FHS cagers among top Class B teams in the state
Frankenmuth varsity girls’ basketball Coach Tom Keller sought tough, out-of-conference competition this season to prepare for the MHSAA post season.
The scheduling worked well, until four of the top 10 teams in Class B met in the regional, held at Caro High School.
The Lady Eagles finished a stellar season at 21-3 overall and 14-0 in the Tri-Valley Conference East Division. ‘Muth has won seven straight TVC East titles and have an 82-game winning streak in the league, dating back to 2009.
Frankenmuth’s three losses? Game two and game 13 to TVC Central power and No. 1 regular-season ranked Midland Bullock Creek. The last loss came in the regional semifinal to No. 2 ranked Goodrich. Freeland and FHS were also among the top 10.
In the end, Goodrich lost in the state quarterfinals to the eventual state champion, Detroit Country Day.
Six Lady Eagle cagers earned post-season honors, led by Kendra Kujat. The senior was the leading vote getter for the first-team, All-TVC East and she collected All-State honorable mention status from the Associated Press (AP) and Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan (BCAM). Junior Madison Walter joined her on the All-TVC East first team and also landed on the AP and BCAM All-State honorable mention list.
Juniors Madison Wiskur and Brayene Benner were second-team All-TVC East choices while senior Elizabeth Laux and sophomore Lindsey Mertz were All-TVC East honorable mention picks.
Senior Kendra Kujat led the Lady Eagles with 302 points, 66 assists, and 50 made free throws (out of 93 attempts). She also posted 79 rebounds and 75 steals.
The third-year varsity guard went from being a backup as a sophomore, to first-team all-conference as a junior and finishes as an honorable-mention all-state cager.
“Kendra really worked on her ball-handling skills as a junior and this past off season, worked on her shooting and it really paid off for her and us,” Keller said.
Kujat averaged 13 points a game, was in double figures 18 times this season and scored 20-plus points in district games against Caro and LakeVille. She made 28 three-point shots.
“She really played well in our most important games,” Keller said. “She was our fourth leading rebounder and played the top of our 1-3-1 zone to create chaos with the opponent’s best ball handler. She’s tenacious and has no qualms mixing it up with players bigger than her.”
Keller said Kujat will play collegiate ball next year, however, has not settled on a school as of yet.
Junior Madison Walter finished with 256 points, including canning 47 of 104 trey shots (45 percent). She averaged 11 points a game, and was fourth in rebounds and assists and third in steals.
“Madison is what I call a stat sheet stuffer. She is an unselfish player who we have to tell to shoot the ball. Her 47 threes in the season is close to a school record,” Keller pointed out.
Walter was one of 20 high school cagers selected to compete in a three-point competition during the MHSAA’s state championship weekend. At one time she hit nine in a row and she finished among the top 5-6 in the contest.
Walter scored 27 points against LakeVille and her game-winning treys against Reese and Nouvel Catholic Central. She played with an injured knee most of the second half of the season. Walter, a three-time All-TVC East player, was second on the team with 23 blocked shots.
Junior Madison Wiskur scored 147 points but paced the Lady Eagles with a team-high 78 steals. Wiskur and Kendra Kujat were the only players to start every game this season.
“Madison was our defensive MVP this season. She had her best game of the season with 12 points against Nouvel, which was a signature win that set us up for a strong run this season,” Keller said. “She played great defense on their all-state player. She played tremendous defense, anticipated well and came with high energy.
In a game against Garber this season, Wiskur had 12 steals.
“She has been one of the best defenders we’ve had here in the past 10 years. One college coach told me she could impact a game without scoring a single point,” Keller noted.
Junior Brayene Benner ended her third varsity season scoring 193 points. She led FHS with 203 rebounds, 69 blocked shots and 56 deflections while she was third with 59 steals.
“With Keri (Frahm) out, Brayene definitely had a bigger role to step into as our only true post player. She had 11 games in double figures, scored 19 points against Brandon and pulled in 15 boards against Birch Run,” Keller said.
Benner was named the team’s most improved player of the season – for the second year in a row. Fellow teammate Lindsey Mertz also earned that honor.
