Southfield Leads Fast, Holds On to Lead Last

March 22, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

GRAND RAPIDS – Give Muskegon a ton of credit. After 11 minutes Thursday, it’s Division 1 Semifinal at Van Noord Arena was all but over.

And Southfield Arts & Technology knew the feeling.

Two years ago, the Warriors found themselves down 20 points in the third quarter of their Semifinal against East Kentwood. They pulled all the way back to within two of the lead before ultimately losing to the Falcons by four.

This time, Southfield A&T got up 18 points three minutes into the second quarter at Van Noord Arena. But while Muskegon charged back to within two of the lead with 53 seconds to play, the Warriors prevailed 54-50 to earn their first championship game berth.

“Being (at the Semifinals) before, it helped me keep my composure and mentally stay in it. Because two years ago, we were down by a lot at the half, and we had to come back with the same fight that Muskegon tried to put against us,” A&T junior guard Cheyenne McEvans said. “I understand what Muskegon was trying to do, and how East Kentwood held us off is how we had to hold them off from coming back.

“We hung on at the end because we just wanted it, and we all just had to talk to each other and keep each other in the game. I try to take really good pride in keeping my teammates involved mentally, and keep their heads up. So I just told them, the run that they’re going on, we’ve just got to hold it – hold it together to the end of the game.”

The Warriors (24-1) will face Saginaw Heritage in Saturday’s 12:15 p.m. championship game, seeking the first title for the 3-year-old school and also the first for one of the schools that merged to create A&T since Southfield Lathrup’s 2005 Class A win.

Neither team Thursday scored for nearly the first three minutes. But once the Warriors got started, they put up nine straight points over 80 seconds. During the second quarter, they connected on 64 percent of their shots from the floor to carry a 29-13 lead into halftime.

But the Big Reds – making their first Semifinal appearance – began to show signs of revival. They had missed their first 13 shots and 18 of 19 on the way to the 21-3 deficit. But beginning with senior Alyza Winston’s basket with 4:30 to play in the first half, Muskegon made 44 percent of its shots from the floor the rest of the way.

“We’re really a second-half team, if you look at the Regional games, the District games, we came out second half with a whole different energy,” Winston said. “That’s really just us.

“I feel like this game we just needed it more in the first half than we had it, but that’s normal for us.”

A&T still led 44-31 with a quarter to play. Muskegon junior guard De’shonna Day’s basket with seven minutes to play made the deficit single digits again at 44-35. That started a 17-8 run, and a Day 3-pointer pulled the Big Reds to within 52-50 with 53 seconds to play.

Muskegon (21-5) got the ball back on a jumpball. But A&T did hold on – two more times. First junior center Jasmine Worthy blocked off the lane to force a travel as the Big Reds looked to tie. After senior Soleil Barnes made two free throws with six seconds left to push the lead back to four, the Warriors got a steal to end the game.

“Having been to the final four, and won a championship before, I know defense is really going to make a difference,” said A&T coach Michele Marshall, who led the Lathrup title run. “You can score a ton of points, but ultimately you’re going to have to get some stops.

“When we play defense the way we did in that last possession, it becomes very difficult to get easy shots, and all we’re trying to do is make the most difficult shot with our defense.”

Senior forward Alexis Johnson led A&T with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while McEvans and Barnes both finished with 12 points. Sophomore guard Kayiona Willis had five assists.

Winston, a Miss Basketball Award finalist this season, finished with 25 points, and Day had 13 and seven rebounds. Senior center Nia Miskel grabbed 10 rebounds.

Now A&T gets the rare opportunity to avenge its lone defeat. The Warriors fell to Heritage 45-43 on Dec. 8 at the Ypsilanti Arbor Prep Icebreaker Invitational.

“I feel like this is the game we can use to cross out our record, if we can get this win,” Johnson said. “We want to come out with a clean record and we feel we’re number one in the state, and this game will prove it.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Southfield Arts & Technology’s Alexis Johnson pushes the ball upcourt during Friday’s Division 1 Semifinal win over Muskegon. (Middle) The Big Reds’ De’shonna Day moves the ball around the perimeter.

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.)