Young Bedford Emerges with Quarterfinal Run

March 18, 2019

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

TEMPERANCE – The timing of girls basketball season in Michigan was about to change, and Temperance-Bedford boys and girls basketball coach Bill Ryan knew he had a difficult choice.

It was about that time that 10 girls walked into his Bedford High School classroom and asked him to remain their basketball coach. It was a slam dunk decision.

“I have no regrets about that,” said Ryan, who will coach the Mules in Tuesday’s Division 1 Quarterfinal against Wayne Memorial after winning his second Regional championship last week. “None.”

Ryan has had a string of success coaching the Bedford girls, including a 25-1 team in 2008-09 and this year’s team that turned some heads in southeast Michigan by going 20-5 and reaching the Quarterfinals despite carrying just two seniors on its roster and being led in scoring and rebounding by freshmen.

“I knew we would be okay,” said Ryan. “But the Southeastern Conference is so strong. Saline had a real solid team, and Ann Arbor Pioneer is loaded. I knew we would be good, but I didn’t know what the wins and losses would look like.”

This is Ryan’s fourth run into the Quarterfinals. He was an assistant coach on two Bedford girls teams that made consecutive trips to the Class A Quarterfinals in the early 2000s. He was the Bedford boys varsity basketball coach from 2001 to 2007.

He spent three seasons coaching both varsity teams. When the seasons shifted beginning with 2007-08, however, that was no longer possible. That’s when the girls came to his classroom and said they wanted him to remain their coach and keep the program rolling.

Ryan, who played basketball at Bedford, is 244-101 as the Mules girls varsity coach. Combined with 72 victories in his seven boys seasons, he now has 316 wins at his alma mater.

“They just said, ‘Let’s stay together,’” Ryan said. “Several of the girls were sophomores at the time. They were a coach’s dream. If I was having an open gym or something all I would have to do is call one girl and they would all be there. It ended up being a good move for me.”

Ryan has made all the right moves from the sidelines of this Kicking Mules team. In addition to its tough SEC schedule, Ryan piled onto its slate a handful of high-quality teams from northwest Ohio to help the Mules get ready for not only the conference battles but the MHSAA Tournament. That is paying dividends now as Bedford has won 13 of its past 14 games.

“We had two really good games in the Region to advance,” Ryan said. “I think our District got us ready for those games.”

Bedford started the season blazing hot, winning its first five games, including two to claim the Southgate Holiday Tournament championship. That’s when the Mules hit a rough patch – dropping four of six games, including three SEC Red games. The Jan. 18 loss to Monroe was a turning point, Ryan said.

“We let a 10-point lead evaporate in the fourth quarter,” Ryan said. “Monroe is a big rival for us. That didn’t sit well with a lot of girls. There were no team meetings or anything like that, but they were aware.”

By then Ryan had also turned to 6-foot-2 freshman Sophia Gray and his 5-11 freshmen daughter, Grace Ryan, for more productivity. They responded in a big way. Grace leads the team in scoring at about 9.5 points a game. It’s a typical Ryan-coached team, however, where the girls seemingly take turns leading the team in scoring and several average around the 7-10 point mark.

“They could start for us, but I like the way things have worked out,” he said. “They come in about the 4-minute mark, sometimes the 2-minute mark, and they give us an immediate spark. Once they learned the nuances of our defense, I had no inhibitions about leaving them out there at key points of the game.”

Ryan and Gray both came into the season ready to play.

“They are friends, and they have played together all along,” Ryan said. “They have played some AAU and travel ball. They’ve played a lot of basketball, competitive basketball, against a lot of good competition. When they get to the varsity, they’ve played against a lot of great players already. They are not in awe of anyone. They were ready for the rigors of varsity basketball.”

The team has been balanced all season, but during the tournament run that sharing of the scoring wealth seems to have taken on even greater meaning.

