Girls Basketball Preseason Top 25 teams: Southfield-Lathrup is No. 1; Country Day top-ranked team in Class B
Lathrup Village – It’s been 10 years since Southfield-Lathrup won its only title in school history.
As the Chargers prepare for the program’s final season before the school closes its doors, coach Michele Marshall can see the similarities between her state championship team and this year’s team.
“It’s ironic,” Marshall said. “Ten years ago, they were successful as freshmen, missed the step, sophomores, got better, went further, juniors, they got better and went further. As seniors, it all clicked in. They had the experience. They had the talent returning and this team reminds me of that.”
State Champs has named Southfield-Lathrup as the state’s top-ranked team in the preseason.
The Chargers are led by four Division I players. There’s point guard Antoinette Miller (Cincinnati) and twins Taiye Bello (6-foot-3) and twin sister Kehinde Bello (6-4), both of whom signed with Minnesota. Then there’s wing Deja Church, one of the state’s most highly recruited juniors.
Marshall’s 2005 state championship team featured three Division I players, point guard Jareica Hughes (UTEP), center Timika Williams (UTEP) and shooting guard Britney Russell (Canisius).
Southfield-Lathrup was eliminated in the regional semifinal the last two season. Last year the Chargers lost to eventual state champion Birmingham Marian.
Marshall said that while there are high expectations for her team the Chargers aren’t focused solely on winning a state title, but rather simply focusing on playing to the best of their ability.
“In the last couple of years, we’ve spoken a lot about wanting to win a state championship and at times, I think that may have inadvertently put some pressure on our kids,” she said. “So this year, we’ve just talked about playing to the best of our abilities, winning one game at a time and knowing that if we do that for each game, that ultimately, that’s where we’ll end up. But we’re not going to make that a focus point.”
But for several of the players on this year’s team they know what that ultimate goal for the Chargers in the program’s final season.
Miller, who averaged over 15 points and four assists last season, said that to be able to win a state championship, in the final year of the school, and on the 10-year anniversary of its last title would leave a legacy.
“It would mean a lot,” she said. “It would be an honor to win a state championship with Southfield-Lathrup this year, being the 10-year anniversary.
“It would mean a lot, being a senior, being my last year it would mean a lot to me and it would definitely be a great accomplishment for the last year of Lathrup and for coach Marshall.”
The majority of the underclassmen are expected to move over to Southfield when the school’s merge next year, including Church.
“Basketball wise, our main focus is to keep doing the same thing that we’ve been doing, we’re trying to get to the Breslin,” said Church, who averaged 14 points and six rebounds per game last year. “We haven’t really thought about it that much, but questions pop up like that and we just say keep playing.”
Along with Miller and Church, perhaps the biggest advantage that the Chargers have over teams will be in the front court, where Southfield-Lathrup has two shot-blockers in the Bello twins, both four-year varsity players.
“It’s a huge game-changer,” Marshall said of the Bellos. “Kehinde has the wingspan of a 6-foot-6 kid. It’s ridiculous how long she is and she loves to block shots and loves to play defense, so for us, to have quick guards on the wing, they can go up and they can pressure and we can pick up the pace and know that we can make a mistake, you have the kids with that size. Not many teams are going to have one 6-footer, then alone one who’s 6-3, another who’s 6-4 and who have a connection with each other, because they’re twins.”
Last season, Taiye Bello averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds and Kehinde averaged seven rebounds and three blocks.
Marshall also expects key contributions from Benjanae Smith, Zavi Cobb, Shawna Manning and Rose Hobson.
While Southfield-Lathrup isn’t focusing solely on the possibility of winning a state championship, Marshall said that type of success would be the perfect ending for her current group of players and the Southfield-Lathrup program.
“It would mean everything,” she said. “They’re very close, they’re very good friends, they get along extremely well, so for them I think it would mean everything. They’ve been about their business since the summertime and preseason conditioning, so I think for this group, it would be icing on the cake.”
Southfield-Lathrup opens the season on Tuesday at home against Detroit Mumford.
2. Flushing (24-1), A: All five starters return, four of whom are juniors. Clare Glowniak (6-2) signed with Bowling Green. She’s a post player who can shoot the three. Junior Breanna Perry (6-0) has received scholarship offers from DePaul, Indiana and Michigan. Perry is a strong rebounder. Junior Kamryn Chappell (5-4) is a point guard who energizes the transition game. Junior Lauren Newman (5-6) is fast and possesses a terrific perimeter shot. Junior Carson Wilson (5-6) excels on the defensive end. Junior Danaya Jones (5-8) is a transfer from Swartz Creek will be eligible in January.
