50 years of MHSAA Girls Basketball State Tournament

Posted on 03/01/2024

During half time of last night’s varsity girls basketball game between Grand Rapids Christian and Unity Christian, we honored two basketball teams that were part of a history-making season, the girls basketball teams of 1973 from Grand Rapids Christian and from Unity Christian. 

The Title IX law of 1972 opened the door for many changes, especially in women’s athletics. The first year of post-season tournament play in MHSAA girls basketball was in 1973. At that time girls basketball was a fall sport, so the tournament was played in November. We celebrated these teams because they were integral parts of history, playing in that very first MHSAA Girls State Tournament. 

The Unity Christian Crusader team had a final record of 17 wins and only one loss, with an average winning margin of 17 points. Competing in the MHSAA Class B state tournament, the team marched through the districts, including avenging a regular season loss to rival Holland Christian. Their closest challenge in the remaining tournament games was in the State Finals, but the Crusaders prevailed over Saginaw Douglas McArthur by four points and won the first-ever Class B Girls State Championship. Congratulations to the 1973 Unity Christian girls basketball team for their accomplishments. Representing the Crusaders last night was Sue Lyzenga, retired Athletic Secretary at Unity Christian. 

The Eagles girls varsity basketball team of 1973 had a very memorable season, setting standards for future Eagle teams. The only regular season loss for the Eagles, a 1-point deficit to City League opponent Creston High School, meant sharing the City League title. All of the other regular season games were dominated by the Eagles, winning by an average of over 25 points per game. 

In the MHSAA tournament, competing in Class A, the Eagles marched through the Districts and first Regional game continuing their dominance. In the Regional Final game the opponent was once again Creston. This time the Eagles were victorious, avenging the earlier loss by the same margin of 1 point. A 4-point win in the Quarterfinals and a 9-point victory in the Semifinals earned the team a spot in the inaugural Girls State Class A Championship game. A tough Detroit Dominican team ended the Eagles’ season with disappointment, but the 1973 team made history as the first girls basketball team representing Grand Rapids Christian High to play in the MHSAA State Championship game. They ended their excellent season with a record of 19 wins and only 2 losses. 

The players are thankful to all who embraced the expansion of women's athletics and for recognizing these historical moments of achievement in women's high school sports.

Two members of the Eagle team have passed on: Kris Keegstra and Nancy Sweetman. 

Unable to be here for the celebration were Jan VanderMolen, Debbie Visser and Coach Mary Afman. 

Members of the Eagles team that were present and their 1973 jersey numbers:

12 Jan Slotsema
13 Diane VanderWerp
15 Brenda Heeren
20 Joan VanderHenst
22 Ruth Nyholt
25 Mary VanderWoude 
32 Debbie Broene 

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