Will Carleton Hoops Creates '1 Big Family'

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

March 8, 2021

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

HILLSDALE – The Thielen siblings, with oldest daughter Lizzy and three younger brothers, are getting to do something few families in Michigan have had the opportunity to experience – playing high school basketball together on the same team.

When there weren’t enough girls out for the girls basketball team this winter at Will Carleton Academy in Hillsdale, basketball coach Jason Coward decided to add the girls who would have played for the Cougars to his team.

One of them was Thielen, who has moved back and forth between the junior varsity and varsity boys team – giving her the opportunity to play with all three brothers, sometimes on the same night.

“I would be so sad if I wasn’t able to play basketball this season,” Thielen said. “I really enjoy the opportunity to play with my brothers. Not a lot of girls get to say they did that. I’m thankful I can.”

Will Carleton Academy, with just 50 students, has one of the smallest enrollments of any school in the Michigan High School Athletic Association. They normally have enough players for JV and varsity girls and boys teams and participate annually in the MHSAA postseason.

This year, however, for a variety of reasons including the effects of COVID-19, Coward said only four or five girls were with the program when the season was launched in February.

“Frankly, some of the girls found other things to do,” he said. “It was a long wait to decide if there would even be a season. They grew tired of waiting. We didn’t know. They didn’t know. Some of the girls that we thought were going to play made other plans.”

Coward was familiar with some of the Cougars girls because he coached them in middle school.

Will Carleton Academy basketball 2“I knew they were good competitors who could play,” he said.

So, instead of putting the girls team on the shelf for the year, he did the next best thing – he put them on the boys team. Thielen, Sophia Crites and Clemmie Gadwood are all regular contributors at the varsity level. Gadwood has started most of the Cougars’ games this season while Thielen and Crites come off the bench and have also split time between the JV and varsity, something that is allowed this season with an MHSAA rule change that allows players to play in five quarters a night.

Coward said there was no hesitation in the girls being part of the team.

“I don’t treat them any differently,” he said. “They are just part of the team. They do everything I ask. They are great teammates and great to have on the team. They run the drills and have gotten so much better.”

Thielen said the transition from the girls game to the boys game wasn’t always easy. Opponents are often bigger, the game somewhat more physical and the boys use a bigger basketball. Still, in the end, it's all just basketball.

Will Carleton Academy is off to a 6-4 start. The Cougars had a four-game winning streak earlier this season, beating Jackson Homeschoolers, Battle Creek Calhoun Christian, Coldwater Pansophia Academy and Litchfield. They’ve beaten Litchfield and Pansophia Academy a second time as well.

In the second win over Litchfield, Gadwood, a sophomore, made four first-quarter 3-pointers and finished with 12 points.

Gadwood and Thielen have brothers on the team. Gabe Gadwood, a senior, averages around 20 points a game and is the team’s top scorer. 

Thielen said it helps having brothers on the team.

“We are all one big family,” she said. “We go home at night and talk about our games or practices together.”

On Friday, the Cougars played Britton Deerfield. BD head coach Darren Shiels was impressed with the play of WCA.

“It should really help their girls program,” said Shiels, who has coached at Britton and Britton Deerfield for more than 15 seasons. “Playing against tougher competition always makes you better.”

Will Carleton will conclude its regular season March 19. Before then they have two games with Jackson Prep along with dates with North Adams-Jerome and Waldron. The Cougars are grouped in a Division 4 District at Pittsford that includes undefeated Hillsdale Academy.

The Cougars are not the only school in southeast Michigan to have girls play as part of the boys team. Vandercook Lake is not fielding a girls team this winter. Earlier this year, Shelby Moore knocked down a 3-pointer in a Jayhawks game against East Jackson. She did so on an assist from her brother.

Coward said the school had discussions during the preseason about becoming a co-op with another Hillsdale County school for girls basketball but decided it would be better to incorporate the girls into the Cougars boys team instead.

The girls coach, Lakyn Sattison, became an assistant coach for the boys team – and Coward said the girls and boys varsity teams could practice together next season. For another month they’ll continue to play together as one – thankful for the opportunity to take the floor every night, proudly wearing school colors.

