Seniors Continue Country Day Legacy

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

March 17, 2018

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.”

Click for the full box score.

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. 

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.)