By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Class A – made up of the largest high schools in Michigan – also has the most star power to offer this weekend at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena in Grand Rapids.
This season’s Miss Basketball plus two more finalists, not to mention some of the likely contenders in 2019, all will take the floor during Friday’s Semifinals and Saturday’s championship game.
And much is at stake, of course. Three of these teams have won MHSAA titles, but none since at least 2010. The fourth will compete during the final weekend of the season for the first time.
Class A Semifinals – Friday
Grosse Pointe North (20-5) vs. Saginaw Heritage (25-1), noon
East Lansing (25-0) vs. Wayne Memorial (22-4), 2 p.m.
Class A Final – Saturday, 12:15 p.m.
Tickets cost $10 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session (Class D and Class A). All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a pay-per-view basis. All four Finals will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit and streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com and the FOX Sports Go! app. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.
Below is a glance at all four semifinalists. Click on the name of the school to see that team’s full schedule and results from this season. (Statistics are through teams' Regional Finals.)
Record/rank: 25-0, No. 2
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Blue
Coach: Rob Smith, 16th season (record N/A)
Championship history: Class A champion 2010, runner-up 2008.
Best wins: 63-45 over No. 8 Muskegon in Quarterfinal, 54-40 over No. 6 Coldwater in Regional Semifinal, 50-38 (District Final) and 52-51 over No. 4 DeWitt, 63-43 over Class B honorable mention Williamston.
Players to watch: Jaida Hampton, 5-11 sr. F (15 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 57 3-pointers); Aaliyah Nye, 5-11 soph. F (13 ppg, 4.6 rpg).
Outlook: After getting stopped in Quarterfinals three times this decade, East Lansing broke through to make its first Semifinal since the championship season of 2010. The Trojans have won four of five postseason games by at least 12 points. Hampton is the recently honored Miss Basketball Award winner, and she’s got plenty of help not only from Aaliyah Nye, but also senior guards Aazhenii Nye (11.7 ppg) and Amelia McNutt (9.5 ppg), among others. All four of those players also had connected on at least 24 3-pointers entering this week.
GROSSE POINTE NORTH
Record/rank: 20-5, unranked
League finish: Tied for first in Macomb Area Conference Red.
Coach: Gary Bennett, 35th season (576-221)
Championship history: Class A champion 2008.
Best wins: 47-44 over Detroit Martin Luther King in Quarterfinal, 53-51 (Regional Semifinal) and 66-63 over No. 9 Macomb Dakota, 44-32 over St. Clair Shores Lakeview in District Semifinal.
Players to watch: Julia Ayrault, 6-2 jr. G/F (19 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 4.4 spg); Christina Braker, 5-9 soph. F (6.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg).
Outlook: North will be returning to the Semifinals for the first time since the title-winning season of 2008, when it defeated East Lansing in the championship game. Ayrault is considered a contender for next season’s Miss Basketball Award and helped her team navigate what annually is one of the state’s strongest leagues. Lakeview (20-2) was another league champion North had to get past along the way. This could be a preview of next season as well; the Norsemen have only one senior.
Record/rank: 25-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League.
Coach: Vonnie DeLong, fifth season (105-14)
Championship history: Class A champion 2002, runner-up 2001.
Best wins: 63-40 (Regional Final) and 60-44 over No. 7 Flint Carman-Ainsworth, 59-49 over Class B No. 1 Detroit Country Day, 51-35 over Class B No. 5 Freeland.
Players to watch: Moira Joiner, 5-9 jr. G (14.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.2 apg); Shine Strickland-Gills, 6-1 jr. F (12.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg).
Outlook: Heritage has won 20 or more games the last four seasons and made the Semifinals again to go with its 2015 appearance. The Hawks’ only loss was by a basket in overtime to reigning Class C champ Detroit Edison, and no other opponent got closer than 10 with wins as well over Clarkston (20-5), Hartland (20-6), Midland Dow (17-6) and Bay City Western (17-4). Joiner is another highly-regarded junior who could be in the Miss Basketball conversation in 2019. Four players average at least seven points per game, with senior guard Jessica Bicknell also in double digits at 10.8.
Record/rank: 22-4, No. 10
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association Black.
Coach: Jarvis Mitchell, fourth season (55-34)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 54-44 (Quarterfinal) and 45-40 over Hartland, 50-46 over Howell, 73-70 over Class B No. 2 Detroit Country Day.
Players to watch: Camree’ Clegg, 5-5 sr. G (23.7 ppg, 6.4 apg); Jeanae Terry, 5-10 jr. G (Statistics not submitted).
Outlook: Wayne went 0-20 in Mitchell’s first season, then won a league title his second, league and District championships his third and added the Regional title for the first time in program history this winter. Clegg was a Miss Basketball Award finalist and has led the Zebras to double-digit wins in every postseason game. The losses came twice to Detroit Edison – including by just two points the second time –Williamston early when it was full strength and considered a Class B favorite and Ohio semifinalist Toledo Rogers (25-3).
PHOTO: Saginaw Heritage's Moira Joiner (4) works to get past a Flint Carman-Ainsworth defender during last week's Regional Final victory. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)