3. Detroit Country Day (22-4), B: The defending state champions will be led by junior Destiny Pitts (6-0), a wing player who is being recruited by several Big 10 schools, and 6-4 junior center Tylar Bennet, who will help anchor the Yellowjackets defensively. Sophomore point guard Kayla Webb (5-7) had a breakout performance in last year’s championship game. Erika Tolbert will be the lone senior and was a key contributor last season. Coach Frank Orlando, who won his 11th state title last season, expects key contributions from juniors Sheldon Bochenek (6-1), Destini Lewis and Sydney Parker, and sophomore Maxine Moore. Jasmine Powell, Kashyra Jackson and Adrian Folks headline a talented freshman class.
4. Detroit King (24-2), A: William Winfield enters his 30th season as head coach and this team will be like many of his earlier teams, quick and fast but not tall. Micaela Kelly (5-8) is a senior who has the whole package. She can shoot, take a defender off the dribble and she can finish. Junior Alicia Norman (5-2) is back at the point and Tia Tifford (5-5), another junior, will be asked to score more after being the team’s top reserve. Senior Jasmine Flowers (6-0) will get her chance at center and watch for freshman Janae Williams (5-7) to make an immediate impact. “We’re small but we can shoot,” Winfield said. “We’ve got to let the quickness take over.”
5. Saginaw Heritage (22-4), A: Vonnie DeLong enters her third season as head coach and she returns three starters from a team that reached the state semifinals. Courtney McIerney (SP) is a 6-1 post player who averaged eight points as a sophomore. Sophomore Jaela Richardson (6-0) has developed a good midrange shot and DeLong said she’ll be more aggressive this season. Junior Haley Breska (5-7) is one of the team’s top perimeter shooters and look for senior Jenna Falkenburg (6-3) to move into the starting lineup after being the team’s top reserve. Three freshmen are on varsity and one, Moira Joyner (5-8), might start at point guard.
6. Ann Arbor Huron (21-2), A: The River Rats return three starters form a team that lost to DeWitt in the regionals. Cheah (pronounced Say-a) Rael-Whitsitt (5-10) returns at center and Mia Long (5-6) is a slick-handling point guard. Both are seniors. Emily Marsh is a 6-foot junior and she’ll play on the wing. Two other juniors will be looked upon to score. Katlyn Brownlee (5-5) is a shooting guard and Kara Wilson (5-8) is on the wing. Huron has but two seniors so this team likely won’t jell completely until February.
7. Grosse Pointe South (18-5), A: The Blue Devils lost to state finalist Detroit King in the regionals and they return six seniors, five of whom started at one time or another. Anna Carmody (5-7) will move to the point after making 30 threes last season. Six of the 10 varsity players are 5-10 or taller and leading this group is Benna Ames (6-3) who signed with Emory College (GA). Sophomore Margo Baer (6-3) played predominantly in the junior varsity and she’ll start at times. Sophomore Grace Foster (6-0) is perhaps the team’s top athlete. Other top seniors are Margaret Brennan (5-11) and Natalia Engle (5-7), a four-year varsity player and the team’s top shooter.
8. Midland Dow (20-3), A: Many questions surround the Chargers but they are out-numbered by the certainties. Asjia Blanton (5-9) is a junior who suffered a knee injury and it’s possible she will return in February. Juniors Ellie Taylor (5-9) and Kaylee Wasco (6-2) are college players. Wasco possesses an awesome jump hook and she’s been offered a scholarship by Western Michigan and Manhattan, among others. Taylor is the leader. She committed to Saint Louis. Two seniors will start. Alexie Flaminio, who will play soccer or golf in college, is the best. Freshmen Molly Davis (5-6) and Taylor’s sister, Maizie (5-7), are in the primary rotation. Toledo offered Davis a scholarship.
9. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (23-3), B: All five starters return and the lone senior is Joann Torrez (5-6). She’ll play the point and shooting guard. The other four are juniors and the top two are Sophia Karasinski (5-9) and Kyra Bussell (6-1), both of whom committed to Central Michigan. Myka Cromwell (5-11) is an athletic guard and Shaniya Huggins (5-6) will switch off with Torrez at the point. C.C.’s junior varsity was 19-1 and two of those players are 6-foot and will play the post. The Cougars play pressure defense and rely heavily on creating points off turnovers.
