Tate's Return Sees Cass Tech Return to Elite

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

February 13, 2020

It didn’t take LaTonya Tate long to begin her basketball coaching career. But it took her 20 years to find the right fit.

Tate is in her fifth season as girls varsity basketball coach at Detroit Cass Tech, and the Technicians are experiencing success not seen since Tate was one of the state’s top players for Cass Tech during the mid-to-late 1980s.

As a senior in 1987, Tate led the Technicians to the Class A championship, scoring the go-ahead 3-pointer as Cass Tech came back from 20 points down to defeat reigning champion Saginaw 52-51. Tate that fall also finished runner-up for the Miss Basketball Award, to Salem’s Dena Head.

By returning to her alma mater as coach, Tate has energized the program. Last season Cass Tech won its first District title in 25 years, and this winter the Technicians are 15-1 heading into Friday’s Public School League final against Detroit Renaissance.

For her, it’s been worth the wait. 

“This is home, Tate said. “This is a good group of young ladies I have. I’m blessed.

“The first two (seasons) were tough. I was like Cinderella. I was like an outcast. I was the new kid on the block.”

For any new coach, gaining players’ trust is paramount. It takes time. Tate has earned that trust, and the results are taking shape.  

A few games this season stick out when assessing the Technicians’ play to this point. A 52-51 victory over one of the top teams in the Chicago Public League, Chicago Phillips, in a December holiday tournament is notable. The following day (Dec. 29) Cass Tech lost to Davison, 53-47, in the same tournament. Davison (8-7), a member of the Saginaw Valley League, recently lost to state power Flint Carman-Ainsworth (13-2) in overtime 52-48.

On Jan. 25, Cass Tech defeated Southfield Arts & Technology, last season’s Division 1 runner-up, 46-40, and five days later defeated its fiercest rival, Detroit Martin Luther King, 68-43, in a tune-up for the PSL playoffs. This past Monday, led by junior Precious Fields’ 29 points and six rebounds, Cass Tech defeated King, 70-38, in a PSL semifinal.

It was King which Cass Tech defeated (64-56) in the District Final last season, and that win did much to rid the program of some unwanted distinction. King had owned the Technicians since Tate’s departure as a player. King not only became the dominant team within Detroit, but the Crusaders, with William Winfield as coach, became a program everyone looked to as a front-runner statewide. From 1990-2016, King won four Class A titles under Winfield and reached the Finals six other times.

“It’s been 25 years since we beat King, and we beat them two of the three times we played them last year,” Tate said. “It was very gratifying. I’ve taken a lot of beatings from that organization. The entire team did their job (in the District Final).”

Tate’s return is half of a feel-good story for this sport at Cass Tech. Tate’s longtime friend and classmate, Steve Hall, took over the boys basketball program in 2015, coinciding with Tate’s hiring. Hall took over a program that was competitive, but he has taken it to another level. Three years ago Hall’s team won the school’s first PSL title since 1998, and his team won the title again last year. This season the Technicians are 15-1 and ranked No. 4 in the latest Associated Press rankings heading into tonight’s PSL semifinal against Detroit Communications and Media Arts.

Tate’s team is riding a 10-game winning streak; Hall’s has won 11 consecutive heading into the PSL semifinal.

Hall also serves as the school’s co-athletic director (with football coach Thomas Wilcher) and, although he was not responsible for the hiring of Tate, did inform school administrators of his high regard for his old friend.

“Indirectly, I did speak on her behalf,” Hall said. “Our careers have mirrored each other’s. We both had successful high school careers, played in college (Tate at Iowa, Hall at Virginia Tech and Washington) and both of us coached in college.

“It was a home run to get LaTonya. I’m excited for her program. She has a junior-laden team. She was a great player and uses that experience when she talks with her players. She cares about the girls and is passionate about the game.”

