By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Seven communities have been celebrating unprecedented girls basketball success over these last few days while gearing up for the most significant game in their program's histories.
Nearly a quarter of this year's 32 quarterfinalists won a Regional title last week for the first time. Tonight, those seven join 25 more seeking a trip to Michigan State University's Breslin Center this weekend.
All games tip off at 7 p.m. unless noted.
Ann Arbor Huron (20-4) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (21-1) at Southfield (5 p.m.)
King, playing in its fourth Quarterfinal in five seasons, is arguably the favorite this week and seeking its first championship since fall 2006. The Crusaders are led by guards Tia Tedford (15.6 points per game) and Micaela Kelly (15 ppg). Huron last made a Quarterfinal (and then Semifinal) in 2012, but has won seven straight league titles and has seven players averaging between 5.5-9.1 ppg – led by junior forward Kara Wilson.
Port Huron Northern (21-4) vs. St. Johns (22-3) at Fenton
Northern has won 21 games two straight seasons and is playing in its second Quarterfinal over the last three, keyed by three players averaging between 10-12 ppg; senior guard Kiana Votava is the leading scorer. The Redwings have had a much longer wait to get back to the final week, returning or the first time since back-to-back Quarterfinal appearances in 2005. St. Johns also has three players scoring between 10-12 ppg, led by guard Maddie Maloney.
Northville (21-3) vs. Warren Cousino (20-4) at Southfield
This is new territory for both first-time Quarterfinalists – but with the promise of one taking another first step with a win. Junior forward Jessica Moorman scores 12.1 ppg to lead a Northville team with only one senior in its rotation. Cousino has only one senior total on its roster, but a high-scoring junior guard in Kierra Fletcher (21.4 ppg).
East Lansing (19-6) vs. Hudsonville (22-3) at Battle Creek Central
The Trojans are back in the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2012 thanks in part to senior guard Taryn McCutcheon, who has averaged 20.4 points in 17 games since moving from West Virginia early this season. She will play collegiately at MSU. Hudsonville also is making its first trip to the Quarterfinals, and a sophomore runs the show; guard Kasey DeSmit averages 12.3 points and nearly five assists per game leading a team with only one senior starter.
Detroit Mumford (17-5) vs. Detroit Country Day (23-1) at Marysville
Mumford has gradually improved since Hogan took the program back over five seasons ago and has been rewarded with its first Quarterfinal since 1978 in Class A after winning both of its Regional games by two points. Reigning Class B champion Country Day will provide one of the stiffest challenges yet. Junior guard Destiny Pitts is considered one of the state’s best in her class and regardless of grade.
Grand Rapids South Christian (23-2) vs. Dearborn Heights Robichaud (18-6) at Fowlerville
First-year coach Kim Legge has led South Christian to its third Quarterfinal in four seasons, with plenty of help from four senior starters including point guard Jennifer DeBoer. She’s averaging 16.8 ppg and has made 71 3-pointers. Robichaud is making its first Quarterfinal appearance and is riding an eight-game winning streak. Guards Kayla Brown and Kamaria McDaniel carry the offensive load averaging 23.4 and 20 ppg, respectively.
Bay City John Glenn (24-1) vs. Manistee (21-3) at Big Rapids
Add John Glenn as well to the list of first-time Quarterfinalists, but this trip has been anticipated from a team featuring Miss Basketball finalist Cassidy Boensch (17.5 points/12 rebounds per game) and standout guards Kalle Martinez (15.5 ppg) and Jenai LaPorte (14.3). Manistee also isn’t a surprise after reaching this round a year ago. Three seniors and two juniors start, although they are the only upperclassmen.
Marshall (23-1) vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (21-2) at Otsego
This will be Marshall’s third Quarterfinal in five seasons but matches its best record since 1999. Junior center Nicole Tucker has been powerful in the post averaging 12.3 points and eight rebounds per game. Grand Rapids Catholic Central is returning to the Quarterfinals for the second straight season and on an eight-game winning streak, with one of the victories over South Christian.
Niles Brandywine (23-2) vs. Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (18-5) at Portage Northern (6:30 p.m.)