10. Goodrich (25-2), B: The Martians lost in the semifinals to Country Day and they return two starters including Lexi Sevillian (5-6) who committed to Iowa. Goodrich has reached the semifinals four of the last five years and Sevillian is the key to getting back to the Breslin Center. Ciya Hawkins (5-7) is a three-year varsity player who started every game as a junior. Sydney Donnelly (5-3) is a junior who suffered a knee injury in the regionals. She is expected to be at full strength in January. At 5-10 Rebekah Whiting is the team’s tallest player. Sophomore Molly Voelker (5-9) will play forward but she possesses good ball-handling skills. Coach Jason Gray will have two freshmen and three sophomores on varsity.
11. Flint Hamady (26-2), C: Six players return from a team that lost in the state final, four of whom started last season. Keith Smith enters his 14th season as head coach and he’ll rely on point guard Jalisha Terry (signed with St. Bonaventure) to run his show. Krystal Rice (5-9), Glenn Rice’s niece, one of the state’s top juniors, averaged 12 points last season. Despite this experience Hamady remains a young team. Junior Deajah Cofield (5-6) will play both guard spots. Sophomores Sasha Penn (5-4), a defensive gem, and Talaka Wallace (5-2) reportedly has a 35-inch vertical. Regardless, this team will push the pace and force teams to play quick.
12. Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (22-4), C: Arbor Prep lost three seniors to graduation, all of whom are playing in college, but this team has an excellent shot at returning to the state semifinals. Nastassja Chambers (5-9) signed with Wayne State and is the team leader. The best player could well be junior Adrienne Anderson (5-9) who averaged 8.5 points but missed the state tournament after suffering an ankle injury. Ro’Zhane Wells is back at point guard and will look to score more this season. Inside Arbor Prep is led by juniors Cydney Williams (5-11) and Kayla Knight (6-1).
13. Warren Cousino (18-6), A: Kierra Fletcher (5-10) will again make the Patriots a factor. She averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds as a sophomore and has received 14 Division I scholarship offers. Fletcher will see more time at the point this season. Four other players return. Both McKenzie Anderson (5-9) and junior Erin McArthur (5-9) started last season. Anderson is a state qualifier in the long jump and McArthur is a three-year varsity player. Her sister, Kate, is a freshman and she could start as well. Cousino is quick and athletic. Senior Rachel Hayes (5-10) is a role player who does much of the dirty work near the basket.
14. Muskegon Mona Shores (20-4), A: The Sailors are a young team but they have experience. Junior Jordan Walker (5-7) is likely a Miss Basketball candidate for 2017. A captain last season, Walker averaged 19 points and 8.3 rebounds. Junior De De Trotter (5-9) is a strong post player and senior Mackenzie Quinn (5-9) will also play inside. Senior Shamara Tumblin (5-6) averaged 10 points and will play on the wing. Alyza Winston (5-6) is a freshman who is already garnering attention from Division I schools. Senior Alicia Kurth suffered a concussion last season but is expected to be in the rotation this season.
15. Detroit Renaissance (16-5), A: Renaissance did not have a senior last season. And Siyeh Frazier, a 5-9 guard-forward, is one of the state’s top seniors this season. She signed with Penn State. Another senior, Jeorgia Jones (5-11), is the team’s top post player and a team leader. Victoria Wright (5-8) is a junior guard who adds stability. The kicker for this team, a change that could propel them to a long playoff run, is the transfer of two quality players, both of whom are juniors. Detroit Pershing transfer Brittany Hill (5-9) is a perimeter player who excels at driving to the basket from the wing. Point guard Tolia Gray (5-5) moves south from Warren Fitzgerald and will present match-up problems. Hill and Gray are eligible in January.
16. Grand Rapids Christian (17-5), A: Tom Butyen enters his fifth season as head coach and this one could like two seasons in one. Christian has three transfers who will be eligible in January. Jocelyn Taylor (5-10) is the lone returning starter and junior point guard Sydney Muller (5-9) was a part-time starter. Taylor averaged nine points; Muller five. Depth will be a problem until the arrival of the transfers. And they are Mariah McCully (5-6) who came from Grand River Prep, Leah Singleton (5-10) from Ellington Academy of Arts and Tech, and Edecia Beck (5-10) from Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills. McCully, a senior, is the best. A dynamic player with tremendous ball skills, McCully is a fine perimeter shooter. Singleton is a junior who excels on defense and Beck is a sophomore who was the best player at Ottawa Hills.
17. Dexter (18-4), A: The Dreadnaughts return all of their players who played significant minutes. Taylor Olson and Kayla Schlaff return at the guard spots; Olson committed to Ferris State. Shelbea James is a 6-1 wing and Hannah Wing is a 5-10 forward. Dexter has decent size in the post with Anna Love (5-10) at center. Quality depth is there. Junior Kristin Young (5-10) could see starter’s minutes by midseason. Coach Mike Bavineau upgraded his schedule in anticipation of a competitive season. Toledo Central Catholic is Dexter’s opener.
