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Dave Goricki previews the high school basketball state tournament with Edison's Rickea Jackson, Cass Tech's Tyson Acuff and New Haven's Romeo Weems. The Detroit News

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Rickea Jackson is having a season players could only dream about, signing with national runner-up Mississippi State, being selected to the McDonald’s All-American game and now trying to lead her Detroit Edison Public Academy team to a third consecutive state championship.

Jackson, a 6-foot-3 senior who is the favorite to win the Miss Basketball award, helped Edison win the Class C state title the last two years.

Edison decided to move up to Division 2 this season and will be the team to beat, especially since it is ranked No. 7 nationally with its lone loss coming to Columbus Africentric, ranked No. 3 in the nation.

Edison coach Monique Brown loaded her team’s schedule and it responded with wins over state powers in defending Class A state champion and No. 6 Saginaw Heritage, No. 3 Birmingham Marian, No. 4 Wayne, No. 8 Pewamo-Westphalia, No. 15 Muskegon and No. 19 Flint Carman-Ainsworth.

“Our goal every year is to take our team outside of our neutral area and that’s why we went to Muskegon, went to Pewamo, went to Illinois so we’ve played a lot with the crowd against us, our backs against the wall and that’s how we prepared ourselves for the state run,” Brown said.

Edison is loaded with elite players, including junior guard/forward Gabby Elliott, who has multiple Big Ten offers, sophomore point guard Damiya Hagemann, who has offers from Michigan and Michigan State, junior guard Shaulana Wagner and guard Daja Tyson, who is back and playing well after suffering ACL injuries to each knee the previous two years.

More: David Goricki's final girls high school basketball rankings

“To have that type of supporting cast means everything to me,” said Jackson, who is averaging 22.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists while improving on her perimeter game in her senior season, making four 3-pointers in the first half of a win over Pewamo-Westphalia. “We our definitely a tight sisterhood, and just being able to play with top players in the country every single day in practice, battling them, just prepares you for everything.

"And, having a point guard who runs sets to the T is just good, takes weight off of my shoulders to know that I don’t have to do every single thing. Everyone on our team is a scorer so if someone is trying to box-and-one me there’s other scorers on my team.”

Edison (19-1) will be tested right out of the gate, playing St. Clair Shores South Lake (9-11) before a potential district semifinal game against a No. 17 Harper Woods Chandler Park (16-4) team — coached by Dave Mann who owns 754 career wins — which posted wins over No. 16 Grosse Pointe North and Ypsilanti Arbor Prep and is led by 5-1 sophomore point guard Emaia O’Brien (14.1 points, four assists, four steals).

Edison could have a state quarterfinal game against Detroit Country Day (9-8), which showed its potential last Thursday with a 59-57 win over Grosse Pointe North when Minnesota-bound guard Jasmine Powell scored 23, Maddie Novak 20 and 6-2 Adrian Folks, 10.

Country Day is coached by the legendary Frank Orlando, the state’s winningest coach (794-125), who received the 2019 Morgan Wootten Award for lifetime achievement of coaching high school basketball. He has guided Country Day to a record 13 state championships, including three in the last four years.

Country Day has prepared for the postseason by playing top-10 powers  Edison, Southfield A&T, Saginaw Heritage, Midland Dow and Pewamo-Westphalia.

Unbeaten Edwardsburg, Hamilton and Stanton Central Montcalm are capable of making long runs to reach Calvin College for the state Final Four, March 21-23, as is Chelsea and Williamston.

Division 2

Defending champion: Detroit Country Day

Favorite: Detroit Edison

Contender: Chelsea

Darkhorse: Detroit Country Day

Toughest district: At Bay City John Glenn with Freeland (18-2), Essexville Garber (15-5) and host Bay City John Glenn (15-5) in the field.

Final Four: Edwardsburg over Stanton Central Montcalm, Detroit Edison over Chelsea

Championship game: Detroit Edison over Edwardsburg

Player to watch: Miss Basketball finalist Rickea Jackson, who has averaged 22.5 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists, will try to lead Detroit Edison to its third straight state championship.

