Sophomores Shine in 'Slugfest' as Frankenmuth Reaches 1st Final Since 1996

By Tom Kendra
Special for

March 17, 2023

EAST LANSING – Frankenmuth scored only 37 points Friday, but it was enough to win a defensive slugfest.

And, at least for coach Joe Jacobs, it was a thing of beauty.

“The game was exactly what we wanted,” said Jacobs after his team held on for a 37-30 win over Goodrich in Friday’s first Division 2 Semifinal at the Breslin Center.

“We wanted a slugfest. We’re a very good defensive team, and our emphasis tonight was always knowing where their shooters were.”

Frankenmuth sophomore guard Clare Conzelmann was the star on both ends of the court, using her length to get into the passing lanes and disrupt the Goodrich shooters, then converting two traditional three-point plays during the final 3:27 en route to a game-high 15 points.

Conzelmann’s stellar play helped the Eagles soar into the Finals for the first time since 1996. Frankenmuth, 25-2 and champion of the Tri-Valley Conference 8, advanced to Saturday’s 6:15 p.m. championship game against the Grand Rapids West Catholic vs. Lansing Catholic winner.

Conzelmann said she benefitted from Goodrich focusing its defense on shutting down junior guard Mia McLaughlin (Ferris State commit) and 6-foot-1 senior Lexi Boyke (Central Michigan signee).

Goodrich's Kalen Williams (3) and Alexis Kosmowski (11) and Frankenmuth's Lexi Boyke (33) and Izzy Bernthal (4) work for position as they await a rebound. 

“A lot of their focus was on Mia and Lexi,” said Conzelmann, one of three sophomore starters for Frankenmuth. “They wanted to try and make other players score. Today, my shots went in, which was great. Sometimes they don’t.”

Frankenmuth led 6-4 after the first quarter, then scored five quick points to open the second quarter on a bucket by Boyke and a 3-pointer by McLaughlin.

But the story of the first half, and the whole game for that matter, was the Eagles’ stifling 2-3 matchup zone defense.

Goodrich (24-4), which is one of the state’s best 3-point shooting teams and scored 60 or more points in three of its first five tournament games, went a stretch of 8 minutes and 5 seconds in the first half without scoring a point. The Martians, who shot 26 percent from the floor for the game and just 4-of-13 from behind the arc, had a similar scoreless stretch of 5 minutes and 35 seconds to open the fourth quarter.

Goodrich coach Jason Gray, in his 24th year, said Frankenmuth’s defense was the best they faced all season.

“Their guards are long and they were getting their hands out and throwing us off,” said Gray, who led the Martians to back-to-back Class B titles in 2012 and 2013.

“We weren’t able to get inside and kick it out, like we like to do. We hung around, but we were never able to take the lead, which might have changed things.”

Goodrich junior Alexis Kosmowski certainly did her part, scoring a team-high 14 points as the Martians stayed within striking distance, trailing by just three points, 22-19, entering the fourth quarter.

That was when a pair of sophomores stepped up for Frankenmuth.

In addition to Conzelmann’s two traditional three-point plays, sophomore forward Izzy Bernthal added a crucial mid-range jumper and then an offensive rebound and putback in the final minute to seal the win. Bernthal finished with six points and a game-high eight rebounds.

Goodrich senior Riley Place, who entered the game with 77 3-pointers, was held to just one on Saturday and six points. Her younger sister, sophomore Ella Place, also scored six points.

The Semifinal win was especially sweet for Boyke, who missed all of last season after injuring her knee in the opening game. She contributed six points and five rebounds, and was happy to be playing instead of watching from the bench.

“It feels good to be on the court with my teammates,” said Boyke. “Yes, I am very thankful for the opportunity.”

Click for the full box score

PHOTOS (Top) Frankenmuth's Clare Conzelmann (2) brings the ball upcourt with Goodrich's Kayla Hairston (12) providing pressure. (Middle) Goodrich's Kalen Williams (3) and Alexis Kosmowski (11) and Frankenmuth's Lexi Boyke (33) and Izzy Bernthal (4) work for position as they await a rebound. 

High School 'Hoop Squad' Close to Heart as Hughes Continues Coaching Climb

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

July 11, 2024

Jareica Hughes had a Hall of Fame collegiate basketball career playing at University of Texas-El Paso and has played professionally overseas, but her most prized possession is something she earned playing high school basketball in Michigan. 

