With the fourth quarter of the Regional Finals beginning, the Schoolcraft girls basketball team found itself down by 10 points to Bronson at Homer High School. The Eagles were behind from the first minute of the game, but had a simple game plan. “Coach told us we needed to win the first 3 minutes,” explained senior Amber Overley. Not only did the Eagles win the first 3 minutes, they outscored Bronson 20-3 over the next 8 minutes to earn Schoolcraft’s first Regional Championship, 39-32.
Lydia Goble and Gabi Saxman finished the game with 12 points each. Kennedy Leighton was the star of the game. It was her defense – along with Sophie Woodhams and Goble – that enabled Schoolcraft to make the dramatic comeback. As Bronson fought to stay ahead, then to retake the lead it was Wynn Stitt, Madison Saxman, and Overley that took over the paint. The victory sets up a quarterfinal matchup with Pewamo-Westphalia at Portage Northern on March 14th at 6:30.
The Friends of the Schoolcraft Community Library sponsored its third annual Tournament of Writers this past fall. Altogether, 36 writers ages 10 to over 90 submitted entries in three categories: poetry, fiction and nonfiction.
A diverse group of 11 judges read the entries during the month of November and in December, the winners were announced during a special ceremony held at the Schoolcraft Library. Kathleen Forsythe’s memoir “My Father’s Blessing” took Grand Prize. She is from Vicksburg and teaches English in the high school. Her remembrances of a loving father and picking up rocks to clear a field were heartwarming, the judges said.
“We’re living in an unprecedented time where publishing is in the reach of everyone. That alone changes the dynamic for writers who may have felt stymied to develop their skills outside of journaling just because the publishing aspect was so steep an obstacle,” said Debra Christiansen, the tournament organizer.
The number of writers has grown since the first year when there were 19 entries in all. In the second year, there were considerably more entries, 71, probably because of an article in Encore magazine. “This presented more of a hardship on the judges than anything else, but it did serve to broaden our exposure,” she said.
“This past year was much more manageable, and the competition will probably continue to develop with a core group of authors, as well as grow with new author entries. We added a cover art contest in the second year, and in this our third year, we added a Super Senior division for those over 70. Since we have five age divisions and three literary categories, a writer has a chance to win simply by entering because we’re still in the process of getting enough entries in certain age divisions and literary categories,” she said. “That’s OK. That may inspire a writer to say, ‘Hey, I want to do this,’ and be rewarded for their effort.”
A few years ago, Christiansen took the opportunity to turn her 90-year-old mother-in-law from a scrap paper poet to a published author. The time they spent together, editing and arranging her book gave her new purpose. She was literally (and figuratively) reborn. “This joy and elation over being a published author is what I wanted to share with the community to encourage others to present their works and develop their skills. The writers’ tournament and judging serves to provide deadlines and challenge the writers to finish and perfect their pieces, not to mention create the excitement of winning.”
“I’m not one of the judges, so I don’t really get to go through the entries until I’m putting the book together. I set up the judging the way I did because that’s the way the public would judge the work – did they like it? Was it interesting? And sometimes – was it legible? We’re an area of small towns. We have local flavor. We know each other. This competition reflects that. In fact, when I first pitched the idea, no one wanted to judge (or even felt qualified) because they felt they would be able to recognize their neighbor’s work,” she said.
Some of the writers have taken part since the beginning. She said she is grateful that they took that leap of faith. One of the teen writers, Rachel Hostetler, is an example. Her family rescues animals, but beyond rescuing them, these animals are transformed. This competition has allowed Rachel to be a voice for them. Her entry this year in fiction displayed a mature writing technique of switching points of view from paragraph to paragraph, and it works. Poet Mark Lego is Christiansen’s Kalamazoo Gazette carrier. He has placed in the senior poetry category and won the cover contest two years in a row.
“Christine Webb came aboard our second year with a group of her students and took Grand Prize. This year, she convinced her mom and dad to enter. That’s really what this competition is all about – writing, being brave enough to submit your words, and generous enough to encourage others to do the same,” Christiansen said.
Entries from the tournament are now available on Amazon in “Small Town Anthology III.” Winners received cash prizes and a gift certificate to Kazoo Books. They will also receive a copy of the published book. Schoolcraft Library recently hosted a book signing for all the winners.
“We work hard at being good stylists, so our clients leave the shop with great looking hair,” said Stacey Peck who has recently opened the Beauty Bar at 224 North Grand Street in Schoolcraft. “I believe the beauty industry is not cookie cutter, as everybody is different and should be treated as such.”
Thus, the services she offers at the Beauty Bar are very different. They range from the standard haircut, perm, coloring, updo, nails and pedicure, to microblading. She has assembled a staff of friends who include Tesia Rhoad, specializing in vibrant color, and Carmen Kline, the nail technician.
Rhoad and Peck are both Schoolcraft High School graduates, while Kline is a Vicksburg native. All bring their own clientele into the business with the latter two renting their chair or space from Peck.
