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The top 25 Michigan high school girls basketball teams for the 2021 season

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, February 14, 2021, 12:38 am

Now that we’ve gotten to what we’ve all been waiting for — actually PLAYING the game of basketball — it’s time to look at who’s going to do what ON THE FLOOR. Below are the 25 teams in the STATE CHAMPS! initial rankings for the 2020-21 season, with a lot of familiar faces, and a few new ones, as well. (Records in parentheses are from 2019-20.) We’ll update the rankings every week for this abbreviated regular season, as well as run small-school rankings to cover those D3 and D4 teams that might get shut out here. 

Here are the STATE CHAMPS! initial top 25 girls basketball teams for 2021:

1 Detroit Edison (23-0)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 1

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause

At some point, graduating D-I players and Miss Basketball winners might catch up to Detroit Edison. But it won’t be this year. The spring’s pandemic shut-down meant the Pioneers didn’t have a chance to win four titles in consecutive seasons, matching Flint Northern (1978-81), but they certainly still have the talent to hoist a big wooden mitten at the Breslin Center again this season, keeping their streak alive, albeit with an asterisk. Damiya Hagemann (Michigan State) could be the third straight Miss Basketball from Edison — following in the footsteps of Rickea Jackson (Mississippi State) and Gabby Elliott (Clemson) — but she’ll be carrying a bigger load of the responsibility after the graduations of Elliott, Shaulana Wagner (Xavier), Daija Tyson (Bradley) and Ariel Jenkins (Ferris). Juniors Ruby Whitehorn (No. 21 on the ESPNW top 60 for 2022) and Madisen Wardell will move into larger roles, while freshman Na’Kiya Bonner is a sniper. 

2 East Grand Rapids (22-1)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 4

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause

Led by combo guard Jillian Brown (Northwestern), a top-50 player in the nation in ESPN’s rankings, and a top five player in the state, the Pioneers return four of five starters from last year’s once-beaten team. Point guard Alli Carlson (Western Michigan) and D-I recruit Macy Brown give the elder Brown sister plenty of scoring support, while 6-foot-1 Mikayla Rutgers (D-III Stevens Institute of Technology) patrols the lane. It’s the deepest squad that Troy Hammond has had in his four years at EGR, and the Pioneers use that depth to play with pace and pressure. Any one of Renaissance, EGR or Edison would’ve been a legit pick for the initial No. 1 ranking.

3 Detroit Renaissance (22-2)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 3

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause

Last year’s junior-laden Phoenix squad was primed for a deep run in the playoffs after winning the program’s first PSL title since 2011, led by one of the few underclassmen to win Miss PSL, Kailee Davis (Northern Kentucky). And perhaps no team came into the season with higher expectations for itself than this one. Along with Nika Dorsey (Bradley) and Mikyah Finley (Wagner) on the wings and 6-foot-2 Shannon Wheeler (Dayton) inside, Renaissance can play big or small, full or half court, and may have improved as shooters across the board. The addition of freshmen Christian Sanders and Makayla Johnson will help offset the loss of junior Taylor Anderson, who’s now at South Lyon East.

4 West Bloomfield (17-7)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: N/R

2020 postseason finish: Lost to Hartland in regional semifinals

The Lakers won the always-competitive OAA Red Division title in their first year after bumping up from the White Division, and there shouldn’t be any letdown this year, despite the graduation of talent. The Lakers are a potent mix of experience — led by senior Logan Lewis (IUPUI) and junior Myonna Hooper in the backcourt and 6-foot-3 senior Lola Chambers up front — and raw, young talent. Six-foot forward Sydney Hendrix averaged a double-double last year as a freshman, while the Davis twins — freshmen Indya and Summer — have already begun to prove their vast potential we’ve been hearing about for years. And that record last year? Of those seven losses, five came against teams that finished the season ranked in the SC! Top 25.

