By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The final minutes are ticking down until Michigan’s finest girls basketball teams play for MHSAA championships this weekend at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena.
The trip to this final week of the season has been four months in the making for 32 hopefuls that will take the court tonight in Quarterfinals all over our state.
Our final “Countdown to Calvin” report – powered by MI Student Aid – takes a glance at all 16 Quarterfinals, which are all at 7 p.m. unless noted. All Quarterfinals will be broadcast and viewable with subscription on MHSAA.tv. And come back Wednesday night for a more in-depth look at our 16 finalists as they head into this weekend.
Grosse Pointe North (19-5) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (18-3) at Southfield Arts & Technology – 5 p.m.
Grosse Pointe North will play in its first Quarterfinal since 2010, while King will be back for the first time since 2012. The Norsemen have only one senior and are paced by 6-foot-2 junior guard/forward Julia Ayrault (19 ppg, 10.3 rpg). Senior guard Jordan Lewis (14 ppg) leads three Crusaders averaging double-digit scoring. Two of King’s three losses are to reigning MHSAA champions.
Clarkston (20-4) vs. Saginaw Heritage (24-1) at Grand Blanc
Heritage is back in the Quarterfinals for the third time in six years and first since 2015, while Clarkston has made the final week for the first time since 2005. The Hawks – whose only loss was to reigning Class C champ Detroit Edison, by a basket – are paced by junior guard Moira Joiner (14.6 ppg, 4.2 apg). Seniors Maddie Beck (14.4 ppg) and Kayla Luchenbach (14.1 ppg) have the Wolves on an eight-game winning streak.
East Lansing (24-0) vs. Muskegon (22-2) at DeWitt
East Lansing will play in its second Quarterfinal in three years to make it to the Semifinals for the first time since 2010. The Trojans are led by newly-honored Miss Basketball Award winner Jaeda Hampton (15 ppg, 57 3-pointers). Muskegon is coming off its first Regional title and has won 19 straight, keyed by junior guard Alyza Winston (19.6 ppg).
Wayne Memorial (21-4) vs. Hartland (20-5) at Southfield Arts & Technology
Wayne is another first-time Regional champion, led on this march by Miss Basketball finalist Camree’ Clegg (23.7 ppg, 6.4 apg). Hartland won its second Regional title, and second in four seasons, and will try to make its first Semifinal in part on the post power of 6-4 sophomore Whitney Sollom (10.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 4.7 bpg.)
Hamilton (24-1) vs. Jackson Northwest (23-1) at Marshall
Both of these quarterfinalists are coming off their first Regional titles in program history. Hamilton has won 24 straight since losing to Jenison in its opener, paced in part by senior Ashlen Wolfram (10.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg). Northwest’s only defeat came early as well to Battle Creek Harper Creek; the Mounties are on a 21-game winning streak with junior guard Sydney Shafer pouring in a team-high 17 ppg.
Michigan Center (22-2) vs. Harper Woods Chandler Park (17-6) at Tecumseh
Michigan Center, up from Class C this school year, is making its first Quarterfinal appearance since 2005. After falling to an uncharacteristic 6-15 in 2015-16, the Cardinals are 42-6 over the last two seasons and start one senior with four underclassmen. Chandler Park is playing in its first Quarterfinal, with freshman Emaia O’Brien (12.7 ppg, 43 3-pointers) an impressive leading scorer while playing against a loaded schedule.
Detroit Country Day (20-4) vs. Freeland (23-2) at West Bloomfield
Reigning Class B champion Country Day is going for its third title in four seasons, led by Miss Basketball finalist Kaela Webb (15.9 ppg). All four of its defeats are to teams still alive this week. Freeland advanced to the Semifinals a year ago, and its only losses are to Class A teams. The Falcons are led by the Argyle sisters – senior guard Kaylee and junior forward Alyssa, both averaging 11.5 points per game.
Muskegon Oakridge (22-3) vs. Kingsley (25-0) at Cadillac
Oakridge broke through with its first Regional title since 1991, and will try to extend the run against an undefeated Stags team playing in the final week for the first time since 2008. Junior guard Sophia Wiard is the playmaker for the Eagles, averaging 22.8 points and 4.2 assists per game. Sophomore guard Brittany Bowman (11.5 ppg) and junior guard Jacie King (10.1 ppg) are leading scorers and two of three Kingsley players with at least 30 3-pointers.
