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The Top 25 Michigan girls basketball state champions of the STATE CHAMPS! era (2003-2019)

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, April 8, 2020, 4:38 pm

With no finals this season for the first time since the girls postseason began in 1973, there’s no way — other than speculation — to determine who’s the best from the 2020 season, unfortunately. 

But it doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with the past, and look at the top 25 girls basketball champions of the STATE CHAMPS! era (2003-2019).

We do that with one caveat, though: Obviously, Detroit Country Day has dominated the landscape in girls basketball in Michigan, with a record 13 titles — more than double any other program — seven of them coming in the era we’re addressing. Rather than have this become a list filled with teams from the same school, we limited it to a maximum of two entrants from each program, and tried to just pick the best of the best. Same applies to Detroit Edison’s recent run of success. 

That said, here’s what are — in our judgement — the best of the state champions from the last 16 completed postseasons:

1 Birmingham Marian 2015 (Class A — 26-1) — The Mustangs returned every starter but one from their 2014 championship team, and didn’t lose all season long to a squad from Michigan, the only blemish on the season coming by four points against a Chicago Whitney Young team ranked in the top five in the nation. The Mustangs, who didn’t have a game closer than nine points (Waterford Kettering, quarterfinals) in the postseason, beat DeWitt, 51-37 for the program’s sixth title, joining perpetual powerhouses Portland St. Patrick and Flint Northern on the all-time titles list, behind only Detroit Country Day (13). Marian’s roster featured sisters Bailey (West Virginia/UNLV) and Sam Thomas (Arizona) — the granddaughters of NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Thomas — Kara Holinski (MIT), Jaeda Robinson (Central Michigan) and Brittany Gray (Hillsdale). Both the 2014 and 2015 teams were ranked in the top 15 in the nation by the end of the season. 

2 Detroit Edison Public School Academy 2019 (Division 2 — 27-1) — The dominant power in girls over the last three seasons, the Pioneers won two titles in Class C (either of which could easily be on this list) before bumping up a level last year, and dominating the Division 2 postseason. Led by last year’s Miss Basketball, Rickea Jackson (Mississippi State), and this year’s, Gabrielle Elliott (Clemson), the Pioneers didn’t lose to a Michigan team all season — the only loss was by five to a Columbus Africentric squad ranked in the top five nationally — and won their postseason games by an AVERAGE of 45 points, cruising to their third straight title with a 77-58 win over Freeland. It put them on the precipice of joining Flint Northern as the only girls program in state history to win four straight titles. With arguably the top player in the senior, junior, sophomore and freshmen classes, the nationally-ranked Pioneers were loaded — Daija Tyson (Bradley), DeShelle Farver (Bradley) and Aerial Jenkins (Ferris State) will all be playing in college — even with Shaulana Wagner (Xavier) out with a concussion for the postseason.

3 Detroit Country Day 2017 (Class B — 26-1) — As mentioned previously, this list could’ve become the “Yellowjacket Invitational,” with DCDS claiming seven championships in the 17-year window, more than any other two programs put together. Twice they went back-to-back (2003-04 and 2008-09), then bounced back after a seven season drought, winning three in a four-year span (2015, 2017, 2018). While the 2015 squad was a bunch of precocious youngsters that broke the drought, and 2018 was back to the level of dominance that DCDS had displayed in the past, the 2017 squad may have been the most impressive, earning a national ranking, and losing just once — by a point on the road to a Saginaw Heritage squad on the precipice of becoming a power itself — rolling through the postseason. Led by Destiny Pitts (Minnesota), Maxine Moore (WMU/Detroit), Tylar Bennett (Clemson), Kaela Webb (Providence), Jasmine Powell (Minnesota) and Adrian Folks (Indiana State), Country Day knocked off defending champ Marshall in the semifinals, 46-42, and beat a loaded Ypsilanti Arbor Prep squad (the defending Class C champ, up in B for one year) in the finals, 59-48.

4 Inkster 2011 (Class A — 25-2) — Led by former Detroit Country Day Miss Basketball Peggy (Evans) Carr, the Vikings beat Detroit Renaissance, 43-37, for its first championship since 2002. The Vikings featured Jamie Maddan (Missouri), Leah Scott (Central Michigan), Jas’Mine Bracey (Central Michigan), Kelsey Mitchell (Detroit), Janae Jackson (Northern Illinois/Youngstown St.) and Crystal Bradford (Central Michigan). Inkster would make it back to the semis a year later, before losing to eventual champion Grand Haven. One of two losses on the season came against Carr’s old Country Day coach, Frank Orlando, when the Vikings lost a classic that featured a shootout between the eventual all-time leading scorers at CMU (Bradford) and MSU (Aerial Powers).

