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.)
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.