Division 1

Saginaw Heritage is the defending state champion and has an outstanding inside-outside combination in guard in Moira Joiner, who is a Miss Basketball finalist and will be playing next year at Michigan State, and 6-0 Shine Strickland-Gills (Central Michigan).

Heritage will have plenty of competition in Division 1, including Southfield A&T (18-1) — whose lone loss was to Heritage in early December, 45-43 - Birmingham Marian, Wayne and East Lansing, last year’s state runner-up.

Southfield A&T coach Michele Marshall is happy with how her team is playing.

“We have been playing very well as the regular season has ended,” Marshall said. “Our pieces seem to have found a chemistry that works for us. We are a veteran team with excellent talent at several positions.

“We realize there are some good teams on the way to getting to the Final Four. We expect to play competitively throughout the entire tournament and our ultimate goals is to make it to the Final Four at Calvin College and hopefully compete for a state championship.”

No doubt. Marshall has a balanced attack, led by Marshall-bound senior forward Alexis Johnson (20 points, eight rebounds), junior guard Cheyenne McEvans (17.5 points, 12 rebounds, four steals, four assists), senior guard Soleil Barnes (13.2 points, six rebounds, four steals) and junior center Jasmine Worthy (eight points, seven rebounds, three blocks). Barnes will play at Toledo next year.

Heritage suffered a pair of losses this season, one to Midland Dow (52-48) on Feb. 1 and to Detroit Edison (41-37) Feb. 9. It is coming off a 55-53 win over East Lansing last week.

Oh, and don’t forget Muskegon and its standout guard Alyza Winston who is another Miss Basketball finalist, averaging 26.4 points. She will be Joiner’s teammate at MSU.

Grosse Pointe North is capable of making a long run with 6-2 senior Julia Ayrault (20.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.7 steals), who is the fourth and final Miss Basketball finalist.

Ayrault, who will play next year at MSU, led Grosse Pointe North to the state semifinals last season.

No doubt, Birmingham Marian coach Mary Cicerone (658-214) knows how to lead her team to championships, winning six with the last one coming in 2015. Marian’s lone loss came against Edison, 57-51 on Feb. 14.

And, you can bet Wayne senior point guard Jeanae Terry (Illinois) will be playing with a chip on her shoulder after not making the Miss Basketball finalist list. Terry helped Wayne reach the state semifinals last year and has led her team to the KLAA championship, averaging more than 20 points with nearly 10 rebounds and nine assists.

“Jeanae Terry is probably pound-for-pound the most talented kid overall that I’ve coached as far as everything she can do,” Wayne coach Jarvis Mitchell said. “Jeanae can handle, she can shoot it, she can rebound, she can steal and she has long arms. That’s not taking anything away from Camree Clegg (last year’s Miss Basketball finalist from Wayne, now at Clemson), but Jeanae is 5-foot-11 that can do some of the things that Camree could do.”

Mitchell has more than just Terry with Michigan commit in junior Makailah Zeigler Griggs, 6-2 sophomore Alana Micheaux and quick guards, including Sammiyah Hoskin who can cause problems defensively in Wayne’s pressure defense.

“That’s been our calling card since I’ve been coaching and the thing about it is when you have an athletic team, that’s what you want to get to," said Mitchell on Wayne’s full-court pressure defense. “I have six or seven kids who are 5-foot-11 with long arms who can sit down and beat you to that spot and they can block your shot.”

A showdown between No. 13 Grand Haven and No. 15 Muskegon at Muskegon Reeths-Puffer is one of Monday's marquee district games.

Defending champion: Saginaw Heritage

Favorite: Southfield A&T

Contender: Saginaw Heritage

Darkhorse: Wayne

Toughest district: At Muskegon Reeths Puffer with Grand Haven (17-3) and Muskegon (15-4) in the field.

Final Four: Saginaw Heritage over Wayne, Southfield A&T over East Lansing

Championship game: Southfield A&T over Saginaw Heritage.

Player to watch: Moira Joiner who averages 21 points, 6.8 rebounds and four assists who is a great point guard, leader and defensive player for Saginaw Heritage.

