Monique Brown is building a dynasty at Detroit Edison, winning consecutive Class C state championships while entering this season as the overwhelming favorite to earn the Division 2 title at Calvin College in March.
Basketball has joined football and other sports to the division format this year and Edison has decided to move up to face stronger competition after defeating Pewamo-Westphalia for the Class C championship in 2017 and Ypsilanti Arbor Prep last season.
Edison might be even better since its roster a year ago consisted of one freshman, eight sophomores, a junior and two seniors. Brown’s team is loaded with experience and talent and is The Detroit News’ preseason No. 1 team.
“I have four returning starters,” said Brown. “We moved to Division 2 voluntarily; this sets a different challenge for us. We are definitely expecting to contend for the title so I tried to create the toughest schedule possible.”
Edison showcases the state’s top player in 6-foot-3 Rickea Jackson, who signed with Mississippi State, the national runnerup to Notre Dame last April.
Jackson is one of the premier players in the nation and proved it last season by earning a spot on The Detroit News Dream Team when she averaged 22.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and two blocks, contributing 16 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and four steals in the championship game.
Standout guards in 5-10 junior Gabrielle Elliott (16 points, 4.5 rebounds) and 5-7 sophomore Damiya Hagemann (8.5 points, 11.5 assists) also return. They earned spots on The News Class C first-team.
2. Saginaw Heritage (27-1, Division 1)
Heritage is the defending Class A state champion, returning one of the top players in the state in 5-9 senior point guard Moira Joiner, who signed with Michigan State.
Joiner averaged 16 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals to help Heritage to a 27-1 record, with its lone loss to Edison. She showed her ability to make big shots, including a 12-footer in the final minute of a 45-43 win over Southfield A&T in the Ypsilanti Arbor Prep Ice Breaker Classic Saturday.
Joiner will be joined 6-1 senior power forward Shine Strickland-Gills (Central Michigan, 12.3 points, 9.1 rebounds), who had a double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) in the state title game win over East Lansing, and senior shooting guard Mallory McCartney (Ferris State).
“Having those kids helps because they’ve been in a lot of big games and done a lot of great things in big games, so they know they’re capable,” Coach Vonnie DeLong said. “Moira will take games over and hit shots when we need them.”
3. Southfield A&T (16-6, Division 1)
Michele Marshall returns three starters in 5-10 senior power forward Alexis Johnson, 5-10 junior guard Cheyenne McEvans and sophomore point guard Kayionna Willis from last year’s district championship team.
Johnson (Marshall) averaged 20 points, nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks. McEvans averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and three assists.
Marshall – now in her 26th year (234-86) with a 2005 Class A state title with Southfield Lathrup – also has talented transfers in 5-9 senior guard Soleil Barnes and 6-3 junior center Jasmine Worthy. Barnes (Toledo) was an all-stater in Ohio last year.
4. Wayne (22-5, Division 1)
Wayne made a run to the Class A Final Four, losing to East Lansing in the semifinals.
Dream Team guard Camree Clegg has moved on to Clemson, but Wayne coach Jarvis Mitchell still has a lot of talent to work with, including Illinois-bound 5-11 senior point guard Jeanae Terry (17.1 points, seven rebounds, 5.8 assists), 6-0 junior Makailah Griggs-Zeigler and 6-2 sophomore Alana Micheaux.
Griggs-Zeigler, who averaged 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds, is a Michigan commit and Micheaux has 11 Division I offers.
5. Hartland (20-6, Division 1)
Hartland could make the next step and reach Calvin College after winning a regional championship last season before a quarterfinal loss.
Coach Don Palmer returns one of the top juniors in 6-4 Whitney Sollom (11 points, 9.4 rebounds), along with point guard Nikki Dompierre, who scored 20 in a 48-40 win over Okemos in the Start to March tournament.
Hartland earned the win without Sollom, who had knee surgery in April. Palmer expects her to be cleared to play later this month. Sophomore Syd Caddell and junior Madi Moyer were spot starters last season. Sophomore Lillee Gustafson and several freshmen are expected to be key contributors.
6. Birmingham Marian (18-5, Division 1)
The defending Catholic League champions return four-year starting point guard Olivia Moore, along with 6-1 senior Megan Kraus and 5-7 junior guard Sophia Mancini.
Moore can handle the ball and is also a strong perimeter shooter. Mancini showed her potential in Saturday’s Catholic League versus MAC showdown at Calihan Hall, scoring 19, making five 3-pointers in a 60-47 upset win over Grosse Pointe North, which advanced to the Class A state semifinals last season.
