Fowler vs. Plymouth Christian Academy – – MHSAA Division 4 Girls Basketball Final – – The Bleacher Denizen – – March 19, 2022 – – by Chuck Krafft

I don’t usually start articles this way, but this is the last chance I’ll have to see Mia Riley bring her skilled, competitive and clever approach to a high school basketball floor. She’s a talented player who deserves the All-State recognition she has received. However, this only begins to tell the story about this talented and unique player.

She brings a combination of general athletic talent, quickness, strength and speed to the floor every night. She competes with all she has every moment she is on the floor. She has confidence and creativity on both offense and defense. (Yes, there is creativity on defense frequently exhibited by top players who are quick enough to gamble, but recover to avoid weakening the team defense.)

It has truly been a pleasure to blog her games these last four years. There have been mostly ups, but a few downs along the way as Fowler has chosen to schedule challenging teams that are able to beat them. Of course, they play in the rugged Central Michigan Athletic Conference, which means that they have to face talented Division 3 programs like Pewamo-Westphalia and these last few years, a nearly equally talented Portland St. Patrick team. Any time they have lost along the way, they have grown from the experience.

In Mia’s career, Fowler has only lost one MHSAA tournament game. When she was a freshman, they made it to the final four along with some really aggressive and talented seniors and several other older players. Here is a link to that game.

https://thebleacherdenizen.blogspot.com/2019/03/fowler-vs-adrian-lenawee-christian.html

Since then, the Eagles were about to play in the Regional Final in 2020 when the tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 epidemic. They won the State Championship in 2021.
https://thebleacherdenizen.blogspot.com/2021/04/fowler-vs-bellaire-mhsaa-state-division.html

Mia Riley is a complete high school basketball player. She is an excellent defender and a superlative rebounder who is able to swipe rebounds away from taller players with apparent ease. Her game starts on the defensive end where she can defend anyone at any position with aggression and determination. On offense, she is a skilled passer and a really creative ball handler who can successfully dribble in and out of situations that would overwhelm someone with lesser skills. She is a great midrange shooter who is really skilled at getting to the basket for layups. She can also hit the three point shot.

Mia Riley’s sister, junior Emma Riley is another returning all-State player who is also really competitive, aggressive and determined. She also has a huge number of dribbling moves that allow her to get to the basket to either score or pass to a teammate. On defense, she, like all the other Fowler players is determined and aggressive. She is capable of causing any opponent to turn the ball over at any time. She is a fine midrange shooter who also gets more than her share of layups either by driving to the basket or on the fast break. She also has an excellent shot and when she gets hot from the three point line, Fowler can put points on in a hurry!!

Avery Koenigsknecht and Carly Andros are excellent defenders on the perimeter for Fowler. They both run the floor well for fast break baskets and both of them are strong shooters from the three point line as well. Grace Epkey patrols the middle for Fowler. She is a tough interior defender and rebounder who is quick enough to defend the perimeter as well when it is necessary. She can hit the tough putback and can also shoot from the three point line when her team needs it.

Taylor Weber is a strong perimeter defender who can hit the three point shot. Madison Wirth give Fowler another post defender who is quick enough to add to the Eagle perimeter defense as well. She is yet another Fowler player who can hit the three point shot.

The Eagles from Plymouth Christian Academy bring a 22-4 record into the State Final game. They have already played Fowler once this season; Fowler won that game. I have not seen them play yet this year, but the MHSAA Second Half report gives us this information.

Anna Fernandez averages 17.1 points per game to go along with 6.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.6 steals. Morganne Houk scores 14.1 points a game, pulls down 6.5 rebounds, dishes out 5.2 assists and gets 3.3 steals per game. Hailey Maulbetsch scores 12.6 points per game.

It is now time to review the events of this game through the aging, but somewhat clear lenses of an elder Bleacher Denizen who was never able to escape church league when he attempted to play basketball in the days of yore. The coach was never completely happy when the Bleacher Denizen’s bricks constantly destroyed the peach baskets we used to shoot at back in the day. (Maybe I should have tried to use the inflated basketballs, in retrospect.)

