Basketball

Senior guard has Haslett girls in league title race

Sydnee Dennis of Haslett has helped the Vikings rattle off five straight wins.

Sydnee Dennis of Haslett has helped the Vikings rattle off five straight wins.

HASLETT — Sydnee Dennis still thinks about her first varsity season.

Dennis, now a senior on the Haslett girls basketball team, was a sophomore, just getting her feet wet, when the Vikings maneuvered their way to the Class B state championship — a game they lost to Detroit Country Day, 49-41.

And as her ball club continued to push through to the Breslin Center, she saw her role diminish. Dennis understood it, and she used the moment to prepare for what was to come.

“I always looked up to Kenzie DeCook, Makenna Ott, Megan Mowid, Adrianna Stolicker —  all of them helped guide me to where I am now. It was nice to be able to play with them,” said Dennis, who was a role player on the 2014-15 Class B state runner-up team. “I had to change my role (as we got further), but just watching all of my teammates and everything that they did, it helped me.

“I definitely want to go back. Everyone wants to go. And I think it’s something we can do, but we just have to live up to our potential.”

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The three-year varsity guard, who is a captain this season, is now helping to guide the ship, and she has been one of the reasons that Haslett has shown glimpses of its potential in recent weeks.

Getting back to the Breslin would be the ideal send-off for Dennis. The senior will lead the young Vikings into Friday’s key CAAC Red contest with Class A No. 6-ranked DeWitt. The Panthers (16-1, 7-1) handed Haslett a three-point loss in early January, but since then, the Vikings (11-6, 6-2) have won six of their last seven games, including five in a row.

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A win for Haslett would put both teams and Waverly —  if the Warriors defeat Mason — in a three-way tie for the league title. The Vikings have at least earned a share of the championship every year that Dennis has been in high school.

“I don’t think (our potential) has fully been reached yet,” said Dennis, who is averaging just over 11 points per game during the winning streak. “I think some people are stepping up more, we’re working it around more, and we’re getting better shots.

“I think we can still be better.”

Dennis’ final season didn’t start as planned. Haslett started the year 5-5 and the team was trying to figure out its new direction under first-year coach Ross Baker.

Baker said the beginning of the season was challenging for Dennis, as well, as she tried to adjust to becoming the team’s leader and learning a system that was much different than that of former coach Bob Currier.

“Just getting acclimated — new system, new coaching style,” Baker said. “It’s not like she was doing one or two things for us, she was doing five or six things. Sometimes she’s our main ball handler, sometimes we put her on a really good shooter. She has those responsibilities.”

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Baker said Dennis’ versatility has been a critical reason why the Vikings have thrived in recent weeks. She leads the team in steals and blocks. She’s second in points, rebounds and assists.

In addition, the accelerated development of freshman forwards Imania Baker and Olivia Green has given Haslett a solid inside presence to pair with Dennis, who recently signed with Division III Olivet College, and senior sharpshooter Anissa Whims.

Things are starting to come together.

“We go to (Dennis) a lot,” said Baker, who is averaging a team-high 12.2 points. “She knows what we need to do. She knows what should be done to help us (win).”

Contact James L. Edwards III at jledwards@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.

Want to go?

When: Friday (Feb. 17), 7:30 p.m.

Where: Haslett High School

Who: Haslett Vikings (11-6, 6-2) vs. Class A No. 6-ranked DeWitt Panthers (16-1, 7-1)

Price: $5