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Simmons named All-State

Trojans’ senior selected to AP All-State first team

(Rand Hruska Photo) Forest Park senior Mercedes Simmons shoots in the low post, as Skye Ledzian (left), Chrislyn Inglese, (center) and Kassandra Cary (right) defend during a Skyline Central Conference game on Jan. 21 at the Carl F. Lemin Jr. gymnasium in Felch.

CRYSTAL FALLS — Forest Park senior Mercedes Simmons has been selected to the Michigan Associated Press All-State girls basketball first team, as announced Monday evening.

The Skyline Central Conference Defensive Player of Year and unanimous SCC first team selection, Simmons averaged 19.4 points, 15 rebounds, 3.6 steals and three blocks per game. Simmons was a All-U.P. Division 4 first team selection in 2019 and signed a National Letter of Intent to play at Division II Purdue Northwest in Hammond, Ind.

“It’s a well-earned honor that Mercedes was named to the AP Division 4 All-State first team. Her numbers on the court were outstanding this year,” Forest Park head coach Kim Bjork said. “The majority of our scoring came from her even when she was double and triple teamed she found a way to score. She allowed us to compete with every team we faced.”

Bjork said she is happy for Simmons and other girls throughout the state that are being recognized by the AP, especially given the unusual circumstances the country now faces.

Simmons’ first team selection is the highest state recognition for a Forest Park girls basketball player since Lexi Gussert was named Miss Basketball in 2014.

Senior point guard Briana Smith of North Dickinson earned an a honorable mention on this year’s AP team.

Junior Bree Salenbien of Adrian Lenawee Christian was named Division 4 AP Player of the Year award for the third straight season, a rare accomplishment. Salenbien led Lenawee Christian to consecutive state championships in 2018 and 2019, and is rated as a four-star recruit by ESPN.

Salenbien was joined on the All-State first team by her sister and LC senior Dani Salenbien for the second consecutive year. Joining the Salenbien sisters and Simmons are Saginaw Arts & Sciences senior Amaka Unobagha, Martin senior Faith Guritz, Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes junior Brooklyn Robak and Fowler sophomore Mia Riley.

U.P. players St. Ignace junior Hallie Marshall and Ewen-Trout Creek junior Elise Besonen, as well as Leland junior Olivia Lowe, Fruitport Calvary Christian senior Kelsey Richards and St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran senior Mara Rugen, round out the first team selections.

The second team consists of four U.P. players and one from below the Mackinac Bridge. They are: Ally Schultz, St. Ignace, sophomore; Sophia Vaughn, Engadine, senior; Megan Mattson, Munising, senior; Tessa Wagner, Carney-Nadeau, sophomore; and Paige Kohler, Suttons Bay, senior.

Ubly’s Joel Leipprandt was voted Coach of the Year after leading the team to a 23-1 record, its first league title since 2005 and its first district championship since 2008.

Greg Wickliffe of the Ann Arbor News and the Michigan AP contributed to this story.

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