Christian wins the opening tap. Christian misses a ten foot shot off the dribble from the side. Fowler misses a layup. Grace Epkey hits a putback to give Fowler the first points of the game. (Alas, because both teams are called “Eagles” I can’t toggle forth between school name and nickname to make the reading less choppy.) Morganne Houk passes to Madison Yeager, who hits a layup for Christian to tie the game at 2-2.

Avery Koenigsknecht passes to Mia Riley, who drives and hits a layup for Fowler. Hailey Maulbetsch is fouled on a driving layup and hits one of her two free throws for Christian. Fowler loses a pass out of bounds. Anna Fernandez hits a twelve footer off the dribble to give Christian a 5-4 lead.

The Riley Connection comes through for Fowler as Emma Riley passes to Mia Riley, who throws in a threeball from the top of the key to give the lead back to Fowler. Christian misses a driving layup. Hailey Maulbetsch knocks the ball away from Fowler and Sophia Arlen-Olsen picks it up for Christian. Avery Koenigsknecht hits the floor to steal the ball for Fowler. Fowler misfires on a threeball from the wing and fouls on the rebound.

Grace Epkey blocks a Christian shot; the ball goes out of bounds and Christian gets it back. Mia Riley gets her hand on the ball to cause a Christian traveling violation. Fowler misses a layup; the rebound goes out of bounds and Christian gets the ball. Christian is whistled for a three second (in the lane) violation. Fowler misses a three point shot from the side.

Christian misses a three point shot from the wing. Fowler misses a three point shot from the side. Taylor Weber gets the offensive rebound for Fowler. Morganne Houk blocks a Fowler threeball from the side. Fowler recovers the ball. Grace Epkey passes to Emma Riley, who scores her 999th lifetime point on a three point shot from the side that pushes Fowler to a 10-5 lead. (If everyone else can salute point number 1000, there is no reason for me to discriminate about 999!!!)

Christian misses a layup. Fowler misfires on a three point attempt from the top of the key. Christian misses a sixteen footer from the wing. Fowler misses a twelve foot shot in the lane. Grace Epkey gets the offensive rebound for Fowler. Fowler misses a layup; Christian fouls on the rebound. Fowler misses a threeball from the side. Taylor Weber knocks the ball away from Christian and Mia Riley ties the ball up for Fowler. The Possession Arrow looked up from its knitting in time and saw the play; the ball is awarded to Fowler.

Hailey Maulbetsch blocks a Fowler shot. Grace Epkey steals the ball for Fowler. Avery Koenigsknecht is fouled on a shot and makes one of her two free throws to give Fowler an 11-5 lead with 28.3 seconds to play in the first quarter.

Christian misses a jump shot from the free throw elbow. Anna Fernandez steals the ball for Christian, but there is no time to shoot.

After one quarter, Fowler has an 11-5 lead.

Christian inbounds the ball to start out the second quarter. Morganne Houk is fouled on a driving layup and hits two free throws for Christian. Madison Wirth whips a cross court pass to Taylor Weber, who throws in a threeball from the side for Fowler. Christian misses a layup. Emma Riley passes to Mia Riley, who fakes a dribble and hits a layup to give Fowler a 16-7 lead.

Mia Riley steals the ball for Fowler. Fowler misses a ten foot shot from the baseline. Madison Wirth gets the offensive rebound for Fowler. Fowler misses a ten foot shot in the lane. Grace Epkey draws a charging foul from Christian. Fowler misses a layup. Grace Epkey grabs the offensive rebound; Fowler misses a three point shot from the side. Hailey Maulbetsch passes to Anna Fernandez, who hits a three point shot from the wing to cut the Fowler lead to 16-10.

Fowler misses a three point shot from the side. Morganne Houk takes the ball coast to coast for a layup that trims the Fowler lead to four points. Emma Riley passes to Grace Epkey, who hits a ten foot shot in the lane for Fowler. Anna Fernandez drives and hits a layup for Christian to trim the Fowler lead to 18-14.

