Standout Juniors Pace Portland's Historic Finish

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for

April 9, 2021

EAST LANSING – Through almost three quarters Friday, only three Portland players had scored in the Division 2 girls basketball championship game.

But the work of juniors Alivia Densmore, Ava Guilford and Ashley Bower was enough to carry the offense as the Raiders (20-2) racked up a 52-32 victory over Newaygo at the Breslin Center.

Bower led Portland with 20 points, while Guilford and Densmore chipped in 12 each. Earlier this season, Bower went over 1,000 points for her career and set the school scoring record.

“This whole season has been fun,’’ she said.

Friday’s Final matched a Raiders team making its first championship game appearance and a Newaygo team playing for its first title since 1985. It also was a rematch from Feb. 24, when Portland defeated Newaygo 38-33.

Portland coach Jason Haid recalled Friday how his team had a cancellation during the season and “we wanted to find a team that would test us. Newaygo came down during the middle of the week.

“Having played them helped. The number one thing we had on our minds going into this game was defense and defending ball screens. We know everything they were going to do would come off ball screens. The Longs (sisters Jaylee and Jaxi) are tough, and we knew we had to get out on them.’’

The Raiders trio combined for 40 points through three quarters as Portland built a 42-25 lead against the offensively-struggling Lions (21-2), who didn’t have a player reach double figures scoring.

Division 2 Girls Basketball FinalPortland increased its advantage to 21, 48-27, on two free throws from Ava Gruber with 5:54 to play.

“It wasn’t our night,’’ Newaygo coach Nate Thomasma said. “They took us out of a lot of things we wanted to do. It wasn’t for a lack of effort. That was the sum of the story.’’

After Bower scored the first four points of the game, the Lions went on an 8-0 run. But Densmore hit a floater in the lane as the first quarter ended to give the Raiders a 9-8 lead. Neither team shot better than 23 percent from the field over the first eight minutes.

Portland started hitting an offensive stride and outscored Newago 9-3 to open up an 18-11 lead during the second quarter. Densmore, along with Bower and Guilford, combined for all 18 points.

Densmore, just like she did in the first quarter, hit a buzzer beater to send the Raiders to the locker room with a 20-12 cushion.

Starting the second half, the Raiders got a triple from Guilford – the team’s sparkplug – a three-point play from Bower and another triple from Guilford to push the lead to 29-12.

Said Guilford: “My teammates were able to find me. Ashley is always unselfish, and it was important for us to stay confident and relaxed.’’

Newaygo got offensive life when senior guard Anna Brummel hit consecutive 3-pointers and Jaylee Long added a third to trim the deficit to 35-24 with 3:11 to play in the third quarter. But the Lions would get no closer.

Junior forward Emmerson Goodin led Newaygo with eight points and nine rebounds, and Jaylee Long and Brummel also both scored eight. Jaxi Long had seven rebounds and four assists.

Bower was 8 of 16 from the field and also had four assists. Densmore hit 6 of 11 shots and had three blocked shots. Portland finished the game making 42 percent of its shots from the field, while Newaygo connected on just 21 percent of its attempts.

Click for full box score

PHOTOS: (Top) Portland’s Alivia Densmore works for an opening during Friday’s Division 2 Final at Breslin Center. (Middle) The Raiders' Ashley Bower makes a move at the rim with Newaygo players walling her off. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Breslin Bound: 2023-24 Girls Report Week 1

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 11, 2023

Another girls basketball season is underway, and the best from 2022-23 are wasting no time seeing how they match up this winter.

MI Student AidEvery Monday through the MHSAA Finals in March we’ll look back at the previous week’s results that were most attention-grabbing across the state, highlight a few programs in every division on the rise and glance at some of the games coming up that pop off the page most. One week in, and we’ve already had our share of headline-grabbers with more immediately on the way – read on for details.

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:

2. Detroit Renaissance 53, Lansing Catholic 46 The Phoenix (2-0), a Division 1 semifinalist last season, earned the headliner for opening week by edging the reigning Division 2 champion Cougars (0-1).

2. Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep 45, Maple City Glen Lake 38 The Irish (3-0) reached the Division 4 Quarterfinals last season, and highlighted the first week of this one with this win over the reigning champion Lakers (2-1).

3. Lake Linden-Hubbell 48, Baraga 45 The Lakes (2-0) went a combined 1-2 against Baraga (1-1) last season – with a District Final loss as the Vikings went on to finish Division 4 runners-up.