5 Goodrich 2012 (Class B — 28-0) — With five trips in six seasons to the quarters and beyond, and two straight titles, the Martians replaced Flint Powers as the primary postseason challenger to Country Day on the east side of the state. After losing to runner-up Country Day in the 2010 quarters and eventual champion Dearborn Divine Child in overtime in the 2011 semifinals, the 2012 Martians went through the season unbeaten. Led by future Miss Basketball Tania Davis (2015/Iowa), the Martians were stacked, featuring Aketra “Keke” Sevillian (Penn State), 2013 Miss Basketball runner-up Taylor Gleason (Illinois/Oakland), Frankie Joubran (Belmont) and Morgan Eddy (Saginaw Valley volleyball). Goodrich won its two regional games by an average of 36 points, then got past Country Day (56-47) in the quarters, winning the semifinals rematch with Divine Child (68-53), then beating Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 60-53, for the first of two straight titles.


RELATED: Burney’s Top 25 Michigan boys basketball state champions of the STATE CHAMPS! era (2003-19)


6 Southfield-Lathrup 2005 (Class A — 27-1) — While Southfield A&T has knocked on the door twice in the last few years, finishing runner-up in Division 1 last season, the bar for the city’s hoops teams was set by the 2005 Lathrup squad. Led by a pair of UTEP commits — Jareica Hughes and Timika Williams — and Brittane’ Russell (Canisius), the Chargers didn’t have a postseason game closer than 10 points before a seven-point win over Auburn Hills Avondale in the quarters. They beat Grandville and 6-foot-8 Miss Basketball Alyssa DeHaan in the semifinals, then beat Detroit King, 48-36, in the title game. The title win by the Chargers — who merged with Southfield High into Southfield A&T in recent years — remains the lone girls basketball championship by a public school in Oakland County.

7 Grand Haven 2013 (Class A — 28-0) — The Buccaneers had never made it past the semifinals before the 2012 season, but after winning the Class A title in 2012 — beating Grosse Pointe South, 54-53 on a layup by Shar’Rae Davis with six seconds left — they made it to the finals two straight years. The 2013 team was no given to make it back, though, graduating every starter but 6-foot-5 Abby Cole in the middle. All Cole did as a senior, though, was finish third in the Miss Basketball voting, and second for Miss Volleyball, averaging 9.6 rebounds and 7.9 blocks per game. She had 15 blocks in a quarterfinal win over Grand Ledge, 12 in a semifinal win over Westland John Glenn, and eight in a title-game rematch with Grosse Pointe South, breaking her own finals round record from a year earlier. The Bucs weren’t without talent around Cole — who went on to berths on both the Michigan volleyball and women’s basketball teams — featuring Hannah Wilkerson (Ferris State/Davenport), Taylor Craymer (Northwood), Amanda Merz (Davenport) and Grace Kendra (MSU track).

8 Saginaw Heritage 2018 (Class A — 27-1) — The Hawks won the program’s first title since 2002, beating East Lansing (and Miss Basketball Jaida Hampton) in the finals, 57-36. Led by Jessica Bicknell (University of Detroit), Moira Joiner (Michigan State), Shine Strickland-Gills (Central Michigan) and Mallory McCartney (Ferris State), Heritage’s only loss on the season was by two points to eventual Class C champion Detroit Edison, 57-55. Joiner was a Miss Basketball finalist in 2019, when she, McCartney and Strickland-Gills led the Hawks to a repeat.

9 Detroit Country Day 2009 (Class B — 26-1) — After making it to the Class B finals every season from 1998-2004, the Yellowjackets missed the finals in 2005 and 2006, then made three more straight trips after the season switch to the winter. The 2009 team was ranked nationally, and stacked, with Troy Hambrick (Southern Illinois), Spencer Lane (Cornell), Faziah Steen (Dartmouth), Madison Williams (Michigan State) and Amber Moore (Illinois) starting, and Imari Redfield (Wayne State/Hope), Sharena Taylor (Georgia Tech) and Emma Golen (Harvard) coming off the bench. After winning its three district games by an average of 44 points, and two regional games by 25-plus, the Yellowjackets got past old nemesis Flint Powers, 47-39, in quarters, then beat a once-beaten DeWitt squad by 20, before knocking off previously unbeaten Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 50-40, for the title. A junior who would go on to start the McDonald’s All-American Game the next year, became the first player in MHSAA girls finals history to record a triple-double in the title game, with 11 points, 11 rebounds and a title-game record 11 blocks.

