EAST LANSING – As Regan Finkbeiner exited the court Saturday during the final seconds of Hemlock’s MHSAA Division 3 Final triumph, she was hit with a mix of emotions.
The senior guard let the happy one take over, screaming in celebration to the Huskies student section, which screamed back in acknowledgement.
“I didn’t know if I was crying happy tears or sad tears because I’m done with basketball after this,” Finkbeiner said. “I don’t really know how I was feeling. I was crying because I was happy, crying because I was sad. I was just proud. Just proud of our community that was all there. I’m just glad that I’m ending it on a win.”
Finkbeiner had a game-high 19 points to lead Hemlock to a 59-43 win against Blissfield. It was the first girls basketball title for the Huskies, who were making their first appearance in the Finals.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Hemlock coach Scott Neumeyer said. “I’m just so proud of this team, especially the seniors. I was really happy for how they approached this whole tournament run. We had a brutal, brutal schedule to get here. I’m just happy for how they persevered and how they led this team.”
Prior to this season, Hemlock (26-3) had made just two trips to the Semifinals, the latest cut short before it could start due to COVID-19 after the team had advanced to championship weekend in 2021.
This year’s team took nothing for granted, and Neumeyer praised the business-like approach.
“People offered to do pep assemblies for them, to get them charter buses and limos and all this stuff,” Neumeyer said. “And they were like, ‘Nope, we’re taking the yellow school bus and we’re going down to the Breslin. We’re taking our lunch pail, and we’re going to work.’ And that’s the way I like it.”
That was apparent in the Final against Blissfield, as – outside of foul trouble – the Huskies did the things that win big games.
They forced 17 turnovers while committing just six. They were 22 of 25 from the free throw line, including 15 of 17 in the fourth quarter to salt the game away.
Much of that came from senior guard Chloe Watson, who hit 11 of her 13 free throw attempts in the game, on her way to 18 points.
Watson and Finkbeiner also were able to dribble away much of the fourth quarter as Blissfield was chasing a double-digit deficit.
“Chloe and Regan just played a great game of keep away,” Neumeyer said. “I’m going to record that and show my kids how to keep the ball away from people for about five minutes. They also knocked down free throws, and that’s no accident, because these guys work on free throws like crazy.”
Lauren Borsenik added 16 points and seven rebounds for the Huskies before fouling out early in the fourth quarter. She and her sister Hannah, who had four points and seven rebounds, gave the Huskies a balance that proved too much for Blissfield.
“Their competitiveness – they are warriors on the court, and they play with a little bit of an edge,” Neumeyer said of the Borsenik sisters, both juniors who joined Hemlock this season. “I thought today was a very physical game, and I’m not sure without them that we don’t lose that street fight, if you will, because it was a very physical game.”
The game was close through the first half, as Hemlock held a 25-20 lead at the break. But the Huskies stretched the lead to double digits in the third quarter, and kept Blissfield at arm’s length the rest of the way.
“There was a lot of moments where I thought we were one play away to get back into the game,” Blissfield coach Ryan Gilbert said. “Just a big play away, then get a stop and a score. We were talking about that in the huddle. Then it just kind of slowly mounted. We ran out of gas.”
Julia White led Blissfield in her final game with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Junior guard Avery Collins had 17 points to lead the Royals in scoring.
Blissfield finished 28-2 and was making its first Finals appearance since 1973.
“I couldn’t have asked for a greater senior season,” Blissfield senior forward Sarah Bettis said. “We had kind of been building for this year forever, and people had been telling us that we were going to go far. We didn’t really make it our focus, we just took it one game at a time, but ultimately it led us here. I’m really grateful for this program. It’s meant everything to me since kindergarten. I remember just waiting for the day that I could finally play and put on the uniform. It’s still a little surreal; it doesn’t feel like it should be over.”
PHOTOS (Top) Hemlock's Chloe Watson (11) sends up a jumper with Blissfield's June Miller defending Saturday at Breslin Center. (Middle) Huskies coach Scott Neumeyer holds up the championship trophy to his team and fans. (Below) Watson dribbles away from pressure as Blissfield's Sarah Bettis (10) pursues.
Hemlock and Rockford's drives to their first Girls Basketball Finals championships in March were paced in part by some of the strongest 3-point shooting in MHSAA history.
The Division 1 title-winning Rams connected on 243 3-pointers – third-most all-time – over 29 games in tying the single-season wins record while finishing 28-1. Grace Lyons, a senior this fall, made the single-season individual list with 70 3-pointers.
The Huskies won in Division 3 having connected on 229 3-pointers over 29 games, seventh-most in MHSAA history, on 678 attempts, which ranks 12th on that list. Chloe Watson made the single-season list with 75 3-pointers, and Regan Finkbeiner did as well connecting on 67.
Watson also made the career 3-pointers list with 224 and Finkbeiner with 194, and 2017 Hemlock graduate Samantha Krauss was added for 65 3-pointers as a junior in 2015-16 and 188 for her career. Additionally, past Hemlock standout Karli Herrington was added for her 317 rebounds in 2012-13, and Peyton Apsey was added for 144 steals in 2010-11.