“It’s definitely a different game,” Thielen said. “The game is pretty quick, but it’s a lot of fun. I’ve had to improve my skills. It’s helped me improve my skills. It’s just a different level of competition.

“Sure, I wanted to play with my classmates and other girls in my school, but I’m getting to play. And that’s all that matters.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Will Carleton Academy’s Clemmie Gadwood (12) positions for a possible 3-pointer this season. (Middle) WCA coach Jason Coward huddles with his team. (Photos by Joe Flaherty, Hillsdale Daily News.)

St. George's Senior Season Filled with Historic Trip, Sizzling 3-Point Shooting

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

May 21, 2024

Delaney St. George helped Kingston reach its first MHSAA Girls Basketball Final this winter – and along the way finished her high school career among the most prolific 3-point shooters in state history.

The four-year varsity senior made 87 3-pointers this season for the Division 4 runner-up Cardinals, good to tie for 10th on the single-season list after she made 93 as a junior to rank fourth all-time.

She finished her Kingston career with 290 3-pointers in 793 attempts over 94 games – good for second on the career 3-pointers list.

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

Girls Basketball

Hemlock’s 18-6 run this season was fueled in part by more successful 3-point shooting. The Huskies made single-season lists with 170 3-pointers and 552 attempts, and also for making 14 3-pointers Jan. 5 against St. Louis.

Senior Mia McLaughlin made nine of 15 3-point shots for Frankenmuth in a Feb. 6 win over Birch Run as the Eagles made the team record book list with 15 3-pointers total. They also were added for 14 3-pointers in a Feb. 20 win over Bay City John Glenn. McLaughlin will continue her career at Ferris State.

McBain sophomore Peyton Grant scored all 27 of her points Jan. 17 against Houghton Lake on nine 3-pointers to make the single-game list in that category.

Seniors Autumn Tremblay and Ceara LeBlanc earned Brimley’s first girls basketball record book listings this season. Both made single-game lists in a Feb. 27 win over Harbor Springs Harbor Light Christian – Tremblay scored 21 points during the first quarter and LeBlanc had 16 steals for the game – and LeBlanc also was added for 141 steals total over 25 games this past winter.

Reed City’s run at the Central State Activities Association title this winter was fueled in part by 3-point shooting. The Coyotes finished one game out of first, but made the records with 517 3-point attempts over 24 games – and just missed the made 3-pointers list connecting on 143.

Howell sophomore Gabrielle Piepho added her third record book listing over her first two seasons this winter making 89.2 percent of her free throw attempts to rank eighth on that single-season list. Howell as a team also made the 3-point attempts list with 536 over 25 games, and also just missed the 3-pointers made list with 146.

Saline finished the 2023-24 season among the all-time leading 3-point shooters again, this time with 192 – 14th-most for one season – in 587 attempts over 24 games. Sophomore Keira Roehm led the way with 78 3-pointers, tying for 21st on that list.

Junior Tamerah Peterson led Sterling Heights Parkway Christian to a District title this season, providing a record-setting defensive boost in addition to her offensive skills. She finished with 173 steals – eighth-most for one season – over 21 games.

Niles Brandywine reached Breslin Center this season with another stellar distance shooting display, making the record book with both 186 3-pointers and 610 attempts from beyond the arc in finishing Division 3 runner-up.

Alie Bisballe capped her career at Lake City this winter by helping her team reach the Division 3 Semifinal at Breslin Center – and by reaching the MHSAA girls basketball record book in two categories. The 6-foot-4 post player made the lists with 329 rebounds and 188 blocked shots, both in 28 games as Lake City finished 25-3. She will continue her career at Wisconsin.

Ironwood junior Hanna Vaughn will enter her final season next winter already on the career 3-pointers list. She’s made 155 3-pointers over her first three seasons and 70 games on varsity.

PHOTO Kingston’s Delaney St. George (10) pulls up for a shot during the Division 4 Final against Ishpeming.