Tate began her coaching career at Kansas State as a part-time assistant in 1994. The next season she went to Syracuse as a graduate assistant. Tate was a member of the Detroit Mercy women’s basketball staff for two separate stints, from 1995-97 and 2004-07. She was also an assistant women’s basketball coach at the University of Illinois-Chicago (1997-2001).

As a player at Iowa she was captain of the 1991-92 Hawkeyes squad and played on three Big Ten championship teams. Four times Iowa went to the NCAA Tournament with Tate.

Tate is all in with her program and the school. A substitute teacher in physical education since her return, Tate is working toward her teaching certificate and looking forward to the day when she becomes a full-time teacher.

“The last three years have been great,” Tate said. “We have our study table, and that’s where the girls bond. That’s where they get their work done. That’s where they can loosen up away from the court.”

Even when Tate struggled her first two seasons (finishing below .500 both times), Hall was in her corner. Expectations are high at Cass Tech. Often parents and supporters of the program expect positive results to come quickly.

“When people were impatient, I was there to talk about how much she means to the program,” Hall said. “She’s a real humble and modest person. She doesn’t talk about herself. But I (talk about her). Back when we played the girls played in fall, before we did. They set the bar high. We’ve been friends a long time and we’re competitive, but in a good way.”

As Hall noted, Tate’s team is young but does have experience. Shooting guard Kennedy Tidwell is a returning starter and one of two seniors. Kristen Jones is the other senior and sees playing time at the point. 

Fields, a 5-10 forward, leads the team in scoring (18 ppg), rebounds (10) and steals (3.5). Tidwell is next in scoring at 14.3 ppg. Fields is a three-year varsity player and returning starter.

The other top players are 6-1 junior center Kianna Johnson, junior point guard Desiree Jackson and sophomore guard Taylor Williams. Williams became a starter with the start of the MHSAA Tournament last season.

“We’re better this year,” Fields said. “We were good last year, but our chemistry wasn’t as good. The maturity has changed. Experience has played a big role. Everyone is bigger and better.

“Personally, my shooting is better. I’ve always been a confident shooter, and I worked hard on my game. And I’m more versatile now. I can score and rebound. And I’ve gained maturity. I didn’t think I had to work hard before. I’ve worked hard this season. Even in practice I still push my (post players) to rebound. I take pride in that. I put it into my head that every rebound will be ours.”

Fields said it means a lot to her and her teammates that Tate is a Cass Tech graduate, has won a state title and demands so much of them. The players are proud of what their coach has accomplished and respect the fact that Tate is tough on them.

“It’s the accountability,” Tate said. “It means a lot for us (Hall and Tate) to be here. We walked these halls. There are standards here. Just having pride in what Cass Tech means, academically and as student-athletes.”

Click here to watch Cass Tech's 1987 championship game win over Saginaw. 

Tom Markowski is a correspondent for the State Champs! Sports Network and previously directed its web coverage. He also covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) The Detroit Cass Tech girls basketball team will bring a 10-game winning streak into Friday's PSL final. (Middle) Precious Fields is the team's leading scorer and rebounder. (Photos courtesy of Precious Fields.)

Jahfetson Makes History from 3-Point Range in Taking Baraga to 2023 Finals

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

April 23, 2024

Baraga’s Corina Jahfetson graduated in 2023 as one of the most accomplished 3-point shooters in MHSAA history and coming off one of the most impressive single seasons from beyond the arc.

Her 103 3-pointers as a senior over 29 games were the second-most for one season and included eight in a Quarterfinal win over Mackinaw City – the second-most in an MHSAA Quarterfinal, Semifinal or Final.

She finished with 236 3-pointers over 96 games and four seasons, ranking 12th on that career list, and Baraga finished the season as Division 4 runner-up. She’s continuing her career at Northern Michigan.

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

Girls Basketball

Alma junior Bailey Walkington earned her school’s first single-season individual record book entry for girls basketball in 2022-23. She made the steals list with 143 over 23 games.