The most spectacular of the offerings is microblading, a trendy new tattoo related service. Peck learned the technique while training in Salt Lake City and living in Wyoming. This is a new beauty area that she says is spreading rapidly through the Midwest. It involves eyebrow enhancements that are semi-permanent and requires Peck to have a tattoo-licensed facility.
Because the Beauty Bar is located right next to Bud’s Bar in Schoolcraft, it’s easy to come in for a haircut and also stop in for a beverage next door, Peck said with a chuckle. Kline cited the good location as a reason for her deciding to locate in Peck’s building. She also works part-time in Kalamazoo doing message and nails at Relaxology. “I appreciate the flexible hours Stacey allows so I can keep busy at both locations. She’s a good businesswoman.”
Rhoad says Stacey is a good non-boss. “She cares about the industry, is laid back, yet wants to do a good job and excel at her business. I was excited to come here and join her.”
Their hours vary but generally the Beauty Bar is open from Monday through Saturday, some weekends and evenings and accepts walk-ins where possible. To make an appointment, call 269-762-0238.
The Schoolcraft Village Council approved a major water rate increase at its early February meeting to fund replacement of an aging water main.
The big focus is the replacement of a 100-year-old water main running from the well house along Cass Street to Center Street. With a recommendation by the water committee, trustees approved two 13 percent increases, the first taking effect over the next two years. The Council noted it will be 26 percent overall when accounting for inflation.
The issue of the aging water main has been something the council has wanted to address for at least the last decade. “If it breaks, we’re in big trouble,” President Keith Gunnett said, noting there would be no pressure for fire hydrants, and customers could be left without water.
He also said the Council is feeling some increased pressure from the state to make these kinds of required improvements to aging infrastructure. The approval also increases the payment grace period from 15 to 20 days and increases the late fee to $15.
The Council also interviewed candidates for two vacant council seats prior to the meeting. School board treasurer Kathy Mastenbrook and 33-year resident and active community member John Stodola were selected to fill the vacancies.
Stodola brings a long history of volunteering in many community and youth sports programs to the table. “I was taught to serve when I was brought up,” Stodola said. “This is the next step for me.”
Personally, he finds it increasingly important to make the village better for his children and grandchildren. Stodola is interested in working more on the village vision planning project for community development. He had already been invited as a citizen to be a part of the project.
“The more input we get from citizens, the better that’s going to turn out,” he said.
Mastenbrook becomes the second council member to serve a dual role with the Schoolcraft school board along with Michael Rochholz. While she knows it’s important to keep the school and village separate, she believes it will also help to build relationships and communication between the village and schools.
She said she wants to help Schoolcraft thrive.
“It’s a transition to continue community service at a broader level besides education,” Mastenbrook said.
As for something she’d like to work on as a council trustee, Mastenbrook noted the increasing number of aging residents in the village, people she deals with daily as a Life and Health Department Assistant at Ayres-Rice Insurance.
To help these residents, she would like to have discussions about the possibility of a senior housing complex in the future, perhaps working in collaboration with Vicksburg.
The other interviewed candidates, Joe Beck, Don Hunt and Kirk Bergland will be considered for a position with the Planning Commission. Gunnett praised all the candidates for their interest, noting other communities struggle to find interested parties for council trustee positions.
“This is really good seeing that we had five people to pick from,” Gunnett said.
State Superintendent of Education Brian Whiston will be in Schoolcraft on March 9 from 8:30-10:30 a.m. to visit its three school buildings. His goal is to visit every school district in the state during his tenure. He has several other appearances scheduled over two days in southwest Michigan. Rusty Stitt, Schoolcraft superintendent and president of the Michigan Association of School Administrators for Region 7, is pleased to host Whiston and begin a dialog on how the state can help small schools in the future.
At the February school board meeting, Finance Director Rita Broekema pointed to renewal of a three-year 1.5-mill county-wide school enhancement millage on the May 2 ballot, asking the board if they want to take a position on it. “Schoolcraft is a winner district in the amount of money received. In the past, it has been used solely for capital projects. The voters in Schoolcraft have voted twice to defeat the millage and once to pass it in the three times it has been on the ballot. “It is a significant piece of revenue for the district,” Stitt said. The board decided the best thing to do is to talk factually about it to anyone who asks but not to spend any money to promote it.”
The millage was approved last in 2014. If renewed, it would cost the owner of a home with a taxable valuation of $50,000 $75 per year. The tax provides more than $300 per student to the county’s nine school districts.
Middle School Principal Dave Powers hosted the board meeting and presented a video prepared by the students with the many learning opportunities at the school highlighted. He went through the work being accomplished on the school improvement progress report including the following:
• He said they are looking for 40 percent growth or better from where each student started the school year.
• The consolidation and addition of the 5th grade to the Middle School has been a seamless activity and positive cultural reality, he said.
Matt Webster reported on strategic goal results for the Elementary School for the first semester.