5 East Kentwood (19-4)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 7

2020 postseason finish: Lost to East Grand Rapids in district finals

Nobody has more size across the board than the Falcons, who sport a front line of 6-foot-3 Kaybriana Hallman (Xavier) — a top-50 player nationally — Madisyn Tillman (Eastern Michigan) and Keliese Christopher, along with Alexis McCully at the point. East Kentwood split with Hudsonville to share the OK Red title a season ago, and lost a two-point affair to Renaissance in December. The only other loss was the three-point postseason defeat at the hands of EGR, keeping the Falcons from getting out of districts for the second time in the three seasons since they made the finals in 2017.

6 Saline (22-2)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 14

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause

The Yellowjackets return seven players (five seniors) from last year’s regional finalist — a squad that captured the program’s first district title since 2013, and set a new program record for wins — but just two starters, meaning they could have a bit of working to do, to get the pieces in the right places. Ella Stemmer (Lehigh) elevated herself into the conversation for the state’s top players with a breakout junior season, and she’ll be back in the backcourt with junior Sophie Canen, the other returning starter, and younger sister Kate Stemmer, a freshman who has all the earmarks of eventually becoming a D-I player herself. Saline has three players listed at 5-10 or taller to begin the season, but will become even taller when 6-foot sophomore Beth Ann Ford and 6-3 freshman Mallory Bohl grow into bigger roles. 

7 Wayne Memorial (19-5)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: N/R

2020 postseason finish: Lost to Saline in regional semifinals

After an inauspicious 0-3 start to last season, the Zebras ripped off 15 straight wins before losing again in the KLAA semifinals, then rolled through the early portion of the MHSAA tournament, looking more like the Wayne teams we’ve come to know over the past five years. All five of the Wayne starters have D-I offers, led by a pair of D-I commits in the senior class, 6-foot-2 double-double machine Alanna Micheaux (Minnesota) and LaChelle Austin (Eastern Michigan). Davai Matthews, a 6-1 junior forward, and 5-11 sophomores Mayla Ham and Paris Bass give the Zebras plenty of scoring options on the wings, while sophomore Samyiah “Tiny” Jefferson, senior Paris Robinson and freshman Alexis Haley will provide punch off the bench. 

8 Hartland (23-1)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 5

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause

You sort of knew that Don Palmer was going to turn Hartland into a machine, after doing the same thing for years up M-59 at Milford, and he has. The only thing keeping the Eagles from their fourth semifinal appearance in six seasons last year was a third straight regional finals meeting against Walled Lake Western that was looming before the shutdown. The Eagles have to replace Miss Basketball finalist Whitney Sollom (Michigan), as well as Janelle Dompierre and Madi Moyer, but the talented junior class should give Palmer plenty of options. Juniors Amanda Roach, Gracey Metz and Lauren Sollom will start alongside a pair of seniors in 6-foot post Lillee Gustafson (Davenport) and lock-down defender Syd Caddell. Juniors Leah Lappin and Emmy Sargeant (D-I soccer recruit), along with sophomore Olivia Linden, will provide depth off the bench.

9 Hudsonville (22-1)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 8

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause 

The Eagles have won six straight district titles, and returned all five starters and first three off the bench from a team that won 22 games and was ranked as high as No. 1 in some polls, and added five players from an undefeated JV team for good measure — yet still don’t get the respect they deserve. Sophomore forward Maddie Petroelje led the Eagles in scoring as a freshman, and leads a very athletic, very solid shooting lineup that includes three junior starters — point guard Alaina Diaz, shooting guard Jaci Tubergen and ultra-athletic Eva Joldersma — and sharp-shooting 6-foot senior center Emma Costen. Seniors Ash Bailey, Gabby Scholten and Ashley Strick will come off the bench, along with junior Olivia Dieppa and sophomore Ellery Baker. 

10 East Lansing (23-1)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 2

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause

The Trojans graduated six seniors from last year’s team that finished atop the D1 rankings, but there’s still plenty of talent to try to extend EL’s streak of five straight district titles, and potentially make another deep run. The projected starting five includes four seniors — all-state guard Soraya Timms (Michigan Tech), Allie Mayes (Calvin), Annelise Lebeda and Bre’Naya Lane — all with a ton of experience, as well as 6-foot-3 all-CAAC junior center Ella Miller. Lebeda is returning from  missing her junior year with an ACL injury. Juniors Corinne Jones, Payton Baker and Gracie Emerson will come off the bench, while sophomore Aaliyah Morehouse and freshman Sophia Klinger will add depth. 

