NEW LOTHROP — One point made a huge difference last season for New Lothrop.
New Lothrop went 20-3, but came home without a district title trophy after Laingsburg won a 33-32 thriller in the Class C district championship game.
The Hornets have had a year to wonder how they could have scored one more point in the title game. As the girls basketball season begins today, New Lothrop will be one of the most talented and experienced teams to watch.
Senior guard Caitlyn Bruff said the Hornets are using the Laingsburg loss as motivation for this season.
“It kind of motivated us to work a little harder,” Bruff said. “Every basket and every play counts. It came down to the last couple of plays. There were a lot of things we could have done to change it throughout the game. We’re just working hard to get down every little play to make it all work out.”
New Lothrop has had plenty of regular-season success since winning back-to-back state championships in 2008 and 2009, winning at least 17 games each season. Last year, the team had and 18-game winning streak and won the Genesee Area White Division for the second straight year.
But the Hornets haven’t won any postseason hardware since 2010, the last time the team won a district. Senior Charleigh Birchmeier said New Lothrop is determined to win a district title.
“We have a lot of goals and we’re hoping to achieve them,” Birchmeier said. “We really want to go far after what happened at the end of last season. The new league will be tough but I think we have a good team with a lot of strengths and we should do pretty well in the league.”
New Lothrop is hoping an experienced team and a move to a new league, the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference, will produce playoff results. Six of the Hornets’ nine players are seniors and four are four-year varsity players.
New Lothrop coach Jim Perry hopes the MMAC slate and a tough non-league schedule that includes Pewamo-Westphalia and Ypsilanti Arbor Prep prepares New Lothrop for the postseason.
“Our biggest goal is just to get better each day — try to be better than the day before and hopefully by the end of the season we’re playing our best basketball,” Perry said. “(The MMAC) should be competitive with some good teams — Byron, Ovid-Elsie and Chesaning. That will be something different. We’ve got a tough non-league schedule with Pewamo-Westphalia, Kearsley, Davison, Birch Run and Ypsilanti Arbor Prep. Arbor Prep and P-W were both in the semis or finals last year for Class C.”
Four senior captains — Bruff, Sydney Pope, Birchmeier and Samantha Kulhanek — will lead the way.
Bruff was a first-team All-Area guard a year ago, pouring in 14.5 points per game. She not only led the team in scoring but also led in 3-pointers (47) and steals (74).
“She does a lot of things well — plays defense, she shoots well from the outside, she gets to the basket and she shoots well from the free throw line,” Perry said.
Perry said one of the team’s best defensive players is Pope, whose speed and tenacity on the defensive side will be important again.
Kulhanek will handle the point guard duties. She was also a first-team all-leaguer last year.
Birchmeier, at 5-foot-11, will give the team a big post presence after leading the team in rebounding as a junior.
“She’s gotten stronger each year and she had an ankle injury towards the end of last year which hurt us,” Perry said. “She missed the first two district games and played sparingly in that Laingsburg game. She’s coming off that injury but she’s healthy now.”
Brooke Wenzlick, a sophomore, had an outstanding season a year ago as an All-Area honorable mention pick.
New Lothrop will play an up-tempo style of game, with good ballhandling and good shooting ability, Perry said.
“We’ve got good speed and we play aggressive, quick defense,” Perry said. “We like to put some pressure on you.”
New Lothrop will host P-W Tuesday to open the season and Perry expects the clash to be highly competitive. P-W went 28-1 last season, losing to eventual state champion Detroit Edison 50-39 in the Class C semifinals.
“They’ve got a girl going to Western Michigan and a girl going to Grand Valley, so it’s a good test for us to guage where we’re at,” he said.
Perry said watching the New Lothrop football team win the Division 7 state championship Nov. 24 has inspired his team for season ahead.
“Watching our football team win a state championship only encourages us to want to do the same,” Perry said.
2018-19 Girls Basketball Preview
2017-18 record: 16-5, 7-1 GAC Blue.
Coach: Theresa Marvin (fifth season, 54-30)
Key returners: Maylee Hatt, Sarah Marvin, Makayla Clement, Raegan Forgie, Haley Hooley, Alexis Ragnone.
Key newcomers: Becky Marvin, Allison Hooley.