18. Dearborn Heights Robichaud (18-3), B: The Bulldogs return three starters, two of whom are juniors. Kayla Brown (5-7) is the point guard who averaged seven assists last season. Kamaria McDaniel (5-9) is a scorer who can create her own shot and can spot up and shoot. She averaged 22 points last season. The leader is Nicole Buffington (6-0), a four-year starter who has college potential. Buffington will likely join the military and her future in basketball is uncertain. Manae Palmer (5-9), Lilla Miller (5-11) and Teirra Fisher (5-7) are solid role players.
19. Wayland Union (23-2), B: Coach Marty Howard returns seven seniors, five of whom saw significant playing time. There are three three-year starters including left handed point guard Ali Martus (5-8). Ali Cutler (5-7) is the shooting guard and she might play soccer in college. Hope Dollarhide (5-11) has an accurate shot 15 feet and in, and she’s Howard’s top post defender. Dollarhide signed with Lawrence Tech. Sydney Ritz (5-11) also plays volleyball and Howard said her shooting form “Is beautiful”.
20. Grosse Pointe North (12-11), A: Coach Gary Bennett will have a solid starting five but depth might be a problem. Four starters return led by senior Erin Armbruster (5-10) and junior Katie Snow (5-8). Armbruster averaged 13 points and 8.5 rebounds. Senior Lauren Lesha (5-6) adds stability in the backcourt. All played on the volleyball team that reach the state quarterfinals. Senior Katelyn Carney is a mentally tough point guard. The fifth starter is a 6-foot freshman. Julia Ayrault has good blood lines. Her father played basketball at Grosse Pointe South. Her mother played for Bennett and both played at Wayne State.
21. Waterford Kettering (23-2), A: Kettering lost in the quarterfinals to eventual state champion Birmingham Marian and the Captains enters the season with several key returners with high hopes to have another successful season. Led by seniors Hayley Tewes (signed with Gannon University) and Emily Bernas (5-9), and junior Lilia Schoof, all of whom started last season. Kettering is once again the favorite to win the KLAA North Division. Coach Scott Woodhull expects senior Sammy Shaner, junior Maddy Kase and sophomore Marnae Holland to play key roles on this year’s team.
22. Chelsea (21-3), B: Five of coach Todd Blomquist’s top seven players return including three, three-year starters. McKenzie Mykala led the team in scoring and assists last season. Twins Maggie and Meghan Cole are terrific athletes who to play field hockey at Michigan State. Senior Olivia McCalla (5-10) is Chelsea’s tallest player who can knock down the 3-point shot. Maddy Bell (5-6) is a fine spot up shooter who has improved greatly in other areas. This team lacks height but they make up for it with tenacious defense. The Bulldogs have won three consecutive district titles but are still searching for the school’s first regional title.
23. Warren Regina (8-12), A: Teresa Diehl (5-7) is a three-year starter and she could be the best player in the Catholic League Central Division. She averaged 18 points last season and it’s possible she’ll run cross country or track in college. Meghan Jones is a 5-9 post player and fellow junior Megan O’Brien (5-10) will also start. Coach Diane Laffey might start a sophomore (Betsy Lueck) at the point. There are five seniors on this team and all are in the rotation.
24. Grand Rapids South Christian (13-8), B: Four starters return plus a fifth who saw starters’ minutes. Point guard Jenn DeBoer (5-8) is the leader of this team. A versatile player, DeBoer signed with Grand Valley State. The other four starters are expected to be seniors. Markayla Vander (5-10) is a scorer who can play every position. Izzy Scott (5-11) is a terrific post defender and will get her share of chances to score inside. First-year coach Kim Legge will use a three-guard system with Zoe Hulst and Sydney DeYoung providing stability in the backcourt.
25. Rochester Adams (15-7), A: Shay Lewis enter her second season as head coach and she returns two starters and two others who saw significant playing time. Juniors Ryian Owusu (5-9) and Maggie Rogers (5-9) will lead this team. Owusu is an athletic guard and a tremendous on-ball defender. Rogers was second on the team in scoring (11.6 points) last season and has a nice inside-outside game. Senior Taylor Smith (5-6), a transfer from Linden, will start at the point and another senior, Nykka Brigoli, will also see time at the point. Juniors Nicole Shaw and Hannah Simard will likely start as Lewis will often go with a five-guard lineup.
Tom Markowski contributed to this report.