During normal times, only four high school girls’ basketball teams in the state—one in each of the four divisions—end their season by winning its final game of the year.
These, however, are far from normal times.
With the winter season tournaments suspended on Thursday, March 12—the day regional finals were scheduled—due to the COVID-19 pandemic before ultimately being cancelled altogether, 16 teams in each division finished on a winning note.
Martin in Division 4 and Hamilton in Division 2 were among those squads.
And one player from each of those two local teams recently received First Team All-State recognition from the Associated Press as Martin senior Faith Guritz and Hamilton junior AJ Ediger were honored.
Allegan senior Alison Bishop and Wayland senior Stephanie Ainsworth both received honorable mention recognition in Division 2, while Fennville senior Coryne Howard received the same in Division 3.
Here is a closer look at those five players:
Guritz finished her senior campaign with averages of 12.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.8 steals, 1.6 assists and 0.7 blocks per game.
But those numbers, as good as they are, don’t tell the whole story.
“Faith’s stats could have even been much better, but she sat many minutes in the second half of games we had large leads,” said Martin coach Ben Schipper, who led his team to a 22-1 record in his first season. “We also had a team full of scorers, leading to a balanced attack.
“I was thrilled to find out that Faith was named First Team All-State by the Associated Press. It is such an amazing accomplishment and is very well deserved.”
Guritz reached 1,000 points in career scoring this season, ending up with 1,131 career points. Other season highlights included two games with 20-plus points, six games with double-digit rebounds, five games with five-plus steals and two games with five-plus assists.
“Faith had an amazing four-year varsity career,” Schipper said. “She’s such a hard worker in and out of season. I especially love the way she approaches the game. She is a steady, consistent force. She never gets too high or too low. She has a calm, composed demeanor that I believe not only helped her be successful, but also helped our team achieve the season we had.”
In addition to the AP All-State honors, Guritz also received Third Team All-State from the Detroit News, Basketball Coached Association of Michigan individual Academic All-State, BCAM Outstanding Senior Student-Athlete, Second Team Kalamazoo Area Dream Team and First Team All-Conference.
“Faith was a captain, she hit big shots in big games and she had buzzer beaters at the end of quarter,” Schipper said. “There is no moment too big for Faith.”
And Guritz’s success goes beyond the hardwood, as the BCAM academic award shows.
“More important than basketball, Faith is a terrific student and, above all else, she’s a great person with an extremely bright future,” Schipper said. “Her family should be proud of the young women she is. It was an absolute joy and honor coaching her this year.”
You can’t miss Ediger when she’s on the basketball court.
Standing 6-foot-2, the junior center is almost always the biggest player on the floor. And she has the game to go along with that stature.
Ediger averaged a double-double for the season, going for 22 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. She shot 44 percent from the floor.
Given those stats, its no wonder that she has already committed to the University of Iowa to continue her basketball career once her high school days come to an end next spring.
Having Ediger was quite the luxury for first-year Hamilton coach Jacquelyn Schwark.
“AJ was our leading scorer and rebounder, so it’s easy to see how important she is to our team,” Schwark said.
Given her level of talent and skill set, Ediger was the focal point of opposing teams’ defensive game plan.
“AJ is frequently double-teamed, yet she still finds ways to score,” Schwark said. “She can score in the paint, from mid-range or from beyond the arc. She’s a huge offensive threat and is very difficult for other teams to guard.”
Despite being only a junior, Ediger already joined the 1,000-point club in career scoring. Thirty-eight of those points came in a district semifinal against Allegan, marking a career high.
“As good of a scorer as AJ is, she’s also all over the glass and gets a lot of rebounds to give our team extra offensive chances,” Schwark said. “She gets it done on defense, too, with her length and athleticism.”
And Schwark will have Eidger back next season to set the tone for the Hawkeyes.
“AJ is a very hard working, well-rounded basketball player,” Schwark said.
If high school players were allowed to have sponsors, then AT&T might have been a good one for Bishop.
Why, you ask? Because Bishop loved to dial it up from long distance, setting the school record for most career 3-pointers.
Not that she was only dangerous from behind the arc.
