Young Grass Lake Grows Into Contender

March 2, 2019

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

GRASS LAKE – Some coaches go a whole career without ever knocking off a No. 1-ranked team.

The Grass Lake Warriors and head coach Andrea Cabana have done it twice in a month.

“And, we are just babies,” Cabana said of her youthful squad. “I think it really boosts our confidence. It gives us an idea of what we are capable of.”

The Warriors, who have been sneaking higher and higher into The Associated Press Division 3 rankings all season, are capable of just about anything with the MHSAA Tournament beginning this week. They have won 16 consecutive games since a December loss to Division 3 No. 1 Michigan Center. Included in that streak is two wins over a solid 14-5 Manchester squad, a rematch win over Michigan Center on Feb. 1 and a 64-53 win over Division 4’s No. 1 Adrian Lenawee Christian last week.

“It’s exciting,” said Cabana. “We are playing very well right now.”

On Thursday, the Warriors took care of business quickly, racing out to a 31-2 lead over Addison in a game that would clinch the Cascades Conference outright championship. Grass Lake won 64-36 to put the lid on a 19-1 regular season.

Success is certainly nothing new for Grass Lake. But this season’s rise to 19-1 can be considered somewhat of a surprise since the team, coming off an 18-5 season, had just one player returning with a lot of high school basketball experience – sophomore Abrie Cabana. She’s surrounded by two freshmen, a fellow sophomore and a junior.

“We’re not babies at this time of the year,” Coach Cabana said. “We’ve grown up.”

The Warriors have done it with a solid combination of lock-down defense and a high-powered offense. They average 56.4 points a game and allow just 29.6 a contest. The defense has allowed 20 or fewer points in a game seven times this season, and one opponent didn’t reach double figures. On the other end of the court, the Warriors have 11 games scoring above 60 points.

Lenawee Christian won the Class D championship a year ago and has been the No. 1-ranked team in Division 4 most of the season. The Cougars lost to Michigan Center to start the season and Grass Lake last week for their only two losses. Head coach Jamie Salenbien said Grass Lake has all of the pieces to make a long tournament run of its own this year.

“They have a high basketball I.Q.,” Salenbien said. “They are balanced with kids who can shoot it deep, and they get to the basket. They are well-coached and have a lot of weapons.”

Cabana called that win a total team effort.

“Lenawee Christian is a great team,” she said. “They have a handful of great players. We knew it was going to take a great effort. We went in real focused, and things went our way in the end.”

Abrie Cabana, the 5-foot-10 daughter of Coach Cabana, leads the team in scoring and most statistical categories. Although just a sophomore, she verbally committed to play college basketball at Grand Valley State University last fall. She had other offers, including from the Division I level, but chose the Division II Lakers over them all.

“She’s probably our vocal leader,” Cabana said of her daughter. “She’s played a ton of travel ball. She’s the most experienced high school player on the team.”

Her backcourt running mate, Lexus Bargesser, is only a freshman but already plays at a high level.

“She’s almost identical to Abrie,” Cabana said. “She’s a little smaller, but she’s quick and gets to the hole quick. She’s a very sound player. We are very strong at the guard position. They are both strong outside the 3-point line and inside. They are hard to handle.”

Freshman Gabrielle Lutchka (6-0) is also an imposing figure at both ends of the court for Grass Lake.

“She’s been our game changer,” Cabana said. “She handles the other team’s big player. When she is playing well, we play well.”

In the win over Lenawee Christian, Lutchka scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds. She also drew the primary responsibility of guarding LCS’s Bree Salebien, the reigning AP Class D Player of the Year.

Other Warriors, such as Amber Boomer, Faith Patania and Lauren Pongracz, play big roles as well.

“They do a real nice job of playing to their roles, playing to their strengths,” Cabana said.

While young, Cabana said, the girls already have played a lot of basketball.

“A lot of our girls play travel ball,” Cabana said. “They are very experienced players. They’ve played a lot of basketball.”

Cabana is from the Jackson area but has lived in the Grass Lake district for about 20 years. She got her start coaching her oldest daughter – now a sophomore on the Spring Arbor University team – when she was in the third grade. The Warriors are 55-13 during her tenure, and the future keeps looking brighter.

“There was an opening in the middle school, and I coached that for three years,” Cabana said. “Then there was an opening as the JV head coach and I did that for two years, and this is my third year with the varsity.”

Grass Lake will open District play with Lenawee County Athletic Association champion Brooklyn Columbia Central. Looming on the other side of the Napoleon bracket is the likes of Michigan Center and Manchester.

“This time of the year,” Cabana said, “nothing is easy.”

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 DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Grass Lake’s Abrie Cabana pushes the ball upcourt against Manchester this season. (Middle) Teammate Lexus Bargesser looks for an opening. (Photos courtesy of the Grass Lake girls basketball program.)

Breslin Bound: 2022-23 Girls Report Week 10

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

February 6, 2023

Championship time is quickly approaching this girls basketball season.

MI Student Aid

We’re still three weeks out from the start of District play. But league contenders are clashing all over the state, with a handful of conferences finishing up their schedules this week and several favorites facing off soon with titles on the line. We make mention of a number of those below.

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at MHSAA.com.

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:

1. West Bloomfield 59, Detroit Edison 49 Last season, West Bloomfield (15-2) became the first in-state team to defeat Edison (12-3) since 2018 – and the Lakers have become the only one to do so again this winter.

2. Maple City Glen Lake 51, Traverse City St. Francis 45 The Lakers (13-2) are up to No. 2 in Division 4 MPR, while St. Francis (12-2) sits No. 4 in Division 3.

3. Holt 55, DeWitt 53 The Rams (14-2) sit alone atop the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue after sending the Panthers (13-2) into second in a matchup of top Division 1 teams statewide.

