Trenton girls basketball's core of underclassmen turns rebuild into another winning season

Jonathan Szczepaniak
Special to The Detroit News

What looked to be a rebuilding season for the Trenton girls basketball team has become another stellar campaign.

After finishing 15-1 last season, winning the Downriver League title, Trenton lost a majority of its top players to graduation, including three starters.

Trenton's Emma Chappelle brings the ball up court.

After losing its first three games by a combined 72 points, Trenton and its coach, Charles Perez, have been on a roll. Trenton has climbed back to near the top of the league.

At 8-4 overall, 8-1 in the league, Trenton faces Taylor tonight.

Perez liked the underclassmen coming up into the program, but there were plenty of questions as to how quickly they would acclimate to varsity basketball.

“Even though we brought two starters back, it was still a question of who was going to be our leaders,” Perez said.

More: Detroit News girls high school basketball rankings: Jan. 30

Trenton’s starting five begins with sophomores Brianna Thomas, Emma Chappelle, Molly Edmunds and Aleah Tanguay. Junior Malyah Bynum rounds out the lineup.

Gianna Lesko stands as the lone senior. Her leadership on and off the court has been key.

“She’s definitely the most vocal leader,” Perez said. “She’s always keeping everyone motivated and positive.”

Positivity was necessary for Trenton as the opening schedule was a reality check.

While the top-heavy slate was difficult to handle early on, Lesko knew that success would follow.

“We had a mindset of the next play mentality,” Lesko said. “We knew we wanted to work towards the streak that we’re on now.”

Trenton opened up its Downriver schedule with a 52-26 win over Southgate Anderson and is 8-1 in its last nine games (all league opponents). It has won by 10 or more points in six of the nine games.

Trenton has moved into second place in the league with highlight wins over Allen Park (twice) and Woodhaven, using a stellar defense that has allowed 36 points per game in over its last nine games.

“We’ve set that as a priority the last few years,” Perez said. “We talked about that again in making that a priority; we need to buckle down and correct our missed assignments.”

Thomas (12.7 points), Bynum (12.5), and Chappelle (6.4) have been the top scorers this season. Bynum, a three-year varsity player, has facilitated the offense from the guard position averaging three assists per game.

A Trenton offense, which failed to top the 30-point mark in its first three games, has averaged just under 51 points per game since.

Thomas said the inner competition between the team has developed a stronger output offensively.

Trenton's Brianna Thomas.

“I feel like chemistry on the court has helped a lot and we move the ball a lot to get open,” Thomas said. “We play our hardest against each other in practice, and yes we’re one team but playing against each other competitively has really helped.”

A product of the team’s success can be attributed to the relationship the players share off the court. While some might be new to the varsity squad, it stands as one family now.

“I think we just do a lot not only on the court but off the court,” Tanguay said. “I trust these girls with everything.”

Jonathan Szczepaniak is a freelance writer.