Mona Shores girls basketball team perseveres for outright OK Green title

What a wild ride the 2020-21 season has been for the Mona Shores girls basketball team.

By the end of it, the Sailors ended up where they wanted to be all along: Atop the OK Green Conference standings, and as outright champs to boot.

Mona Shores rolled past visiting Holland Saturday morning in the Sailor Center, 76-49, to earn at least a share of the conference championship. That’s a season-high point total for the Sailors (12-3, 11-3 OK Green), who were led by senior Riley Rosenthal’s career-high 29 points.

Friday night, Muskegon lost on the road to Zeeland East, 49-39, so the Big Reds (10-8, 10-4) lost their opportunity to earn a share of the OK Green title. Saturday afternoon, Wyoming lost at home to Reeths-Puffer, 40-39, so the Wolves (10-6, 10-4) missed out on a chance for their share.

As a result, Mona Shores ended up alone at the top.

“Absolutely crazy” how it worked out, Mona Shores coach Mike Phillips told MLive in a text message. He elaborated upon his thoughts in an email.

“Unbelievable for these kids. They have stayed committed to each other and the process of getting better — through the shutdown, extensions and disappointment,” said Phillips, whose squad lost the last two Thursdays to Reeths-Puffer and Muskegon to tighten up the conference-title race but regrouped each time.

“Exciting wins this season and disappointing losses.  Through it all, they stayed positive, never complained and held each other accountable. I couldn’t be happier for them.”

The 2020-21 Mona Shores girls basketball team poses for a group photo after beating Holland, 76-49, to clinch the OK Green Conference title Saturday, March 20, 2021, at the Sailor Center in Norton Shores, Mich. (Courtesy of Molly LeRoux)

This is Mona Shores’ first conference title in girls basketball since the 2016-17 season under Brad Kurth, who is now the Sailors’ boys basketball coach.

The leadership core of Mona Shores’ basketball team – Rosenthal and fellow seniors Brooke LeRoux and Bri Wade, plus junior Olivia Sobczak – also played key roles on the Sailors’ OK Green Conference champion volleyball squad in the fall.

Rosenthal scored her 29 points in 25 minutes of playing time. Her six 3-pointers tie a school record.

“Riley Rosenthal had a performance for the ages,” Phillips said about the 5-foot-10 wing. “Final game of her career in the Sailor Center and finished with a career high of 29 points in 25 minutes. Went 6 for 8 from behind the arc along with six rebounds. What a day to have a career night with a conference championship on the line.”

Sobczak added 13 points for Mona Shores, while sophomore Ali Phillips scored nine. Juniors Lily Miller and Mia Brown added seven points apiece.

The Sailors scored 21 points in the first quarter and 25 in the fourth, including a 25-7 margin in the final period to put the game away.

Mona Shores girls basketball midnight practice

Mona Shores girls basketball coach Mike Phillips observes drills during a midnight practice Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in the Sailor Center at Mona Shores High School in Norton Shores, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | DeCamp |

Ellie Zomer scored 14 points to pace Holland (1-15, 0-14), while Shanise Dawson had 11 and Angel Smith 10.

The start of the high school basketball season was delayed two months because of the coronavirus pandemic. It resulted in a condensed schedule, which featured as many as three games per week and limited practice time.

Once practice was allowed to officially resume on Jan. 16, Mona Shores wasted no time: The Sailors held a midnight workout to set the tone for the season.

It’s been a gradual climb for Mona Shores under Mike Phillips’ watch. The Sailors went 5-15 in his first season as varsity head coach in 2018-19, then improved to 11-10 last year.

Now, they enter district play in the coming week as conference champs. Mona Shores will play the winner of Monday’s Grand Haven vs. Reeths-Puffer game at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a Division 1 district semifinal at Grand Haven.

“The seniors that have been with me since they were sophomores — through all of the losses and growing pains — they understood what it was going to take to win and bought in to what we were doing,” he said. “And now, they have the opportunity to go out as OK Green Conference champs.”

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