Ava Doetsch and Lexie Robak met in kindergarten and became teammates in second grade.
In the sixth grade, they were assigned to the eighth-grade team at Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes and had three straight unbeaten seasons.
As freshmen, they earned starting spots on the varsity and have never lost their final game of a season.
Doetsch, 5-feet-4, and Robak, 5-7, are starting guards again and hope to finish their basketball careers with one more state title.
Robak, who averages 17 points, likely will attend Michigan State but has no plans to play basketball. Doetsch (15.4 points) will play soccer at Nebraska-Omaha.
But another title would make them the first girls in state history to start on four championship teams.
“That first one was a long time ago,” Doetsch said.
“Yeah,” Robak said. “We’re old.”
Willie Betts is the only boy to start on four state championship teams when he played for legendary Lofton Greene at River Rouge in 1961-64.
When Doetsch and Robak reached high school, they joined their older sisters — Lauren Robak was a junior and Alexis Doetsch was a senior — to become part of a rock group of sorts.
“We called ourselves the RoDoes,” Ava said. “We were ‘The RoDoes and Meghan,’ Meghan Topolewski was a junior at the time. That was by far my favorite memory out of all of them. It was me and my sister and her and her sister.”
Then, Doetsch and Robak were support players but played key roles.
The two were prepared to play on the varsity as freshmen because in the eighth grade they served as water girls for the varsity and occasionally practiced with the team.
When their freshman season began, the pair expected the Lakers to do well.
“We knew we were going to be a really good team,” Robak said. “The year before, they got to the quarterfinals and lost to Mooney, and they were all upset. That’s when we said we were not going to get back to the quarterfinals and lose.”
But as freshmen they were almost in a fantasyland, oblivious to the pressures of a long state tournament run.
“The whole trip there, all the games, it was just another game,” Doetsch said. “We didn’t think about it. We were freshmen. We understood, but when you look back now, you understand it was a pretty big deal.”
The biggest deal in the state that year was Central Lake’s 6-3 junior Jasmine Hines. A Lakes-Central Lake final seemed inevitable until Adrian Lenawee Christian upset Central Lake in the semifinals.
Lauren Robak led Lakes with 19 points in the 48-43 victory over Lenawee ChristianLexie scored 10, and Ava added nine points and six rebounds.
Doetsch is a terrific soccer player, and those skills have made her an outstanding basketball defender.
“I remember the blonde girl,” Doetsch said. “She was really feisty. I was guarding her, and on one play she was really irritated with me because she wasn’t getting any points. I was behind her, and she just looked and popped her elbow right in my face. I got a bloody nose and had to go out for a minute.”
When she returned, it got even better.
“Another time, the same girl, I stole the ball from her and went running with it — there’s a picture online if you Google my name — she has my jersey from behind,” Doetsch said. “She like ripped me down.”
As sophomores, there was no escaping Central Lake and Hines, who had become the state’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
The teams met in the semifinals, and Lakes trailed by four at halftime as Hines was on her way to a 23-point, 11-rebound performance.
But Lakes made Hines work for her points and frustrated her at times. Hines fouled out early in the fourth quarter, and Lakes pulled away for a 52-41 victory, with Lauren Robak scoring 18 points and Lexie 13.
“Their whole objective was to get the ball to Jasmine Hines,” said Doetsch. “So we stuck two people on her, and the other three of us would man mark the other four — kind of like zone them. If they couldn’t get her the ball, they couldn’t score.”
Bark River-Harris was the opponent in the championship game, but it was anticlimactic with Doetsch scoring 13 points and Lexie Robak 11 in a 53-35 victory.
“We watched their game before we played Central Lake and we kind of knew,” Robak said. “All the papers were talking about our (semifinal) game was the championship game. We were the two good teams.”
As juniors, the girls looked forward to a semifinal with Portland St. Patrick, which has won six state championships. Even the faculty at Lakes was looking forward to that game.
“Mr. (Harry) Miller, he’s our history teacher,” Robak said. “He taught my aunts and my dad. He’s been here like forever. He said he’d give us extra credit if we beat St. Pat’s.”
Lakes did beat St. Pats, 54-44, with Doetsch scoring 14 points and Robak adding eight points and nine rebounds. But there was a down side to the victory.
“He never gave us extra credit,” Doetsch said of Miller. “You can put it in there. He never gave us extra credit.”
Two days later, Lakes had its third consecutive title as Doetsch scored 13 points and Robak 12 to highlight a 53-37 win over Athens.
Overseeing the pair for these four years is coach Steve Robak, Lexie’s dad, who appreciates the talents the pair brings to the team.
“Lexie is very calm out there,” he said. “She knows where people are supposed to be and how the game is supposed to work. She’s got a really good shot and seems to find herself, generally, in the right spot. She has good instincts.”
Doetsch’s instincts are at their best on defense, where she has been frustrating opponents for four years.
“Ava is a freak of nature in terms of athleticism,” the coach said. “I think she’s as fast as any player we’ll play. She’s unbelievably strong. She could have played college basketball, but she’s a soccer star. Defensively, there’s no one better than Ava.”
But the two bring more to the team than a ton of points. They exude confidence and can put their teammates at ease.
“The thing about Lexie and Ava is kind of laughable if you looked at it over the years,” he said. “It’s as if they could care less that it’s a state championship game. They truly weren’t nervous. They were joking around and hiding in the locker room before the game. It was nothing different than what they did the whole year.”
Despite winning the past three Class D state titles, Lakes (14-2) is ranked No. 2 behind unbeaten St. Ignace (17-0), which dropped from Class C this year.
Coach Robak said there are several teams that could keep Lakes from getting to the Breslin Center and a matchup with St. Ignace in the finals.
“I’d love the challenge to play them, and so would our girls,” he said. “I don’t see anyone on our path that I don’t think we can’t beat. It’s just a matter of how well we play. I still like our chances. We think we can get there and do something pretty special.”
Making it even more special would be the distinction of starting on four state championship teams. But that is not what drives Robak and Doetsch.
“We like their ice cream store,” Doetsch said.
Ice cream store?
“We’ve been there a few times when we visit the capitol,” Robak said. “Every year if we win the state championship we go up to the capitol to get like a little award, and then we go to the ice cream store after for a treat.”
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.