Brandywine is back in the Quarterfinals for the sixth time in seven seasons, while Covenant Christian is making its first appearance since 2000. Brandywine eliminated previously-undefeated Gobles to advance and is keyed by a starting lineup featuring four seniors. Senior guard Kara Minderhoud averages 14.7 ppg and makes 40 percent of her 3-point tries to lead Covenant Christian.
Traverse City St. Francis (24-1) vs. St. Ignace (23-2) at Gaylord
St. Francis won its first Regional title since 2003 and lost this season only to Class B quarterfinalist Manistee. Senior forward Annie Lyman leads three scoring in double figures at 14 ppg. St. Ignace won Class D last season and in 2013 and Class C in 2011, and knocked off previously-undefeated reigning C champion Calumet to reach today. Senior forward Abbey Ostman brings loads of tournament experience and 19.8 ppg.
Flint Hamady (22-1) vs. Ithaca (23-2) at Saginaw Heritage
Hamady is seeking its first title this week since 2010 but finished runner-up a year ago and is a regular during the final week. Guard Jalisha Terry is finishing up her career as the latest of her program’s stars. Ithaca is coming off its first Regional title but appears poised to take another big first step this season or over the next few with a dominant player in the post – sophomore Kayla Belles leads with 18.2 points, 13 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game.
Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (22-2) vs. Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (20-4) at Michigan Center
Arbor Prep reached the Quarterfinals in Class B in 2014 and the Semifinals in Class C last season, and has been a favorite to reach the final game all season. Led by senior guard Nastassja Chambers, its only losses this season are to Class A quarterfinalist Ann Arbor Huron and Class B quarterfinalist Detroit Country Day. Liggett is back in the final week for the third time in five seasons, with junior Nia Ahart (22.3 ppg) and senior Kendall McConico (15.9) providing a strong one-two scoring punch.
Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (21-4) vs. Pittsford (24-0) at Springport
Tri-unity Christian has joined its long-successful boys program with its first Regional title and is riding a 13-game winning streak with senior guard Sarah Buffum setting the scoring pace at 17.3 ppg. Pittsford is the reigning Class D runner-up and has been one of the state’s most successful teams over the last three seasons with a combined record of 72-2. Senior guard Jaycie Burger and junior forward Maddie Clark are veterans of plenty of big games and score 19.2 and 17.7 ppg, respectively.
Waterford Our Lady (19-4) vs. Kingston (20-3) at Davison
Out Lady was unexpected at the Quarterfinals last season and finished 12-13, but isn’t surprising anyone this time. The Lakers are riding a nine-game winning streak and are led by two 12-ppg scorers in senior guard Alex Troy and junior forward Tiffany Senerius. Kingston is making its second straight Quarterfinal appearance and hoping to add a first Semifinal berth to its third season in four with at least 20 wins. Senior forward Sarah Savage leads with 16.2 ppg.
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (22-1) vs. Gaylord St. Mary (22-3) at Scottville Mason County Central
At least a quarterfinalist the last four seasons, Sacred Heart is looking to add a second championship in three years led one last time by dominating center Averi Gamble (16.1 ppg, 7.2 rebounds per game). St. Mary was in the Quarterfinals last in 2013 but hasn’t advanced farther since 2002. But this could be the season with senior Bekah Myler also a powerful presence in the post and Gamble’s likely matchup.
Newberry (23-1) vs. Stephenson (23-2) at Negaunee
Newberry is back in the Quarterfinals for the first time since 1989 thanks to an incredible run that has included a loss only to reigning champion (and Class C quarterfinalist) St. Ignace. The Indians are paced by senior guard Taylor Bryant, who averages 17.8 points and 6.3 assists per game. Stephenson is playing in a Quarterfinal for the first time since 1982, with senior center Tori Wangerin (18 ppg) leading a lineup with three scoring in double figures.
PHOTO: Detroit Martin Luther King defeated Detroit Renaissance earlier this season to win the Detroit PSL Tournament and hopes to add a Class A title this weekend. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit PSL.)