Rivals Rally Snowbirds win back-to-back conference titles
JOHANNESBURG - It was a special night in Johannesburg for a variety of reasons on Thursday night. Not only was there an intense rivalry game between Gaylord St. Mary and Johannesburg-Lewiston girls basketball teams, but both teams had title aspirations on the line.
JL needed a win to keep their chances alive for another week. St. Mary needed a win to claim the outright Ski Valley Conference title. St. Mary won 42-41 in what was one of the best games of the season by either team.
If all of that drama and action wasn't enough, it was also a special night for another reason. Both teams put on the annual Rivals Rally which honors or remembers those who have battled with cancer. Both teams raised money to donate to the Otsego County Hospital to be used for cancer research.
Players from both teams came out in pink shirts with the names of someone they know who was affected by the disease. They then rallied together at mid-court to show sportsmanship and to prove that everyone is affected by cancer in one way or another.
Once the game started it was all business and there was no love lost between two proud programs. It was the Cardinals that got their offense going the quickest. They outscored St. Mary 11-8 in the period and sophomore Jayden Marlatt and senior Kennedy Johnson had their offensive attacks rolling right from the tip.
Those two combined to score 8 of the team's 11 points and they brought down 5 of the team's 7 rebounds. Juniors Sophie Townsend and Jocelyn Tobias each added 2 assists in the quarter in what was a fluid period for the Cardinals. They turned the ball over just three times against a St. Mary team that thrives when the other team isn't secure with the ball.
For the Snowbirds, it was juniors Emma McKinley and Ava Schultz who both made a three-pointer to keep them in the game. Other than those shots, it seemed that St. Mary wasn't quite in their groove yet.
The scripts flipped in the second quarter and this time it was St. Mary that outscored JL by the same 11-8 margin. Junior Macey Bebble got her night going with a team-high 4 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists to even the halftime score at 19-19. Eighth-grader Kaylee Jeffers and Schultz knocked in a couple more shots from beyond the three-point line as well.
Not a whole lot changed in the third quarter and the game remained tight throughout. St. Mary took a 29-27 lead as Bebble continued to get to the basket. She scored 5 points to go along with another Jeffers three-pointer.
As the game got more physical towards the end, it was Johnson who stepped up for the Cardinals. She began to do work inside and scored half of the Cardinals points in the period. She also impacted the defensive end as she has all season with elite shot-blocking skills. If that wasn't enough she also led the team with 3 rebounds in the period as well.
The game came down to the very end with so much on the line. Both fan bases were loud and disruptive to the opposing team and the players continued to play at a high level. Two huge three-pointers from the Snowbirds' junior Sydney Gruscynski and a basket through contact from senior Bailey Murrell were enough to barely squeak out a one-point victory and win the title for St. Mary.
Bebble was fantastic throughout the game as she controlled the tempo and made smart decisions down the stretch. She finished as the Snowbirds' leading scorer with 13 points and also led the team with 6 assists and 2 steals. Gruscynski scored all 9 of her points in the fourth quarter as she made multiple clutch shots. Schultz was the leading rebounder with 7 boards.
The Cardinals played as hard as they have all season but just fell short. Johnson had moments where she took over the game and it seemed like St. Mary didn't have the size to match up with her. She scored 14 points and also led the team with 3 blocked shots. Marlatt also scored in double figures with 10 and she brought down a game-high 9 rebounds. Junior Gloria House, Tobias, and Townsend each had 3 assists.
St. Mary has played at a high level all season and has led the Ski Valley Conference from beginning to end. Head coach Pat Schultz has instilled an incredible work ethic in his players and their never-quit attitude leads to energy and effort at all times. The hard work that everyone saw throughout the conference season paid off with another conference trophy.
"We have never talked about winning this during the season," Schultz said. "It's been a very difficult season, but this team can be great. This team has improved and has had its ups and downs. We have come a long way and still have a long way to go."
This is the second consecutive title for Schultz's team. It is also their fourth championship in five seasons and their 24th title since 1975. St. Mary earns the trophy with a record of 17-2 (12-1) and still has one regular-season game remaining. They will finish their season at home against Inland Lakes on Tuesday.
