All three of this week's honorees have achieved some sort of first-time stardom this fall, either individually or as a team. And both Carli Snyder and Alex Grace will be back next fall to continue building on these accomplishments.
Macomb Dakota junior
(UPDATED 11/19) Snyder, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter, was an all-stater her first two seasons of high school. But she will be remembered even more for leading Macomb Dakota this fall to its first MHSAA championship in any girls sport. The Cougars defeated Temperance Bedford in three games in Saturday's Class A Final at Kellogg Arena. Snyder unofficially finished this season with 913 kills, good for seventh in the MHSAA record book since the beginning of the rally scoring era in 2004-05. Her 31 kills against Bedford were third-most for a Final during that time. Snyder already has committed to sign with the University of Florida next year. She likely will be among frontrunners for next fall's Miss Volleyball award.
Title talk: "We wanted this thing so bad. Every girl on this team wanted it so badly. Megan (Manierski) was setting the ball perfectly. She made it very easy to get kills. ... Just talking about this moment, this gym, it makes you just want to play harder than you ever have."
Winning recipe: "We've been a competitive team in practice and in games all year, so I think that helped us at that moment (in three close Finals games) when we just didn't want to lose. We refused to lose. ... We support each other no matter what. And we hustled so hard."
Shake it up: "We have some secret handshakes with other people, but mine are very complex. I don't know how we went about that. Megan and mine is from "Parent Trap," and then Megan Downey and mine, we just made it up at team dinner. We make it a bit more complex than it needs to be, but it's fun. And it's a great thing to calm us down for a game when we've played a bad one before."
Had to be a Gator: "I like warm weather. I love the coaches. I actually called Florida for my recruiting phone call because I was kinda bored one day at home and I was like, 'I got a letter from them.' I fell in love with the coaching staff, and I told my mom that I needed to go on a visit down there. It's incredible, and when I went down there I was even more in love. Even on the phone, I knew this is where I would end up. It's just that feeling. You know when you get that feeling, and it's incredible."
Saginaw Swan Valley sophomore
The Vikings' leading rusher is also one of the leading rushers in the state this season heading into Saturday's Division 4 Semifinal against Detroit Country Day. Grace has gained 2,091 yards plus run for 27 touchdowns, and needs only 109 yards and three more scores to make the MHSAA record book in both categories. He ran for 182 yards and three scores in the Vikings' Regional Final win over Croswell-Lexington. Grace took over as Swan Valley's running back this season after the graduation of his brother Johnathan, who rushed for 1,790 yards last season and now plays at Michigan Tech. Both brothers ran on Swan Valley's 400-meter relay that finished runner-up at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Track and Field Final in the spring. Alex is 6-0 and 185 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.
I'd like to run like: "Even my brother. I like to look at myself as close to him. Professionally, (Minnesota Vikings back) Adrian Peterson. He's a tough runner, fast. He's strong."
Underdogs again: "The last game against Croswell, they were the No. 2 team and we were predicted to lose. But we came back and beat them. I use that underdog feeling to work harder each day."
Best brotherly advice: "Work hard, and if there are doubters, don't let them get you down."
Science and math: (My favorite classes are) biology and economics. They just come easy to me. I enjoy it."
Flint Beecher football
The Buccaneers, coached by former Michigan State and NFL standout Courtney Hawkins, were one of the final teams selected for the playoffs, at 5-4 after a 3-4 start. But Beecher advanced to this week's Division 7 Semifinal against Detroit Loyola by eliminating reigning champion Saginaw Nouvel, 19-15, in last week's Regional championship game. Beecher, now 8-4, has made the playoffs six straight years. The first of that run came in Hawkins' second as coach and after 12 straight losing seasons.