Fowler misses a driving layup. The rebound goes out of bounds and Fowler gets another opportunity. Fowler misses a three point shot from the wing. Christian misfires on a threeball from the top of the key. Fowler misses a jumper from the free throw elbow. Christian misses a driving layup. The Bleacher Denizen misses seeing the ball go in the basket. Fowler breaks up the sequence and throws a pass out of bounds. Christian misses a ten foot shot off the dribble from the side. Mia Riley passes to Taylor Weber, who hits a three point shot from the wing to boost Fowler to a 21-14 lead.

Christian throws a pass too high and it sails out of bounds. Mia Riley is fouled on the rebound and hits both ends of a one and one free throw opportunity for Fowler. (I admit I’m not sure; the basket was on the other side of the floor and I can’t say if Mia was shooting or not.) Either way, the two points give Fowler a 23-14 lead with 1:37 to play in the first half.

Taylor Weber blocks a Christian reverse layup. Mia Riley drives, fakes and scoops in a layup for Fowler that probably only she could make. Christian misses a three point shot from the top of the key. Avery Koenigsknecht passes to Grace Epkey, who hits a layup for Fowler. Christian misses a ten foot shot in the lane at the buzzer.

Fowler takes a 27-14 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Anna Fernandez leads the Christian scoring at halftime with 7 points.

Mia Riley has 11 points for Fowler and Grace Epkey has 6 points.

As the readers can’t hear the halftime entertainment, my “Chuck Krafft” You Tube Channel has agreed to send some good vibrations to both teams!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3482fQh0Rdo

The third quarter is ready to start. The scoreboard shows that Fowler still has its 27-14 lead. I’m always amazed at how the people consistently make sure halftime leads are put in place at the start of third quarters! The mind boggles – – –

Fowler has the ball to begin the fourth quarter. Mia Riley drives and hits one of her patented leaning, scooping layups for Fowler. Anna Fernandez passes to Morganne Houk, who hits a three point shot from the side for Christian. Emma Riley gets her 1000th point on a driving layup. She is fouled on the play and scores her 1002nd point on a free throw that pushes Fowler to a 32-17 lead with 6:55 remaining in the third quarter.

Hailey Maulbetsch is fouled on a driving eight foot shot from the baseline. She hits one of her two free throws for Christian. Grace Fernandes steals the ball for Christian. Anna Fernandez is fouled on a driving, scooping layup and hits two free throws to tri the Fowler lead to 32-20 with 5:58 to go in the quarter.

Fowler misses a fifteen foot shot from the baseline. Morganne Houk goes coast to coast for a Christian layup. Fowler misses a jump shot from the free throw elbow. Mia Riley gets the offensive rebound for Fowler. Fowler misses a threeball from the side. Carly Andros pulls down the offensive rebound for Fowler. Fowler misses a layup. Christian misses a layup. Fowler misses a jump shot from the free throw line. Avery Koenigsknecht steals the ball for Fowler. Mia Riley passes to Grace Epkey, who hits a layup, is fouled and makes her free throw to give Fowler a 35-22 lead with 3:48 left in the third quarter.

Anna Fernandez passes to Morganne Houk, who throws in a threeball from the side for Christian. Morganne Houk steals the ball and passes to Anna Fernandez, who hits a fast break layup for Christian to shave the Fowler lead to 35-27.

Fowler misses a three point shot from the corner. Taylor Weber gets the offensive rebound for Fowler. Mia Riley passes to Madison Wirth, who hits a three point shot from the wing for Fowler. Madison Yeager passes to Morganne Houk, who hits a three point shot from the wing for Christian. Carly Andros passes to Madison Wirth, who hits a big three point shot from the corner to respond to Christian. Fowler leads 41-30.

Madison Wirth steals the ball for Fowler. Fowler throws its too fast break outlet too far and the ball flies out of bounds. Anna Fernandez drives and hits a layup for Christian. She is fouled and makes her free throw. With 1:23 to play in the third quarter, Fowler has a 41-33 lead.