Division 3

The departure of Detroit Edison paves the way for Pewamo-Westphalia to finally get a chance to hoist the ultimate trophy after coming up short in past years.  Pewamo-Westphalia lost to Edison 46-44 in the Class C state title game in 2017 before falling again to Edison in the state semifinals last year, 50-39.

Still, Pewamo-Westphalia (19-1) will have to get past either Michigan Center or Ypsilanti Arbor Prep in a state semifinal game … if those  teams advance to Grand Rapids.

Arbor Prep (14-6) is playing its best ball and is used to making long postseason runs, advancing to the Final Four the last four years, winning the Class C state title in 2016, losing to Detroit Country Day in the Class B state championship game in 2017 and losing to Edison in last year’s Class C state title game.

Arbor Prep’s schedule has been loaded, defeating Class A Clarkston, Ann Arbor Huron, Midland, along with Class B power Harper Woods Chandler Park with one of its losses to Stanton Central Montcalm (67-64).

“We have been playing pretty good the last three weeks,” Arbor Prep coach Scott Stine said. “We’re starting to play well at the right time, had won five in a row until losing in overtime to (Harper Woods) Chandler Park.”

Freshman phenom Mya Petticord, a guard, is averaging 21 points, six rebounds and three assists with Bradley-bound senior guard Mahri Petree averaging 15 points and seven rebounds.

Pewamo-Westphalia has also played some tough teams, coming up with impressive wins against No. 5 Midland Dow (45-25) and Detroit Country Day (69-41).

Kent City (16-4) has enjoyed a strong season behind the play of outstanding shooters in senior Zara Weber (10) and sophomore Jenna Harrison (eight), who combined to make 18 3-pointers in a game where Kent City made a state record 25 long-range shots in a win over Holton back in January.

Hemlock (20-0), Maple City Glen Lake (18-2), Michigan Center (17-3) and Flint Hamady (14-4) are also capable of making a long runs.

Defending champion: Detroit Edison

Favorite: Pewamo-Westphalia

Contender: Kent City

Darkhorse: Ypsilanti Arbor Prep

Toughest district: At Napoleon with Grass Lake (19-1), Michigan Center (16-3), Manchester (14-5) and Brooklyn Columbia Central (15-4) in the field. Grass Lake and Michigan Center split its Cascades Conference regular-season series.

Final Four: Maple City Glen Lake over Hemlock; Pewamo-Westphalia over Michigan Center.

Championship game: Pewamo-Westphalia over Maple City Glen Lake

Player to watch: Ypsilanti Arbor Prep freshman phenom Mya Petticord who is averaging 21 points, six rebounds and three assists.

Division 4

Adrian Lenawee Christian was the surprise of last season, coming into Calvin College and winning the state championship with a young team, led by 6-2 freshman Bree Salenbien.

This year, Lenawee Christian (18-2) will enter the postseason with a target on its back. It prepared itself for another long run by scheduling games and beating such teams as No. 20 Ann Arbor Pioneer (73-66 overtime) and Detroit Country Day (57-52) and will get an early test Monday in the district at Morenci when it faces Pittsford (16-4), which won Class D state titles in 2016 and ’17.

St. Ignace has been a state title contender since Dorene Ingalls took over as head coach more than 20 years ago and this season is no exception.

St. Ignace enters the districts 20-0 and trying to win its first state title since 2015.

Bellevue (18-0), Kingston (18-2) and Gaylord St. Mary could also be playing during the final week of the season.

Defending champion: Adrian Lenawee Christian

Favorite: Adrian Lenawee Christian

Contender: St. Ignace

Darkhorse: Bellevue

Toughest district: At Morenci with Adrian Lenawee Christian (18-2) and Pittsford (16-4) in the field.

Final Four: St. Ignace over Kingston; Adrian Lenawee Christian over Gaylord St. Mary.

Championship game: Lenawee Christian over St. Ignace.

Player to watch: Bree Salenbien of Lenawee Christian, who has an offer from Indiana and scored 33 points in a 73-47 rout of Waterford Lakes last month. Lakes advanced to the state semifinals last season.

dgoricki@detroitnews.com

 

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