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Life and Basketball Merge as Renaissance Girls Team Pursues State Championship Dreams

UPDATED AT 4:15 P.M. EDT 4-9-21: Congratulations to the Renaissance girls varsity basketball team for their runner-up finish in the state championship game vs. Hudsonville. #DPSCDProud

When the Renaissance High School girls basketball team took the court today (Wed. 4-7-21), for its state tournament semi-final game vs. Wayne Memorial, few in the schools’ community could have predicted the road taken by the team to arrive at this moment.

One year ago, the Phoenix girls were among the favorites to capture a state championship. Sadly, that dream was fouled out with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in the cancellation of all athletic events as well as having DPSCD students move to online learning as a safety precaution last spring.

Flash forward to the 20-21 school year and the start of a new basketball season. Once again, the pandemic played havoc, delaying the opening tip until February along with learning to play while wearing a mask, a necessary safety measure invoked by the state to help fight the pandemic. Yet there were still more hurdles to overcome.

The Renaissance girls did not play a chunk of their season, when several games were cancelled due to COVID-19 safety concerns. Despite it all, the senior laden Phoenix—the “sisterhood” as they affectionately call themselves—have persevered. The team has rolled through the early rounds of the state tournament, defeating a number of schools, including perennial power Farmington Hills Mercy, to land a spot in today’s state semi-final against another renowned team, Wayne Memorial, holder of a 17-2 record. The winner of today’s semi-final will earn a spot in the state championship game this Friday, also at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, MI.

“It’s been a difficult, challenging, yet rewarding trip to get to Breslin,” said Renaissance girls basketball varsity head coach Olaseni (Shane) Lawal. “A big part of why we are able to see the finish line is due to our leaders and the safety protocols in place. Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it. We hope to represent DPSCD well. Phoenix Rise!”

As much as the Renaissance girls are renowned for their basketball skills (at least four of the teams players have signed Division I basketball scholarships) while others have also been offered athletic scholarships, the young ladies are representative of DPSCD’s Whole Child Commitment priority. 13 of the 14 team members are on the honor roll. In addition, several of the student-athletes are involved in service activities such as being on the school yearbook as well as participating in Upward Bound.

“These young ladies are role models. They are kind, compassionate and have a joy for learning and working hard,” said Renaissance Principal Vernyda Stoughter. “Coach Lawal has done a great job with this team with keeping them focused and ready.  His energy and enthusiasm for the young ladies goes unnoticed.  Each of these young ladies is deserving of this position and I know will represent the District and Renaissance High School well.”

Whether the Renaissance girls basketball team wins a state championship in the next couple of days, pales in comparison to what they have gained in learning to live through anticipation and disappointment while at the same time practicing perseverance, grit and determination, life lessons that will endure well beyond the basketball court.