'Underdog' Sailors Sink Reigning Champ

March 18, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Grand Rapids South Christian rarely plays a girls basketball game it’s not expected to win.

So labeling the Sailors "underdogs" probably was an exaggerated assessment heading into Friday’s Class B Semifinal again reigning champion Detroit Country Day.

True, the Yellowjackets were ranked No. 1 heading into the postseason and had lost only once this winter. But South Christian was No. 3, had lost only twice, and brought back three seniors who had come 17 minutes from an MHSAA championship only two seasons ago.

And now they’ll have the chance to bring back the Sailors’ first title since 1988. South Christian dominated nearly from start to finish to down Country Day 57-46. 

“Being the underdog, it was kinda fun, because no one really expected us to come out how we did, especially in the first half when I think we were up by 10 at halftime,” South Christian senior guard Jenn DeBoer said. “But we knew they were going to keep pushing and keep coming back, and we had to keep our poise and keep our control. But being the underdog and getting this win, it’s such an amazing feeling because no one really knew that we had it in us.”

The Sailors (25-2) will face Marshall at 6 p.m. in Saturday’s final championship game.

DeBoer, forward Markayla Vander and guard Sydney DeYoung were sophomores two seasons ago when South Christian reached the Final but fell 51-38 to Eaton Rapids. Coach Kim Legge – in her first season as head coach – was on the bench and has been part of the program for two decades. 

All of that experience no doubt has led to people outside the program to notice and tell Legge how even-keel her team seems to play – a trait that pays off at this time of year when one swing can end a season.

“People have said, ‘Wow, you look so poised all the time,’” Legge said. “Even when teams make runs at us, we stay even-keeled and keep our heads above water and keep pushing. And that’s just how we’ve operated all season long.”

South Christian led by as many as 16 during the second quarter and 10 at halftime, but did have to hold strong after Destiny Pitts’ 3-pointer with 4:42 left pulled Country Day within 41-37. The Sailors came back with a 16-9 run to finish, with DeBoer scoring six of her game-high 18 points down the stretch.

“They played very good defense; give them credit for that. We, just for some unknown reason, we were hurrying,” Country Day coach Frank Orlando said. “We shot 17 percent from the field in the first half, and that wasn’t us all year. I kept telling the girls that in these kind of games you have to be better, have to be much better, and you have to understand you can’t take away what you’ve done all year.

“We’ve come back against the best teams in the state. … (We) played hard. (We) almost came back. It was that breaking line we just couldn’t get across.”

Staying with the unexpected, South Christian maintained its lead without making a 3-pointer. The Sailors averaged nearly six per game entering the week, but missed all 10 of their attempts Friday. 

But in addition to DeBoer’s 18 points, Vander had 14 on nearly 50 percent shooting from the floor, and DeYoung had six but 11 rebounds. Sophomore forward Mariel Bruxvoort came off the bench to score 10 points while making half her shots and all four of her free-throw attempts.

Pitts – one of the state’s top juniors – had 14 points, only two below her average but while putting up with tight defense by Vander and getting only four shots off from 3-point range (and making one). Sophomore forward Maxine Moore had 13 points and guard Kaela Webb added 11 points and six rebounds for the Yellowjackets (24-2).

“I never second-guessed our team’s ability. I knew that coming into it, if we played our game, we could do it,” DeBoer said.  “We could shut them down defensively, and if we worked the ball on offense  we could get open looks because that’s what we’ve been doing against good defensive teams all season.

So I never really second-guessed them during the game and thought they’re not as good. I just knew we had to keep pushing and we had to stay in control, because we definitely had control most of the game.”

Click for the full box score.

The Girls Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Rapids South Christian players celebrate Friday’s Class B Semifinal win. (Middle) Country Day’s Kaela Webb drives to the hoop.

Hemlock, Rockford Follow 3-Point Success to 1st Titles, Record Book Fame

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

September 1, 2023

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:

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.