Projected starting lineup: Hatt, Marvin, Clement, Forgie, Haley Hooley.
Outlook: After faring 16-5 last winter, Byron should be strong again this year with four returning starters. That includes its top three scorers in Hatt, Sarah Marvin and Clement. “We are looking to compete for both the MMAC and district titles,” coach Theresa Marvin said.
2017-18 record: 11-10, 6-8 TVC Central
Coach: Ryan Ferry (third season, 15-27)
Key returners: Erica Barta, Katelyn Ferry, Haylei Drope, Jadyn Mathis, Jordyn Bishop, Julia Bishop, Elizabeth Coon, Ralynn Lucio.
Key newcomers: Claire Greenfelder, Sidnee Struck, Julia Skaryd, Lilly Cooper, Lauren Schirle.
Outlook: Chesaning went 11-10 last season and will be led by two four-year varsity players — point guard Erica Barta and guard Katelyn Ferry. Barta has led the Indians in scoring the past three seasons and Ferry is the motor of the team at forward and wing. Several other returners will make Chesaning a hard team to contend with. “I project us to be towards the top of the new MMAC conference this year,” coach Ryan Ferry said. “There is a lot of competition in our conference but I believe we are up to the challenge.”
2017-18 record: 16-7, 6-4 GAC Red.
Coach: Ron Birchmeier (eighth season, 92-63)
Key returners: Maddie Birchmeier, Mariah Dunkin, Kate Feldpausch, Leah Clough, Ila Tuller, Lauren Cnudde, Hannah Hollister.
Key newcomers: Ellie Toney.
Projected starting lineup: Birchmeier, Feldpausch, Clough, Toney, Dunkin.
Outlook: The Cavaliers return seven players, including All-State honorable mention selection Maddie Birchmeier at guard. Birchmeier led the area in assists with 4.5 per game and scored 11.0 points. Center Mariah Dunkin also returns along with guards Kate Feldpausch, Leah Clough and Ila Tuller and forwards Lauren Cnudde and Hannah Hollister. “When compared to previous years, we’re playing several different schools,” Corunna coach Ron Birchmeier said. “This includes a team from Chicago on Dec. 28 at the Roundball Classic in Detroit. The team has a great deal of experience and depth. We’re expecting to be competitive and compete for a league championship.”
The GAC Red will have a different lineup after several defections to other leagues, adding Flint Hamady and Burton Bendle from the Blue Division in addition to Flint Beecher, Goodrich, Lake Fenton and Corunna. This will be the Cavaliers’ last year in the GAC as they will move to the Flint Metro League next fall.
2017-18 record: 16-7, 7-3 GAC White.
Coach: Cecil Cole (third season, 22-21)
Key returners: Kennedy Pawloski, Grace Holek, Devi Hodge, Linsey Carlson.
Key newcomers: Jessica Winslow, Maddie Raley Whitney Barnett.
Projected starting lineup: Pawloski, Holek, Hodge, Carlson, Barnett.
Outlook: The Railroaders graduated two-time All-Area Player of the Year in guard Cierra Cole, who is now playing at Northwood University. Durand does return Kennedy Pawloski and Grace Holek, who both saw significant playing time a last winter. Pawloski is a 5-6 sophomore guard while Holek is a 5-9 senior forward. “Whether our defense progresses to where it needs to be will decide the outcome of our season,” Durand coach Cecil Cole said. “We have the potential to win 12-13 games — but could also win much less if the defense doesn’t come together.”
2017-18 record: 20-3, 14-2 CMAC
Coach: Doug Hurst (seventh season, 110-27)
Key returners: Kara Mahoney, Andrea Mahoney, Georgia Hill, Cheyenne Wurm.
Key newcomers: Grace Graham, Lorna Strieff.
Outlook: Laingsburg graduated All-Area standouts Sophie Wilsey and Alexis Randall, but returns forward Kara Mahoney, guard Andrea Mahoney, forward Georgia Hill and forward Cheyenne Wurm. “We will need several younger players to step up quickly for us to compete at the top of the conference,” Laingsburg coach Doug Hurst said. “P-W is the team to beat this season, other tough teams are Portlant St. Patrick, Bath, Fowler and we certainly hope to be one as well.”
