20-0 Just Start for Senior-Driven Ravenna

March 4, 2020

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half

With 20 seconds remaining in Tuesday night’s victory, the Ravenna student section started chanting:

“Undefeated! Undefeated!”

That was about as wild and crazy as the Bulldogs got after a truly historic achievement – moving to 20-0 and wrapping up the first-ever perfect boys basketball regular season in school history with a 71-51 victory over host Fruitport Calvary Christian.

Afterward in the locker room, one of the players wrote the following message on the whiteboard:


“That’s been our philosophy all year,” explained first-year Ravenna coach Courtney Kemp, whose team is ranked No. 5 in the final Associated Press state rankings. “I remember seeing 0-5 and 0-6 up there. We want to play with the humility, the hunger and the sense of urgency of a team that is desperate to get a win.”

The Bulldogs know they have accomplished something truly special on the hardcourt, an achievement that will be talked about in the small farming community in eastern Muskegon County for years to come.

They also know that they can’t afford to celebrate it right now, as they will be hosting a grueling Division 3 District, starting with a third showdown on Monday against West Michigan Conference rival North Muskegon (14-5). If they survive that, stern tests loom against a pair of tournament-savvy teams in Kent City and Muskegon Western Michigan Christian.

“It’s a season to remember, for sure,” said 6-foot-5 senior center Jacob May, who scored a team-high 21 points with five rebounds in Tuesday’s regular-season finale. “It’s been a blast. Our goal was to put a banner up in the gym and we got that conference title, but we can’t be satisfied with that.”

May is one of five senior starters who rose above some early setbacks to win the school’s first boys basketball conference championship in 40 years and first outright WMC title in 47 years. It was the school’s third boys basketball championship in 51 years in the WMC.

The perfect season becomes more impressive when you consider that the team lost its coach in June, when Justin Johnson left after five years to take the same job at Division 1 Muskegon Mona Shores. Johnson, whose teams won a combined 16 games over his first three years, guided the ‘Dogs to a breakthrough 15-7 finish last year and their first postseason win in more than a decade.

In August, star guard Josh Cox suffered a serious knee injury in the season-opening football game against Hopkins. Then in November, 6-5 senior Grant Parker learned he needed surgery and decided not to play basketball to recover in preparation for his college football career at Saginaw Valley State.

The ‘Dogs have never used any of those losses as an excuse, instead wearing down one opponent after another with their deep, senior-laden roster.

The strength of the team is a versatile front line of three seniors – May (14 points, nine rebounds, two blocked shots per game), 6-4 Calvin Schullo (14 points, five rebounds) and 6-4 Hunter Funk (nine points, 8.5 rebounds, four assists).

Kemp, who served as Ravenna’s junior varsity coach under Johnson, also brings good length off the bench in seniors Jack Emery (6-3) and Dom Mabrito (6-2) and junior Joel Emery (6-1).

The backcourt is in the hands of senior football standouts Connor Kilbourne and Trevor Sterken, with sharpshooter Dom Jones coming off the bench.

“They are all so competitive,” said Kemp, who like Johnson before him, played high school basketball at Unionville-Sebewaing. “Our depth is one of the biggest reasons for our success, which makes a huge difference in games and in practice. These guys go at each other hard every day, and it makes them better.”

That depth was on display Tuesday against Fruitport Calvary, which came out on fire from long range but ultimately couldn’t keep up for four quarters. May and Schullo were the only two Bulldogs in double figures, but 10 of the team’s 12 players scored.

Ravenna’s quest for perfection was tested during four consecutive road games in mid-February. The Bulldogs edged Wyoming Potter’s House on Feb. 11, then survived their closest call with a 54-52 win at North Muskegon two days later. Next came Ravenna’s most impressive win, a 70-36 overwhelming of neighboring rival Muskegon Oakridge on Feb. 18, followed by a win at Scottville Mason County Central to improve to 17-0.

Schullo said one of the biggest motivators was a pair of heartbreaking losses on the football field – during the regular season against Oakridge and a season-ending loss to Montague in the Division 6 District championship game.

“They took it from us in football, so we were determined to get it back in basketball,” said Schullo, who scored 13 points Tuesday.

The challenge now for Ravenna is to exhale, momentarily, and enjoy a historic hardcourt achievement at a school known statewide for football – boasting MHSAA Finals championships in 1994, 1996, 1997 and 2003 – while simultaneously preparing for a tough District where everyone will be out to hand the Bulldogs their first loss.

