Spring can wait as Standfest, Elk Rapids eager to add to winter success

Feb. 18—ELK RAPIDS — Winter weather has been rather mild in northern Michigan this basketball season.

Many are thinking of spring, and those who play soccer are already thinking about the upcoming season.

Make no mistake. Elk Rapids' Kendall Standfest is not one of them.

Standfest has all kinds of unfinished business ahead of her before she starts thinking about what used to be her favorite sport. The high-scoring senior point guard is focused on capturing at least a share of the Lake Michigan Conference championship and a long postseason run in March.

Onlookers in northern Michigan wouldn't be surprised if she has March 23 circled on her calendar — the date of the Division 3 finals at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.

Among the most prolific scorers in Elk Rapids history, Standfest has become quite familiar with postseason success in both basketball and soccer — and as a team leader for both.

She shares the basketball leadership role with senior and longtime teammate Morgan Bergquist. Standfest is averaging better than 19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks a game. And Bergquist contributes nearly 15 points per contest.

"I have referred to them as 'Batman and Robin,'" Elk Rapids head coach Mike Brown said. "We need both of them at all times because come playoff time, people are going to try to take away their game and make other people step up."

Elk Rapids is 17-2 overall and 11-1 in league play. Two wins came in overtime. The lone league loss was to Harbor Springs, the team sharing the conference lead. The Elks bested league foe Boyne City on Friday and battle Kalkaska on Tuesday and East Jordan on Friday. A road title against Kingsley will finish the regular season.

Then the fun starts again.

Postseason action begins with district tournament play at Johannesburg-Lewiston. Other possible opponents are Charlevoix, East Jordan, Mancelona and Traverse City St. Francis. B

y playoff time, Elk Rapids will have seen all but the host Cardinals.

The Elks reached the quarterfinals last year before losing to eventual Division 3 champion Hemlock, 52-37.

"Hemlock was a really good team. They could do it all," Brown said. "Our goal ever since that game has been to get back to the Breslin Center."

Standfest, too, is excited about the Elks' potential, and she looks forward to seeing how far they go this year.

"Our team is coming together and playing really well," she said. "The ultimate goal is definitely to get to the Breslin, but first districts obviously and regionals."

Standfest also has enjoyed tremendous success on the soccer pitch and as a top-notch cross-country runner. She's headed to Michigan Tech to play basketball next season, and she took this past fall off from high school sports to focus on hoops — now her "definite" favorite sport.

"It used to be soccer, but that stopped a while ago, and it has been basketball ever since," Standfest said.

Standfest has been a key player and big scorer for the Elks soccer team, which also has enjoyed great postseason runs reaching the Division 3 semifinals the last two years. They lost to eventual champion Hudsonville Unity Christian in both.

Standfest, who has a chance to reach second on the school's all-time scoring list, always draws the opposing team's best defender — if not the best overall player. She relishes the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with such challengers.

She already has battled Manton's Lauren Wilder, Lake City's MacKenzie Bisballe and Harbor Springs' Olivia Flynn. All fairly safe bets to make the 2024 Record-Eagle Girls Basketball Dream Team

"I enjoy playing against better competition because I think honestly I play better most of the time," said Standfest, known as "Kenny" to her teammates. "It gives me a sense of pride to beat 'em or do something good against them."

Brown, who took over the Elks program in 2018 after heading up the freshman and JV teams for six years, enjoys watching those battles.

"Kendall played AAU, and a lot of those girls did too; so it is fun to watch them go at each other," he said. "Kendall is always guarding their best player."

But Brown knows it takes more than his two senior leaders to win consistently.

"It is a team sport," Brown pointed out. "Everybody has to fill their role. We've got some up-and-coming sophomores. We are kind of peaking and playing well as a team."

Should opponents key in on the Elks' dynamic duo, those likely to step up are sophomores Brooke Fluty, Rhielynn Skrocki and Anna Pray along with junior Hunter Shellenbarger.

Brown also notes he's enjoyed watching the Elks grow into strong contenders and really loves the individual improvement.

"It is really nice when you see these kids get it, and they improve and they're having fun," Brown said. "These kids made coaching basketball rewarding."