To the contrary, Bishop could also take the ball to the hoop and was a presence inside with her ability to play a physical style of game.
Josh Holman was Bishop’s coach for all four years of her career at Allegan.
“It has been an absolute pleasure to coach Alison these past four years,” Holman said. “I’ve really enjoyed watching her grow and mature from that shy freshman to the outgoing senior leader that she was this year.”
Bishop, who also garnered Honorable Mention All-State honors from the Detroit News, averaged 16.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.6 steals and 2.6 assists per game.
Not that those numbers were her primary focus.
“Even with all of her success, Alison has never been one to focus on her individual goals,” Holman said. “She was always focused on what we could do and accomplish as a unit. There was never a time that she approached me about her individual accomplishments. It was always about the team with her and that’s what makes her so special.”
Bishop was also a standout on the soccer field, having set many school records as a goalie despite having her senior season taken away by the cancellation of spring sports due to the coronavirus.
“Alison is a tremendous young lady academically, athletically and socially,” Holman said. “She has an incredible drive and work ethic to be the best in all that she does. She’s a tireless worker who spent quite a bit of time working on her game and she is more than deserving of this and all honors she receives.”
Wayland coach Weston Hudson and the rest of his coaching staff weren’t afraid to challenge Ainsworth.
And she wasn’t afraid to face those challenges.
“Our coaching staff challenged her everyday and she would continue to meet those challenges head on,” Hudson said.
Those challenges included work in the weight room.
“One of the biggest things we challenged Stephanie with this year was her strength and she responded,” Hudson said. “Her level of strength definitely skyrocketed from years past and it had a big impact on her overall game.”
Ainsworth’s statistics this season are proof of her commitment to the game.
Going for 17.5 points and 10 rebounds per game, Ainsworth finished the season by averaging a double-double. She also had 2.9 blocks and 1.1 steals per game for good measure.
“Stephanie had a great season for us this year,” Hudson said. “I think the best thing about her is how coachable she is. She never second-guesses her coaches.
“Even in the most adverse times, I remember challenging her and expecting so much even if it may not have been possible. But sure enough, Stephanie took the challenge by the horns and did everything she could to will her way and her teammates to try and be successful.”
Work ethic was another area in which Ainsworth excelled.
“Stephanie has a tremendous work ethic and everything that happened this year is because of all the work and time she continues to put in when no one is watching,” Hudson said.
Howard left an indelible mark on the Fennville girls’ basketball program.
After passing the 1,000-point mark in career scoring during the Never Forgotten Game against Saugatuck in January, Howard finished with 1,222 points to smash the old score record of 1,162 points.
“Coryne had a very successful senior season for us,” first-year Fennville coach Josh Weimer said. “She believed in the process. Every accolade she has been awarded was earned and well-deserved.
“She put the work in. She did her part all off-season, and to see her get the results that she did makes a coach proud.”
Howard finished with averages of 19 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals per game.
Season highlights included a triple-double in a mid-season game versus Grand Rapids Wellspring Prep in which she scored 21 points, dished out 11 assists and snagged 10 rebounds. Howard also scored 31 points in a game against Watervliet and had six other games in which she scored at least 25 points.
Howard was named First Team All-Conference, First Team All-Area for Holland, Honorable Mention for the Grand Rapids Dream Team, BCAM Academic All-State and BCAM Team First Award in addition to the Honorable Mention AP honors.
“I will respectfully say that she should have been Second Team minimum for the AP,” Weimer said.
Consistency was a key for Howard’s success, according to Weimer.
“Coryne was an everyday player,” he said. “She didn’t just wait for the season to roll around to start playing. She knew everyday of preparation mattered, in-season and off-season.”
Howard had those same standards in the classroom, as evidenced by her 4.07 GPA.
“What really makes Coryne special is who she is as a person and what she represents,” Weimer said. “She has been the face of the Fennville girls’ basketball program for the past four years and has represented our program in a positive fashion. She has certainly left it in a better place then when she had found it.
“She also represented Fennville High School in the Be Nice program, which is the mental health foundation of West Michigan. Her regard for others is what makes her special as a player, because when the balls are all racked up and the gym lights are off and its all said and done, that’s what matters most.”