- Associated Press - Thursday, March 13, 2014

St. Ignace has produced its share of winning girls basketball teams and players.

Senior Kelley Wright now headlines the list of Saints players for career wins. A four-year varsity starter, Wright has helped the Saints to a 101-4 record, two state championships and a state semifinals finish. The Saints (23-2) are back in the semifinals again, and play Thursday.

Wright is the Associated Press Class C Player of the Year.

Wright’s versatility allows her to play any position. An ability to read defenses and collect steals is perhaps her leading strength. She is also the Saints career steals leader with 555, ranking second in the MHSAA record book.

“Kelley has tremendous instincts,” Saints coach Dorene Ingalls said. “Her anticipation sets her apart. We call her ‘Little Larry Bird.’ She steps up and gets the key steal, delivers the perfect pass, makes the big shot. She just has that knack for making the right play at the right time.”

McBain junior Meredith Hamlet was the only other unanimous selection to the AP Class C All-State team. Hamlet, along with Blissfield senior Claire Denecker and Flint Hamady junior Aaliah Hill, also received Player of the Year votes.

New Buffalo senior Jade Madison, Reese junior Reyna Frost, Lincoln Alcona senior Karina Cole, Mendon senior Brook Howard, Saginaw Nouvel Catholic senior Rachel McInerney and Grosse Pointe Woods Liggett junior Lola Ristovski received enough votes from a 10-person panel to earn a spot on the AP first-team All-State team for Class C.

A 5-foot-10 senior guard/forward, Wright passed Krista Clement as the Saints’ career-wins leader. Clement (Miss Basketball in 2003) led the Saints to a 99-5 record.

Wright, who has signed with Youngstown State, averages 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.7 steals and 4.2 assists. She had 1,526 career points through the quarterfinals.

Coming into a program that already had two state championships (1999, 2000), Wright helped add two more (Class C 2011, Class D 2013). Wright joined the starting lineup as a freshman and learned from players such as Nicole Elmblad and Grace Wheeler.

“I’ve been lucky to have great coaches and great teammates,” Wright said. “Grace and Nicole were seniors when I came in as a freshman. I couldn’t have asked for better players to learn from. Grace taught me how to play tough, Nicole taught me how to be a leader. I’ve tried to learn from all my teammates along the way.”

Wright says the thing she’s improved most in her game over the last four years is to be a better communicator.

“I was really quiet as a freshman, just trying to fit in,” Wright said. “Not anymore. Talking on the court is so important. To be the best team you can be, you have to talk to your teammates, and get everybody working together toward a goal.”