By Geoff Kimmerly
Flint Northern, from 1978-81 in Class A, is the only school in MHSAA history to win four straight Girls Basketball Finals championships.
Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes can become the next to achieve that feat by claiming the Class D title this weekend.
The Lakers' pursuit will be one of the most followed storylines at Michigan State University's Breslin Center. Class C and D Semifinals are Thursday, with all four championships games Saturday.
Semifinals - Thursday
Manchester (25-1) vs. Riverview Gabriel Richard (16-7), 1 p.m.
Saginaw Nouvel (24-2) vs. Houghton (23-2), 2:50 p.m.
St. Ignace (25-0) vs Climax-Scotts (20-5), 6 p.m.
Athens (22-3) vs Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (20-4), 7:50 p.m.
Finals - Saturday
Class A - Noon
Class B - 6 pm
Class C - 4 pm
Class D - 10 am
Tickets cost $8 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session. All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv and available on a pay-per-view basis for $3.95 per day, $6.95 for the weekend or $9.95 for all girls and boys Semifinals over the next two weekends. All four Finals will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.
And now, a look at the Semifinalists in Class C and D.
Record/rank: 23-2, tied for No. 7
League finish: First in Western Peninsula Athletic Conference
Coach: Julie Filpus, 14th season (307-34)
Championship history: Class C champion (2005).
Best wins: 61-47 and 64-62 over Calumet, 76-41 and 58-42 (District Final) over L’Anse, 67-36 over Ishpeming (Regional Final), 56-47 over Shelby (Quarterfinal).
Players to watch: Elisa Jurmu, 5-8 jr. F (19.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg); Blaire Zenner, 5-10 sr. F (8.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg).
Outlook: Houghton has made at least the Regional round all 14 of Filpus’ seasons and won league titles every one of the last 13. Although the Gremlins didn’t see ranked teams this season, they did split against Class A Marquette, which finished 18-4. Jurmu received all-state special mention from The Associated Press on Wednesday and is one of four starters shooting better than 50 percent from the floor this winter.
Record/rank: 25-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Cascades Conference
Coach: Cori Kastel, seventh season (95-63)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 57-42 over honorable mention Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (District Final), 58-51 over honorable mention Adrian Madison (Regional Final), 67-43 over No. 2 Niles Brandywine (Quarterfinal).
Players to watch: McKenna Erkfritz, 6-1 sr. F (14.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.8 bpg); Jessie Manders, 5-6 soph. G (9.6 ppg, 2.9 apg); Taylor Manders, 5-5 sr. G (14.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 3.0 spg).
Outlook: The Jackson area is generally strong for girls basketball, and Manchester emerged champion of a league that included six teams with at least 11 wins and four that won 15 or more games. Erkfritz earned all-state special mention and teams with Taylor Manders and guard Jesse Coltre as the team’s lone seniors – although all three start.
RIVERVIEW GABRIEL RICHARD
Record/rank: 16-7, unranked
League finish: Tied for first in Detroit Catholic League AA
Coach: William Jones, second season (36-11)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 52-48 over Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, 47-44 (OT) over honorable mention Flint Hamady (Quarterfinal).
Player to watch: Ashley Henderson, 5-8 sr. G (16.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.8 apg, 2.6 spg).
Outlook: Gabriel Richard has reached the Quarterfinals both seasons under coach Jones, but Tuesday’s win over Hamady still had to be considered a bit of an upset considering Hamady’s championship history. Henderson has proven she can find the basket when it's needed most, scoring 30 in the Regional Final and 31 in the Quarterfinal.
Record/rank: 24-2, No. 4
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Kris Hengesbach, 12th season (252-54)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (2008), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 47-45 over No. 1 Reese (Regional Semifinal), 55-34 over honorable mention Kent City (Regional Final), 60-50 and 57-48 (District Final) over No. 10 Saginaw Valley Lutheran, 58-47 over Class B No. 1 Freeland, 59-58 over Class B honorable mention Clare, 44-40 over Class B honorable mention Haslett, 51-22 over Class D No. 9 Waterford Our Lady.
Players to watch: Taylor Hengesbach, 5-10 G/F sr. (12.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.4 bpg); Rachel McInerny, 6-2 jr. C (14.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg).