11 Birmingham Marian (19-5)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: HM

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause

The Mustangs are perennial occupants of any preseason list of top teams, if for no other reason than they’ve averaged 20.6 wins per season, and gone 30-4 in the postseason since the start of the 2013-14 campaign, when they claimed the first of back-to-back titles. Oh, and it helps that they constantly churn out top-tier talent, too, like 6-foot sniper Shannon Kennedy (Miss Golf, MSU for golf), third-year junior starters Sarah Sylvester, a 6-2 post, and point guard Anna Herberholz. Stopper Grace Rotter and 6-2 freshman McKenzie Swanson will also be significant factors.  

12 Grass Lake (18-3)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 9

2020 postseason finish: Lost to Michigan Center in district semifinals

The Warriors have won 57 of 67 games (against a stacked non-conference schedule) since senior Abrie Cabana (Grand Valley) joined the varsity as a freshman, and they’ve been one of the state’s more powerful small-school teams since she was joined by Lexus Bargesser — one of just three Michigan players on ESPNW’s Super 60 rankings for the 2022 class — a year later. Along with Amber Boomer and Gabrielle Lutchka, the Warriors have plenty of talent to make a run in the postseason — if they can avoid what’s been early-playoff roadblocks in Michigan Center or Ypsilanti Arbor Prep in recent years. 

13 Midland Dow (21-3)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 20

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause

The Chargers aren’t necessarily a team that instills fear when they step off the bus, or wows you with their offer sheets. What they do, though, is play with a tremendously high offensive efficiency rate, and off-the-charts basketball IQ — that and stick 3-pointers in your eye with frequency and accuracy. Saginaw Valley League MVP Jada Garner is the straw that stirs the drink, a penetrating point guard with no fear. She’s joined in the starting lineup by senior Chloe McVey and juniors Alexa Kolnitys and Abby Rey — all of whom earned SVL honors as starters a year ago — as well as freshman Klaire Caldwell, an athletic stopper. 

14 Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (19-5)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: HM

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause

The Gators have been a pop-up dynasty since the minute Arbor Prep opened its doors, and it’s almost taken for granted that they’ll be one of the teams in the hunt in D3 (or Class C before that) year after year. They’ve won a district title every year since 2014, and routinely have talent that will stack up with most teams in the state. Mya Petticord is one of the top 40 players in the nation in the 2022 class, and one of four returning starters for the Gators, a list that includes all-state senior guard Kaiden Glenn and junior guards Jazmin Chupp and Karianna Woods. Freshmen twins Stephanie and Stacy Utomi will play huge roles, as will classmate Taylor Lawrence, coming off the bench with senior Asia Lewis and junior Kyra Lawrence. 

15 Farmington Hills Mercy (20-4)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 21

2020 postseason finish: Lost to Renaissance in regional semifinals

The Marlins return all five starters and three key reserves from the team that won 20 games for the third time in six seasons, and captured its fourth CHSL title since 2011. Four of the staters are seniors, with a ton of games under their belt, led by the team’s glue, Julia Bishop (Miss Volleyball, MSU volleyball), and steady point guard Alexis Roberts. Jill Smith and Madeline Kenney round out the starters, along with 6-foot-1 sophomore Maya White, who gave the Marlins a powerful post presence as a freshman. Senior Ellie Tisko, junior Sophie Dugas and sophomore Lauren Smiley provide depth off the bench, along with freshman Ava Lorraine. 