Anna Fernandez knocks the ball away from Fowler and Morganne Houk picks it up for Christian. Christian missess a three point shot from the side. Grace Fernandes gets the offensive rebound for Christian. Christian misses a three point attempt from the side. Mia Riley passes to Taylor Weber, who strokes a three pointer from the wing for Fowler. Christian misses a half court heave at the buzzer.

With three quarters in the books, Fowler has a 44-33 lead.

Christian inbounds the ball to get the fourth quarter underway. Anna Fernandez is fouled on a driving layup and hits two free throws for Christian. Emma Riley drives in and hits a layup for Fowler. A Christian ten foot two point basket is called off as the shooter was fouled before the shot. Christian misses the first shot in a one and one free throw opportunity. With 6:51 left on the clock, Fowler has a 46-35 lead.

Anna Fernandez knocks the ball away from Fowler. Alivia Lavigne passes to Anna Fernandez, who hits a layup for Christian. Mia Riley passes to Avery Koenigsknecht, who hits a layup for Fowler. Christian misses a three point shot from the side. Emma Riley passes to Avery Koenigsknecht, who is fouled on a layup and hits two free throws to boost Fowler to a 50-37 lead with 5:31 remaining in the game.

Anna Fernandez passes to Madison Yeager, who hits a ten foot shot off the dribble from the side for Christian. Anna Fernandez and Madison Yeager team up to knock a Fowler pass into the lane out of bounds. Fowler gets the ball back. Fowler misses a three point shot from the side. Carly Andros gets the offensive rebound for Fowler. Fowler misses a layup. Emma Riley hits a putback to give Fowler a 52-39 lead.

Christian misses a driving layup. Fowler reciprocates and misses a driving layup. Mia Riley steals the ball for Fowler. Morganne Houk reciprocates and steals the ball for Christian. Hailey Maulbetsch passes to Morganne Houk, who is fouled as she shoots a layup. Morganne Houk hits one of her two free throws to trim the Fowler lead to 52-40 with 3:28 remaining on the clock.

Fowler loses a pass out of bounds. Christian misses a ten foot hook shot. Alivia Lavigne gets the offensive rebound for Christian. Mia Riley steals the ball for Fowler. Emma Riley is fouled and makes one of two free throws in a one and one opportunity for Fowler. Christian misses a layup. Emma Riley is fouled and makes one of her two free throws to give Fowler a 54-41 lead with 1:54 to go.

Christian misses a layup. Fowler is fouled, but misses the first shot in a one and one free throw opportunity. Carly Andros puts back the missed free throw for two Fowler points. Christian misses a jump shot. Anna Fernandez knocks the ball away from Fowler and Christian takes the ball. Christian is whistled for an over and back violation. Emma Riley is fouled and hits one of her two free throws to give Fowler a 57-41 lead with 1:01 remaining in the contest.

Anna Fernandez throws in a threeball from the top of the key for Christian. Emma Riley is fouled and makes one of two free throws for Fowler. Christian misfires on a triple try from the side. Grace Epkey is fouled and hits one of her two free throws to boost Fowler to a 59-44 lead with 39,9 seconds to play.

Christian misses a three point shot from the top of the key. Mia Riley is fouled and makes two free throws for Fowler. Anna Fernandez makes a layup for Christian. Fowler dribbles out the final eighteen seconds on the clock to win by a 61-46 final score.

Congratulations to the Fowler Girls on two consecutive state championships!!

Christian’s Anna Fernandez led all scorers with 23 points. Morganne Houk chipped in with 17 points. Madison Yeager added 4 points and Hailey Maulbetsch had 2 points.

Mia Riley lead the victorious Fowler State Champions with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists. Emma Riley contributed 14 points. Grace Epkey pitched in with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Taylor Weber put in 9 points. Madison Worth scored 6 points. Avery Koenigsknecht put in 5 points. Carly Andros added 2 points.




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