10 Detroit King 2003 (Class A — 24-0) — With 22 appearances in the elite eight since 1985, 17 semifinal appearances and 12 final-game appearances (five titles), William Winfield’s Detroit Martin Luther King machine just kept churning out contenders. The Crusaders went more than a decade — 1991 to 2002 — without a crown, though, losing three straight title-game appearances before winning in ’03 what would end up as the second-to-last title in Winfield’s illustrious career (his last came in 2006, the year before the season switch). Stocked with talent, with Brittany Myatt (Alcorn State), Jessica Adams (Arkansas Baptist), Ashley Jones (Michigan), Jasmine Stone (Temple) and Lesha Jones (Wisconsin), the Crusaders went unbeaten, knocking off Kentucky-bound Sam Mahoney and West Bloomfield in the semifinals, 75-70, then handing Flint Northern its first loss in the finals, 58-53.

11 East Lansing 2010 (Class A — 27-1) — After losing in the finals in 2008, and the quarters in 2009, the Trojans took home the hardware in 2010, their first — and, to date, only — state title. The team featured East Lansing’s first Miss Basketball, Klarissa Bell, who went on to play for two Big Ten championship teams across town at MSU, as well as all-stater Malika Glover (Oakland) and Zakiya Minifee (Oakland), as well as a state champion sprinter in Hannah Fitzpatrick, who doubled as the defensive stopper. The only loss of the season was a 73-55 home setback to eventual Class B runner-up Country Day, as the Trojans slipped by Rockford, 56-51, the day Bell was named Miss Basketball, then beat Detroit Pershing and a loaded Detroit Renaissance team (Asia Boyd, Lorreal Jones) for the title, with Glover dropping 25 in the title contest.

12 Birmingham Marian 2014 (Class A — 25-2) — Just two seasons after the 2012 squad posted the program’s first sub-.500 record in 26 years, putting the ‘retirement’ question into the mind of longtime coach Mary Cicerone for the first time, the 2014 team rejuvenated her competitive spirit, winning the program’s first state title since 1998. Led by a junior-filled roster — and one senior, Laura Bruton (Lawrence Tech) — both the Mustangs’ losses coming against rival Farmington Hills Mercy (the latter on a miraculous last-second play to end the Catholic League championship game). But Marian paid that back with interest, beating Mercy, 67-55, in the semifinals before rolling over Canton, 44-26 for the crown.

13 Grand Rapids Catholic Central 2010 (Class B — 26-1) — The Cougars made five straight trips to the quarters and beyond, making the title game in back-to-back seasons in 2009 and 2010. After losing to Country Day in the ’09 finals, the Cougars got revenge against the nationally ranked and unbeaten Yellowjackets with a 51-43 win in the 2010 title game, winning the program’s first title. Annalise Pickrel (MSU/WNBA) scored 15 in title game, while Teisha Stokes (Davenport) had 14 points, 12 rebounds. GRCC also featured Alexandra Heffron (MSU soccer), Brittany Berry (Hope, now the Olivet head coach) and Lindsay McCarty (Grand Valley).

14 Ypsilanti Arbor Prep 2016 (Class C — 25-2) — For a program at a school that’s been around less than 10 years, the Gators certainly have made a splash on the girls basketball postseason, making it to the quarterfinals and beyond each of the six seasons since 2014, and to the finals three straight years. After losing to Flint Hamady in the 2015 semifinals, the 2016 Gators rolled through the Class C bracket, winning six postseason games by an average of 35 points. The closest was a 40-30 win over Napoleon in the regional finals, with wins of 38, 28 and 16 in the final three rounds, capped by a 53-37 win over Traverse City St. Francis in the title game. The Gators featured Nastassja Chambers (Wayne State), Ro’zhane Wells (Saginaw Valley/UM-Dearborn), Adrienne Anderson (Ferris State), Cydney Williams (Wayne State) and Kayla Knight (UM-Dearborn).