Previous 2012-13 honorees:
- Julia Bos, Grand Rapids Christian cross country - Click for more
- Morgan Bullock, Zeeland swimming - Click for more
- Nathan Burnand, Waterford Mott cross country - Click for more
- Aaron Chatfield, Burt Lake Northern Michigan Christian soccer - Click for more
- Erin Finn, West Bloomfield cross country - Click for more
- Billy Heckman, Portage Central tennis - Click for more
- Codi Jenshak, Escanaba tennis - Click for more
- Amanda McKinzie, Battle Creek St. Philip cross country - Click for more
- Connor Mora, Cedar Springs cross country - Click for more
- Kelsey Murphy, Plymouth golf - Click for more
- Dewey Lewis, Rockford soccer - Click for more
- Nick Raymond, Erie Mason cross country - Click for more
- Jacqueline Setas, Lansing Catholic golf - Click for more
- Michael Sienko, Williamston tennis - Click for more
- Beal City volleyball - Click for more
- East Kentwood soccer - Click for more
- Grand Blanc boys soccer - Click for more
- Ithaca football - Click for more
- Lansing Everett football - Click for more
- Ludington boys tennis - Click for more
- Muskegon Mona Shores girls golf - Click for more
We are down to the final four weeks of this MHSAA boys basketball season – and while the entertaining part is detailed below in our regular Monday report, there’s some major data crunching underway behind the scenes as well.
Seeding the top two teams in every District requires thousands of data points – and a season-long process of collecting them all. More than 720 varsity teams are playing this winter, and we’re in the midst of a process of checking their schedules one by one – about a 24-hour task by itself to make sure all scheduled games are showing, league standings are set up correctly, etc.
Additionally, daily we’re sorting through disputed scores, changes to schedules because of weather or teams that have discontinued their seasons, and other adjustments. But we’re always striving for perfection – and when Districts are drawn and those top teams seeded Feb. 26, we hope to have every schedule up to date and every score filled in.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. North Farmington 68, Muskegon 55 These two have lived at or near the top of Division 1 MPR all season, making this win by the Raiders (12-1) at the 2K23 Showcase at Aquinas College arguably their best, especially considering it also was the first loss for the Big Reds (13-1).
2. Saline 57, Ann Arbor Huron 47 The Hornets (11-4) saw an eight-game winning streak end three days later, but in this one handed Huron (13-1) its lone defeat of the season.
3. Ann Arbor Huron 67, Benton Harbor 55 The River Rats, meanwhile, rebounded immediately with a 13-point win over Dexter and then a 67-55 victory over Benton Harbor (13-3) at Aquinas.
4. Warren Lincoln 52, Grand Rapids Northview 37 The Abes (12-3) just keep impressing, this time with a big win over a Northview team matching their 12-3 record, also during the 2K23 Showcase.
5. Iron Mountain 64, Powers North Central 58 This matched arguably the best in the Upper Peninsula in Divisions 3 and 4, respectively, with the Mountaineers moving to 13-1 and the Jets to 11-2.
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Detroit U-D Jesuit (14-2) The Cubs have won outright or shared the last two Detroit Catholic League Central championships, and they’re hoping to run that streak to three by winning Friday’s rematch with first-place Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (14-1). A 68-53 defeat to the Warriors on Jan. 24 and a 67-64 loss to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s on Jan. 6 have left Jesuit a game back, but the Cubs do have a sweep of reigning Division 1 champion Warren De La Salle Collegiate plus early impressive nonleague wins over Clarkston and Ferndale.
Kalamazoo Central (13-2) After just missing the Division 1 Semifinals a year ago – losing to Northview by two in a Quarterfinal – the Maroon Giants are ahead of their 16-win pace from that finish with their only losses to Brother Rice and Battle Creek Lakeview (11-3), the latter by a point. They also defeated Lakeview in the teams’ first meeting, handed Mattawan its only loss and most recently defeated Detroit Renaissance at the 2K23 event.
