The Hemlock seniors have had a “crazy” career with the Huskies’ first girls hoops state title

EAST LANSING, MI – Hemlock’s girls basketball team isn’t used to losing seasons in recent years, but due to unprecedented circumstances, the Huskies were unable to pull off that elusive state championship.

Until Saturday at the Breslin Center, where Hemlock defeated Blissfield, 59-43, in the Division 3 state final to make program history and end the crazy careers of the Huskies’ five seniors.

PHOTOS: Check out our gallery from the Division 3 state championship game

SEE: Replay MHSAA playoff action via NFHS

As freshmen on the 2019-20 team, Chloe Watson, Regan Finkbeiner, Breanna Turner and Averi Hall helped the Huskies to a 21-2 record and earn a spot in the regional final, but that matchup against Flint Hamady was canceled just hours before the game. earlier The outbreak of COVID-19 in Michigan.

A year later, Hemlock reached the state semifinals for the second time in program history, but saw its opportunity to play at Breslin disappear when Watson tested positive for COVID before its Final Four matchup with Grass Lake.

Last year, the Huskies were poised for redemption and looked like a semifinalist after going 15-5 in the regular season, but their playoff run ended in the district final at St. Losing to Charles.

“It’s been crazy to say the least,” Watson said. “Freshman year, with all the COVID, nobody really knew what was going on. … Sophomore year was devastating because I’ve always wanted to play (at the Breslin Center) since I was a kid, and then junior year, that was the first time. we lost, so it was weird to have that happen after spending the whole year thinking about going back there.

“This year, it was kind of a relief, and everything else was just the cherry on top.”

A veteran Hemlock team played on the big stage Saturday, turning the ball over just six times and making 15 of 17 fourth-quarter free throws to seal the win.

Finkbeiner led Hemlock with 19 points and sank seven free throw attempts, while Watson added 18 points and went 11 of 13 from the charity stripe.

While the two senior guards led the Huskies down the stretch, junior center Lauren Borseni was a force for the first three quarters, finishing with 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks with 7:46 left in the fourth.

In her absence, Lauren’s sister, Hannah, stepped up in the final frame, scoring two of her four points and grabbing three of her seven rebounds in the final eight minutes.

“Really, I think the big thing that helped us was our balance,” Hemlock coach Scott Neumeyer said. “I thought we were the most balanced team in Division 3 this year. We had Lauren and Hannah down there, and they can get the job done, but then you have Chloe and Regan who can throw a game away with their ball handling and free throws. Once we got the lead, I was happy with where we were.”

Without their star post player for part of the fourth quarter, Hemlock’s guards controlled the game, keeping the ball away from Blissfield for as long as possible before forcing the Royals to foul in an attempt to get more possessions.

But Hemlock’s free throw prevented the Royals from gaining any ground and allowed the Huskies to celebrate their long-awaited and hard-earned state title.

After going 19-3 in the regular season, No. 7 Hemlock defeated state-ranked teams in seven of its playoff games, including the third-seeded Royals in the semifinals.

“I just got an email from BCAM (Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan) last week, and they’re looking at how they’re structuring the tournament again, and if somebody can explain why it needs to be tweaked, let me know,” Neumeyer said. “We had to play a 20-win ranked team every game in the tournament.”

While Blissfield’s run didn’t feature the same number of ranked teams, the Royals had to get past perennial power and second-seeded Yspilanti Arbor Prep in the regional finals, 50-38 to put the rest of Division 3 on notice.

But one difference between Arbor Prep’s win and Saturday’s loss was the availability of Leigh Wyman, who scored nine points and made three free throws in the regional semifinals.

Unfortunately for the Royals, the senior guard injured his knee with 5:15 left in the first quarter against Frankenmuth and did not return.

Fellow backcourt Avery Collins led Blissfield with 17 points, going 11-of-14 from the foul line.

When he wasn’t getting to the line, Hemlock made things difficult for the junior point guard, holding him to 3 goals on 20 attempts and forcing him to cough up seven turnovers.

Senior forward Julia White was Blissfield’s most effective player by a wide margin, going 5 of 7 from the field and finishing with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

The Royals finished the season 27-2 and graduated only two seniors, but starting pitchers White and Sarah Bettis will be hard to replace.

“I couldn’t ask for a bigger senior season,” Bettis said. “… We’ve kind of been building for this year that feels like forever, and people kept saying we were going to go far, and we didn’t take that as our main focus; We worked on one more game at a time, and it finally got us here.

“I’m really grateful for this program and everything. It has meant everything to me since kindergarten. I remember looking forward to the day I could finally play and put on the uniform, and it’s still surreal. It doesn’t seem like it should end.’

Hemlock must replace a stronger senior class that includes four four-year varsity players and center Alyssa Dearman, and it’s a group of five that will undoubtedly be remembered for not only making school history, but overcoming so much adversity to get there.

“It’s really rewarding,” Finkbeiner said. “I’m happy to show what we didn’t achieve two years ago, and I’m proud of our team. We all contributed, and I’m so happy for our team and our community. We will never forget this moment, and I don’t think our community will.”

Hemlock wins its first girls basketball state title with a 59-43 win over Blissfield in Division 3.

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