Outlook: Nouvel has beaten the top-ranked teams from two classes and the three-time reigning champion from a third. The Reese win avenged a 10-point loss from earlier this season, and Nouvel’s only other defeat came against No. 7 Carson City-Crystal. Taylor Hengesbach made the all-state team and McInerny earned honorable mention Wednesday as the leading scorers from a team that outscores its opponents on average 55-26.
Record/rank: 22-3, honorable mention
League finish: Second in Big 8 Conference
Coach: Calvin Quist, eighth season (145-50)
Championship history: Class D runner-up 2012.
Best wins: 41-33 over No. 7 Mendon (District Semifinal), 68-42 over No. 10 Hillsdale Academy (Regional Final), 55-44 over Climax-Scotts, 48-47 over Class C honorable mention Concord.
Players to watch: Audrey Oswalt, 5-9 jr. F (9.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.8 spg); Chantel Davenport, 5-9 sr. F (9.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg).
Outlook: Few teams can boast such scoring balance, with sophomore guard Allison Fuller (10.2 ppg) and junior guard Allysha Beal (9.8 ppg) the leading scorers and joining Oswalt and Davenport to give the team four players who average double figures or close. It’s tough to see how Athens couldn't crack the top 10 with its losses only to Mendon, Concord and Homer – all teams the Class D reigning runner-up eventually split with this winter.
Record/rank: 20-5, unranked
League finish: First in Southern Central Athletic Association
Coach: Dana Perrin, third season (61-12)
Championship history: Class D runner-up 1986.
Best wins: 42-40 over No. 8 Gaylord St. Mary (Quarterfinal), 52-48 over Class C honorable mention Concord.
Players to watch: Destiny Froberg, 5-7 sr. F (13.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.4 apg, 2.7 spg); Fallon Froberg, 5-8 sr. C (11.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.4 spg).
Outlook: Climax-Scotts has won at least 20 games all three seasons under Perrin, and will play Thursday for its first championship game berth in nearly three decades. Five seniors of seven total fill the starting line-up. Guard Stephanie Cochran joins the Froberg twins scoring in double figures averaging 10.5 points per game with 54 3-pointers through her first 24 games this season.
Record/rank: 25-0, No. 1
League finish: First in Straits Area Conference
Coach: Dorene Ingalls, 14th season (289-57)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recently 2011), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 70-54 over No. 3 Crystal Falls Forest Park (Quarterfinal), 74-68 over No. 6 Posen (Regional Final), 70-21, 78-16 and 67-23 (Regional Semifinal) over honorable mention Pickford, 53-38 over Class A honorable mention Petoskey, 55-41 over Class A honorable mention Brighton.
Players to watch: Kelley Wright, 5-10 jr. G (19.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.3 apg, 6.8 spg); Sarah Cullip, 5-11 sr. G (13.4 ppg); Abbey Ostman, 5-8 fr. F (10.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg).
Outlook: The Saints are making their fourth-straight trip to Breslin Center but first of this run in Class D after playing in Class C previously. Wright, Cullip and junior guard Emily Hinsman also started last season, and senior guard Morgan LaVake played the most minutes off the bench during the Semifinal. Wright was named all-state Tuesday.
WATERFORD OUR LADY OF THE LAKES
Record/rank: 20-4, No. 9
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League East
Coach: Steve Robak, sixth season (126-27)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recently 2012).
Best wins: 40-26 over No. 5 Lansing Christian (Regional Final), 28-24 (OT) over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (Quarterfinal), 45-25 over Riverview Gabriel Richard, 50-38 over Livonia Ladywood.
Players to watch: Ava Doetsch, 5-6 sr. G (14.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.7 apg, 2.8 spg); Lexie Robak, 5-9 sr. G (14.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.4 apg).
Outlook: The Lakers, and especially Doetsch and Lexie Robak, will attempt to add to an incredible run that’s included the last three Class D championships – and those two started on all three of those teams. Both were named to the all-state team this week and are dangerous from the perimeter – Robak had 67 3-pointers and Doetsch 37 heading into the week. Our Lady is 87-18 over their four seasons.
PHOTO: Riverview Gabriel Richard celebrates its Class C Quarterfinal win over Flint Hamady on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Anna Fedor/Riverview Gabriel Richard.)