their hands full throughout with a Jackson Northwest (25-2) team making the program’s first appearance in the Finals. The Yellowjackets never trailed, and the game was tied for only five seconds before Webb opened with a 3-pointer from the corner. But the Mounties never went away.
“That was a dogfight, and I think our effort was anything a coach could ask for out of his players,” Jackson Northwest coach Ryan Carroll said. “I heard the radio announcer out of the corner of my ear say this was a David vs. Goliath matchup here tonight, and I don’t think it was that at all. Coming in, I didn’t think that’s what it was. They just knocked down some big shots, and we really shot ourselves in the foot when we had chances to get back into the game.
“I’m extremely proud of our effort and the way we showed up tonight and represented our school, I think, in the best possible fashion.”
It was a late Country Day run in the third quarter that finally put some distance between the teams, and it came with star guard Jasmine Powell on the bench with four fouls.
The Mounties had cut the lead to five points, but 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions from Lewis and Maddie Novak pushed the lead to 11 heading into the fourth quarter.
“They were huge,” said Webb, who will play collegiately at Providence next season. “When Jasmine got in foul trouble, Coach O was basically telling me to take over, so I knew at that point that I had to go. They were closing in on the lead, they were starting to have another run and I knew that I had to do everything in my power to prevent it. That contributed to getting my teammates involved, because they started to plug in on me, then (Lewis and Novak) knocked down the open 3s when we needed it.”
Powell still led the Yellowjackets in scoring with 19 points despite the foul trouble. Novak added 13 points, while Adrian Folks had 12 points and seven rebounds. Webb filled the stat sheet with 11 points, seven assists and six steals. As a team, Country Day had 15 steals on the night.
“If I’ve got Kaela on my side, that’s all I want,” Orlando said. “She’s a fighter, she’s a coach, she knows the game and she plays it with her heart. If anybody can do it, Kaela can, and I respect that.”
Sydney Shafer led Jackson Northwest with 22 points, including some deep 3-pointers, and eight rebounds. Ella Bontrager added 10 points for the Mounties, who were playing in front of what felt like a home crowd.
“Seeing all the parents there that aren’t just our parents, but that were community members and (parents of) people that we go to school with, it was really awesome to see them here,” Jackson Northwest senior Carsyn Sleight said. “Here supporting not just their kids, but their community.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Country Day players celebrate their Class B championship Saturday night at Van Noord Arena. (Middle) Adrian Folks works to get a shot in the post while walled off by Jackson Northwest defenders.
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:
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.