The Cardinals won't be adding a year to their banners, but have had a great season as well. To be playing with a chance to earn a championship with two games left is impressive for JL. They will wrap up their season on Tuesday as well against Forest Area at home and try to improve their 11-6 (10-4) record.
Johnson dominates in win for Cardinals
By Andrew Fish ~ The Petoskey News-Review
The Cardinals pulled out a must-win game over Bellaire on Tuesday 38-33. JL kept their conference title hopes alive with a massive third-quarter effort to come back and win.
Bellaire's offense was rolling early with an 18 points effort in the first quarter and the Cardinals fell behind 18-12. Senior Kennedy Johnson had everything rolling the whole night and she started off scoring 9 of the team's 12 points.
Both teams had their offensive outputs shut down in the second quarter. JL outscored Bellaire 5-2 in the second quarter and trailed 20-17 at halftime. Johnson added 3 points all coming from the free-throw line.
JL's offense got back on track in the third quarter, while Bellaire's did not. JL took control of the game with an 11-5 advantage in the quarter and carried a 28-25 lead going into the fourth quarter. Johnson scored 5 points to go along with a three-pointer from juniors Jocelyn Tobias and Sophie Townsend.
Johnson closed out the game in the fourth quarter with 6 points and the Cardinals defended their home court with a victory. She finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal. She had previously been out with a concussion which made her performance even more impressive.
JL is now 11-5 (9-3) with their destiny still alive if they can defeat St. Mary on Thursday. The Cardinals must win out and have the Snowbirds lose to Inland Lakes next week to claim a share of the Ski Valley title.
Cardinals win replacement game against Forest Area
JOHANNESBURG - It is never easy to change opponents at the last second, but the Cardinals handled just that. JL was scheduled to play against Pellston but found a way to fit in another game after Pellston had to cancel. The Cardinals beat Forest Area 60-36 at home on Monday night.
JL had a lot of familiarity with their Ski Valley opponent as they played just eight days earlier in Fife Lake. The Cardinals won that game 54-37 so they had a lot of confidence going into the rematch.
Junior Jocelyn Tobias had her best game of the season last time they played when she contributed 17 points and 19 rebounds. She was on her game again this time right away. She scored a team-high 8 points in the first quarter to get JL going. Gloria House also had a strong start with 4 points and the Cardinals led 14-10 going into the second quarter.
The offense fell a bit stagnant for both sides in the second quarter, but the Cardinals' defense kept them with a lead. JL outscored Forest Area 7-6 in the low-scoring period and extended to a 21-16 halftime lead.
Allie Nowak led the scoring with a three-pointer and her first basket of the game. Tobias and House were able to add on to their first-quarter totals as they scored the remaining points for JL in the first half.
The third quarter was one of the best offensive periods of the entire season for the Cardinals. They exploded for 27 points and it seemed like they just couldn't miss a shot coming out of the halftime locker room. JL would take full control of the game taking a 48-26 lead.
The Cardinals spread the hot hand in the period with multiple players contributing big periods. Sophomore Jayden Marlatt had just 2 points in the first half, but came out more aggressive and scored 8 points in the third quarter. She was joined by House who also scored 8 points and carried the offensive momentum that she created in the first half. The Cardinals couldn't miss from deep as Sophie Townsend, Tobias, and House knocked down four shots from beyond the three-point arc.
J-L could have easily coasted to the victory after their third-quarter performance, but they kept their foot on the gas to extend their lead and close out Forest Area. The Cardinals outscored them 12-10 and finished a game in which JL outscored Forest Area in every quarter.
Marlatt finished off her second-half performance adding a team-high 5 points. The Cardinals and head coach Heather Huff were pleased to see the whole team effort as their star senior Kennedy Johnson didn't score in the first half, but scored 6 points in the second half and 4 points in the fourth quarter.
J-L was led in scoring by Tobias' 16 points followed by Marlatt's 15 and House's 14. It was a breakout game for House as she scored just 4 points the last time the Cardinals played Forest Area but was red hot this time. Marlatt also brought down 11 rebounds to record a double-double and lead the Cardinals on the boards. Sophie Townsend was the main facilitator adding 5 assists to JL's team total of 12.
Defensively, it was Tobias who Forest Area is dreading to play again when the teams face off in the last game of the season. She had 4 steals and a block to show off to the Warriors that she can do a little of everything.
