#TBT: Redettes Bring Home Class A Title

March 31, 2016

The following tells the story of the 1976 Marquette girls basketball team, still the only Upper Peninsula team to win an MHSAA Class A girls basketball championship. This piece, by MHSAA historian Ron Pesch, served as the story behind the ceremony from a “Legends of the Games” program celebrating the Redettes.

If you never have dreams, they can never come true.

For coach Barb Crill and the girls basketball team from Marquette, the dream was to win an MHSAA basketball crown.

“Barb said to us as incoming freshmen that we would win the state,” said Karen Levandoski Helmila, recalling her days as a Redette.

The girls had come close early in Crill’s tenure. In three years, Crill's squads had compiled a 52-4 record, including a 16-2 mark in 1973, a 19-1 record in 1974 and 17 straight victories the following year.

In 1974, Grand Rapids Christian eliminated the Redettes in the Regional Final. In 1975, the team averaged 68 points a game to 25.9 for the opponents. In the MHSAA District Final, Marquette downed Sault Ste. Marie, 109-16, then brushed aside Portage Central, 72-18, in the Class A Quarterfinals. However, the voyage ended abruptly in the Semifinals with a loss to Farmington Our Lady of Mercy, 62-57.

The nucleus was in place for another run at the title in the fall of 1976. The team had lost all-U.P. players Jean Moratti and Laurie Niles, but had strong replacements. The Levandoski twins, Karen and Kay, Cheryl Aho, Janet Hopkins, Sue Belanger and Caron Krueger were all seniors, and Katie Miller, a senior transfer from Eau Claire, Wis., had joined the team. Forward Shelly Chapman, a junior, also had won all-U.P. honors. Sophomores Cynde Cory and Chris Moran were expected to be the first off the bench. Sue Micklow, Kate Jennings, Lisa Coombs, Mary Erspamer, Cathy Niles and Sue Lakanen rounded out the squad. Karen Meyers, the leading scorer on Northern Michigan University's basketball team and former Redette, was returning for her fifth year as Crill's assistant.

But time was running out for the squad to achieve their coach's prophecy.

“Over the years we had played every good team in the U.P.,” said Crill. “The girls needed more.”

So on Labor Day weekend, 1976, the Redettes prepared for a trip to Detroit – their coach's old stomping grounds. Crill had arranged scrimmages against some old friends in the Motor City; among them Detroit Dominican, coached by Sue Kruszewski and winner of the Class A title in 1973 and 1974, and Harper Woods Bishop Gallagher, which had made it to the Quarterfinals in 1973.

The Marquette squad responded to the challenge, playing well in the workouts.

“The girls came back in shape from summer vacation,” Crill told the media after the trip. “Most had done a lot of work on their own, while others stayed active playing other sports.”

A native of Allen Park, Crill had started coaching and teaching in Ann Arbor Public Schools in 1959. She instituted Marquette's girls program during the 1969-70 season. “We started here before there was any MHSAA (sanctioned) ball,” said Crill. “The girls provided their own uniforms. The principal, Paul Kotila, provided a bus and driver. We played everyone with a team. It promoted a lot of the interest.”

Back in the U.P., it was business as usual. In the home opener, Marquette trounced Gladstone, 71-19, as 14 girls saw time on the court. Next, they downed Negaunee, 87-21.

Through 17 additional regular-season games, the result was the same. Omitting a 2-0 forfeit by Harbor Springs, the Redettes improved their average from 1975 to 80.8 points per contest, while decreasing their opponents’ average to 25.2 per game.

The squad dumped Escanaba, 71-29, before a crowd of about 100 for the District title at Escanaba. Shelly Chapman led the team with a season-high 33 points. In Grand Rapids for the Regionals, the Big Red Machine defeat Benton Harbor, 64-55. Leading at the half by 25 points, Crill went to the bench. Again, Chapman led all scorers with 21 points, while Krueger added 16 and Hopkins added 13.

In the Regional Final, the Redettes faced a taller Grand Rapids Union squad. Despite the partisan Union crowd and a slim three-point lead at the end of the third quarter, Marquette pulled away for a 48-34 win.

With another victory in the bag, the Redettes congratulated one another in a familiar postgame scene during the 1976 championship run. True to her words, Crill and her Marquette cagers would have a season to remember and scrapbooks to compile following their impressive run to the MHSAA title. In the Quarterfinals, the team defeated Lansing Eastern, 67-37, then disposed of Flushing, 62-46, in the Semifinals. All that remained was a rematch with Farmington Our Lady of Mercy.

This time Marquette would not be denied, downing the reigning champs, 68-41. Chapman finished with 23, Hopkins poured in 19, and Krueger hit for 14 as Crill's starting five went the entire game without a substitution.

“I was impressed with the ladies’ positive attitude as we prepared for the championship game,” said Crill, reflecting on the matchup. “They seemed quiet, very determined, very patient with one another and quite business like. I had coached many games by the fall of 1976, but I never remember another game where we planned together what to do to win, and they followed our plan perfectly.”

The team was the first Class A school from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to win an MHSAA basketball championship, a feat that has not been repeated since.

“The strength that our team held through the entire game was so strong,” said Aho Reynolds. “That's the way I felt. The more baskets we made the more we wanted. The offense and defense combined everything that night.”

“The crowd was so large for the Final game,” recalled Levandoski Helmila. “There were thousands of people watching and it seemed like only 50 cheering for us. We were glad to face the team that knocked us out of the tournament the year before. We worked together for so long to reach our goal.”

“We wanted that victory not only for the members of the team, but for our coaches, parents and community,” echoed Levandoski Angeli. “We were not only a team, but a family. Our coaches made it clear and instilled in us that no individual was a star alone.”

“Wow! It was fun,” said Hopkins, “a great ending to four years of high school basketball. We dominated the game. We were the underdog, yet we were confident and played to our strengths. Each year I played, the team improved its skill level. In my senior year everything came together and we were unstoppable! Each team member contributed to the outcome, whether it was during practice, or a game. We were focused and determined to succeed.”

“Cheryl Aho's incredible defense stands out in my mind,” remembered Coombs Gerou. “She stopped one of the leading scorers in the state. Our team defense really stood out. “Everyone played, and on any given night someone off the bench would score as much as someone who started. We all treated each other with respect and worked together as a team. Coach Crill taught me that anything was possible if you worked and prepared for it.

“Another memory was our singing on the bus, even those of us who couldn't carry a tune.”

It was one of the longer bus rides that set the foundation for that championship year.

“I think that trip (to Detroit) was the biggest difference,” said Crill. “It gave them more experience playing the type of teams they would meet in the tournament. They could see they were talented enough. They had already played the best there was. They realized they could beat them again.”

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

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)