Dalton DeBoer became the latest Midland Dow long-range shooting ace to make the records after she drained 70 of 206 3-point attempts over 24 games in 2022-23. DeBoer is a junior this school year.

Durand senior Jordyn Lawrence earned her school’s first girls basketball individual record book entry with 15 steals in her team’s 44-31 win over Flint Kearsley on Dec. 2, 2022. She’s continuing at Mid-Michigan College.

Leah French finished her Engadine career in 2023 with a series of game, season and career record book entries detailing her scoring and defensive skills. She earned single-game listings for 54 points and 19 free throws against St. Ignace on Feb. 6, 2023, and nine 3-pointers against Manistique that Jan. 9. She made the single-season list with 81 3-pointers, 177 free throws and 168 steals over 25 games as a senior. And she made the career lists with 171 3-pointers, 354 free throws and 405 steals over 85 games and four seasons. She’s continuing her career at Aquinas College.

Arieonna Ware earned Battle Creek Central's first girls basketball record book entry with 51 points in a Feb. 11, 2020, win over Portage Northern. She actually finished with a triple-double, adding 12 rebounds and 12 steals. Ware also was added for 47 points in a March 6, 2019, District game against Sturgis.

Mesick senior Kayla McCoy made the MHSAA record in 2022-23 as a junior, totaling 144 steals over 23 games. It was Mesick’s first individual entry in the girls basketball record book.

Coldwater’s Carlee Crabtree made a career-high 52 3-pointers during her senior season of 2019-20 on the way to making the MHSAA career list for long-distance shots with 163, in 469 attempts, over four seasons and 88 games total. She went on to play at Central Michigan and Hope College.

Battle Creek Pennfield’s Kaylee Glidden capped her three-year varsity career in 2023 among the most accurate free-throw shooters in MHSAA history – and also among top 3-point aces. She made 90.6 percent of her free-throw attempts as a senior, good for fifth-highest percentage all-time for one season, and her 84.4-percent success rate ranks fourth on the career list. She also made the single-season 3-pointers list with 67 that winter and the career list with 168. She continued at Kellogg Community College and has committed to Great Lakes Christian College.

Larissa Huffman made a pair of career lists upon completing her four-year varsity career in 2023 at Mackinaw City. She was added for 468 assists and 411 steals, both over 92 games, and she’s continuing her career at St. Norbert (Wis.). Additionally, Mackinaw City was added to the single-game field goals list as a team for making at least 39 in a game six times over the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons, with a high of 45.

Lansing Christian earned a listing on the team 3-pointers list when it sank 14 on 32 attempts against Webberville on Jan. 20, 2023. Seven players drained at least one of the long-distance shots.  

Grayling’s 66-49 win over Houghton Lake on Dec. 19 included one of the most impressive defensive performances of all-time as senior Makayla Watkins had 19 steals – tying for third-most in one game.

Brooklyn Columbia Central’s Zoandria Bamm grabbed 28 rebounds during a Feb. 14, 2023, game against Clinton to make the single-game list in that category and on the way to finishing her senior season with 380 rebounds over 25 games – tying for 13th most on that list. She’s playing at Jackson College.

Riley Abney became the first player to be listed for points scored in a quarter of a girls basketball game when she sank 21 of her 36 total during the fourth quarter of a 64-47 loss to Linden on Jan. 16. The Ortonville Brandon senior has committed to be a preferred walk-on at Oakland.

A pair of Paw Paw standouts earned single-game accomplishments within three days of each other in January. On Jan. 26 against Sturgis, junior AJ Rickli grabbed 31 rebounds, tied for seventh-most for one game. On Jan. 29 against Three Rivers, sophomore Stella Shaefer made the single-game assists list with 14.

Keira Maki joined the single-game points list on Feb. 22 when she scored 47 in Escanaba’s 64-49 win over Sault Ste. Marie. The senior will continue at Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

PHOTO Baraga’s Corina Jahfetson (22) brings the ball upcourt during the 2023 Division 4 Final against Glen Lake at Breslin Center.