“She’s come a long way this year, learning how to finish around the basket with either hand. She communicates well and is a good help-side defender, helping her teammate when she gets beat,” Keller noted.
Because of her growth as a player, Keller was never too worried when playing without Keri.
𠇋ray plays with a ton of confidence and she already has college offers because of her size (6-foot-2) and her athleticism,” Keller said.
Senior Elizabeth Laux was on the varsity four years and dating back to her junior high days as a manager, was with Keller’s program, six seasons.
𠇎lizabeth battled through a bad shoulder and ankle but was a consummate leader and very vocal. She had a very good assist to turnover ratio which was a reflection of her decision making,” Keller said.
Laux’s best scoring game was 11 points against Mt. Morris and she was second on the teams with 65 assists and fourth in steals with 54 while holding down the point guard position.
“She is what I wanted out of a senior point guard. Elizabeth knew her role was not to lead in scoring, but distribute the ball to the scorers. Her strength was communication and leadership,” Keller stated.
Sophomore Lindsey Mertz reached double figures three times this season and finished with 119 points. She was the second best free throw shooter by percentage (29 of 48 for 60 percent) and had 110 rebounds.
“Lindsey played her best game against Goodrich with 15 points and eight boards . . . she played incredibly well. She did a great job for us and it is great that she can build on her successes for next year,” Keller said.
Her season-high total was 17 points against Garber and she shot 44 percent from the floor.
“She’s an intelligent player who really understands what is going on around the court. Now she needs to play with more instinct, play more fluidly and smoother. With Keri back. She’ll probably play more wing next season,” Keller added.
Junior Shayna Schneider dealt with mononucleosis to begin the season, had a relapse around Christmas and finished the season with an injured hand.
“We think Shayna will have a bounce back senior season as we saw glimpses of what she could do this year. She plays scrappy defense and can knock down that open shot,” Keller said.
Junior Kelsie Kujat was a second-year guard who started six games this season at the point position.
“Kelsie is a very good ball handler. When we needed to milk out a game at the end and play keep away, she was in the game,” Keller said.
This year, Kelsie was seen and used as a distributor who did not need to score. Her 49 assists were fourth on the team.
“She passed up open looks this season but we are losing two senior guards. Kelsie will be asked to score more next season and she’ll be the point guard to step in. I’ll give her the keys and let her have at it next season,” Keller stated.
Junior Keri Frahm had a frustrating year, missing her volleyball and basketball seasons due to injury. She was able to play at the very end of the season, scoring 26 points.
“You could see what she brings to the team when she’s back in the line up. With the twin towers on the floor, it is tough on opponents,” Keller said, referring to Benner and Frahm together. “They play AAU ball together and play and feed off each other. The future looks bright next year,” Keller said.
Senior Alyssa Jarlock was a second-year varsity cager on Keller’s squad.
𠇊lyssa matured so much over the past year or two. She came to practice and worked hard every single day and got more minutes. But most importantly, she made us better in practice,” Keller said.
Keller said he was proud of the way the senior led by example.
“She understood her role and it became infectious. She accepted her role and definitely helped make the team what it was,” Keller said.
Sophomore Hannah Karwat was a first-year varsity player who Keller said made the transition from junior varsity to varsity really well.
“Hannah picked things up quickly and never seemed to get overwhelmed by the moment. We started her against Ithaca because of her size,” Keller said. “She plays with grit and is a smart player . . . she has a lot of fun playing the game.”
Karwat led Frankenmuth in free throw percentage (20 of 31 for 65 percent).
For the season, FHS scored 1,290 points. They were 488 for 1,277 from the field (38 percent), including 110 for 392 from the three-point line (28 percent), and 204 for 394 from the free throw line (52 percent). The Lady Eagles recorded 727 rebounds, 442 steals, 340 assists, 268 deflections and 133 blocked shots while committing 397 turnovers and 337 fouls.
With the current TVC East streak at 82, Keller will look to schedule more solid programs next season.
“We won a few close games this year that we may have lost in the past and that was because of our leadership and the fact we are battle tested. We rarely talk about the streak during the season but when it is over, we talk about it as an accomplishment and what it means to our program,” Keller concluded.