The Cardinals have now won four games in a row and sit with a record of 10-3 (8-2). JL is now just a single game behind St. Mary in the Ski Valley standings. The Cardinals head to Central Lake on Friday hoping to repeat their performance from earlier in the season when they won 62-41.
Tobias leads Cardinals to conference win over Forest Area
FIFE LAKE - Johannesburg-Lewiston earned another win by defeating Forest Area 54-37 on Monday night. Junior Jocelyn Tobias had a breakout performance with 17 points, 19 rebounds, and 6 assists.
The Cardinals need to keep winning in the Ski Valley Conference to keep pace with the first place St. Mary team. JL was up to the challenge against Forest Area and with Tobias' play, they were able to earn the win.
In the first quarter, it was Senior Kennedy Johnson, sophomore Jayden Marlatt, and Tobias who did most of the scoring for the Cardinals. They combined to score 13 of the team's 16 first-period points. JL took a 16-11 lead heading into the second quarter.
The second quarter was much slower-paced as the offenses struggled. JL outscored Forest Area 6-2 and expanded their lead to 22-13 at halftime. The Cardinals held Forest Area to just 6 percent shooting in the quarter and had 5 steals in the period.
Junior Sophie Townsend was everywhere defensively with 3 steals and Johnson added 2 steals to her stat line as well. Junior Gloria House got in the scoring column and was the only Cardinal to score other than Johnson in the period. Tobias brought down a team-high 9 first-half rebounds.
The scoring amped up in the third quarter in what was the highest-scoring period of the game for both sides. JL scored 17 points to inflate their lead to 39-24. It was a whole team effort in the period as six JL players scored in the quarter. Tobias stole the show with 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists in the third frame. She knocked down two shots from the three-point line, showing she can do a little of everything.
The Cardinals were able to close out Forest Area in the fourth quarter with a 15 point period. Townsend and Tobias each scored 5 points to extend the lead and make it out of reach for Forest Area. Tobias added a three-pointer and 4 rebounds to finish off one of the best individual games for JL this season.
"She (Tobias) has been working really hard in practice," head coach Heather Huff said. "It was good to see her have a breakout game like that. She is one of those players that you know has it in her. She plays a little reserved sometimes and we have been trying to bring that out of her, so it was great to see."
Johnson also finished in double figures with 11 points and she added 9 rebounds to her total. Townsend finished the game with a team-high 5 steals and Johnson was right behind her with 4.
The Cardinals shot 31 percent from the field and allowed Forest Area to shoot just 23 percent. JL also out rebounded their opponent 42-41 and won the turnover battle as they had 13 and Forest Area had 23.
"It was a good win for us," Huff said. "We worked on some new things in practice and were able to try them out. Some of them worked and some didn't so it will be nice to go back and look at the video to see what we need to fix. It was nice to see some offensive flow."
JL is now 8-3 (7-2) and sits 1.5 games behind St. Mary in the Ski Valley standings. The Cardinals host Onaway on Friday looking to win their third game in a row. JL defeated Onaway on the road earlier this season.
St. Mary outlasts J-L to take top spot in the Ski Valley
The Cardinals got off to a good start as St. Mary scored the first three points in the game but were held scoreless the remainder of the first quarter. J-L had a strong contribution from their all-conference sophomore Jayden Marlatt to start the game. She scored 5 points which included a three-pointer and two free throws.
St. Mary's offense couldn't get going other than junior Sydney Gruszynski's three-point shot on the first possession of the game. J-L finished the first quarter with a 9-3 lead.
The second quarter was all Snowbirds. They bounced back from a slow first quarter to pile on 23 second-quarter points and take a 26-17 halftime lead. It was St. Mary's turn to show off their all-conference player as junior Ava Schultz took over the quarter and scored 9 points, all of which came from deep.
St. Mary also had strong contributions from senior Bailey Murrell, junior Macey Bebble, and Gruszynski. Those three combined for 17 points and put St. Mary in the driver's seat for the second half.
J-L's offense struggled in the period and only four players for the Cardinals scored in the first half. A bright spot for the Cardinals was junior Sophie Townsend who was the leading scorer in the first half. She paced the team with 8 points and two threes.
