Second Half's mission in this, its first school year, was to tell the best stories behind the scores and highlights of MHSAA competition.
Of course, every score and especially every championship has a story behind it. The MHSAA awarded 127 team and many more individual championships in 2011-12. Obviously we can't reflect on them all. But these 10 performances were loaded with prestige, drama and accomplishment that made them incredible stories for high school sports fans regardless of hometown or allegiance.
The Comets had to fend off a charge by Canton, but won their fifth-straight MHSAA team title by 0.825 of a point with a final score of 149.400. The fifth-straight title tied the record set by Ludington from 1975-79 and extended Grand Ledge's first-place streak to 75 consecutive events. The next day, senior Christine Wilson and junior Sara Peltier swept the Division 1 and 2 individual titles, respectively.
The Lakers junior said after her Division 1 cross country win that she'd dreamt of winning that title since she learned how to walk. She finished fourth as a sophomore before winning the championship by a little more than a second. After establishing herself as one of the top distance runners in the country in competitions over the winter, Finn finished the school year by winning the 3,200-meter run at the Division 1 Track and Field Final.
The Mohawks girls pulled off a rare feat this school year -- after winning their second MHSAA volleyball title in the fall, they added a first-ever girls basketball championship. Both efforts were keyed by seniors Alexis Huntey and Bailey Cairnduf, who had the most and second-most kills in the Class C Volleyball Final and then combined for 45 points and 25 rebounds in the basketball championship game.
That argument was made after Lansing Sexton claimed its second-straight Class B boys basketball championship in dominant fashion. The Big Reds finished 27-1, their only loss by a point to Detroit Pershing, and have won 74 games over the last three seasons -- tied for sixth-most in MHSAA history for that long of a stretch. Guards Denzel Valentine (Michigan State), Anthony Clemmons (Iowa) and Bryn Forbes (Cleveland State) all signed to play at Division I colleges this fall, with junior Jalen Hayes and freshman Trevor Manuel likely joining them in a few years.
Coyotes junior Sami Michell established herself as one of the top hurdlers in MHSAA history at the Division 3 Final by becoming the first Lower Peninsula girl to win four events at a championship meet since Mason County Eastern’s Maria Shoup in 1979. She set Division 3 records in the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles and long jump, and her 300 time also was the best in MHSAA Finals history, regardless of division or class. She also won the 200.
Top-ranked Grand Haven's latest run at an MHSAA championship seemed all but over when Grosse Pointe South led the Class A final by 18 points with just under 10 minutes to play. But Shar'Rae Davis' fullcourt sprint and score that began with 12 seconds to play gave the Buccaneers a 54-53 win and their first title. It was the third-longest comeback in MHSAA Girls Basketball Finals history.
Livonia Ladywood had been a favorite to win its first MHSAA title all season -- with four-year pitcher Briana Combs in the circle. But when Combs couldn't finish the Semifinal because of an injury, rarely-thrown sophomore Lauren Hayes stepped in. All she did was finish that game and throw a three-hitter against Saginaw Swan Valley in the Final, while also getting three hits and driving in two of the team's four runs in the championship win.
St. Johns senior Taylor Massa finished off one of the most celebrated careers in MHSAA wrestling history with his fourth championship and not one loss during his high school career. Massa claimed the title at 171 pounds this year to go with others at 145, 152 and 160. He became the 15th in MHSAA history to win four titles, ranks 20th with 221 wins and seventh in the national record book for consecutive victories.
Grosse Pointe South's girls running teams had arguably the most dominant school year in MHSAA history, first winning the Division 1 cross country title before doing the same this spring in track and field. And the Blue Devils did it with mostly the same nucleus contributing to both -- particularly juniors Hannah and Haley Meier, sophomore Kelsie Schwartz and freshman Ersula Farrow. Those four combined to run a national record time of 8:48.29 in the 3,200 relay at the Division 1 Final this spring.
Second Half was created as a place to tell great stories, Cass Tech made it easy on the first day of the Football Finals. The Technicians arrived at Ford Field after a short walk from their school. They had never played in a Final before and were unranked entering the postseason. They arrived with a strong group of seniors, but also a freshman quarterback named Jayru Campbell who ended up throwing five touchdown passes in a 49-13 win over No. 2 and perennial powerhouse Detroit Catholic Central.
PHOTO: The Morley Stanwood girls basketball team prepares to celebrate as the final seconds tick off in the Mohawks' Class C Final win. (Click to see more photos from High School Sports Scene.)
Over the last decade, media days have begun to emerge as a way for some of the state’s largest leagues to kick off their sports seasons. The Kensington Lakes Activities Association, for example, hosts them in a variety of sports.
To get this winter rolling, the KLAA for the first time added bowling to the list – highlighting one of its strongest but often less visible sports by welcoming bowlers and coaches from all 16 of the league’s schools Nov. 8 to Westland John Glenn.
The KLAA is one of the top bowling conferences in the state – a combined five teams made the MHSAA Team Finals last season for girls and boys, and Wayne Memorial’s boys won the Division 1 championship. That actually was the third season in a row that a KLAA team won Division 1 boys – Livonia Franklin was the champ in 2022 and Salem in 2021 – and Belleville’s girls finished Division 1 runners-up in 2021. Franklin and John Glenn both have produced a Division 1 singles champion over the last three seasons as well.
The media day celebrated that success – while looking ahead to possibilities for more to come this winter.
The event was organized by John Glenn athletic director Jason Malloy, the league’s commissioner for that sport (and also a member of the MHSAA Representative Council). Interviews and the video below were compiled by Westland John Glenn senior Lizzy Fall. Photos are by Olivia B. Photography.