Detroit Edison (21-1) vs. Flint Beecher (18-5) at Howell
Reigning Class C champ Edison has been even more dominant this season, beating Wayne Memorial (twice), Country Day, Heritage and St. Ignace among others. Junior 6-3 guard Rickea Johnson (22.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg) and sophomore guard Gabrielle Elliott (16.4) are stars. Beecher got through rival Hamady and others to reach its first Quarterfinal since 2003, with senior guard Imani Thompson (13.5 ppg) leading three averaging double-digit scoring.
Pewamo-Westphalia (24-0) vs. Kent City (22-3) at Cedar Springs
Reigning Class C runner-up P-W has had one single-digit game all season, in the District Final against Springport, but should expect a good one tonight from a Kent City team coming off its first Regional title since 1989. Freshman guard Kenzie Bowers leads Kent City with 19.5 points and 5.1 steals per game. Senior guard Emily Spitzley (17 ppg) keys a Pirates starting lineup that features three sophomores.
Schoolcraft (25-0) vs. Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (19-5) at Bronson – 6 p.m.
After making the Quarterfinals last season for the first time, Schoolcraft is back for the second straight. Senior guard Lydia Goble (19.5 ppg) has made an astounding 75 3-pointers and will have to be a focus for Arbor Prep, last season’s Class B runner-up. The Gators are led by Miss Basketball finalist and senior guard Lasha Petree, who averages 20.2 points per game and has 42 3-pointers.
Maple City Glen Lake (22-2) vs. St. Ignace (23-1) at Gaylord
Glen Lake is seeking its second straight trip to the Semifinals after getting past St. Ignace in last year’s Quarterfinal. The Lakers’ only losses this winter are to undefeated Class B contender Kingsley, and senior guard Savannah Peplinski (15.6 ppg) leads a mostly veteran lineup. The Saints surely have been looking forward to this opportunity. Their only loss this season was to Edison. Junior forward Emily Coveyou (18.3) and senior forward Linnie Gustafson (16.3) are a productive 1-2 scoring punch.
Gaylord St. Mary (23-1) vs. Chassell (24-1) at Sault Ste. Marie – 6 p.m.
St. Mary has lost three Quarterfinals over the last six years by a combined five points. The Snowbirds are hoping senior guards Averi Bebble (11.5 ppg) and Alex Hunter (13.7 ppg, 31 3-pointers) can help them get to the Semifinals for the first time since 2002. Chassell battled through a pair of close Regional games to reach the Quarterfinals for the first time. The Panthers are keyed by a senior pair as well – guard Milly Allen (15.5 ppg) and 6-1 center Sydney Danison (13.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg).
Waterford Our Lady (18-4) vs. Kingston (23-0) at Burton Bendle – 6 p.m.
These two will meet in a Quarterfinal for the third time in four seasons. Kingston is looking to reach its first Semifinal and Our Lady its seventh in eight seasons after falling in the Quarterfinal to Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary a year ago. Junior forward Carley Smith (10.7) leads a balanced Kingston lineup with four players averaging at least 8.5 ppg. Senior forward Tiffany Senerius puts up 14 ppg for Our Lady and has made 41 3-pointers.
Athens (21-4) vs. Adrian Lenawee Christian (23-1) at Richland Gull Lake
Athens will play in its fifth Quarterfinal this decade but first since 2014 against a Lenawee Christian team making the trip back for the first time since finishing Class D runner-up in 2010. Four senior starters have helped the Indians through a tough tournament run that’s included avenging a loss to rival Bellevue. Lenawee Christian is paced by 6-2 freshman guard Bree Salenbien (21.3 ppg) and has been perfect this season aside from a one-point loss to Class A Monroe.
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (24-0) vs. Bellaire (21-3) at Scottville Mason County Central
The Irish have won six straight Regional titles and come into this game undefeated for the second year in a row. Last season they made it to the Semifinals before falling to eventual champion Pittsford. Sacred Heart is leaning on a lineup with four seniors, including Sophia Ruggles (15.6 ppg), and junior guard Scout Nelson (13.8 ppg, 5.1 apg) to take another step. Bellaire has won more than 20 games for the third time in five seasons and broke through for its first Regional title, led by senior forward Lexi Niepoth (14.9 ppg, 11.5 rpg).
PHOTO: East Lansing’s Aaliyah Nye (32) guards a Grand Ledge ball handler during a District win two weeks ago. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)