Senior Paris McLeod is performing in the clutch again for Inkster under her third coach in three seasons. She’s averaging 19.5 points. Mark (Bialek/Special to Detroit News)
Paris McLeod has had three different head coaches in the last three years at Inkster and has been an integral part of tremendous success with each.
McLeod helped Inkster win the Class A state title two years ago when Peggy Carr was coach. She played a key role in Inkster's state semifinal team, coached by Ollie Mitchell, last season.
Now, McLeod is doing everything she can to help Inkster make another trip to the Breslin Center in her senior season. Inkster, now coached by Dwayne Scott, is 14-0 with McLeod averaging 19.5 points.
"I knew Coach Carr for a long period of time," said McLeod, who will play next year at Evansville. "She's very nice. And, then I had Coach Mitchell and knew him for a couple of years. Coach Carr liked to attack, attack, attack and Coach Mitchell likes to freestyle more.
"Coach Scott is an all-around good coach. He knows which plays to run. He knows everything. He's made me be a better player and leader."
Scott is not new to the program or to coaching. He works at Inkster High and his daughter, Leah Scott, was point guard on the state championship team. He was an assistant coach under Mitchell last year, and an assistant to Willie Riley when Detroit DePorres won the Class C state title in 2004.
McLeod, a point guard, was put in the role of leader after Inkster lost eight Division 1 players the past couple of years, including Crystal Bradford and Jas'Mine Bracey — both at Central Michigan — and Kelsey Mitchell (Michigan), Ollie's daughter.
McLeod has played well in big games, scoring six points in a semifinal win over Canton two years ago to turn a 29-27 deficit into a 35-31 lead. She made two free throws for a 41-37 lead in the title game with 22 seconds left. She scored 15 in a quarterfinal win over King last year, making a pair of 3-pointers in the first 2-1/2 minutes.
On Thursday, McLeod again came through in the clutch, scoring consecutive driving baskets to open an 8-0 run that gave Inkster an eight-point lead in a 44-38 win at Ypsilanti Arbor Prep. She finished with 14 points.
"It's hard being the only senior so I have to be a captain, be a leader for my teammates," said McLeod, whose younger sister, junior Victoria McLeod, and junior forward R'mani Garrard are also key contributors. "We're ready to make a big run. I'm not worried or scared. I've been in this position before. We're looking forward to playing (Westland) John Glenn."
Inkster defeated Glenn in double overtime in the district title game. Inkster will get a big test, hosting Detroit Country Day Feb. 19th.
Scott puts in plays for McLeod when Inkster needs to make a run. He points out Inkster has only 18 players in its program, losing a half dozen this past year who have transferred with school of choice in play.
"We have only 18 kids because of injuries and transfers," Scott said. "Paris is the only veteran back who understands what we're trying to do. Inkster was built on practicing hard and that translates to the game. I've been struggling with these kids to be consistent. It's nice that we have No. 12, though."
Cicerone enjoying 30th year
Mary Cicerone is going strong in her 30th year as head coach at Birmingham Marian.
After a rare losing season last year (9-14), Cicerone has guided Marian to a 12-2 record and share of the Catholic League Central Division lead with defending champ Dearborn Divine Child at 5-2.
The teams split the season's series.
The Catholic League playoffs get under way Saturday at Madonna University, with the title game set for Feb. 17 at Calihan Hall. Marian's last league title came in 2010.
Cicerone owns a 527-189 career record and four state titles (1988, 1992, 1996, 1998). She still has passion for the game, especially when her players execute the game plan.
"You know, some days it's like, 'I've been doing this so long, let some young person come in and do it,'" Cicerone said following a 56-45 win over Farmington Hills Mercy last Tuesday. "But then tonight, they put it all together and the kids are excited.
"They've been working hard and have come a long way. I mean … it's just fun and I'm still such a competitive person. Last year was tough on all of us because most of them aren't used to that (losing) either."
Marian's players are buying into Cicerone's style of sharing the ball, playing strong defense and following the game plan.
Senior guard Kamry Peake is well aware of Cicerone's past teams and wants this year's version to win a league title.
"Coach Cicerone is really, really intense and encouraging," Peake said. "I've played for her for two years and she has faith in every one of us and she doesn't lose faith in anybody and she's very optimistic.
"She reminds us everyday how many suicides they (state title teams) had to run and how we have to be like them and hopefully we could get that up there, too. Last year, we had the potential to be this way but we didn't have enough chemistry. This year, our team is coming together."
Kysre Gondrezick has been as good, or better, than advertised during her freshman year at Benton Harbor.
Gondrezick, a 5-foot-9 point guard, was ranked as the No. 1 player in the country for the 2016 class by All-Star Girls Report. Well, she's averaging 29.4 points, 12.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists to help Benton Harbor to a 9-4 record. Oh, she also has a 4.7 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale.
On Jan. 25 with Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw and All-American Skylar Diggins looking on, Kysre put on a show, scoring 35 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in a win at Niles.
"Kysre has to be playing as well or better than any other player in the nation right now," said Lisa Harvey-Gondrezick, her coach and mother. "She put on a clinic at Niles, scoring in every way imaginable. She's playing phenomenal and is fun to watch."
Kysre scored a season-high 39 in a win over Muskegon in the Lou Harvey tournament, named in honor of the former Benton Harbor coach who is also Lisa's father and Kysre's grandfather. Harvey guided Benton Harbor to a Class A state title in 2009. It's not hard to believe Benton Harbor could be closing in on a Class B championship in the near future, especially with Kysre's sister, Kalabrya, a sophomore, averaging 16.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists.
Then there is 6-3 freshman Cassidy Boensch of Au Gres-Sims.
