Breslin Bound: 2021-22 Boys District Preview

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 7, 2022

It's March, its MHSAA Tournament time, and generally that's enough to explain the excitement and urgency as we begin the annual championship portion of a four-month journey that will end again in East Lansing. 

MI Student AidDistrict tournaments tip off all over the state tonight. Check out “Tracking the Tournament” on for every matchup from all of them, and see below for some of last week’s most eye-catching scores and three Districts in each division that could make the biggest impacts this week on the overall postseason pictures.

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid.

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results: 

1. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 50, Detroit Martin Luther King 49 St. Mary’s (16-4) edged King (18-2) in the annual Operation Friendship game between the champions of the Detroit Catholic League and Public School League Tournaments.

2. Grand Blanc 68, Flint Beecher 57 The reigning Division 1 champion Bobcats (15-5) finished the regular season defeating last year’s Division 3 champion Beecher (17-2).

3. Kalamazoo Central 51, Muskegon 46 The Maroon Giants (12-7) have had some massive wins and tough losses this season, but this certainly files under the former as the Big Reds (18-2) are Division 1 title contenders.

4. Hartland 42, Canton 39 The Eagles (16-4) had finished second to Canton (15-5) in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West, but with this victory claimed the league tournament title.

5. Carson City-Crystal 32, Blanchard Montabella 29 The Eagles (17-3) earned a share of the Mid-State Activities Conference title by adding a second three-point win over the Mustangs this season (17-3).

Districts at a Glance

These could be among our most competitive brackets. Host sites are in bold:


Detroit Western
1. Detroit Martin Luther King (18-2), 2. Detroit Cass Tech (17-3), River Rouge (17-3), Detroit Western (15-4), Melvindale (10-9).

This power-packed bracket includes the champions from the Detroit Public School League Blue (King) and Gold (Western), the runner-up from the Blue (Cass Tech) and the runner-up from the Michigan Metro Athletic Conference Black (Rouge). King, No. 3 overall in Division 1 MPR, defeated Cass by five in league play and Western in the PSL Tournament championship game, in addition to impressive wins over Flint Beecher (17-2), Grand Blanc (15-5), Ann Arbor Huron (17-3), Kalamazoo Central (12-7) and others. Its one-point loss to Orchard Lake St. Mary’s last week was its first since the season opener. Cass Tech’s losses were by a combined 12 points and it has a win over Flint Carman-Ainsworth (14-6); the Technicians could open with Western in a semifinal after falling to the Cowboys 57-53 on Feb. 17. Western opens with River Rouge, which lost its final two games but against Hamtramck (17-3) and Grand Blanc.

1. Muskegon (18-2), 2. Grand Haven (17-3), Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (13-7), Coopersville (13-7), Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills (13-7), Grand Rapids Union (8-11), Muskegon Mona Shores (9-11).

The Big Reds are coming off an undefeated run through the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green, which includes Reeths-Puffer and Mona Shores, but also are coming off a loss to Kalamazoo Central in the regular-season finale. Muskegon’s only other defeat was to Ferndale, and an 84-79 win over 2021 Division 1 champion Grand Blanc on Feb. 19 is what people should recall first when thinking of the team’s prospects this month. Grand Haven saw its O-K Red title chance slip away with a pair of losses in its final two league games, but similarly a win over league champ Rockford (18-2) showed what the Buccaneers are capable of presenting. Coopersville had a win this season over Grand Rapids West Catholic (15-5), and Kenowa Hills defeated Coopersville in overtime at the start of February.

West Bloomfield
1. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (16-4), 2. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice (14-6), Bloomfield Hills (16-4), Birmingham Groves (12-7), Birmingham Seaholm (8-11), West Bloomfield (4-15).

The Detroit Catholic League Central’s five teams all finished among the top six in overall Division 1 MPR, and this is the only District with multiple. St. Mary’s, No. 2 overall, lost to Brother Rice 45-43 on Jan. 14 and 62-50 on Feb. 1, and didn’t see the Warriors on the way to winning the Catholic League Bishop Tournament. The win over King last week was just one of many impressive ones for the Eaglets, who have five victories over teams that finished 15-5 or better including Grand Blanc and Ferndale as well. Brother Rice, No. 5 overall, also has wins over Grand Blanc and Carman-Ainsworth and won’t have to face Bloomfield Hills, which opens on St. Mary’s side of the bracket. The Black Hawks shared the Oakland Activities Association White championship and closed on a five-game winning streak.


Grand Rapids West Catholic
1. Hudsonville Unity Christian (20-0), 2. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (19-1), Grand Rapids West Catholic (15-5), Ada Forest Hills Eastern (15-5), Allendale (6-14), Wyoming Lee (5-15).

This District features the two most recent Division 2 champs, last year’s winner Grand Rapids Catholic Central and 2019 champ Unity Christian (with 2020 canceled because of COVID-19). Unity Christian won the O-K Blue, handing West Catholic two of its defeats along the way, while GRCC won the O-K Gold and defeated Forest Hills Eastern twice during league play. Third rounds of both are part of this bracket if West Catholic and FHE win their openers. GRCC defeated Unity Christian 71-52 in last season’s District Final on the way to its undefeated finish.

1. Marshall (18-2), 2. Olivet (19-1), Battle Creek Pennfield (14-6), Battle Creek Harper Creek (14-6), Eaton Rapids (10-10), Charlotte (8-12).