2017-18 record: 14-7, 7-1 GAC Blue Division.
Coach: Kris Smith (13th season, 166-95)
Key returners: Jessica Eva, Kylee Kiczenski, Jenna Smith, Gracie Nowak, Olivia Riley, Zena Latunski.
Key newcomers: Abi Beem.
Projected starting lineup: Nowak, Eva, Riley/Kiczenski, Smith/Latunski.
Outlook: Morrice returns its top seven players from last season’s 14-win team which shared the GAC Blue title. “Our goals are to win the GAC Blue Division outright after sharing with Byron in 16-17 and 17-18,” Morrice coach Kris Smith said. “We want to win a district championship and put together a run in the state Class D tournament. Defensive pressure, shooting and the fastbreak will be keys for the team. The core group of girls have broken the school three-point record in consecutive years — 93 in 10-16-17 and 105 in 2017-18. Being an undersized team, we will rely on pressure and shooting as key ingredients for success.”
The GAC Blue will also have a different look after lending Hamady and Bendle to the Red Division. Genesee Christian will fill the void left by those schools, joining Morrice, Weebberville Burton Bentley and Burton Atherton.
2017-18 record: 20-3, 10-0 GAC White
Coach: Jim Perry (ninth season, 146-35)
Key returners: Caitlyn Bruff, Sydney Pope, Samantha Kulhanek, Charleigh Birchmeier, Maddie Kulhanek, Lauryn Tithof, Brooke Wenzlick.
Key newcomers: Lauren Riley, Caela Bushre.
Projected starting lineup: Bruff, Pope, Kulhanek, Birchmeier, Wenzlick.
Outlook: After faring 20-3 last season and winning a second straight GAC White title, New Lothrop brings experience and talent into the MMAC. A rugged nonconference schedule will help the Hornets get ready for the postseason. Four-year varsity players Bruff, Pope, Kulhanek and Birchmeier, together with sophomore Brooke Wenzlick, will make New Lothrop a tough team to beat.
2017-18 record: 11-10, 7-7 TVC West
Coach: Ryan Cunningham (12th season, 90-144)
Key returners: Lauren Barton, Erin Witt, Kylee Sevenski.
Key newcomers: Caitlyn Walter
Outlook: Lauren Barton, a 6-foot junior, is back for her third season on the varsity. Barton had a record 12 double-doubles as a sophomore before suffering a knee injury and missing the last five games. Barton will be a key force along with senior guards Erin Witt and Kylee Sevenski. “We return the bulk of our team from last year,” coach Ryan Cunningham said. “We have decent size and speed. Most importantly, we have experience and we are healthy for the most part.”
2017-18 record: 5-16, 5-11 Flint Metro League
Coach: Teresa Graham (fourth season, 8-55)
Key returners: Kayleigh Hemenway, Lauren Stowe, Izzy Newbury.
Projected starting lineup: Hemenway, Lauren Stowe, Leah Zaleski, Alaine Drury, Reyn Tuttle.
Outlook: Owosso will miss the leadership of All-Area guard Anna Rafaelli, who graduated after averaging 12 points per game as a senior. But Hemenway, a 5-9 senior forward, Stowe (5-8 senior forward) and Newbury (5-7 senior guard), will help fill the void. “We’re looking to improve on our seventh-place league finish and five wins,” Owosso coach Teresa Graham said. “Our underclassmen will need to be ready to make an immediate impact.”
2017-18 record: 14-6, 12-0 GLAC
Coach: Tim Beebe (fifth season, 55-29)
Key returners: Alyssa Welsh, Elizabeth Gramza, Gracie Ohlmer, Carley Potter, Jia Clark, Sam Daenzer.
Outlook: Alyssa Welsh (5-8 junior guard) returns after unanimous first-team GLAC all-star season. Welsh averaged 15.0 points per game last year and is a dangerous shooter. Also back is first-team GLAC all-star Gracie Ohlmer, a 5-9 senior forward. Perry returns five other players from last season’s 12-0 GLAC title team that went 14-6 overall. “We lost some quality players to graduation but have a good group of retuning players and should be strong defensively,” said Perry coach Tim Beebe. “This team had a great summer and has developed strong chemistry.”