The Mason High School girls’ basketball program had great team success from the mid-1980s through the early 2000s, but the talent never came together better than during the 1999 season. The team, which included six future collegiate players, compiled a 23–2 record and captured Mason’s first-ever Capital Circuit championship as well as a district championship.
On Sept. 22, the 1999 girls’ basketball team will join the 1962 boys’ basketball team as the two team inductees in the Mason High School Athletic Hall of Fame 2017 class.
The teams have more in common than just their hall of fame recognition this fall. Fast, defensive-minded, and unselfish, both tormented their opponents with full-court pressure that led to lopsided victories for the Bulldogs. Both teams also hold the Mason record for longest win streak in a season at 21 straight.
“When I became the varsity coach in 1998, I knew we had the talent to be very successful,” said Marcy Kinzer, coach of the 1999 team. “But it wasn’t until I worked directly with the kids that I learned just how good we could be.”
Kinzer had joined the basketball program the same year that her seniors entered the program as freshmen, making the 1999 season a special one to cap off a four-year journey they had all made together.
Front Row (left to right): Katie Wiseman, Kristin Haynie, Lucy DeMartin, Mary Hilker, Kylee Luce, Sandi Oesterle, Back Row: Head Coach Marcy Kinzer, Sarah Teachout, Julee Woolston, Meghan Thorburn, Kate Verseput, Emily Hogberg, Ruthie Box, Assistant Coach Christie Hursey, Assistant Coach Dan DeMartin.
In the 1999 season, the Bulldogs returned four starters from the previous year in which Mason posted a 20–4 record. The Bulldogs recognized the biggest tests on the schedule would be the top-rated Lansing Everett Vikings and the league rival Okemos Chieftains, the team that handed Mason three of its losses the previous year.
Mason faced Everett first in the third game of the season, falling 79–68 in a high-scoring affair. Following that loss, however, Mason won eight straight games, which set the stage for a battle of state-ranked league rivals. Mason, the No. 8-ranked team in Class A, was the underdog to the undefeated and No. 4-ranked Okemos.
“We had lost to Okemos three times the year before and I remember that being a big goal—beat Okemos as many times as possible,” said senior Lucy DeMartin, who usually led the team in scoring. It was, however, her partner in the backcourt, junior Kristin Haynie, who scored a then-career best 36 points in a convincing 72–47 win.
More than a month passed before the two teams faced off again. Between the two contests, Mason extended its win streak to 16 consecutive games and climbed to the No. 5 ranking in Class A. Mason was winning and winning big—defeating opponents by an average of 27 points per game over the season.
When they faced Okemos in a rematch in the last game of the regular season, the Bulldogs clinched Mason’s first-ever Capital Circuit championship with a 75–52 victory. The victory also gave Mason a mental edge, knowing that Okemos would likely be a district matchup.
Lucy DeMartin splits two Okemos defenders. DeMartin helped lead the Bulldogs to the school’s first Capital Circuit league championship
Before Mason could face Okemos, however, the team had a tough opening-round matchup against a Howell team that had been ranked in the state throughout the season. Mason dodged an upset with a 56–51 victory. Senior Sandi Oesterle stepped up in the close contest, finishing with a double-double of 10 rebounds and a career-high 25 points.
Mason met Okemos in the next game, winning the third matchup of the season—just as Okemos had done the previous year. Awaiting Mason in the final was Pinckney, and the Bulldogs ran away with the district championship, 50–27.
The Bulldogs opened regional playoff competition with a narrow victory over Grand Ledge, 45–38, and advanced to face Lansing Everett in a rematch against the only team to have defeated them that season. The regional final matchup was a huge draw for the Lansing area. With Mason, 23–1 and ranked fifth in the Associated Press Class A poll, facing top-rated Everett with a 24–0 record, 4,800 spectators poured into Don Johnson Fieldhouse for the marquee matchup.
Mason fell behind early by 15 points in the first quarter but locked up defensively and slowly battled back over the next two quarters. Late in the third quarter, the Bulldogs tied the game on a basket by freshman Meg Thorburn but could never get the go-ahead basket. With two Mason starters fouling out in the final quarter, Everett ran away with a 69–50 win and went on to win the Class A state championship.
Haynie soars in for a basket during the 1999 season.
Despite the loss, Mason had put together a remarkable season. The 23 total wins and the 21-game win streak are both school records that have yet to be broken. For fans it might be Mason’s first Capital Circuit league championship and a district title that stick in their minds, but for the players it was the camaraderie they shared.
“I think the best thing about this team is that we truly enjoyed each other, both on and off the court,” said DeMartin. “We had a lot of fun together.”
“Off the court, we were always having team parties and bonding with one another,” said Haynie. “On the court, it didn’t matter who shot the ball or who scored the points, which made playing with this team so fun.”
“The 1999 team was a unique collection of talented, hardworking kids and supportive families,” Kinzer said. “It was a privilege to coach this group and to work alongside Dan DeMartin, who taught me so much as a young varsity coach. He and Don Fackler were great coaching mentors.
“The players, Coach DeMartin, and I formed close bonds,” she added. “The kids affectionately called me ‘Mama G,’ and I was honored to have earned that title.”