League title winners also line up on opposite sides of this bracket, with Interstate 8 Athletic Conference co-champ Marshall and the Great Lakes Activities Conference’s Olivet. The Eagles’ only loss this season was by two to league rival Leslie (11-9), and Olivet will open Wednesday against the winner of an I8AC matchup between Harper Creek and Pennfield – last season’s Division 2 runner-up. Harper Creek won its regular-season matchups with Pennfield by 18 and 12. Pennfield did deal Marshall a loss, by four, Jan. 11.

Wyoming Kelloggsville
1. Grand Rapids Christian (16-4), 2. Grand Rapids South Christian (15-5), Wyoming Godwin Heights (9-8), Wyoming Kelloggsville (12-8), Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy (14-6), Kentwood Grand River Prep (6-8).

The Eagles enter the top seed as runners-up from the O-K White but with all three of their losses to Division 1 opponents and as the only team to defeat Grand Rapids Northview (19-1). South Christian tied for second in the O-K Gold, but all of its losses were to teams that finished 15-5 or better – including a season-opening defeat to Grand Rapids Christian, 66-58. Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville and WMAA all were upper-division teams in their respective leagues as well, with Kelloggsville and Godwin Heights meeting in an opener after splitting their regular-season series.


1. Niles Brandywine (13-5), 2. Watervliet (16-3), Bridgman (12-8), Cassopolis (16-4), Buchanan (12-8).

This District features five teams that all finished among the top 42 in overall Division 3 MPR, with Brandywine at No. 10 and Watervliet at No. 14. Brandywine lines up as the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference Red champ on one side of the bracket, facing league opponent Buchanan for the third time. Watervliet was the co-champ of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore and sits on the other side. Cassopolis was second in the Southwest 10 Conference and opens with a rematch against Bridgman, which tied for second in the BCS Red and defeated the Rangers by 16 on Dec. 28. The winner of that game sees Watervliet on Wednesday.

Maple City Glen Lake
1. Traverse City St. Francis (18-2), 2. Benzie Central (17-3), Elk Rapids (14-6), Maple City Glen Lake (15-5), Mancelona (14-6).

All five teams finished among the top 52 in overall Division 3 MPR, led by St. Francis (No. 4), Elk Rapids (13) and Benzie (19). St. Francis was first in the Lake Michigan Conference, with Elk Rapids second. Benzie won the Northwest Conference a game ahead of Glen Lake, while Mancelona was runner-up in the Ski Valley Conference. Benzie avenged its Jan. 25 eight-point loss to Glen Lake with a 13-point win Feb. 25 but lost both of its games last week against larger Big North Conference opponents. St. Francis’ only losses this season were to Division 1 teams.

Michigan Center
1. Vandercook Lake (18-2), 2. Napoleon (18-2), Michigan Center (14-6), Grass Lake (6-13), Jackson Lumen Christian (3-17), East Jackson (5-15).

This lines up as concluding with a third game between Cascades Conference champ Vandercook Lake and runner-up Napoleon – and Vandercook Lake won the regular-season meetings by seven and six points. But surely the Jayhawks are keeping an eye on Michigan Center, which finished third in the Cascades and won the second meeting with Vandercook 68-66 on Feb. 4. They would meet again in a District Semifinal if Michigan Center defeats Lumen Christi in their opener. Grass Lake is an interesting upset prospect after losing to Vandercook Lake by only four and five points and to Michigan Center in overtime in their second meeting.


1. Powers North Central (16-4), 2. Hannahville Nah Tah Wahsh (18-2), Norway (14-6), Stephenson (13-6), Crystal Falls Forest Park (9-11), Carney-Nadeau (4-14), Felch North Dickinson (3-17).

The Jets went undefeated in winning the Skyline Central Conference small-school division, although they did lose a pair of games last week. North Central defeated Norway twice by double digits and would see the Knights again Wednesday if Norway gets by Forest Park for a third time. On the other side, the Soaring Eagles also are coming off a pair of losses last week, including by 26 to Stephenson – their opponent in tonight’s opener. Stephenson has won six straight.

1. Ubly (15-4), 2. Kinde North Huron (15-5), Deckerville (14-6), Carsonville-Port Sanilac (5-13), Caseville (1-12).

Ubly (12), North Huron (24) and Deckerville (27) were top-30 teams in the final overall Division 4 MPR. Ubly won the Greater Thumb Conference East, while North Huron was first in the North Central Thumb League Stars and Deckerville second. Deckerville did win their first matchup by five before North Huron won the rematch by six Feb. 18 as part of a 10-game winning streak. They could meet again in a Wednesday District Semifinal.

Three Oaks River Valley
1. New Buffalo (19-1), 2. Eau Claire (14-5), Three Oaks River Valley (15-5), Benton Harbor Countryside Academy (11-7), St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic (7-11), St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran (6-13).

New Buffalo finished No. 1 in overall Division 4 MPR, with Eau Claire No. 15 and River Valley No. 20. All six of these teams are from the BCS White, with New Buffalo the champion, Eau Claire a co-runner-up, River Valley fourth and Countryside fifth. New Buffalo’s only loss this season came to Niles Brandywine, and it defeated Eau Claire by nine and 15 points and possible Wednesday opponent River Valley by 12 and 16. Eau Claire defeated Countryside by 12 and 25, and they could meet a third time as well Wednesday.  

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PHOTO Orchard Lake St. Mary's downed Grand Blanc 65-62 on Jan. 8. Both are considered Division 1 championship contenders as District play begins. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

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

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

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.