Third-quarter run propels Big Rapids girls basketball over Chippewa Hills in district opener

DISTRICTS: Big Rapids’ Kaitlyn Ray drives the lane on Monday. (Pioneer photo/Ryan Zuke)

DISTRICTS: Big Rapids’ Kaitlyn Ray drives the lane on Monday. (Pioneer photo/Ryan Zuke)

REMUS — Big Rapids’ girls basketball team advanced to a Division 3 district semifinal on Monday with a 62-37 victory over host Chippewa Hills.

After sophomore Payton Ethridge opened the second half with a 3-pointer to give the Warriors a 27-26 lead, the Cardinals ended the third quarter on a 27-5 run to gain control.

“At halftime, I told them they have to want this,” Big Rapids coach Jessica Haist said. “There’s not time to just sit around because it is one and done. They definitely responded and definitely came out well in the second half. I thought they made some really big hustle plays that turned the game around.”

Junior Aliza Hengesbach powered the offensive attack, scoring 14 points in the third quarter. She finished with 26.

“I think we realized if we lost, we were going to be done for the season,” Hengesbach said of the second-half rally. “I think that really amped us up. I knew we could do it.”

The first half, however, was a much different story than in the first two meetings this season.

After the Cardinals jumped out to a 25-8 halftime lead en route to a 48-26 win on Feb. 23, the Warriors hung much tougher on Monday.

Chippewa Hills continued to answer every Big Rapids field goal with a basket of their own. The Cardinals also struggled from the free-throw line, hitting just 3 of 18 in the first half.

“I’m really happy with my girls,” Chippewa Hills coach Lenny Starck said. “I thought they played really hard. When we play with that kind of effort, we give ourselves opportunities. We got a little tired in the second half and Big Rapids found another gear, so give them credit, they are a good team.”

Kaitlyn Ray scored 14 points for the Cardinals (15-5), while Maddie Tassoni added nine points.

Grace Issette led the Warriors (4-16) with seven points.

The team is graduating just one senior, Taylor Thomas.

“We have 10 core girls back who all saw the floor,” Starck said. “We’re really young, but if we have a good summer, I think we can do well.”

Big Rapids plays Central State Activities Association rival Reed City on Wednesday. The Cardinals won both previous matchups this season, but by a combined 12 points.

“You don’t like to play anybody three times,” Haist said. “You know each other’s tendencies, you know each other’s players. We have to go to work Tuesday night (at practice), have to get better than we were tonight.”


Posted by Ryan Zuke

Ryan is the sports editor for the Big Rapids Pioneer, covering local prep sports and Ferris State athletics. He can be contacted at (231) 592-8363 or

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