4. Hancock 50, Calumet 47 The Bulldogs (13-1) maintained their one-game lead in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference West with their second win this season over third-place Calumet (11-3). Both are among the top seven statewide in Division 3 MPR.

5. Detroit Edison 44, Farmington Hills Mercy 42 The Pioneers bounced back from the West Bloomfield loss with a pair of close wins, this one over Mercy (14-2) followed by a one-pointer over Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Saturday.

Watch List

With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:

DIVISION 1

Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (11-5) After a 2-4 start with those losses to top Division 1 and 2 teams statewide, Reeths-Puffer is 9-3 and tied for first in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green with Muskegon after edging the Big Reds 56-52 on Friday. That avenged a 14-point loss to Muskegon on Jan. 6, and the Rockets have since gone on an eight-game winning streak. They also opened last week with a 42-39 victory over 11-win Ludington.

Maddie Bradford of Maple City Glen Lake contests a shot by Maggie Napont of Traverse City St. Francis during the Lakers' 51-45 win over the Gladiators last week.

Wayne Memorial (13-4) The Zebras further solidified their standing atop the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East standings with last week’s 75-57 win over second-place Belleville. That followed up a 44-41 win over the Tigers on Jan. 6, and total Wayne has won 12 straight since a 1-3 start that included two-point losses to Division 1 contenders Detroit Renaissance and Hudsonville and a third defeat to Illinois power Chicago Whitney Young.

DIVISION 2

Goodrich (14-1) The Martians are locked in another battle atop the Flint Metro League Stars with Lake Fenton and trail the Blue Devils by a game after a 50-44 loss Jan. 20. That’s Goodrich’s only defeat, and they’ll attempt to avenge it in the league finale Feb. 17. In the meantime, the Martians can continue their statewide push upward with 13-win Flushing coming up Wednesday and 15-win Ovid-Elsie next week as well.

Redford Westfield Prep (11-6) The Warriors take on many of the state’s best, evidenced by their No. 8 MPR despite six losses. Westfield has won seven of its last eight games, the lone defeat during that streak 55-53 to still-undefeated Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Jan. 16 – and with perhaps its most notable instate win of the season 46-45 in double overtime Jan. 12 over reigning Division 3 champion Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.

DIVISION 3

McBain (13-4) The Highland Conference race could go down to the finish, especially after McBain avenged its earlier 17-point loss to second-place Evart with a 51-35 win last week. McBain also has a six-point loss to league leader Lake City from Jan. 20, but can avenge that in the regular-season finale Feb. 23. The Ramblers additionally have a pair of victories over 12-win Beal City and a solid early loss to still-undefeated Division 2 Escanaba.

Ovid-Elsie (15-2) The Marauders haven’t slowed down a bit after last season’s 21-2 finish with league and District titles, the latter in Division 2. This season in Division 3, Ovid-Elsie is up to No. 6 in MPR with a 14-game winning streak since suffering its lone losses early to Pewamo-Westphalia (10-5) and Dansville (15-1). The Marauders handed Mackinaw City its first defeat Saturday, 59-55 on a neutral court, and also has a victory over 14-win Ithaca plus a two-game lead in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference.

DIVISION 4

Fowler (11-6) Coming off back-to-back Division 4 championships, Fowler put together a schedule featuring solid-to-strong teams from Divisions 1-4 and sit No. 3 in Division 4 MPR. The losses have come to Midland Dow, Haslett, Lansing Catholic, Kent City and league rivals Dansville and Portland St. Patrick, and the Eagles avenged the Shamrocks defeat 51-44 last week. Fowler will need help to catch Dansville in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference, down two games from the league leader, but will try to get one back from the Aggies on Feb. 14.

Norway (16-1) The Knights are leading the large-school division of the Skyline Central Conference with the likely deciding matchup coming at Bark River-Harris next week. Norway has lost only to Niagara (Wis.), by five two weeks ago, and handed Carney-Nadeau (13-2) one of its losses among other strong work – and after ending last season’s 11-10 run with a 15-point District loss to the Wolves.

Can’t-Miss Contests

Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up: 

Tuesday – Coldwater (15-1) at Jackson Northwest (15-1) – The Mounties lead Coldwater by a win in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference thanks to a 50-46 win in their first meeting Jan. 10.

Tuesday – Utica Ford (14-1) at Grosse Pointe North (13-2) – North has clinched a share of the Macomb Area Conference Red title heading into tonight’s league finale, while Ford won by a large margin in the MAC White.

Thursday – Houghton (13-1) at Hancock (13-1) – As noted above, Hancock leads the West-PAC West by a game – but will face second-place Houghton twice over the next two weeks.

Friday – Standish-Sterling (15-1) at Hemlock (13-3) – Hemlock owns the lead in the Tri-Valley Conference West 10-1 thanks to a 62-31 doubling up in the first meeting Jan. 6. But that remains the Panthers’ lone loss, and they’ve since handed TVC 10-2 co-leader Saginaw Valley Lutheran one of its two defeats.

Friday – Saline (15-2) at Temperance Bedford (16-1) – Saline is first and Bedford second in the Southeastern Conference Red thanks to Saline’s 41-22 win in their first meeting Jan. 27.

MHSAA.com's weekly “Breslin Bound” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTOS (Top) A trio of Fowler defenders surround a Bath player driving to the basket during a 49-27 win earlier this season; they meet again Thursday. (Middle) Maddie Bradford of Maple City Glen Lake contests a shot by Maggie Napont of Traverse City St. Francis during the Lakers' 51-45 win over the Gladiators last week. (Top photo by Click by Christine McCallister. Middle photo by Rick Sack/TC Rick Photo.)