High 5s: 3/20/12

March 20, 2012

Every Tuesday, Second Half honors 2-4 athletes and a team for its accomplishments.

Have a suggestion for a future High 5? Please offer it by e-mail to [email protected]. Candidates often will have accomplished great things on the field of play -- but also will be recognized for less obvious contributions to their teams, schools or the mission of high school athletics.

Madison Ristovski

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett senior


Ristovski led her team to within a win of the Class C championship. She had 15 points and seven assists in a Semifinal win over Concord on Thursday, then scored 42 points -- second-most in MHSAA girls championship game history -- although the Knights fell 61-57 to Morley-Stanwood in Saturday's Final. Earlier in the week, she was named this season's Miss Basketball as the state's top senior player. She was joined on the Knights this season by junior sister Haleigh and freshman sister Lola.

Up next: Ristovski received a scholarship offer from the Unversity of Michigan after her freshman year, and accepted it as a junior. She's hopes to study education, get her teaching certificate and go into school administration.

Before the game, a winning routine: "Every single game day I wear the same outfit to school. I always eat the same pre-game meal -- a cheeseburger and medium fries from McDonald's. I sit in the same spot on the same bus for every game. ... I have to play with curly hair. I can't play with straight hair. I'm very superstitious."

Favorite offensive move: "With my right hand, cross over to the middle and jumpshot."

I learned the most about basketball from: "My dad, Loren Ristovski. My dad first started coaching when I was about nine months old (he coached at Harper Woods for 10 years). That's when he first started taking me into the gym. I could sit up at nine months, and I would roll the ball back and forth with my dad in the gym. I just went to everthing, and I grew up in the gym with my dad."

My favorite player is: "Pistol" Pete Maravich.

Sister power: "I'm really competitive with them in practice. We always go against each other, and we always make sure to push each other the hardest we can. In the games, I'm really supportive of them, but also I tell them when they are doing something wrong. Haleigh is a really good defender, but she can shoot the lights out. Lola can dribble really well and (is strong) in transition. I'm better at going to the basket and finding open players."

Had to be a Wolverine: "When I was in fifth grade, U-M was the very first basketball camp I went to outside of the local rec place and the high school. It was a huge place, and I loved it. My dad and I walked out of Crisler Arena, and my dad looked around and said to me, 'This is where you'll play basketball.' And I was like, 'Are you crazy? Those girls are so big.' My dad said, 'Madison, I promise you'll play at U-M.' Ever since, that's where I wanted to go."

Shar'Rae Davis

Grand Haven senior


Davis, a point guard, scored 19 points -- including the winning lay-up with six seconds to play -- as Grand Haven completed an 18-point comeback to beat Grosse Pointe South 54-53 in Saturday's Class A Final at the Breslin Center. The 18-point comeback was the third-biggest in MHSAA girls basketball championship game history. The Buccaneers also beat reigning champion Inkster in their Semifinal. The MHSAA title was Grand Haven's first. The team lost only once this season, early to East Kentwood.

"I'm so happy we lost that game. It definitely gave us a shift back into our mindset that we need to work hard every game to get where we are now -- state champs."

Up next: Davis is remaining quiet at this point about who is recruiting her, but expects to play basketball at the college level. 

Staying relaxed before the game: "We definitely listen to music. You would think all us girls would get our heads into it, be super serious. But our team can't be serious. We're an outgoing team. Before (Friday's) game, we were dancing in the locker room. And we definitely have a team prayer thanking God for everything he does for us."

I learned the most about basketball from: "I would have to say my family, every single one. I can't even put it specifically. My dad (Terry Foster), my little brother (Terrence II), my mom (Cavina Foster). They've all just contributed in every way. I love them all."

My favorite player is: "Either Kobe (Bryant) or LeBron (James). Game-wise, they are just pretty amazing. How they're able to stay calm and collected in games, hit shots under pressure, all that type of thing. I try to resemble their games. They're pretty awesome players."

Alexis Huntey

Morley-Stanwood senior


Huntey, a 6-foot-1 center, had 27 points and 16 rebounds as Morley-Stanwood won its first MHSAA girls basketball championship by edging Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 61-57 in Saturday's Class C Final. She also played a sizable role in Morley-Stanwood winning its second volleyball championship in the fall. She was named all-state this winter by The Associated Press and was a Miss Volleyball finalist in the fall. At that time she reported a 3.98 grade-point average.

Up next: Huntey has signed to play volleyball this fall at George Washington University. She's continuing a Division I college legacy in her family -- her father and Morley-Stanwood athletic director Clark Huntey played baseball at Central Michigan.

Basketball vs. volleyball championship: "There's definitely a comparable feeling to it. But it's so different. In basketball there are more nerves. Bigger gyms. It's (Michigan) State. I was really excited."

I learned the most about basketball from: "I would have to say Coach (Bob) Raven. I've looked up to him since I was this tall, and I was a water girl. I've always been so excited just to play for him."

Pre-game prep: "We stretch and then we pray as a team. Bailey (Cairnduff) leads it."