Watson is continuing her career at Mid-Michigan College, and Finkbeiner is playing softball at Madonna. Herrington went on to play at Central Michigan and Northwood, Krauss played at Ferris State and Apsey played at Oakland.
Read on for more recent record book additions for girls basketball:
Hudsonville’s Maddie Petroelje joined the list of top 3-point shooters in MHSAA history as a junior in 2021-22, when she connected on 70 (in just 147 attempts) to make the single-season list. She graduated this spring 16th on the career list as well with 226 3-pointers in 512 attempts over 92 games and four seasons. She is continuing at Loyola (Ill.).
Byron Center’s Avery Zeinstra also finished her career among those top 3-point shooters. She also made the single-season list with 70 in 147 attempts as a freshman in 2018-19, and she capped her career in 2021-22 with 206 3-pointers (tied for 20th-most) in 502 attempts over four seasons and 80 career games. She is continuing at Grand Valley State.
Hannah Thompson was best known for her soccer scoring at Schoolcraft. But she’s made a second MHSAA record book for her 15 steals in a Jan. 28, 2022, basketball win over Galesburg-Augusta. She’s continuing her soccer career at Eastern Michigan.
Baraga’s run to the Division 4 Semifinals in 2022 received big boosts from Corina Jahfetson’s 3-point shooting and Reide Osterman’s defense. Jahfetson was added to the record book with 66 3-pointers over 25 games, including nine in a game against Carney Nadeau – when Baraga as a team made the record book with 14 3-pointers total. Osterman made the record book with 153 steals. Jahfetson graduated this spring, and Osterman is playing at Northern Michigan.
Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy’s Audrey Mileski had one of the busiest games at the free throw line in MHSAA history Dec. 14, 2021. She made 23 free throws – third-most in a single game – against Wyoming Kelloggsville. Mileski graduated this spring.
Sophia Bussell had set Monroe’s single-game 3-pointers record of eight as a freshman two seasons ago, and she bettered it last Dec. 13 by tying for the 10th-most in MHSAA history. She made 10-pointers including the game-winner of a 58-56 victory over Ypsilanti Lincoln. A little less than 10 months earlier, Adrian Lenawee Christian then-senior Kylie Summer also made 10, on 17 attempts, during a 57-34 win over Lansing Christian on Feb. 24, 2022.
Lydia Meredith enjoyed a memorable senior season for Portland St. Patrick in 2021-22, finishing her four-year varsity career with 453 steals over just 80 games. She also was added for drilling 17 free throws in 22 attempts against Fowler. She plays now at Saginaw Valley State.
Gabby Piepho got off to a fast start at Howell as a freshman last season, and at a record-setting pace at the free-throw line. She made 93 of 107 attempts over 25 games, for an .869 percentage that made the single-season list. That included a string of 47 straight free throws that ranks as the second-longest in MHSAA history. As a team, Howell tied for sixth all-time with 301 free throws over 25 games, on 439 attempts.
Kent City’s Lexie Bowers reached the single-season 3-pointers list for the second time last season, connecting on 72 of 233 tries over 26 games (after making 77 as a junior), and finished her four-season varsity career 16th on that 3-pointers list with 225 in 693 attempts over 99 games. She’s continuing her career at Northwood. Kent City as a team also reached the single-season 3-pointers made and attempted lists again, ranking fourth with 753 attempts and tying for eighth all-time by connecting on 202.
Posen then-junior Faith Cousins earned a par of record book entries during 2021-22 for assists. Her 16 in a District Final win on March 4, 2022, remain tied for fifth-most in one game, and she finished with 165 over 22 games for the season. She’s set to begin her softball career at Alma College.
Niles Brandywine went over 20 wins again this past season, finishing 21-3, and again the 3-pointer was a key tool in that pursuit. Brandywine made the record book with back-to-back games of 13 3-pointers to close the regular season, and finished with 175 3-pointers in 592 attempts over 23 games (with one won by forfeit).
Greenville’s Megan Leslie averaged more than two 3-pointers a game during her four-season varsity career, making the record list with 153 total over 76 games through graduation this spring. She’s continuing her career at Alma College.
Successful 3-point shooting played a major role in Saline finishing 21-4 with league and District titles last winter. The Hornets attempted 704 3-pointers – ninth-most all-time for one season – and connected on 191, which is 12th on that list. They made a season-high 14 against Ypsilanti Lincoln on Nov. 29 to make the single-game list.
Marcellus senior Brooklyn VanTilburg enjoyed a big finish to her high school career last winter, making the record book with 16 blocked shots in a game against Centreville and 135 blocks total for the season. She’ll continue at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Kennedy Gustafson made headlines last winter as a sophomore and earned a pair of record listings for her rebounding. She grabbed 26 in a March 3 District Final win over Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, and she finished with 376 rebounds over 25 games for the season.
PHOTO Hemlock's Regan Finkbeiner, left, follows through on a free throw attempt during last season's Division 3 Final, and Rockford's Grace Lyons launches the game-winning 3-pointer in Division 1.