Legendary head coach Mary Cicerone (639-213, six state championships) also has 5-10 sophomore Shannone Kennedy and 6-2 freshman Sara Sylvester, along with 6-1 junior Lauren Licari and 5-8 junior Faith Giltner. Kennedy scored 14 against North and Sylvester, 12.
7. Grosse Pointe North (20-6, Division 1)
North displays one of the elite players in the state in Miss Basketball candidate Julia Ayrault (Michigan State), who can handle the ball, hit the perimeter shot, block shots and rebound.
Ayrault averaged 19.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4.5 blocks and 4.5 steals to earn a spot on The Detroit News Dream Team last year while leading her team to the state semifinals.
Ayrault will be joined by junior Christina Braker (5.7 points, 4.5 rebounds), senior Evelyn Zacharias (5.3 points), sophomore Maddie Kohler, and seniors Regan Sliwinski and Maddie Mills.
“My expectations are that we have a great work ethic, play together as a team and are fun to watch,” Coach Gary Bennett said. “We’ve had a lot of early injuries this year and have been practicing with only 5-to-8 players on any given day. We hope to improve and be playing our best come tournament time.”
8. Grand Haven (14-8, Division 1)
Grand Haven had tremendous size in 6-5 Abby Cole when it won consecutive Class A state championships in 2012 and 2013.
Grand Haven can’t match Cole’s size, but it does have 6-3 Esther Byington (Northern Michigan) and 6-1 Kelly Olthof (Lake Superior State); they both missed the majority of last season due to injuries.
Standout four-year starter Alli Keyser (Northwood) will run the offense.
9. Macomb Dakota (19-4, Division 1)
Dakota is coming off consecutive district championships and return an outstanding 1-2 punch of 6-2 senior Taylor Williams (15.6 points, 11 rebounds, 3.6 steals) and 6-1 junior Cameron Grant (12 points, 10 rebounds).
Olivia Dameron, a 5-10 senior forward, is also a returning starter. Sophomore guard Jaimee Moshenko and 6-0 senior center Jada Reese are other key contributors.
Grant (20 points, 13 rebounds) and Williams (17 points, 11 rebounds) both had double-doubles in a 61-36 rout of Farmington Hills Mercy in the Catholic League versus MAC showdown at Calihan Hall Saturday.
10. East Lansing (26-1, Division 1)
East Lansing lost Miss Basketball award winner Jaida Hampton to graduation, but Rob Smith returns several players from a talented team that advanced to the state championship game last season, a loss to Saginaw Heritage.
East Lansing is led by 5-11 junior forward Aaliyah Nye (13 points, five rebounds), junior Sanaya Gregory and sophomores Annelise Lebeda, Ahlura Lofton and Soraya Timms.
Lofton (17 points), Gregory (16) and Nye (15) all scored in double figures in a 66-63 win over Muskegon and Miss Basketball candidate Alyza Winston in the Kalamazoo Big Giant Showcase Saturday.
11. East Kentwood (21-1, Division 1)
East Kentwood has a talented senior leading the way in 5-10 guard Alona Blackwell, who enjoys taking big shots, including a buzzer-beater last week in a 52-51 victory over Muskegon.
Blackwell (Oakland) shot 45 percent from 3-point range last season. She will be joined in the starting lineup by point guard Mauriya Barnes (South Carolina State), 6-3 sophomore Kabriana Hallman, a transfer from Comstock Park, and 5-11 sophomore Keliese Christopher.
12. Muskegon (22-2, Division 1)
Michigan State-bound guard Alyza Winston is a Miss Basketball candidate. She will be joined by 5-4 point guard Brianna Alexander, 5-9 Diynasti Dowell and physical 5-9 Nia Miskel, a transfer from Muskegon Mona Shores.
Muskegon dropped its first two games on a buzzer-beater by East Kentwood and a 66-63 setback to East Lansing, but it lost its two games to East Kentwood and East Lansing last season as well while racking up 22 victories.
13. Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (21-6, Division 3)
Arbor Prep will be one of the most interesting teams to watch once 5-11 senior guard Mahri Petree (11 points, six rebounds) returns from her knee injury later this month. Petree will play next year at Bradley.
Arbor Prep has advanced to the state championship game the last three years, winning the Class C title in 2016, losing to Detroit Country Day in the Class B championship game in 2017 and to Edison in Class C last year.
