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Four area girls basketball players make Michigan AP All-State First Team in Division 3

Apr. 2—YPSILANTI — No one hates to lose more than Stephanie Utomi.

After enjoying a Division 3 state championship as a sophomore at Ypsilanti Arbor Prep in 2022, Utomi experienced the disappointment of not returning as a junior the following year.

So, with one season remaining in 2024, the Mercer signee was determined to end her high school career back on top of the D3 landscape.

Utomi did just that by leading the Gators to a second state title in three years and added the honor of being named Division 3 Michigan Associated Press girls basketball Player of the Year in the process.

Joining Utomi on the All-State First Team are four area ballers, including MacKenzie Bisballe and Alie Bisballe from Lake City, Kendall Standfest from Elk Rapids and Olivia Flynn from Harbor Springs.

Utomi was as consistent as they came for the Gators as she averaged 12.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.1 steals, 2.9 assists and 1.2 blocks per game for the 25-4 state champions.

"It's very shocking because it wasn't even in the back of my mind," Utomi said of the honor. "What was in the back of my mind was winning a state championship. So, to hear that I got such an achievement is mind-boggling."

Not only did ending her senior year with another title motivate Utomi, but the extra push from her twin sister Stacy also helped fuel Stephanie's competitive spirit.

"The fear of failing, that's always been it," Stephanie said. "People always say your biggest competition is yourself and that's true to a certain extent. With Stacy, the two of us just push each other to be great."

Arbor Prep coach Scott Stine knew from Utomi's mindset this season that she would be hellbent on leading the team to another title, so it was no surprise to see her claim POY honors and her third consecutive first-team all-state nomination.

"Everyone wants to win, but she hates losing so much," Stine said. "She does not want to lose, so whatever it takes to win, she's going to do."

It took a laser focused Utomi for the Gators win this season as they weren't the usual Arbor Prep team that could score 80 points and roll past teams.

Instead, Arbor Prep relied on Utomi's leadership on both ends of the floor and her will to be successful to reach the top of the state rankings.

"The biggest thing would be her leadership and her being able to not only get the most out of herself but to never be content with her teammates not giving their best," Stine said.

With two state championships and a Player of the Year award, Utomi has solidified herself among the best from Arbor Prep and the standout player couldn't be humbler about her accomplishments.

"It's very rewarding," Utomi said. "To be in that conversation is like, wow."

The rest of the all-state team includes Kalamazoo Christian's Jordyn Bonnema, Genesee's Averie Zinn, Ypsilanti Arbor Prep's Taylor Wallace, Blissfield's Avery Collins, Sanford Meridian's Halen McLaughlin and Gladstone's Lillie Johnson.

The Coach of the Year is Josh Hood of Niles Brandywine.