In the Regional Semifinal win over Detroit Cass Tech, 6-1 sophomore Molly Koviak scored 14 points and Ryan 12. In the Regional Final win over Dearborn Heights Crestwood, junior Aubrie Zeunen and Savannah Killinen shared the team lead with 12 points each while junior Madison Norton and Ryan each scored 10 points.

Bedford’s two seniors are Selena Sandoval and Sarah Koviak, and both play important roles on the team. Killinen is a talented 5-7 sophomore.

“She has some swag about her that we really like,” Ryan said.

After the Regional championship, Killinen didn’t seem fazed by the fact the Mules were headed to the elite eight.

“It feels good, especially since we are a really young team,” she said. “This is what we’ve dreamed of – to see it come true is awesome,” she said.

The Kicking Mules will get its toughest test to date Tuesday against 23-2 Wayne Memorial, a team loaded with college signees and next-level prospects.

“It’s a win-win game for us,” Ryan said. “I wanted them to get a deep run into the tournament to get that experience. To win a Regional is just the cherry on top. But I wouldn’t put anything past our girls. They don’t cower to anyone, and I know they’ll be fighting to the end. We wear the underdog role pretty well.”

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.

PHOTO: Temperance Bedford girls basketball coach Bill Ryan talks things over with his players during a game this season. (Photo by Vanessa Ray.)

JoBurg 3-Sport Great Capping Career Filled with All-State Honors, Team Trophies

By Tom Spencer
Special for

April 5, 2024

It won’t be hard for Jayden Marlatt to remember opening day on the softball field from any of her four years at Johannesburg-Lewiston.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAs a freshman, she missed the opener due to needing to quarantine. Her sophomore and junior years started on the road because the Cardinals’ field was under construction.  

This season the Cardinals will open up — weather permitting — on their brand-new field, hosting Mio on Monday, April 8.  Marlatt is slated to be the starting pitcher again and add to her school record collection.

While Johannesburg-Lewiston is looking forward to playing on the new diamond, Marlatt and her teammates have high hopes of finishing the season almost 200 miles south. They’re looking to get back to Michigan State University – the site of the Division 4 Semifinals and Final.

The Cards have had their sites on that goal since they fell 4-2 to Mendon in last year’s Semifinal at Secchia Stadium. The loss ended a 30-4-1 campaign that saw the Cardinals play every game on the road for a second consecutive year, but come up only one victory short of a first championship game appearance.

The trip to East Lansing also came after the Cards won the program’s first District title since 2008 and advanced to the Semifinals for the first time since 1981.

“It has been a long two seasons on the road,” said eighth-year head coach Kim Marlatt, noting the team utilized a Little League field for practices during the stretch. “They’ve been putting in a lot of work in the offseason, so it is excited to get going.”

Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. The new field isn’t the only new things this spring. The Cardinals will have a junior varsity team for the first time during the Marlatt’s tenure. The JV squad is coached by Ryan Marlatt, who has been serving the program the past eight years as assistant coach. He also has been the head girls basketball coach at JoBurg the past two seasons.

The Marlatt coaches are the proud parents of Jayden, who continues to garner recognition as perhaps the greatest athlete in Johannesburg-Lewiston’s history. 

The three-sport star had a huge hand in all that JoBurg accomplished last season leading the team in batting average (.670), home runs (13) and runs batted in (61). As the team’s ace pitcher, she collected 249 strikeouts and compiled a 1.32 ERA.

“Jayden has put in the hard work,” Kim pointed out.  “She is a very humble athlete. ‘She doesn’t like to talk about herself. She likes to compete, and she likes to be on the top of her game for her teammates.”

Jayden has been named all-conference and all-state in softball, basketball and volleyball nearly every season over her four years at JoBurg. She’s led her teams to Ski Valley Conference, District and Regional titles along the way.

She’s also been named Player of the Year by multiple publications. And she’s a front runner to be voted the Most Valuable Player of the Ski Valley Conference in softball. Earlier this year, league coaches voted her the MVP for both basketball and volleyball.  

