Seniors Have St Mary on Verge Again

March 12, 2018

By Dennis Chase
Special for Second Half

GAYLORD – Averi Bebble was a water girl when Gaylord St. Mary reached the MHSAA Class D Girls Basketball Quarterfinals in 2012 and 2013.

“That was exciting,” Bebble said, “just as exciting as it is now.”

Now, Bebble is a senior and the Snowbirds are in the Quarterfinals again – for the fourth time in eight years and the second time since Bebble has been on varsity.

This time Bebble is hoping St. Mary (23-1) can reverse a trend when it faces Chassell (24-1) on Tuesday at Sault Ste. Marie

“Every year we‘ve been in the Quarterfinals we’ve lost by one or two points,” she said. “We’re excited to get back and try to beat Chassell.”

The Snowbirds lost by two points to Crystal Falls Forest Park in 2012, by two to Climax-Scotts in 2013 and by one to Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart in 2016.

Bebble and Alex Hunter were starters on the 2016 squad. And now the best friends are the catalysts of a senior-driven team that’s rattled off 23 consecutive wins after a season-opening setback at Clare.

Four seniors start for the Snowbirds.

“That’s huge,” first-year head coach Pat Schultz said. “We have a lot of experience where it matters – handling the ball. We have guards that can control the game for us.”

The 5-foot-3 Hunter and the 5-5-Bebble are joined by 5-4 junior Olivea Jeffers in a three-guard lineup. Hunter was an Associated Press first-team all-state pick a year ago. The tallest starters are 5-7 Maggie Schultz and improving 5-8 center Emily Myler.

To compensate for lack of size, the Snowbirds like to press and run – and then run some more.

“We like to get out in transition, push the tempo,” Schultz said. “Our kids are in good shape. We can get up and down the floor. Plus, we can defend.”

Those are the hallmarks of this team, which is outscoring the opposition by an average of 32 points (61-29). Only two teams, Rudyard and Cedarville, scored more than 50 points, and St. Mary won those two Regional games by 22 and 10 points, respectively.

The Snowbirds played a schedule that included Class B Clare (13-9), Class C Lake City (15-7) and Traverse City St. Francis (17-4) and Class D Bellaire (21-3), Rogers City (18-5) and Cedarville (20-4), which handed Hillman its lone regular-season loss.

After the loss to Clare – “We’d like to have that one back,” Schultz said – the Snowbirds met all challenges.

“We came together as a team around January,” Hunter said. ”Everyone focused on finding their role and realizing what that role was, no matter how big or small.”

By January, the Snowbirds were locked in. St. Mary beat Bellaire, also a Class D quarterfinalist, twice to capture the Ski Valley Conference title.

Bellaire, whose only other loss was to Class B Kalkaska, edged Rogers City in double overtime to claim last week’s Regional. The Snowbirds, meanwhile, defeated Rogers City by 35 in early January to start an impressive five-week run that also included wins over Bellaire (41-39 and 38-32), Lake City (60-35) and St. Francis (41-29). St. Francis, which played in the Class C Final two years ago, won the Lake Michigan Conference this winter.

That five-week window opened some eyes.

“We started to believe we might have something in January,” Schultz said. “But when we went to St. Francis, which is a perennially strong program, and held them to 29 points, well, we walked out of that gym with a little swag that night. I think the girls felt if we can play like this we can play with anyone in Class D.”

Schultz said he can go nine deep in his rotation – juniors Megan Loffer and Emma Jo Cherwinski are usually the first two off the bench – but it’s Hunter and Bebble who set the tone.

Hunter is averaging 13.7 points, 5.4 assists and 3.5 steals a game. She’s shooting 51 percent on two-pointers, 44 percent on three-pointers.

“She’s a great shooter, a pure shooter,” Schultz said. “You give her an open shot and she’s as automatic as any girl.

“She’s a hard worker, too, a disciplined kid.”

Her infectious upbeat attitude rubs off on her teammates.

“Alex is awesome to play with,” Bebble added. “She’s been one of the most committed (players) all the way through school. She’s makes the rest of the team better.”

Hunter’s scoring average is down from a year ago, but that’s more by design as St. Mary has spread the points around.

“I had a super strong season last year, but I realized what this team needs from me isn’t always scoring 20 points a game,” Hunter said. “I’m not scoring as much, but I definitely feel I’ve (contributed more) in other ways to help the team. It’s whatever the team needs each game, whether it be assists, defense, drawing defenders to the corner (to open up the offense).”

Hunter is fourth on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,260 points. She was fourth in the state a year ago in three-point shooting (46 percent) and is 16th all-time statewide in assists (493) and 35th in steals (375). She’s only missed one game in four years.

Bebble’s scoring average is up as she’s elevated her game. The four-year varsity veteran is averaging 11.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.7 steals and 3.6 assists. She scored a career-high 26 points in the Regional Final.

“Averi’s a unique talent,” Schultz said. “She’s not a pure shooter like Alex, but she is so quick. She can be a nightmare (for opponents).”

Schultz put the ball in Bebble’s hands against Cedarville, utilizing clear-outs to take advantage of her quickness in space. Hunter added 14 in the win.

Bebble also stars on the defensive end.

“She can lock down on defense,” Schultz said. “She’s the definition of a pestering defender. You can’t get rid of her.”

Bebble and Hunter have been playing basketball together since second grade.

“She’s stepped up and had an awesome year,” Hunter said. “It’s all come together for her. She’s super quick, pushes the ball, gets to the rim on anyone – and plays defense on anyone.”

The two play off each other, too.