15 St. Ignace 2011 (Class C — 26-1) — The state’s most successful small-school program, St. Ignace has made 15 trips past regionals since 1997, winning five titles in eight championship-game appearances. With three championships — 2011, 2013, 2015 — in the STATE CHAMPS! era, any one of those would’ve fit the criteria for inclusion on this list, especially the unbeaten 2013 team. But the 2011 squad is the Saints’ last of three in Class C, and it ended the dominant run by Flint Hamady, which had beaten the Saints for the 2010 title, 68-66 in two overtimes. St. Ignace paid that loss back with a 63-55 win over Hamady in the 2011 semifinals, then got 33 points and 19 rebounds from Nicole Elmblad (Michigan) in a 66-54 win over Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, and the next season’s Miss Basketball, Madison Ristovski.

16 Morley-Stanwood 2012 (Class C — 28-0) — The Mohawks hadn’t made it past the quarterfinals in five tries — including a loss to back-to-back C champ Flint Hamady two seasons earlier — coming into 2012, but they finally broke through this time, beating Saginaw Nouvel (59-44) in the quarterfinals, St. Ignace (59-50) in the semis and Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett — with Miss Basketball Madison Ristovski (Michigan) — in the finals. Ristovski scored 42 points, the second-most in finals history, but the Mohawks prevailed, 61-57, thanks to 27 points and 16 rebounds from Alexis Huntey (George Washington/Ferris State volleyball), Alyssa Nelson (Davenport softball), Bailey Cairnduff (Grand Valley), Elyse Starck and Brett Chesebro.

17 Flint Hamady 2009 (Class C — 28-0) — After winning the 1983 Class C title, it would take Hamady another 21 years to get past regionals, but once the Hawks did that in 2004, they’ve become a regular in the final rounds of the tournament. They have made the finals five times since the 2004 season, winning titles in two of those appearances, but no team was more dominating than the 2009 squad, which won its eight postseason games by an average of 22 points, and none closer than a 13-point win over Morley-Stanwood in the quarterfinals. The Hawks, led by Jasmine Thomas (MSU), Arlesia Morse (Marquette), Porsha Fluker (Wisconsin), India Hairston (Eastern Michigan) and Whitney Rogers (UDM track), beat McBain, 63-48 in the title game. 

18 Adrian Lenawee Christian 2019 (Division 4 — 26-2) — The Cougars had made it to the elite eight twice in program history (2001, 2010), losing to Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes in the 2010 Class D title game, but were somewhat of an unknown when they knocked off favorite Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart in the 2018 semifinals, en route to the program’s first title. The second time around, it was hard not to know who the Cougars were, with the Salenbien sisters — Dani (Hillsdale) and Bree — making Lenawee Christian at least a co-favorite with perennial power St. Ignace. The title game showdown — after the Cougars dispensed with Fruitport Calvary Christian in the quarters (59-32), and beat Fowler (57-36) in the semis — didn’t disappoint, either, with Lenawee Christian pulling out the repeat with a 48-46 win over the previously unbeaten Saints. The Cougars entered 2020 as a favorite to threepeat, but a knee injury to Bree Salenbien on the eve of the tournament might’ve made it dicey.

19 Saginaw Nouvel 2006 (Class C — 28-0) — A history-rich program, Nouvel had made it past regionals six times — losing in the Class B title game to Country Day in 2003 — before breaking through with its first title in 2006. The Panthers snuck past Detroit Community, 55-54 in overtime in the quarterfinals, then cruised past defending champ Houghton (69-48) in the semis, and Flint Hamady in the finals. Eventual Miss Basketball Jenny Ryan (2009/Michigan) had a record 17 first-quarter points in the championship game, en route to a 30-point, 11-rebound line in the 65-56 win. She would lead Nouvel to another title in 2008, after the season switch.

20 Lansing Waverly 2004 (Class A — 27-1) — For a team that went 19-1 in the regular season (only loss was 46-36 to St. Johns) and had all kinds of talent, the Warriors certainly didn’t make the postseason easy on themselves. In regionals, they edged Howell (49-43) and Pinckney (45-39), then snuck past Grandville and the towering DeHaan in quarters (57-51) to make their first semifinal appearance in a decade. There they beat Southfield-Lathrup by a point (50-49), then edged perennial power and defending champ Detroit King in the finals (33-32) to win their program’s first title. Waverly was led by Lauren Aitch (Michigan State), Britni Houghton (Central Michigan), Jocelyn Ingram (Lamar/Grand Valley) and Lacey Best-Rowden (Alma).