My favorite move is: "I fake up to the left, and the go back to the left."

James Counsman

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett junior


Counsman, a left win, had a goal and an assist in University Liggett's Division 3 Semifinal win over Chelsea on March 9, then scored his team's first two goals in its 3-0 win over Houghton in the next day's championship game. The MHSAA title was University Liggett's first in hockey since 1990. Counsman also plays lacrosse.

"I've never won anything of this caliber. It's great. I love it. We've done so much. ... Every guy has worked as hard as he can to make this happen. I'm glad we achieved our goal."

Up next: Counsman is just a junior, but hopes to play college hockey, perhaps at the Division III level, and would like to take a shot at playing juniors as well. At this point, he's considering a major in business.

I've learned the most about hockey from: "(Liggett coach) Robb McIntyre. He's coached me all throughout my growing up. He's been an awesome coach. I've learned everything from him."

I look up to: "Definitely my dad (Rich Counsman). He played college sports (football and baseball at Kalamazoo College), and he's just a great guy. I love him."

Before every game: "I gotta get in my jump ropes. I like to get in a nice long run, not too much stretching, and I gotta have a grape jelly peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. That's what we do. I like Smuckers, Jiff peanut butter. There's a process to making these sandwiches. Every guy makes them before games. Individually wrapped, cut diagonally, grape jelly."

Goodrich Girls Basketball

The Martians finished 28-0 in winning the Class B championship, their first MHSAA title. Goodrich beat a number of ranked teams in Class A, B and C this season, including No. 3 Detroit Country Day, No. 6 Dearborn Divine Child and No. 10 Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the final three rounds, respectively, of the Class B tournament. Divine Child was the reigning Class B champion. Among others to fall to the Martians this season were Class A Semifinalist Inkster and Class C runner-up University Liggett.

Howardsville Christian Striving to Transfer Fall Successes to Basketball Court

By Scott Hassinger
Special for MHSAA.com

November 28, 2023

HOWARDSVILLE - There is a sign that hangs inside Howardsville Christian School's tiny gymnasium that accurately depicts the mission for the Eagles during the 2023-24 boys basketball season.

Southwest CorridorIt reads "In Jesus' name we play."

Ken Sparks and the eight players on his varsity basketball roster have challenged themselves to help one another understand what it means to give their season to  God.

"My goal is to help these boys find gratitude in playing for a greater power than themselves," said Sparks, a varsity standout himself at Howardsville from 1996-2000, member of the 1,000-point club and an honorable mention all-stater his senior year.

Nestled on the border between St. Joseph and Cass counties along Bent Road, Howardsville Christian, a Division 4 school for its sports with fewer than 80 students, has enjoyed a rich tradition of spiritual learning both in the classroom and on the court and playing fields.

The contribution of many talented athletes from several families has been instrumental in Howardsville's athletic success for years, especially this school year.

Howardsville won District titles this fall in boys soccer and girls volleyball. Now the Eagles hope to carry that momentum over to the basketball court.

With four starters returning, Sparks is looking for Howardsville’s boys team to battle for supremacy in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph League and improve on a 13-10 record from last season. The Eagles finished 7-7 in the league last winter and endured a disappointing District Semifinal loss to Marcellus. Howardsville Christian had won its District the season in 2021.

"We competed well with all the teams on our schedule and lost to some teams we shouldn't have," Sparks said. "There are eight teams in our conference, and this season we need to beat Benton Harbor Countryside to be the top team. It's been a good league for us."

Senior twin brothers Colin and Dylan Muldoon return for Howardsville, along with junior cousin Kaden Sparks, son of the head coach, and junior John Paul Rose.

The Muldoon brothers both are beginning their third year as varsity starters.

"Working together as a team is something we really want to do well. A lot of teams set a goal of winning Districts. The last two years we've fallen short of that goal. It's definitely something we want to achieve this year," Colin Muldoon said.

Dylan Muldoon echoed that sentiment.

"Our success in soccer makes us want to attain the same goals in basketball. We know we are capable of reaching those, so I think it makes us want to pull things together," Dylan Muldoon said. "There's a lot of long-distance running in soccer, but there's also a lot of quickness and turning in basketball, especially when you're guarding or driving around someone. You just have to be quick."

Eagles varsity boys basketball coach Ken Sparks, far left, is pictured by the school's trophy case with his four returning starters Colin Muldoon, Dylan Muldoon, Kaden Sparks and John Paul Rose. Kaden Sparks, another three-year starter, will be Howardsville's best shooting guard.

"Winning Districts is achievable. We have to learn to work together. I played summer ball, and the biggest takeaway is that it taught me that I have to always give 100-percent effort out there. We had a great soccer season, and It’s taught us a lot about accountability," Kaden Sparks said.

Rose will be Howardsville Christian's starting point guard. He has been a starter since his freshman year, along with Kaden Sparks.

