2018-02-08 / Sports

Young stars show no signs of slowing down

Lowe, Hazelton among county’s up-and-coming underclassmen
By Jay Bushen
Sports Editor


LELAND FRESHMAN Olivia Lowe recorded another double-double Tuesday with a 19-point, 10-rebound performance in a home loss to St. Mary. Lowe now ranks third among all Leelanau County girls in scoring with 12.6 points per game so far this season. LELAND FRESHMAN Olivia Lowe recorded another double-double Tuesday with a 19-point, 10-rebound performance in a home loss to St. Mary. Lowe now ranks third among all Leelanau County girls in scoring with 12.6 points per game so far this season. What do 1,000-point scorers Garett Miller, Savannah Peplinski and Thomas Hursey have in common?

All three got started early.

The 1,000-point club is somewhat exclusive in that way. It usually takes more than two varsity seasons — and some serious longevity — as well as a willingness to shoot the rock.

So which underclassmen have a shot to join the club in the next few years?

It all starts with Leland freshman Olivia Lowe, who is averaging better than a double-double per contest. Lowe emerged as the top threat for Leland after top scorer Mollie Grishaw went down with an ACL injury just one game into the 2017-18 campaign. She’s putting up 12.6 points per game.

“She plays incredibly hard all the time and never gives up on a play,” coach Ryan Knudsen said. “Because of that, she excels on both sides of the court. The combination of her offensive and defensive impact on a game is not something you see in many players, regardless of age, and it’s going to be fun watching her continue to grow.”

Lowe’s most recent double-double came Tuesday against visiting St. Mary: 19 points and 10 rebounds.

St. Mary coach Pete Finch noticed.

“She’s one of the most naturally gifted players I’ve seen,” Finch said.

She’s currently on pace to eclipse the 250-point benchmark by season’s end.

So, too, is Glen Lake sophomore forward Reece Hazelton.

Hazelton has been money for the Glen Lake boys this season, reaching double figures in 12 of 13 games. The lone exception was a 27-point win at Suttons Bay on Friday in which he logged just seven minutes.

“His word of the year is consistency,” coach Rich Ruelas said. “He just wants to be a consistent force and bring it every night. He’s done that. It starts in practice and carries into games. He works his tail off. He’s really been able to play at all three levels — outside, inside and the mid-range game. I’ve been impressed, and defensively I’ve challenged him quite a bit.”

Hazelton has done most of his damage from beyond the arc, particularly from the left wing. As a result, he’s tied with senior teammate Cade Peterson with the fourth-highest scoring average among Leelanau County boys, 14.2, and is on pace to enter his junior season with more than 400 points in his career.

Similarly, North Bay sophomore guard Paige Kohler continues to ascend up the county scoring ranks.

Kohler scored 40 total points in games against Glen Lake and Frankfort last week, upping her average to 12.2 points per game. She isn’t bad defensively, either, registering more than five steals on a handful of occasions.

“She has the gift of speed,” North Bay coach Jim Champion said. “That’s her strongest asset. She is one very fast young lady. She goes full speed every second she can, and she’s in great shape. One of our two best ball handlers and a good shooter.”

The Leland boys, meanwhile, hold the distinction of being the only county team with two freshmen up on varsity. It’s not due to low participation, either.

The kids can play.

JJ Popp is proving it, averaging 7.3 points as a pass-first point guard.

“JJ is the first freshman I’ve ever brought onto the team from the get-go,” Comets coach Jon Kiessel said. “His game is really mature for being so young. He has incredible court vision.”

Recent addition Gavin Miller, meanwhile, has put up 28 total points in his first five games (5.6 average). Miller is the younger brother of reigning scoring champion Garett Miller.

“Those two have played together since first grade,” Kiessel said of the freshmen. “That duo should be fun to watch over the years.”

Other underclassmen to keep an eye on: freshman point guard Hailey Helling of Glen Lake (6.6 points per game), sophomore Zavier McKillip of St. Mary (6.5) and sophomore Lucas Mikesell of Suttons Bay (6.4).

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