4. Howell 60, Farmington Hills Mercy 59 Gabby Piepho scored 34 points to lead Howell (2-0) past Mercy (0-1), a Division 1 Regional finalist last season.

5. Frankenmuth 53, Freeland 51 On a night when Frankenmuth honored late star Keri Frahm, a 2016 grad who died in a car crash in October, the Eagles (2-0) held on for what no doubt will be a key league win over the Falcons (1-1).

An Otsego player puts up a shot during her team's 44-35 loss to Portage Central.

Watch List

With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:


Bloomfield Hills Marian (2-0) A rough start last season turned into a 10-14 finish for Marian, but the Mustangs did win six of their last seven games and picked right back up with a 2-0 start last week. Marian opened with a 57-44 win over Imlay City, avenging a six-point loss from last winter, and then defeated Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest.

Milford (2-0) The Mavericks are off to a quick start under new coach Tim Olszewski, who came to Milford after a successful run at Howell. They edged Fowlerville 27-23 and then defeated Waterford Mott, after ending last season with a District Semifinal loss to Olszewski’s Highlanders.


Detroit Country Day (2-0) Past star Amber Deane’s first season as coach ended impressively with a 17-7 record and triple-overtime loss to Goodrich in a Regional Final, and she has Country Day off to a fast start. The Yellowjackets doubled up Birmingham Groves to open and defeated Tecumseh 66-52 at Ypsilanti Arbor Prep’s Ice Breaker Classic; Tecumseh finished 20-5 last season.

Shepherd (2-0) After building from seven wins two seasons ago to a 10-13 finish last winter, Shepherd may be on the verge of another advance. The BlueJays opened by edging Beal City 42-40 – Beal City won 14 games last season – and then defeated Gladwin 55-50 in double overtime.


Evart (2-0) The Wildcats’ matchups with Lake City last season had Highland Conference and statewide implications – Evart won the first, but Lake City won the next two to claim league and District titles. Evart has the early upper hand again, following up last week’s 20-point win over Reed City with a 42-41 victory over the Trojans.

Perry (2-0) The Ramblers have improved from zero to four to six wins over the last three seasons, respectively, and are well on their way to increasing that total again. Perry opened with a 38-37 win over Morrice (after losing to the Orioles last season) and 44-27 victory over Byron, and have another fresh start moving to the Central Michigan Athletic Conference this winter.


Colon (2-0) The Magi finished 21-5 last season, reaching the Division 4 Regional Finals before falling to Hackett (highlighted above). Colon began this one with a 52-33 win over Adrian Lenawee Christian, which made the Semifinals last winter, before defeating Battle Creek St. Philip big to finish the week.

Lutheran Westland (2-0) The Warriors are another team quickly pursuing an improvement over last season, when they finished 10-14. They opened with a 44-24 win over Ann Arbor Greenhills, then defeated Whitmore Lake 28-19 – Whitmore Lake downed Westland twice last season on the way to winning the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Red title.

Can’t-Miss Contests

Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up: 

Wednesday – Kingston (2-0) at Goodrich (2-0) – These two finished a combined 49-6 last winter, with Kingston reaching the Division 4 Quarterfinals and Goodrich playing in the Division 2 Semifinals.

Thursday – Salem (2-0) at West Bloomfield (0-0) – This is a rematch from last season’s Division 1 Semifinals, won by West Bloomfield, and headlines the Kensington Lakes Activities Association/Oakland Activities Association Challenge.

Friday – Rockford (2-0) at Muskegon (1-1) – The reigning Division 1 champion Rams travel to take on the Big Reds, who are looking to avenge last season’s 19-point loss after which they went 15-5 to finish the winter.  

Saturday – Detroit Edison (0-0) vs. Detroit Country Day (2-0) at Belleville – This is arguably the most intriguing matchup from the Best of Michigan Holiday Classic and matches teams with high aspirations in Division 2.

Saturday – Midland Dow (1-1) vs. Salem (2-0) at Belleville – This Best of Michigan game matches a Dow program that’s regularly among Division 1 contenders with a Salem team that joined the elite last season.'s weekly “Breslin Bound” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTOS (Top) Flint Powers Catholic and Davison face off in a season opener, won by the Chargers 73-41. (Middle) An Otsego player puts up a shot during her team's 44-35 loss to Portage Central. (Top photo by Terry Lyons; middle photo by Gary Shook.)