In the second half, St. Mary carried the momentum of the second quarter into the third. The offense outscored J-L 14-12 to maintain their lead at 40-25. Bebble continued her strong stretch of play, adding 6 more points to lead the Snowbirds.
Senior Kennedy Johnson got her offense going in the period to match Bebble's 6 points with 6 of her own. She had been held in check up to that point by St. Mary which was a key for the Snowbirds given how well Johnson can affect the game.
The final quarter got a little too close for comfort for St. Mary as the Cardinals weren't ready to just give in. J-L outscored St. Mary 17-7 in the last period as they put the pressure on the Snowbirds but ultimately fell short.
Marlatt and Johnson spearheaded the comeback for the Cardinals with 14 of the team's 17 points. Their effort in the final period showed a lot of character and desire to win.
St. Mary hoped for a better start and finish to the game but the in-between was good enough to give them the win. Bailey and Miriam Murrell scored the final 7 points for St. Mary and they clung to the 47-42 win.
For the Snowbirds, it was three players leading the way offensively scoring in double figures. Bailey Murrell was the leading scorer with 13 and a big second half. Schultz finished with 12 points with 9 of those coming in the second quarter. Bebble had 11 as she continues to play at a high level that has led St. Mary to their undefeated record.
For the Cardinals, they also had three players in double figures in this evenly matched game. Johnson had a huge second-half effort that resulted in a game-high 16 points. Marlatt continued her strong season adding 12 points and sophomore Allie Nowak broke out with a well-balanced 10 point effort.
St. Mary is now 8-0 on the season and atop the Ski Valley Conference once again under head coach Pat Schultz. They play Inland Lakes on Tuesday on the road in their next contest.
Johannesburg-Lewiston falls to 6-2 with the loss but is still in a good spot to compete for titles at the end of the season. Their season continues against Forest Area on Tuesday as well.Back to Top
J-L escapes with a 34-32 win over Bellaire
By Andrew Fish ~ The Petoskey News-Review
BELLAIRE - It wasn't pretty for the Cardinals but they held tough and escaped a road conference matchup with Bellaire and won 34-32. This was the Cardinals' sixth win in a row.
It seemed that it was going to be a high-scoring affair on Wednesday night for the Johannesburg-Lewiston girls basketball team after the first quarter. The Cardinals got off to a 14-11 start in their highest-scoring quarter of the game.
Senior Kennedy Johnson and Sophomore Jayden Marlatt got things going as they have many times this season. They combined for 8 of the team's 14 points in the period. Marlatt also added 3 rebounds to lead the team in the quarter along with junior Jocelyn Tobias. Junior Gloria House was everywhere defensively as well with 2 steals.
Bellaire is a team that plays very slow and likes to set up their offense. In the first quarter, it seemed that J-L was forcing them to play a bit faster than they had wanted to. That would change in the second quarter and beyond as Bellaire slowed the game down and the scoring was limited.
J-L could only muster 4 points in the second quarter and Bellaire tied the game at 18-18 at halftime. Johnson scored one of their baskets along with Tobias. Johnson also added 4 more rebounds.
The second half remained low scoring and the tempo was set at a very slow pace with Bellaire's style and the referees calling more fouls. The Cardinals outscored Bellaire 16-14 in the second half to escape with a win.
"I was proud of the girls to win a close game," head coach Heather Huff said. "There was some low energy at times. We played through not playing well and still did enough to play hard and have the grit to win."
Johnson was the leading scorer for J-L with 13 points. She was also one of three Cardinals players with 8 rebounds. Defensively, she led the team on that side of the floor with 3 blocks.
Tobias had another good game as well as she was the only other Cardinal in double figures as she scored 10 points and had 8 rebounds. She also had 3 assists which were the most on the team.
Marlatt finished with 6 points and 8 rebounds as she had to play a lot of the game in foul trouble and didn't get into her normal groove.
The Cardinals defense held Bellaire to 25 percent shooting in the game. They didn't allow any of Bellaire's 14 three-point shots to fall and House finished with a team-high 5 steals to pace that side of the floor for J-L.
Johannesburg-Lewiston improves their record to 6-1 and advances their win streak to six in a row. The Cardinals have a tough road matchup with St. Mary on Friday as it looks like those could be the two best teams in the Ski Valley Conference.