Coach Scott Stine showcases the premier freshman in the state in 5-9 point guard Mya Petticord, who opened the season by matching the school-record with 33 points in a 60-52 win over Clarkston, followed by a school-record 34 points Saturday in a 59-55 win over Maple City Glen Lake.
Stine expects big contributions from 6-0 senior forward Kashyra Jackson and senior guard Karli Waddell, along with freshmen guards Jazmin Chupp, Cailah Stephens and Makenzie Day.
14. Pewamo-Westphalia (25-1, Division 3)
Pewamo-Westphalia has made multiple trips to the Class C Final Four and don’t be surprised if it reaches Calvin College again this season.
Coach Steve Eklund’s team showed it will once again be a state power by limiting Midland Dow to 25 points in a 45-25 rout in the Arbor Prep Ice Breaker Classic Saturday.
P-W has experience in 6-0 junior Hannah Spitzley (10.5 points, 5.1 rebounds) and 5-8 junior guard Ellie Droste (9.5 points).
15. Flint Carman-Ainsworth (22-3, Division 1)
Carman-Ainsworth returns eight players from last year’s team, which lost to Saginaw Heritage in the regional finals.
Marquette-bound guard Destiny Strother (17.9 points) is an outstanding shooter who has improved her defense and ability to take the ball to the basket.
Strother will be joined by 5-9 junior guard Aaliyah McQueen (15 points, seven rebounds, six assists) – who has 20 offers, including Michigan State, Minnesota, Illinois, Marquette and Dayton – and junior point guard Chenelle King to give Carman-Ainsworth a Big Three.
16. Detroit Country Day (23-4, Division 2)
Legendary coach Frank Orlando earned his state record 13th state championship last season.
Country Day is the two-time defending Class B state champs but will be the underdog in Division 2 this season with Edison as the big favorite.
Still, Country Day has a lot of talent, led by Minnesota-bound point guard Jasmine Powell (11 points, seven assists), 6-0 senior guard Maddie Novak and 6-0 senior inside threat Adrian Folks (12.6 points, six rebounds).
Novak had 20 points and six rebounds in a 70-54 state semifinal win over Kingsley and Folks had 12 points and seven rebounds, making 6-of-7 shots from the floor in the 64-48 title game win over Jackson Northwest. Powell had 19 points, four steals and four assists in the championship game.
17. Detroit King (22-3, Division 1)
Former King standout Gwen Burton takes over for William Winfield (698 wins, five state championships) as head coach. Burton inherits a team that lost to Grosse Pointe North in the Class A quarterfinals.
“It’s a new experience for me, stepping into a legend’s shoes,” Burton said. “We want to keep the energy up because we have a young team and we’re going to make a lot of mistakes. I told them I don’t care about the mistakes, I care about the next play, so you guys have to get back (and play defense).”
King has an outstanding guard in 5-8 senior Del’Janae Williams (Indiana State) but needs to find more help for her after squeezing by Kent City 40-39 in the Start to March tournament in Okemos Saturday when Williams scored 28 to rally her team back from a seven-point second-half deficit.
18. Okemos (17-7, Division 1)
Okemos arguably has the best 1-2 punch in Division 1 in 5-10 senior guard Laya Hartman (Northwestern) and 5-11 junior forward Jasmine Clerkey, who originally committed to Michigan State in January before reopening her recruitment.
Hartman averaged 16 points and seven rebounds last season while Clerkey averaged a double-double.
19. DeWitt (21-2, Division 1)
DeWitt returns the majority of its team, which won 21 games last season.
Sydney Mills (Hillsdale), a 5-11 senior center, joins veteran guard Maddie Petersen (Aquinas) and Anne McIntosh to form a strong nucleus.
20. Kingsley (26-1, Division 2)
Kingsley returns its starting backcourt in 5-3 junior Brittany Bowman (11.5 points, three steals) and senior Jacie King (10.1 points, three steals) from last year’s team, which reached the Class B semifinals.
20 more to watch
Adrian Lenawee Christian, Ann Arbor Huron, Brighton, Charlevoix, Coldwater, Dearborn Fordson, Detroit Renaissance, East Grand Rapids, Flushing, Goodrich, Grand Ledge, Harper Woods Chandler Park, Jackson Northwest, Kent City, Michigan Center, Midland Dow, Three Rivers, Walled Lake Western, Warren Cousino, Williamston.