By: Butch Harmon
Girls basketball preview
By BUTCH HARMON
Last season was a memorable one for area girls' basketball teams across mid-Michigan. This year promises even more excitement, as plenty of talented players return along with some outstanding teams. High School Sports Scene breaks down this year’s girls' basketball season.
Teams to watch statewide: Grand Haven, Grosse Pointe South, Detroit King.
Grand Haven captured last year’s Class A state title as the Bucs defeated Grosse Pointe South in the state title game. The Bucs came out of West Michigan and took on the top teams from the East Side of the state enroute to winning the state title. Grand Haven again looks to have a solid team and has a good shot at defending its state title. Sophomore center Cori Crocker (6'3") will be one to watch for the Bucs.
Top local teams: East Lansing, Waverly, Midland, Davison, St. Johns, DeWitt.
East Lansing turned in another solid season a year ago as the Trojans reached the Class A state quarterfinals before falling to eventual state champion Grand Haven. The Trojans return plenty of talent this season, led by senior forward Piper Tucker and junior guard Meechi Thompson. The Trojans are a deep squad, as junior center Kelcie Haizlip and Grace Whelan are two other talented players.
Waverly was one of the premier teams in the state last winter and was ranked second in the state in Class A. The Warriors return plenty of talent, led by Victoria Milton who is one of the most explosive guards in the state.
The Saginaw Valley will once again be home to some of the toughest Class A teams in the state. Junior guard/forward Jessica Walter (5'9") leads the way for Midland.
Davison leads the way in the Saginaw Valley South Division. Senior Kolbie Brow is a talented all-around player, while Tori Bellamy (6'3") is a force in the paint and is one of the premier centers in the area.
Top players in the state: Antania Hayes, Detroit King; Shakeya Graves, Westland Glenn; Raven Bankston, Detroit Mumford; Sami Stormont, Royal Oak; Allie Havers. Mattawan.
Top local players: Victoria Milton, Waverly; Jessica Walter, Midland; Kolbie Brow, Davison; Meechi Thompson, East Lansing; Piper Tucker, East Lansing; Amanda Leftwich, Owosso.
State finals prediction: Grand Haven over Detroit King.
Teams to watch statewide: Goodrich, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Detroit Country Day.
Last year was the year of the Martian in Class B, as the Goodrich Martians defeated Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the state title game. With two of the premier players in the state returning, Goodrich will be tough to dislodge from top spot.
Top local teams: Goodrich, Freeland, Portland, Clare, Bullock Creek.
Freeland turned in a memorable season last winter as it reached the Class B state semifinals before falling to Grand Rapids Catholic Central. With everyone back from a team that went 22-4, Freeland is poised for another deep tournament run.
While Portland suffered some heavy graduation losses, the Raiders still have some talented players on hand. Senior guard Kelsey Spitzley leads the way this season for the Raiders.
Look for Ionia to make a splash in the CAAC as well. The Bulldogs return a pair of talented young players in junior Taylor Bovee and Sarah Swartz.
Led by junior standout Lindsay Winter, Clare is gearing up for another big season. Winter averaged 19 points per game last year for the Pioneers, who were perfect in league play and went 17-3 overall.
Top players in the state: Tori Jankoska, Freeland; Taylor Gleason, Goodrich; Aketra Sevillian, Goodrich; Kalabrya Gondrezick, Benton Harbor.
Top local players: Tori Jankoska, Freeland; Taylor Gleason, Goodrich; Aketra Sevillian, Goodrich; Allison Ditmer, Eaton Rapids; Lindsay Winter, Clare; Rae Zink, Frankenmuth; Karlie Herrington, Hemlock.
State final prediction: Goodrich over Freeland.
Teams to watch statewide: University Liggett School, Concord, Reese.
University Liggett School reached the Class C state title game last season and will again have a solid squad this season. Concord was a final-four team last season, and the Yellowjackets have plenty of talent back for another title run this season. Look for Brandywine to make a charge out of Southwest Michigan, while Reese is loaded up for a big season in the Thumb.
Top local teams: Morley Stanwood, Hamady, Valley Lutheran, New Lothrop.
Morley Stanwood raised the state title trophy last March, and while the Mohawks have graduated a number of key players, they will again be a tough team. Hamady is annually among the top teams in the state in Class C, and the Hawks again look strong this season. Led by senior center Sam Shafer, who averaged 15 points and seven rebounds per game last season, Valley Lutheran will have a solid team capable of a deep tournament run this March. Pewamo-Westphalia made a deep tournament run in the state volleyball tournament, and with center Madison Smith back in the fold, the Pirates' basketball team has the pieces in place to earn plenty of headlines of its own.
Top players in the state: Jacqueline Simpson, Bendle; Paige Gotham, Reese; Jenna Hirsch, Marlette; Kelli Guy, Kalkaska; McKenna Erkfritz, Manchester.
Top local players: Madison Smith, Pewamo-Westphalia; Sam Shafer, Valley Lutheran; Taylor Hengesbach, Nouvel Catholic Central; Sarah Miller, Montabella.
State final prediction: Concord over Reese.
Top teams in the state: Our Lady of the Lakes, Athens, Forest Park, Gaylord St. Mary’s.
Our Lady of the Lakes has been one of the premier Class D programs in the state for years. This season should be no different, as Lakes returns plenty of skilled players, led by all-state forward Lexie Robak. The Upper Peninsula annually produces strong teams, and this season Forest Park may be the team to watch from the north. Junior center Lexi Gussert (6'1") is one of the top post players in the state in Class D and leads the way for Forest Park.
Top local teams: Sacred Heart Academy, St. Patrick Catholic, Lansing Christian, Fowler.
Sacred Heart Academy was ranked among the top teams in the state last winter. With all-state guard Sara Hansen returning, Sacred Heart is primed for another big season this winter. St. Patrick made a memorable tournament run last season, as it reached the Class D state semifinals where it fell to eventual state champ Our Lady of the Lakes. With a number of players returning from that team, the Irish have the makings of another strong team. Lansing Christian also returns a number of talented players and will be among the top teams in Class D this season.
Top players in the state: Lexie Robak, Our Lady of the Lakes; Lexi Gussert, Forest Park; Korynn Hincka, Posen.
Top local players: Sara Hansen, Sacred Heart Academy; Chelsey Wesley, Morrice; Mikayla Terry, Lansing Christian; Tori Goodrich, St. Patrick Catholic.
State final prediction: Our Lady of the Lakes over Sacred Heart Academy.