• “Having every student under one roof is serving us well. Kindergarten is being supported and delivering instruction in many new ways, meeting the students more so than in the past,” according to Webster.
• Every child eligible for intervention in math is getting help and CARE volunteers have logged over 200 additional hours for reading instruction for students and teachers.
In the High School, Principal Ric Seagers reported that an active parent advisory council is recommending changes to class rank and athletic conduct. He also cited great student growth in reading capabilities.
Jeanine Mattson, special education consultant from KRESA, presented data on Schoolcraft students in special needs classes. The school system has 95 students with Individual Education Plans with a compliance rate of 99 percent. “We want the kids to get everything they need at whatever level they can attain,” she said. The graduation rate for all students in this program in the county is 78 percent and Schoolcraft is up to 87 percent. “It reflects well on the community,” she said.
In 2011, the Schoolcraft boys’ basketball team went undefeated and won the Class C Championship. Six years later, the Eagles basketball team is again poised for a long post-season run. Currently ranked 12th in Class C, the 17-1 Eagles are entering the State playoffs on a 13-game winning streak.
The Eagles offense has generated impressive numbers. During the current winning streak, Schoolcraft has been held to less than 60 points just once in a 58-56 victory over Kalamazoo Christian. The Eagles have averaged 76 points since the January 10th loss to Kalamazoo Hackett when the offense only scored 39 points.
Schoolcraft is not a one-dimensional offense. Caleb Eustice is clearly the top long-distance shooting threat, shooting 45.2 percent from three-point distance. It was Eustice’s three-point basket with 20 seconds left in the first half at Christian that gave the Eagles the first lead of the night. He delivered the game-winning shot with less than 30 seconds left. Teams that focus too much on Eustice find out quickly that the Eagles back court is more than a one-man show. Max Kulczyk (7.6 points per game on 42 percent shooting) and Ricky Clark (13.7 points per game on 52 percent shooting) can take over a game.
The Eagles post players have really stepped up their game over the last month. Jason Feddema, Matt Schuppel, and Blake Bales have played outstanding defense while adding needed baskets. They have averaged almost nine rebounds per game.
While the offense has gotten the attention of the fans, it’s the defense that has made the difference. The Eagles have given up an average of 39 points in the last 13 games. During this streak, only Christian and Vicksburg have scored more than 50 points and five teams have been held to less than 30 points.
How deep Schoolcraft plays in March will be determined by its ability to get contributions from the deep bench. When the Eagles beat Vicksburg 82-73, Eustice hit 4 early three-point shots (on his way to a game high 29). Vicksburg spent the rest of the game focused on Eustice, which freed up Clark to score 20 points, and Riley Piper added 12.
The victory over fourth ranked Kalamazoo Hackett shows how far these Eagles have come this season. During the 50-39 loss, Teddy Oosterbaan and Heath Baldwin dominated the paint, scoring a combined 29 points. Schoolcraft generated a total of 10 points from the post. The rematch on February 21 was a complete flip of this script. The Eagles held the lead from start to finish, and Feddema, Schuppel, and Bales never allowed Oosterbaan (6 points) to impact the game. While not eligible to play during the loss due to transfer rules, Eustice scored 22 in the win. Kulczyk added 14 points, Clark 8 points, and Feddema 7.
Nothing will come easy to Schoolcraft once the playoffs begin. It is likely that the Eagles will face Hackett once more. The winner of that game may end up with the Championship trophy on March 25 at the Breslin Center.
The Schoolcraft girls’ basketball team continued a successful season into District Playoffs. The Lady Eagles, 14-5 on the season, beat White Pigeon 48-17 in the first post season game.
Schoolcraft has used defense to set up the offense all season. Head Coach Doug Flynn rotates players early and often to keep fresh legs on the court. This style of play has allowed the Eagles to take early leads and hold off opponents. White Pigeon was just the latest victim of Schoolcraft’s suffocating defense. The Chiefs’ first eight offensive possessions ended in seven Eagle steals and one blocked shot. A 16-0 first-quarter score turned into an easy Eagle victory.
How deep the Eagles play into March will be dependent on how consistently the offense plays. In losses to Galesburg Augusta and Hackett, early leads turned into deficits late in the game. The Eagles averaged 50.5 points in victory, only 33.8 in the five losses.
Schoolcraft’s defense has been led by Kennedy Leighton, Madison Saxman, Sophie Woodhams and Gabi Saxman. If a team can push the ball up court against this group, they encounter strong post play from Wynn Stitt, Amber Overley, and Morgan Warnaar.
Lydia Goble has powered the Eagles’ offense all season. Whether draining three-point shots or driving the lane, Goble is the player that opposing defenses must stop. However, Schoolcraft is not a one-person team. Leighton, both Saxmans and Stitt have led the team in scoring. Concentrate on any one player too much, and her teammates can hurt you. White Pigeon found this out when it lost 8 points to Woodhams and 5 to Overley.
Schoolcraft must bring its best effort in the District Semi Finals, where it will face Centreville (19-1 on the season).