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosA standout at now-closed Southfield-Lathrup High School during the early-to-mid 2000s, Hughes proudly displays a signature symbol of Lathrup’s Class A championship team in 2005. 

“I have my state championship ring on me right now,” said Hughes, now an assistant head coach for the women’s basketball program at UTEP. “I wear this ring every single day. Not so much for the basketball aspect. Inside of the ring it says ‘Hoop Squad.’ It’s more the connection I’ve had with those particular young ladies. Friends that I’ve known since I was kid. Every once in a while when we talk, we go back in time.”

Believe it or not, Hughes and her high school teammates next year will have to go back 20 years to commemorate a run to the title that started when they were freshmen. 

It was a gradual build-up to what was the first girls basketball state championship won by a public school in Oakland County. Lathrup, which has since merged with the former Southfield High School to form Southfield Arts & Technology, remained the only public school in Oakland County to win a state girls basketball title until West Bloomfield did so in 2022 and again this past March. 

Lathrup lost in the District round to Bloomfield Hills Marian during Hughes’ freshman year, and then after defeating Marian in a District Final a year later, lost to West Bloomfield in a Regional Final.

When Hughes was a junior, the team got to the state’s final four, but a bad third quarter resulted in a heartbreaking one-point Semifinal loss to eventual champion Lansing Waverly. 

A year later, when Hughes and other core players such as Brittane Russell, Timika Williams, Dhanmite’ Slappey and Briana Whitehead were seniors, they finished the job and won the Class A crown with a 48-36 win over Detroit Martin Luther King in the Final.

However, the signature moment of that title run actually came during the Semifinal round and was produced by Hughes, a playmaking wizard at point guard who made the team go. 

Trailing by three points during the waning seconds of regulation against Grandville and Miss Basketball winner Allyssa DeHaan – a dominant 6-foot-8 center – Hughes drained a tying 3-pointer from the wing that was well beyond the 3-point line. 

Lathrup went on to defeat Grandville in overtime and prevail against King.

Hughes said the year prior, she passed up on taking a potential winning or tying shot in the Semifinal loss against Waverly, and was reminded of that constantly by coaches and teammates. “I just remember in the huddle before that shot, that just kept ringing in my mind,” she said. “That was special. I cried for weeks not being able to get a shot off (the year before) and leaving the tournament like that.”

Growing up in Detroit, Hughes got into basketball mainly because she had five older brothers and an older sister who played the game. In particular, Hughes highlights older brother Gabriel for getting her into the game and taking her from playground to playground.

“I’m from Detroit,” she said. “We played ball all day long. Sunup to sundown. When the light comes on, you had to run your butt into the house.”

Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center.Hughes played for the Police Athletic League and also at the famed St. Cecilia gym in the summer, developing her game primarily against boys.

“My first team was on a boys team,” she said. “I was a captain on a boys team.” 

The family moved into Lathrup’s district before she began high school. 

Once she helped lead Lathrup to the 2005 championship, she went on to a fine career at UTEP, where she was the Conference USA Player of the Year twice and helped lead the Miners to their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Hughes still holds school records for career assists (599), steals (277) and minutes played (3,777). On Monday, she was named to Conference USA’s 2024 Hall of Fame class. 

After a brief professional career overseas was derailed by a shoulder injury, Hughes said getting into coaching was a natural fit. 

“I had to make the hard decision, and I knew as a kid I wanted to be around basketball,” she said. “Once I made that decision (to quit), I knew I was going to coach.”

Hughes started coaching in the Detroit area, first serving as an assistant at Southfield A&T from 2016-20 and then at Birmingham Groves for a season. She then served as interim head coach at Colby Community College in Kansas before being named an assistant at UTEP in May 2023, a month after her former coach Keitha Adams returned to lead the program after six seasons at Wichita State.  

While fully immersed in her job with UTEP, Hughes’ high school memories in Michigan certainly aren’t going away anytime soon – especially with the 20th anniversary of Lathrup’s championship coming up. 

“We are still close friends because we all essentially grew up together,” she said. “They are still my friends to this day.”

2024 Made In Michigan

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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Southfield-Lathrup’s Jareica Hughes drives to the basket against Detroit Martin Luther King during the 2005 Class A Final; at right, Hughes coaches this past season at UTEP. (Middle) Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center. (UTEP photo courtesy of the UTEP sports information department.)