“The Ski Valley never used to vote on an MVP,” Ryan Marlatt said. “Hopefully she can add the triple crown and get softball this year.”

Jayden Marlatt, who has played all three sports all four years, acknowledged softball is perhaps her most treasured, and she’ll continue in that sport at Ferris State. Her career total of more than 500 strikeouts, and her 14 home runs last season, are both JoBurg school records. "I like them all but probably softball,” she confirmed when asked to name her favorite sport.

She averaged 12 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and four steals per game this winter helping the Cards basketball team to a conference runner-up finish. She was key to JoBurg's ability to put a 12-game winning streak together, and she topped the 1,000-point career mark along the way.

Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season.Her outstanding senior year on the basketball court and this spring’s possibilities nearly vanished as the volleyball season ended.

She suffered what looked to be a serious lower-leg injury in the final game of the JoBurg volleyball season. “She finished in the emergency room,” Kim Marlatt said.  

Diagnosed a high ankle sprain, it was an aggravation to an injury from her junior year in basketball. She wasn’t quite at 100 percent on the basketball court this season until the holiday break. She’s starting the softball season healthy, though.

Before the injury, Jayden led the Cards to their third volleyball conference championship over the last four years. After becoming JoBurg's all-time kills leader during her junior season, and with many of her teammates from her first three seasons graduating, Jayden had to fill a variety of roles while anchoring the offense from her outside hitter spot.

She ended up leading the team in both kills with 421 and digs, with 431, in her final season on the volleyball court. And she is listed among MHSAA’s all-time leaders in kills for a single match and career.

It’s more than Marlatt’s stats that stand out for Kristine Peppin, the school’s volleyball coach the past 15 years.

“It is not about the size of the school or the size of the player, it’s the heart that they have inside,” she proclaimed. “This girl would be a successful player on whatever team she was on. 

“Yes we’re a small school, small town,” she continued. “That kind of leadership and heart and drive to be the best is what’s given her that success.”

Marlatt’s work ethic is second to none, Peppin noted. She never saw Jayden give less than a “1,000” percent in practice or games in her career. 

Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt.“She’s a super hard worker and extremely modest for the kind of skill she possesses and the success she’s had,” Peppin said. “Her teammates think it’s amazing to be on her team.”

Marlatt’s volleyball skills caught the eye of at least one of her conference opponents’ coaches back in junior high. Ron Stremlow was performing one of his many coaching duties for Fife Lake Forest Area when he first saw Jayden on the volleyball court.

“I could tell then this girl was somebody special,” said Stremlow, who became one of the winningest coaches in state volleyball history with the Warriors. “When she got in high school, it just took off.

“She puts the time into it, and she works hard,” Stremlow continued. “Kids like that get what they deserve – they work for it.”

Stremlow, now retired, also acknowledged he’s enjoyed being able to watch the hard-throwing Marlatt on the softball field the last couple of seasons as Forest Area hosted the Cardinals consecutively due to JoBurg’s lack of a home field.

It’s something he’ll have to travel to do this year though, as JoBurg is scheduled to host the Warriors on April 15.

The Cardinals also will host a Regional on their new field June 8. The winners of District play at Rogers City, Harbor Springs, St. Ignace and Gaylord St. Mary will participate.

To play in the Regional, the Cards will have to emerge from the Rogers City District featuring the host Hurons, Atlanta, Hillman, Onaway, and Posen.

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Jayden Marlatt drives a pitch during softball season. (2) Cardinals’ 1,000-point scorer Marlatt sets up for a free throw attempt. (3) Also a standout in the fall, Marlatt prepares to connect during volleyball season. (4) Marlatt celebrates a trophy win during last season’s Semifinals softball run with parents (and coaches) Kim and Ryan Marlatt. (Action shots by Dylan Jespersen/Petoskey News-Review; family photo by Breya Domke.)