"The team chemistry and communication we had in soccer easily transfers over to basketball. As our point guard, it's important for me to try to get the ball to other guys who have open looks," Rose said. "I want to be more aggressive defensively, push the ball up the floor more and increase my scoring."

In addition, Ken Sparks believes the physicality a majority of his team learned from soccer will be a big benefit on the basketball floor.

"You build up your physicality from playing soccer with having to always body up. Watching them play sometimes hurts me, but that's what I want them to do in basketball. It helps them to want to draw contact and be physical on the floor," Ken Sparks said.

The lack of upperclassmen on Howardsville's varsity the last couple of years gave Rose and Kaden Sparks an immediate opportunity to play as freshmen.

"The fact John Paul and Kaden had that early chance at the varsity level is really paying off now,” Ken Sparks added. “Kaden is an excellent shooter. I want him to get the confidence that I had when I was in high school. He tends to be a little more passive on the floor than I like, but he's finally getting that aggressive nature that you need offensively.”

Kaden, Colin Muldoon and Rose all averaged double-digit scoring last season, while Dylan Muldoon is the Eagles' best defensive player. The Muldoon brothers will serve as Howardsville's team captains.

"Kaden is very self-motivated to become a better basketball player. His goal is to be the best player that he can be," Ken Sparks said. "John Paul is explosive and has really refined his jump shot to where he can be a scoring threat. He sees the floor very well and can really push the ball up the floor without turning it over. We're going to see big strides from him because of his determination and drive.

"Colin is a great overall player. He's a threat from the outside and can score inside with his height as well. If we're going to be successful, he and Dylan have to bring the same drive that John Paul and Kaden bring to the court.”

"I've coached all of the guys on our team for the last three seasons except one,” Sparks added. “We talk about being well-rounded. These guys are the best academically and spiritual leaders in our school."

Howardsville Christian’s most well-known alumni is Dylan Jergens, the third-leading scorer in state history with 2,782 career points.

The boys soccer and girls volleyball teams earned District titles during the fall. (During the fall soccer season, the Muldoons, Kaden Sparks and Rose helped Howardsville win a second-straight District title. The Eagles then lost 5-0 in the Regional Semifinal to eventual Division 4 champion Muskegon Western Michigan Christian. Both Muldoons, Kaden Sparks and Rose were named to the first-team all-BCS and District soccer squads.

The Muldoons were the two main catalysts in the Eagles' soccer run, along with Lukas Krueger. Dylan Muldoon had 28 goals and nine assists, while Colin Muldoon posted 14 goals and eight assists. Krueger added 19 goals to go with 16 assists. Kaden Sparks had five goals and four assists, and Rose added three goals and three assists.

Steve Muldoon, Colin and Dylan's father and Howardsville's head boys soccer coach, sees many correlations between soccer and basketball that will bring the Eagles success in hoops this winter.

"Communication is key. A team that doesn't talk on the field/court isn't going to win. They learn how to correct and encourage one another to deal with problems without getting too negative," Steve Muldoon said. "Individually, they learn how to anticipate. There isn't much difference between anticipating a pass and stepping in front of it in soccer or basketball or making a hard run down the court/field to get open for a layup/counterattack. They learn how to react and make the correct decision under pressure. The skills needed to do it in soccer and basketball are different, but most of it is mental and that carries over."

Determination was another big factor for Howardsville's soccer success this fall.

"We beat Lansing Christian this fall in a weekend soccer tournament and they are a much bigger and physical team than us, but we managed to beat them," Colin Muldoon said. "That win gave us a lot of confidence for the remainder of the season that we could beat anyone."


The family dynamic doesn't stop with Howardsville's boys basketball team.

Senior Kyla Sparks, Ken's daughter and Kaden's older sister, is one of three cousins on the roster for a Howardsville girls team that finished 12-11 last year. All five starters are back for that Eagles team as well.

"As a team, we want to improve on last year's record. With all our starters back, we feel we have a good shot to finish at the top of both our conference and District. Most of our basketball team also played volleyball this fall, and we view us all as family," Kyla Sparks said. "Being able to play with my two cousins makes good lifelong memories."

Kyla Sparks, who averaged 12 points per game her junior year, starts with sophomore cousins Kelsie Muldoon and Kate Evans. Those three also started on the varsity volleyball team that captured its first District title since 1997.

Coincidently, the mothers of Kyla, Kelsie and Kate were all on the 1997 District champion volleyball team.

Scott HassingerScott Hassinger is a contributing sportswriter for Leader Publications and previously served as the sports editor for the Three Rivers Commercial-News from 1994-2022. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Colin Muldoon drives to the basket against his twin brother Dylan Muldoon during recent Howardsville Christian boys basketball practice. (Middle) Eagles varsity boys basketball coach Ken Sparks, far left, is pictured by the school's trophy case with his four returning starters Colin Muldoon, Dylan Muldoon, Kaden Sparks and John Paul Rose. (Below) The boys soccer and girls volleyball teams earned District titles during the fall. (Top and middle photos by Scott Hassinger. District championship photos courtesy of Howardsville Christian School.)