16 Grosse Pointe South (18-5)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 23

2020 postseason finish: Lost to Grosse Pointe North in district finals

While No. 20 Port Huron was the story of the Macomb Area Conference last year with its unbeaten regular season, and Red/White tournament title, Grosse Pointe South was regular-season champion in the MAC Red, going 9-1. The dead-eye shooting Blue Devils are led by senior snipers Alexa Downey and Sarah Rogers, while junior point guard Kamryn Richards supplies the feeds. 6-foot senior forward Cameron Lundh (Kentucky soccer) is the defensive stopper. 

17 Frankenmuth (19-5)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: N/R

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause

Double-double machine Lexi Boyke, a 6-foot sophomore who has the skills to play inside or out, has been a problem for opposing defenses since she put on a ‘Muth jersey. Junior Zoey Persails is a sniper, while senior Alaina Soulliere and junior Emma Kerkau are savvy veterans on a very junior-heavy team for first-year coach Joe Jacobs. 

18 Kalamazoo Central (12-11)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: N/R

2020 postseason finish: Lost to Portage Central in district finals

All you need to know: Morasha Wiggins (North Carolina) is back from the ACL tear that cost her all but seven games of her junior season, scoring 26 points in three quarters of work in the Maroon Giants’ season-opening win, adding six assists and five steals. One of the best players in the 2021 class nationally — ESPN has her rated as the No. 18 player — Wiggins should be on the short list for Miss Basketball candidates. And she’s got plenty of help around her, with sharp-shooting junior Alaila Walker and senior forward Laila Vincent also able to help carry the scoring load, along with 6-0 sophomore Kynnedy Brown. 

19 Kent City (22-2)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 1 (small-school)

2020 postseason finish: Lost to Pewamo-Westphalia in regional semifinals

Kenzie Bowers (Illinois State) has rewritten the Kent City record book in her three all-state seasons, and has one last go-round to bury some of the records. Already the program’s all-time scoring leader, she added the single-game record (46 points) to her resume already this season. The Eagles are deeper than just one player, though: Kent City connected on 207 shots from 3-point range (8.6 per game) last year, led by four-year starter Jenna Harrison (Siena Heights), who has her eyes on the program’s 3-point record. Maddie Geers (freshman) joins her older sister Emma Geers (junior), as does sophomore Lexie Bowers, who was third on the team in scoring as a freshman. 

20 Port Huron (21-1)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 11

2020 postseason finish: Lost to Macomb Dakota in district finals

Prior to last season’s Cinderella run, the Big Reds had never won a game in the MAC tournament, but ran the table on the regular season, finishing it with a tourney title as the cherry on top. The reward this year is bumping up to the always-tough MAC Red Division, where they’ll have to go at it with both Grosse Pointe squads (North and South), as well as Macomb Dakota, the team that knocked them out in districts. The Big Reds still have the talent to give a Red Division title a run, led by last year’s MAC White MVP, 6-foot senior Emma Trombly (Northwood), as well as a pair of all-conference first-teasers in senior Madison Landschoot and Julia Gilbert. Seniors Jaiden DeLong and Joslyn Williams will be the first two off the bench. 

21 Grand Rapids West Catholic (23-1)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 19

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause 

Coach Jill VanderEnde was on the last West Catholic team to win a district title before last year’s, back in 1995, when she helped lead the Falcons to a runner-up finish. And the Falcons graduated just one senior from the 2019-20 team that won 23 games, and lost just once — to Muskegon Reeths-Puffer five days before Christmas — bringing back loads of talent. 

As a sophomore last year, Abbey Kimball (Michigan State) averaged 20.6 points per game and was the state’s top free-throw shooter, while Cadence Dykstra took over the bulk of the ball-handling duties as a freshman last season. Senior forward Maya Mileski can score, while classmate Maddie Smith is one of the top snipers in the state. 

22 Harper Woods Chandler Park Academy (18-6)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 25

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause 

The Eagles started the season 2-4 against a murderous schedule, then lost two more times — to Flint Carman-Ainsworth and East Lansing — before running the final 10 games off as wins. That streak included wins over West Bloomfield, Arbor Prep (for a second time), Marian and PSL runner-up Cass Tech, giving Chandler Park close to a .500 batting average against contending teams. Led by the senior class of point guard Emaia “Biggie” O’Brien (LIU-Brooklyn), Semie Brar, India Respress, Taylor Walton and Nykesha Sanders, the Eagles have plenty of firepower to contend.