“I know where Alex is going to be on the court, and she knows where I’m going to be,” Bebble said. “It’s easy between us. We’re always in sync with each other.”

Bebble’s sister, Jada, was on the Quarterfinal teams when Averi was the water girl. Her cousin, Kari Borowiak, was the star player then. Borowiak is now an NAIA All-American at Concordia – she was the only NAIA player to average 20 points and 5.5 assists this season – and she still follows the Snowbirds. Borowiak quickly retweeted a Gaylord Herald Times tweet about Bebble’s efforts against Cedarville.

It’s been quite a first year for Schultz, who formerly coached the junior varsity and was an assistant to Dan Smith the last two seasons. Schultz also coaches the school’s volleyball and softball varsity teams.

“I know these girls,” he said. “This group makes it easy.  A lot of people could have come in this year and looked good coaching because this team gets it. I make some adjustments, motivate, and chew on them a little when they need it, but for the most part they make the adjustments that most coaches have to make. They understand and that’s because they’ve played so much basketball, including travel ball. They can auto-correct really well.”

Myler’s developing presence inside, and her ability to guard bigger opponents, has helped alleviate a concern there.

“We’re not a super tall team, but we have posts who work hard,” Hunter said. “Heart over height.”

That will be put to the test Tuesday against a talented and taller Chassell squad that won its first Regional in school history by overcoming a 14-point deficit to beat Bark River-Harris in overtime.

“Chassell’s a great team,” Hunter said. “Anyone left at this point is tough competition. We’re excited for the chance.”

Schultz agreed.

“They’re big, and they’re good,” he said of the Panthers. “We don’t want to allow it to become a half-court game.

“This time of year you have to play well, and you have to have a little luck.”

Who will have that combination Tuesday?

Dennis Chase worked 32 years as a sportswriter at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, including as sports editor from 2000-14. 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) Gaylord St. Mary’s Averi Bebble drives to the hoop during Thursday’s District Final win over Cedarville. (Middle) The Snowbirds’ Alex Hunter finds an opening to the lane during the 61-51 win. (Photos courtesy of the Gaylord Herald Times.)

St. George's Senior Season Filled with Historic Trip, Sizzling 3-Point Shooting

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 21, 2024

Delaney St. George helped Kingston reach its first MHSAA Girls Basketball Final this winter – and along the way finished her high school career among the most prolific 3-point shooters in state history.

The four-year varsity senior made 87 3-pointers this season for the Division 4 runner-up Cardinals, good to tie for 10th on the single-season list after she made 93 as a junior to rank fourth all-time.

She finished her Kingston career with 290 3-pointers in 793 attempts over 94 games – good for second on the career 3-pointers list.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA girls basketball record book, and click on the heading to see the record book in full.

Girls Basketball

Hemlock’s 18-6 run this season was fueled in part by more successful 3-point shooting. The Huskies made single-season lists with 170 3-pointers and 552 attempts, and also for making 14 3-pointers Jan. 5 against St. Louis.

Senior Mia McLaughlin made nine of 15 3-point shots for Frankenmuth in a Feb. 6 win over Birch Run as the Eagles made the team record book list with 15 3-pointers total. They also were added for 14 3-pointers in a Feb. 20 win over Bay City John Glenn. McLaughlin will continue her career at Ferris State.

McBain sophomore Peyton Grant scored all 27 of her points Jan. 17 against Houghton Lake on nine 3-pointers to make the single-game list in that category.

Seniors Autumn Tremblay and Ceara LeBlanc earned Brimley’s first girls basketball record book listings this season. Both made single-game lists in a Feb. 27 win over Harbor Springs Harbor Light Christian – Tremblay scored 21 points during the first quarter and LeBlanc had 16 steals for the game – and LeBlanc also was added for 141 steals total over 25 games this past winter.

Reed City’s run at the Central State Activities Association title this winter was fueled in part by 3-point shooting. The Coyotes finished one game out of first, but made the records with 517 3-point attempts over 24 games – and just missed the made 3-pointers list connecting on 143.

Howell sophomore Gabrielle Piepho added her third record book listing over her first two seasons this winter making 89.2 percent of her free throw attempts to rank eighth on that single-season list. Howell as a team also made the 3-point attempts list with 536 over 25 games, and also just missed the 3-pointers made list with 146.

Saline finished the 2023-24 season among the all-time leading 3-point shooters again, this time with 192 – 14th-most for one season – in 587 attempts over 24 games. Sophomore Keira Roehm led the way with 78 3-pointers, tying for 21st on that list.

Junior Tamerah Peterson led Sterling Heights Parkway Christian to a District title this season, providing a record-setting defensive boost in addition to her offensive skills. She finished with 173 steals – eighth-most for one season – over 21 games.

Niles Brandywine reached Breslin Center this season with another stellar distance shooting display, making the record book with both 186 3-pointers and 610 attempts from beyond the arc in finishing Division 3 runner-up.

Alie Bisballe capped her career at Lake City this winter by helping her team reach the Division 3 Semifinal at Breslin Center – and by reaching the MHSAA girls basketball record book in two categories. The 6-foot-4 post player made the lists with 329 rebounds and 188 blocked shots, both in 28 games as Lake City finished 25-3. She will continue her career at Wisconsin.

Ironwood junior Hanna Vaughn will enter her final season next winter already on the career 3-pointers list. She’s made 155 3-pointers over her first three seasons and 70 games on varsity.

PHOTO Kingston’s Delaney St. George (10) pulls up for a shot during the Division 4 Final against Ishpeming.