Boensch is averaging 21.5 points, 15.9 rebounds and 11.1 blocks for Au Gres-Sims (11-3), leading a dramatic turnaround from a 6-15 record of a year ago.
"We've had college coaches come in and watch her, saying she could play the 1, 2 or 3 spots in college," said Debbie Boensch, Cassidy's coach and mother. "She brings the ball up for us against pressure.
"We have a young team and they have exceeded my expectations. When Cassidy was in eighth grade, we competed in Central Michigan's team camp and we played against varsity teams, beating some."
Coaches from Michigan State and CMU have Boensch on their radar. Boensch had a triple-double (23 points, 31 rebounds, 10 blocks) in a 47-46 victory over Mio-Au Sable.
Arbor Prep taking on powers
Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, a second-year charter school without a senior class, is playing a challenging schedule to get ready for a long state tournament run.
Arbor Prep's girls basketball team, which competes in Class C, has defeated Benton Harbor and pushed Class A powers Southfield-Lathrup (51-45) and Inkster (44-38) to the limit in losses. Arbor Prep (11-4) also has victories this season over Kalamazoo Loy Norrix and Harper Woods Chandler Park.
Simply put, Arbor Prep is the best girls high school basketball team that no one knows about. Starting two freshmen and three sophomores, the team will be allowed to participate in the state tournament for the first time.
Arbor Prep is led by 5-5 sophomore point guard Zakiya Wells, who enjoys stealing the ball in full-court pressure or earning an assist in the transition game as much as putting the ball in the basket herself.
Wells could be a Miss Basketball candidate for the class of 2015 if she continues to improve. The same could be said for 5-9 freshman Nastassja Chambers, who effortlessly pushes the ball up in transition, changes hands with the dribble and drives to the basket for a layup.
And, coach Rodrick Wells, Zakiya's father, has to keep reminding physical sophomore center Jamie Rittenhouse that she is every bit as good a basketball player as an outside hitter in volleyball, her favorite sport.
Rittenhouse runs the floor well and is frequently rewarded with great passes by Wells & Co. to finish by making layups with either hand.
"It's a blessing I had the opportunity to get this coaching job," Wells said. "These are good girls, great athletes and they love playing with each other.
"I got a lot of these girls started in the sport in Rec League when Zakiya was in third or fourth grade. No one could hang with them and they kicked us out of the Rec League. I had to find an AAU team for them and they have continued to improve."
Jalon Plummer Romulus senior
Plummer, a first-year varsity player, contributed 22 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in a 75-65 win at Class B No. 1 Detroit Country Day Friday. He made 9 of 11 shots, including 4 of 5 3-pointers. He made three 3s during the second quarter to open up a 37-29 halftime lead.
By the numbers
2,000 -- Career points for Tori Jankoska of Freeland. She scored 33 Jan. 29th with her final basket, a putback, allowing her to reach the milestone. The Miss Basketball candidate will play next year at Michigan State.
600 -- Games won by Sandusky girls coach Al DeMott, who joined Frank Orlando of Detroit Country Day in the exclusive club when Sandusky defeated Ubly in December. DeMott has coached all 34 years at Sandusky, guiding his teams to a 605-171 record.
29.4 -- Scoring average of Benton Harbor freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick, who already is being recruited by several Division 1 powers, including Notre Dame.
Top games this week
Saginaw Arthur Hill (13-0) at Romulus (11-1), Sat., 5 p.m.: Romulus is ranked No. 2, Arthur Hill No. 3. Romulus has three players signed with Division I schools but it was Jalen Plummer (uncommitted) who had 22 points in Friday's 10-point victory over Detroit Country Day. Arthur Hill has the state's top sophomore in Eric Davis.
Dearborn Divine Child (10-4) at Farmington Hills Mercy (11-4), Tues., 7:30: Defending Catholic League champion Divine Child will try to bounce back from a loss to Livonia Ladywood to keep a share of first place in the Catholic League Central Division. Divine Child defeated Mercy, 55-46, last month, coming back from a 27-24 halftime deficit. A good matchup to watch will be between guards Candice Leatherwood of Mercy and Morgan Blair of Divine Child.
Rochester Adams (11-4) at Oxford (13-2), Tues., 7: Oxford defeated Adams, 45-35, Dec. 15 and will try to earn the season's sweep to keep its hopes alive for an OAA White Division title. Jessica Murphy is playing well for Oxford. Adams is led by sophomores Raiven Owusu and Amber Jamison.
Top games last week
Orchard Lake St. Mary's 77, U-D Jesuit 72 (2OT): St. Mary's (7-7) trailed by 16 in the first half. The game was tied at 56-56 at the end of regulation and 64-64 at the end of the first overtime. Matt Linehan had 26 points and Sam McLendan added 21 for St. Mary's. A.J. Horde scored 25 for U-D (11-3).
Grosse Pointe South 57, Macomb Dakota 52: South (15-1) earned its 15th straight win in a physical game to sweep the MAC Red series. Sophomore guard Cierra Rice scored 20 and senior center Claire DeBoer 18 for South, which defeated Dakota, 54-52, at home Jan. 8. The teams could face each other in a regional final.
Freeland 56, Goodrich 52: Senior standout Tori Jankoska scored 32 to lead Freeland to an upset win over the defending Class B state champion. Freeland, a state semifinalist last year, took advantage of a 21-11 second quarter for a 32-26 halftime lead, then extended the cushion to 43-35 after three. Taylor Gleason scored 21 for Goodrich.
2011— Peggy Carr, 25-2, Class A state champion
2012 — Ollie Mitchell, 20-5, Class A state semifinalist
2013 — Dwayne Scott, 14-0, ???
"Plummer's playing himself in position (to get a scholarship). He could play in the mid-majors for sure."
--Nate Oats, Romulus coach, talking about senior Jalon Plummer