21 Pewamo-Westphalia 2019 (Division 3 — 27-1) — After making four straight to the quarters and beyond in the early 1980s, losing twice in the Class C title game, the Pirates rekindled their powerhouse status over the last handful of years, making it to the final four three straight years, and breaking through with the program’s first title in 2019. The only loss for the Pirates on the season was a midseason rematch of the 2017 Class C title game (and 2018 semis), against Edison, a team that cleared the way for the Pirates by opting up to Division 2 for the 2019 postseason. After getting past Kent City in regionals again this season, the Pirates — who returned nearly everyone from last year’s team, and featured 1,000-point scorers in Elle Droste (Grand Valley) and Miss Basketball candidate Hannah Spitzley (Western Michigan) — were favored to repeat this season.

22 Warren Cousino 2016 (Class A — 23-4) — Every so often, there’s a team that sneaks under the radar, and gets hot at the right time, to win a championship. That would be an apt description for the 2016 Cousino team, which lost to Port Huron Northern twice in the regular season, along with one loss each against Dexter and Romeo. Led by Kierra Fletcher (Georgia Tech), Mackenzie Cook (Siena Heights), Kate McArthur (Central Michigan), Rachel Hayes (MSU rowing) and Mackenzie Anderson, the Patriots ended Marian’s two-year reign with a 49-39 win in the regional finals, then got past Northville (41-29) in quarters and Hudsonville (60-45) in the semis to set up the title-game showdown with King. Fletcher had 27 points in a title-game shootout with King’s Micaela Kelly, who had 34 in Cousino’s 67-65 win.

23 Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes 2011 (Class D — 22-5) — The final record didn’t look gaudy, but that was never the goal for the Lakers, who had four or more losses in each of their state title seasons (2010-12). The Lakers lost to a handful of bigger Catholic League schools — Allen Park Cabrini, Livonia Ladywood, Dearborn Divine Child and Warren Regina — as well as division rival Marine City Cardinal Mooney, a loss they’d pay back in a two-point win in the regional semifinals. The middle title of their three may have been the most challenging, as senior star Lauren Robak (Oakland/Northwood) missed a month with mononucleosis, and wasn’t yet back in peak form by the end of the postseason run. She still helped slow down Central Lake’s Miss Basketball, Jasmine Hines (Michigan State), the state’s all-time leading scorer, in a 52-41 win in the semifinals. Carlee Cottrell (Indiana Wesleyan) scored 16 in a 53-35 win over Bark River-Harris in the title game, while Ava Doetsch (Nebraska-Omaha soccer) had 13.

24 Lansing Christian 2003 (Class D — 24-3) — While it was the 2004 season when Tiffanie Shives (MSU/Gonzaga) won Miss Basketball, and the Pilgrims didn’t lose after a setback against Eaton Rapids in the season opener, it was the 2003 postseason when Shives made herself a household name. The sniper set a finals round record with nine 3-pointers in the 66-33 semifinal win over Rapid River, then hit a title-game record seven 3s in a 56-42 win over previously unbeaten Portland St. Patrick, her 36 points in the title game ranking as third-most at the time. The Pilgrims had lost to PSP by 13 (as well as Olivet twice) in the regular season.

25 (tie) Dearborn Divine Child 2011 (Class B — 23-5) — One of the few teams on this list with more than two losses, the Falcons dropped two games to Farmington Hills Mercy — the Catholic League champ — and one each to Birmingham Marian and Livonia Ladywood, but ran the table in the Class B postseason, knocking off the Goodrich juggernaut in the semis, 54-52 in 2 overtimes, on two free throws by Rosanna Reynolds (Detroit) with four seconds left. In the title game, the Falcons knocked off previously unbeaten Three Rivers, 43-35, to win the program’s fifth title — and first since 1994 — in five championship game appearances. 

25 (tie) Frankfort 2006 (Class D — 23-5) — After ending two-time defending Class D champion Lansing Christian’s run with a 39-37 win in the 2005 title game — the Panthers’ first trip past regionals — Frankfort beefed up the schedule for the road to a repeat. The Panthers had losses to Country Day, McBain, Byron Center, Kingsley and Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart during the regular season, which paid off in a postseason where they won their first seven games by an average of 30 points per game, before eking out a 26-21 win over previously unbeaten Portland St. Patrick in the title game. Miss Basketball Brenna Bankston had 15 points and nine rebounds in the win.