By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Believe it or not, girls basketball practice began more than three months ago.
Fifteen weeks later, we have only one more of the regular season, making this our last chance to tout the races for league titles that will finish playing out over the next six days.
Read on for some of the teams that either accomplished big things over the last week or still can – and we’ll look at more Monday as we jump into the start of District tournaments all over Michigan.
East Kentwood (10-8) – The Ottawa-Kent Conference Red race has been close among the top four teams, and East Kentwood beat fourth-place Rockford on Friday to set up tonight’s likely championship game against Hudsonville (see below). The Falcons were 7-14 and fifth in the league a year ago.
Hudsonville (10-8) – The Eagles’ turnaround has been even more dramatic than that of East Kentwood (above). Hudsonville was 2-19 and last in the O-K Red a year ago, but beat fourth-place Rockford and third-place Holland West Ottawa last week to set up tonight’s conference decider.
Marquette (18-0) – The Redettes locked up their third consecutive Great Northern Upper Peninsula Conference title, but can take the achievement to another level with two more victories this week to finish the regular season undefeated for the first time during this three-season run. Marquette beat West Peninsula Athletic Conference champion Houghton 49-40 on Friday.
Oxford (14-4) – The Wildcats have ridden nine straight wins to the Oakland Activities Association White title, clinching it last week with a 51-32 victory over second-place Troy. Oxford already had eclipsed last season’s 13 wins.
Center Line (16-2) – The Panthers also have won nine straight and must hold on this week against third-place Marine City and seventh-place Mount Clemens to share the Macomb Area Conference Gold title with Marysville. Center Line finished second, a game back, in the MAC Silver last season.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central (16-2) – The Cougars avenged in a big way their only O-K Gold loss – 77-76 to Wayland on Jan. 23 – by beating Wayland 64-42 on Friday to move into a first-place tie with the Wildcats with two league games to play. GRCC has finished league runner-up the last two seasons.
Haslett (14-4) – The Vikings are 9-0 with standout Makenna Ott and went 5-4 without her before she returned from injury for Friday’s 57-53 win over Lansing Waverly (14-5). Her return is just in time to help Haslett hold on to a share of the Capital Area Activities Conference Red title and possibly get revenge in the District against Williamston, the first to beat the Vikings after Ott was hurt.
Kentwood Grand River Prep (14-1) – The Titans haven’t lost since the first Saturday of this season, to Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (14-3), and can clinch a share of the River Valley Conference title tonight against Wyoming Tri-unity Christian. Junior Mariah McCully sets the pace, scoring 24.4 points per game.
Adrian Madison (15-4) – The Trojans locked up the Tri-County Conference title with a win Friday over Petersburg-Summerfield after also avenging their only league loss, Jan. 13 to Britton Deerfield, in their rematch Feb. 10. Two of Madison’s other three losses were to teams that also have won league championships this winter.
Brown City (13-5) – The Green Devils bounced back from three straight losses at the start of February to win four straight and secure a top-three finish in the Greater Thumb Conference East. They get to see how far they’ve come Thursday against league leader Sandusky – which beat Brown City 46-38 on Feb. 3.
Manchester (15-2) – The Flying Dutch have clinched the Cascade Conference championship, besting a field with four more teams that have won at least 11 games overall. It was a nice step up after tying for second last season; the only losses this winter came early to second-place Napoleon and at the end of January to still-undefeated Pittsford.
Unionville-Sebewaing (14-4) – The Patriots’ lone league loss came to Reese – but USA regained the upper hand in the Greater Thumb Conference West by defeating the Rockets 57-44 in their rematch Thursday. USA can clinch a shared title tonight against Vassar, which the Patriots beat by four Jan. 20.
Athens (11-6) – Few Class D teams play in a more competitive mostly-Class C league than the Big 8 Conference, and all six of Athens’ losses were to Class C teams with at least 10 wins. The Indians have won four straight and can get further geared up for a tournament run if they tonight can avenge an earlier loss to Reading.
Battle Creek St. Philip (14-5) – Despite falling to second-place Climax-Scotts on Friday, the Tigers can clinch the Southern Central Athletic Association West title outright by defeating Colon on Thursday. St. Philip did rattle off eight straight wins during a perfect January.
Mendon (10-8) – The Hornets will have to settle for a middle finish in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference East, but are 7-2 after a tough start and have avenged losses to second-place White Pigeon and league champion Bronson. Mendon made the Quarterfinals last season and could be gathering steam again.
Waldron (11-5) – The Spartans play in the same SCAA East as the only undefeated team in Class D, Pittsford. But Waldron has won more games than all of last season and gone 9-2 since a rough early start and despite playing in an SCAA division where all four teams have 10 or more wins.
PHOTO: Haslett fell to Goodrich 55-43 on Jan. 20 but enter the final week of the regular season at full strength with the return of Makenna Ott from injury. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com).