23 Byron (23-1)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 12

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause 

Last year’s Eagles squad blew past the school record for wins (17, most recently in 2018-19), won their first-ever outright conference title, after sharing league titles for three straight seasons, and won the first-ever district title in school history, helping clinch several coach of the year honors for coach Theresa Marvin. For an encore, the Eagles return a very solid core of seven seniors to try to do it all again. Sarah Marvin (Michigan track & field) recorded 17 double-doubles and two triple doubles in 24 games, leading Byron in seven different statistical categories, while classmate Makayla Clement (Adrian) was second in most categories. Both all-staters entered the season closing in on 1,000 points, while Sarah Marvin — who went over the plateau in a road win over St. Ignace — is rapidly closing in on the school’s all-time scoring record. Sophomore post Makenna Clement was the first off the bench as a freshman. 

24 Adrian Lenawee Christian (20-3)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 10

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause 

Like Detroit Edison, Lenawee Christian was looking to extend a state title streak — theirs to three — when last year’s postseason was prematurely ended. They’ll get to go after a third this winter, a prospect made more likely because Bree Salenbien (Gonzaga) is back from the ACL tear on the eve of last year’s playoffs, and yet somewhat harder, since the Cougars have bumped up from Division 4 to a stacked D3. The Cougars also graduated six seniors from last year’s team that had played integral roles in the two earlier titles, including the elder Salenbien sister, all-state point guard Dani (Hillsdale). Bree Salenbien is the lone senior this year, and will be joined in the starting lineup with a five player rotation of juniors Kylie Summer, Lizzy Scharer, Cara Anderson and Kelsie Lilly, along with sophomore Avery Sluss. 

25 Temperance Bedford (21-3)

Last year’s final SC! ranking: 24

2020 postseason finish: Still alive in regional finals at COVID-19 pause

While the 2018-19 Bedford team may have flown under the radar by going 20-6 and making it to the quarterfinals, last year’s team shouldn’t have been as under-the-radar as it was. The Mules went 10-0 before dropping a two-point loss at the buzzer to eventual SEC Red champ Ann Arbor Huron, then after back-to-back losses to Saline and Huron put them in third in the state’s most competitive conference, ripped off nine straight wins to close out the campaign, putting them on the brink of winning back-to-back regional crowns for just the second time in program history. Bedford graduated its backcourt of Madison Norton (Lourdes) and Aubrie Zeunen (Saginaw Valley St. soccer), the program’s all-time steals and assists leader, but returns its front court of 6-foot junior Grace Ryan, 6-2 junior Sophia Gray, 6-1 senior Molly Koviack and 5-7 senior Savanna Killinen. 

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Honorable mentions:

D1: Byron Center (19-2), Clarkston (19-5), Midland (18-4), Macomb Dakota (20-4), South Lyon East (14-8), Brighton (21-3), Holt (20-4), Howell (16-5), Detroit Cass Tech (19-5), L’Anse Creuse North (16-5), Ann Arbor Pioneer (11-10), New Baltimore Anchor Bay (13-7), DeWitt (16-6), Haslett (16-8), Rockford (16-7), Plymouth (14-9), Dearborn Divine Child (14-10)

D2/3/4: Standish-Sterling (19-4), Chelsea (17-4), Cadillac (23-1), Bay City John Glenn (18-5), Grand Rapids Christian (20-4), Freeland (20-4), Parma Western (21-2), Pewamo-Westphalia (22-2), Big Rapids (21-2), Sault Ste. Marie (21-1), St. Ignace (21-2), Michigan Center (20-3), Brooklyn Columbia Central (20-3), Allen Park Inter-City Baptist (20-2), Plymouth Christian (15-7), Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart (21-3), Ubly (23-1), Saginaw Nouvel (19-5), Maple City Glen Lake (21-3), Ewen Trout Creek (21-2), Kingston (20-2)