“It sounds funny to say, but we still don’t feel like we’ve accomplished anything yet,” said Kemp, who is assisted by Andy May and Tim Jones. “That has to be our mentality because teams are going to be gunning for us next week. We can celebrate 20-0 later.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Ravenna’s Jacob May attempts a free throw during a win this season. (Middle) Calvin Schullo operates the offense under the watchful eye of Bulldogs coach Courtney Kemp. (Photos courtesy of the Ravenna High School yearbook staff.)

Little Provides Major Stride as 1st Woman to Officiate Boys Hoops Final since 1995

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

April 13, 2023

Delonda Little was already a trailblazer to many before this year’s MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals.

Greater DetroitBut what happened last month at Breslin Center made her even more of one on a statewide level.

A referee and assigner for 20 years in the Detroit area, Little is a female boys and girls basketball official who mentors both male and female referees – no matter the gender or level, as she officiates high school and college games.

Officials often go to Little for guidance, direction and assignments, which has made her respected for years throughout Metro Detroit in the prep basketball community. Then, her status as a trailblazer grew even more.

Little was assigned as an official for the Division 3 Boys Basketball Final between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis, and she became the first female referee to officiate an MHSAA Boys Basketball Final since Traverse City’s Barb Beckett 1995.

“It was a very good feeling to know I was the one selected,” said Little, who officiated the Final with Matt Olson and Zach Porritt.  

In fact, while attending a Semifinal game the Friday before the Final, Little received a phone call from an area code she didn’t recognize.

She answered, and it was Beckett.

“At first I didn’t know the name,” Little said. “I said, ‘No, I don’t know you, but that’s fine.’”

Beckett then explained she was the first female referee to be assigned a Boys Basketball Final, and just wanted to offer support to Little.

At that point, Little became excited and thankful she answered the call.

“It was very nice to hear from her because she wanted to reach out and if not pass the torch, to congratulate me,” Little said.

Little, 51, said she found out she was going to be refereeing the Division 3 boys championship game just before the start of the postseason when she received an email from the MHSAA.

“I’m looking at the email and I’m like, boys?” Little said. “I was shocked.”

But she was shocked in a good way, and obviously excited for the honor.

Little monitors the action between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis.Little didn’t find out until a couple of days before the St. Francis/Beecher contest that she would be officiating that specific championship game, but the Monday of boys championship week was when she really started to receive congratulations from friends and colleagues.

That’s when an article came out in the Detroit News detailing her selection, which led to countless calls, texts and congratulatory messages on social media.

“I couldn’t even (keep up with the comments),” she said. “That’s how overwhelming the actual tags were. It came from all across the state with officials, men and women, because I do women’s college (games). Some of the college ladies were reaching out. I was getting all the hoopla before the game.”

Little said she normally doesn’t get nervous for games, but not having some nerves became a bit harder once so many people knew of her achievement.

However, she settled into a normal routine quickly once the game started.

“I wanted to get it done, get it over with and do well,” she said.

Little did do well, which is no surprise to everyone who knew her before she officiated on the boys championship stage.

It was just another feather in the cap for Little, who in 2016 became the first woman to officiate a boys Detroit Public School League championship game.

“Delonda is one of the top officials in the Detroit area, and our staff doesn’t look at Delonda as a female working a boys game – we see one of the top officials in Detroit working a basketball game,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “There are females officiating in the NBA and female officials in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The aspect that made Delonda’s selection for this MHSAA championship game nearly unique will soon be the norm at all levels of athletics.”     

Little graduated from Detroit Osborn in 1989 and starred on the basketball court at Wayne State, earning induction into WSU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.

Her day job is as an officer for the Michigan Department of Corrections, but her passion is officiating. She’s been an MHSAA-registered official for basketball for two decades and also was registered for volleyball for four years. This past fall she registered for football for the first time.

“I get something from it because it keeps me in shape, I love the people I work with and I like the kids,” Little said. “You are always teaching, and I like training the newer officials. I just enjoy it. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t refereeing.”

Going forward, Little hopes her championship game assignment will now be an inspiration for other female referees.

“There aren’t very many women who would like to work boys basketball or feel comfortable,” Little said. “If that’s something they desire, I’m hoping more women are selected to work the games if they feel comfortable.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) Delonda Little takes her position on the court during the Division 3 Boys Basketball Final on March 25 at Breslin Center. (Middle) Little monitors the action between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis.