The North Farmington bench cheers on their team during a matchup against Bloomfield Hills High School on Jan. 30 at North Farmington High School.

The North Farmington bench cheers on their team during a matchup against Bloomfield Hills High School on Jan. 30 at North Farmington High School.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Raiders retool in fight for OAA White title

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Farmington Press | Published February 5, 2024

 North Farmington first-year coach Michael Allan looks on during his team’s 47-32 win over Bloomfield Hills.

North Farmington first-year coach Michael Allan looks on during his team’s 47-32 win over Bloomfield Hills.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


FARMINGTON HILLS — When first-year North Farmington girls basketball head coach Michael Allan earned the position following the resignation of Jeff Simpson, who controlled the Raiders sidelines for nine years, he did what any coach would do to prepare for the upcoming campaign.

Allan sat down with a team roster and analyzed game film from the past season to get an idea of the strength and weaknesses of the team.

As Allan began watching and being impressed by certain players, his excitement quickly turned to disappointment.

“I watched some of their film and had the roster from (the Michigan High School Athletic Association), and I knew they had gone 22-1, but I’m watching the point guard and getting her number: ‘Oh, she’s graduating,’” Allan said. “The shooting guard, No. 3: ‘Oh, she’s graduating.’ The post player, No. 22: ‘She looks good. Oh, she’s graduating.’ It was every girl right down the list. To be honest, I entered it expecting a bit of a rebuild, and I even mentioned that in the interview process to make sure we were all on the same page with our expectations.”

The Raiders’ unbeaten and league-winning regular season in 2023 was quickly ended in a district finals loss to Farmington Hills Mercy, and a slew of talented seniors graduated soon after.

With a rebuild in mind and still trying to figure things out heading into this season, North Farmington took everyone by surprise when they jumped out to a 7-2 start, outscoring opponents 454-291.

Since their hot start, the Raiders dropped four straight before putting an end to the losing skid in their most recent matchup, a 47-32 win over Bloomfield Hills Jan. 30.

Allan said the team felt the pressure of continuing last season’s success but said their successful start added onto the expectations.

“I think there was a little bit of a weight from that (22-1 season) and the fast start we got off to this season,” Allan said. “I, myself, was guilty of it when I was expecting a rebuild and then suddenly, ‘Hey, we’re 7-2. Here we go.’”

North Farmington now sits at 8-6 on the year, which is still ahead of any rebuilding schedule, and it’s courtesy of a core group of seniors continuing on the leadership mentality.

Senior forward and first team All-Oakland Activities Association honoree Hannah Hart leads the veteran group as a four-year varsity player.

Hart can do just about anything asked of her on the court, facilitating, defending and scoring whenever needed.

But when she was called upon to step up vocally, Hart answered and has been firing up the team, even when she’s on the sidelines.

“She’s been the best leader for the group,” Allan said. “On and off the court, she’s level headed. She makes the right play. She makes the aggressive play. She stays positive and supportive of her teammates. Just Tuesday night (Jan. 23), she got injured in the second quarter and tried to give it a go, but wasn’t able to. She was the biggest supporter from the bench as anybody. She sets the tone when it comes to leadership and expectation.”

Then there’s senior Asiyah Jihad, who’s really come into her own this season as the Raiders’ leading scorer, averaging 17 points per game and arguably the most improved player in the OAA this year.

Jihad was more of a role player her junior season, but Allan said her skill-set has elevated to another level.

“It’s a quiet demeanor, but she’s a great leader along with Hannah Hart in that category,” Allan said. “She really just sets the tone for our team on offense and on defense. She’s really skilled where she can score from the inside and outside.”

Jihad was one of a handful of varsity players to take part in the Northwood team camp this season alongside her younger sister, freshman forward Qiyaamah Jihad, and freshman guard Lucy Nemeth.

The team camps are designed to build a form of team chemistry as North Farmington players stay in dorms, eat meals together and play several games against other participating teams.

Asiyah Jihad said she felt her game improved from the summer workouts.

“I think we worked more on our skills, and he’s (coach Allan) helped me develop more as a player,” Asiyah Jihad said. “I’m usually in the post, but I can play more positions now.”

Seniors Anaya Billups, a Detroit Edison transfer her junior season; Nahja Bradley; and Amara Gatson have all been consistent contributors for the Raiders this season.

As a 6-foot guard, Billups’ impact speaks for itself on the defensive end as she’s quick to turn steals into transition baskets.

“Her skillset is off the charts,” Allan said. “It’s some of the most amount of talent you’ll see at the high school level. The sky’s the limit for her abilities.”

North Farmington will look to get back on track with the heart of their OAA White schedule slated to begin.

The Raiders currently sit tied for fourth with a 1-2 league record, trailing first place Harper Woods, who has a 2-0 league record.

There’s a healthy amount of the seasons still left, and Allan said he feels his team is in the right mindset.

“We’re starting to remember where we set our goals, which is to improve every day and do as much as we can to win games along the way,” Allan said.