Ferndale (7-6) Few if any have played a tougher schedule, especially considering Ferndale is Division 2 playing most of the Division 1 powers. The Eagles are No. 5 in Division 2 MPR despite a 1-5 start including losses to Brother Rice, Jesuit, St. Mary’s and Muskegon, and then a two-point loss to North Farmington last week. Meanwhile, Ferndale has defeated Grosse Pointe South (13-3), Flint Beecher (12-3), Clarkston (11-5) and River Rouge (10-5). The North Farmington rematch is Feb. 24, and a Feb. 11 matchup with Port Huron Northern should also boost MPR.
Grand Rapids Christian (10-4) The Eagles may be in fourth in the Ottawa-Kent Conference White, but they are No. 6 in Division 2 MPR. Three of the four losses were to league opponents, but Christian is coming off a 55-53 double-overtime win over Warren Michigan Collegiate (13-2) on Saturday at Aquinas. An early win over Grand Rapids Catholic Central and a Jan. 21 victory over De La Salle also stand out.
Flint Beecher (12-3) The Bucs are off to another big start after last season’s finish at the Division 3 Semifinals, losing only to Detroit Cass Tech (17-0), Benton Harbor and Ferndale as Beecher also has loaded up its nonleague schedule. Beecher also has four wins over teams with double-digit victories, with an 80-71 defeat of Flint Hamady (14-2) on Jan. 10 putting the Bucs in first in the Genesee Area Conference Red. The Hamady rematch is Feb. 18, before a major regular-season finish against Goodrich (13-1) and Grand Blanc (14-2).
Napoleon (14-0) The Pirates aren’t sneaking up on anyone after going 19-3 last season, but they are dominating nonetheless. All but one win have been by eight points or more, and Napoleon leads the Cascades Conference after finishing second last year with a pair of losses to Vandercook Lake. The Pirates not only defeated Vandercook in their first meeting, by 40, but next defeated Michigan Center by 17 after the Cardinals ended their season last winter. Napoleon also has a 63-45 win over Big 8 Conference co-leader Concord.
Baldwin (13-1) The Panthers are coming off an 18-5 finish and second place in the West Michigan D League, and they lead it this time by two games and with a win over Mesick after losing both meetings to the eventual league champ a year ago. Baldwin also has avenged a 2021-22 loss to Mason County Eastern and could avenge another hosting Traverse City Christian on Tuesday. The Panthers also have given Marion (11-4) half its losses.
Powers North Central (11-2) As noted above, the Jets are at least among the handful of elite small-school Upper Peninsula teams, No. 4 in statewide Division 4 MPR although second in D4 in the U.P. with Painesdale Jeffers in the top spot. Those two wouldn’t see each other until a Regional Final, where North Central’s 19-5 run ended last season. The Jets only defeats this time are to Division 2 Kingsford and Division 3 Iron Mountain, which stand a combined 25-3.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – Goodrich (13-1) at Corunna (12-2) – They’re tied atop the Flint Metro League Stars with Goodrich winning the first meeting 69-54 on Jan. 10.
Friday – Detroit U-D Jesuit (14-2) at Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (14-1) – As noted above, the Detroit Catholic League Central title will be on the line, as Jesuit can force a shared championship.
Saturday – Hamtramck (10-5) vs. Kalamazoo Central (13-2) at Benton Harbor – The Cosmos have faced their share of statewide elite as well, and will be seeking what would be one of their most notable wins in this Wilson Chandler Shootout matchup.
Saturday – Flint Hamady (14-2) at Davison (10-5) – Old rivals meet again as Davison is coached by longtime Beecher leader Mike Williams.
Saturday – Saginaw Arthur Hill (7-9) at Saginaw (14-4) – They’ll still have 2023-24 left before one the best rivalries in state history ends with a school merger, but this year’s rematch comes after Saginaw won 57-55 on Jan. 14.
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PHOTOS (Top) A Saginaw player gets to the rim during Friday's 59-54 loss to Mount Pleasant. (Middle) A Montabella player goes to the basket during his team's 43-28 win last week over Carson City-Crystal.(Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)