Breslin Bound: Boys District Preview

March 3, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Picking the teams to beat in the MHSAA Boys Basketball Tournament has been particularly difficult this winter. It appears there are plenty of favorites to go around.

We’ll begin to find out if that’s true when Districts begin tonight all over the state – and know for sure when we see which teams end up at Michigan State’s Breslin Center for Finals weekend on March 20.

Follow as the teams advance on Below are some that could reach the final 16 lines of those brackets.

Class A

Detroit Pershing (18-2) – It’s hard to believe Pershing hasn’t won Class A since 2009 since the Doughboys always seem to be in the mix. They came back from a two-point loss to Detroit Southeastern at the end of January to beat Southeastern – the reigning Class A runner-up – 57-56 in the Detroit Public School League Tournament Final. Pershing also has impressive wins over Ypsilanti, Detroit Douglass (twice) and Illinois’ Chicago Orr and Morgan Park. Center Justin Tillman, a 6-foot-7 force in the paint, is a Mr. Basketball candidate.

Detroit U-D Jesuit (17-2) – The Cubs tied for the Detroit Catholic League regular-season championship but cruised through the tournament with wins of 50, 28 and 16 points, respectively. They followed with a 10-point win over reigning Class A champion Romulus. U-D Jesuit would win its first Regional title and Quarterfinal on the way if it makes it to Breslin. Considering that could mean defeating both Pershing and Southeastern, it's a tall task that would be considered an even more impressive accomplishment.

Muskegon (20-0) – This is a football school, right? Not entirely anymore given the Big Reds’ basketball success over the last two seasons. Muskegon has improved from 11-11 in 2011-12 in 19-7 and a Quarterfinal run last season to perfection heading into this tournament. Guard Deshaun Thrower, the quarterback that led the football team back to Ford Field this fall, is a Mr. Basketball candidate. Teammate Deyonta Davis could be in 2015. Aside from winning the O-K Black title, the Big Reds have impressive wins over Saginaw Arthur Hill, Mount Clemens and Illinois’ Chicago Curie among others.  

Ypsilanti (18-2) – The Grizzlies' only Southeastern Conference loss came to rival Ypsilanti Lincoln in mid-January and was avenged with a 12-point win a month later. Ypsilanti also fell to Pershing by three in December, but owns an eight-point win over a strong Detroit Southeastern team. Ypsilanti won its first Regional title last winter since 1981, but looks to have a good shot at making it two in a row, although the road could include Lincoln again plus Romulus and tough Westland John Glenn among others. Senior center Jaylen Johnson is a mobile 6-9 force and Mr. Basketball candidate.

Class B

Detroit Country Day (13-7) – It’s nearly impossible to not mention the reigning Class B champion, even if the Yellowjackets’ record is a bit down from the usual at the end of the regular season. But consider that Country Day is on an 8-1 run, its losses are against some strong opponents including Detroit Consortium and Class A Romulus and Walled Lake Western, and it features Mr. Basketball candidate Edmond Sumner, a 6-5 guard and scorer. Oh, and Country Day avenged that Consortium loss with a one-point win three weeks later.

Grand Rapids South Christian (19-1) – The Sailors have been MHSAA title contenders in seemingly every sport lately, and that’s grown to include boys hoops. After finishing 13-9 a year ago, South Christian fell this year only once, by three points, to O-K Gold runner-up Wayland. South Christian then won the rematch by 10 and also owns nice wins over Holland Christian and East Kentwood – although undefeated Wyoming Godwin Heights (see below) is a likely District opponent this week.

Jackson Lumen Christi (19-1) – The Titans have been building toward a run at their first Semifinals appearance since 1975 after reaching the Quarterfinal last season and falling in that game by only three points. Their only loss this winter was by five two weeks ago to Class A Lansing Waverly, a team Lumen Christi beat by seven earlier this season. The Titans also this season avenged 2012-13 losses to Flint Powers Catholic and rival Jackson, beating the latter twice.

Wyoming Godwin Heights (20-0) – The Wolverines haven’t lost since last season’s Class B Semifinals at Breslin Center. They beat solid Holland to cap the regular season after romping through the O-K Silver with only three of 14 games decided by single digits. But any potential run will have to go through Grand Rapids South Christian (see above) in the District.

Class C

Boyne City (18-1) – The Ramblers haven’t advanced to the season’s final week since 1990, but have looked up the challenge cruising through the Lake Michigan Conference undefeated after finishing 11-11 overall a year ago. The tough part this week likely will come in leading off the District tonight against league rival Elk Rapids, which Boyne City beat by three and then 12 earlier this season. Charlevoix also could be a tough out despite its 6-13 record – the Ramblers beat the Rayders by only four and six (in overtime) during the regular season.

Detroit Consortium (16-2) – Consortium has won Regional titles two of the last three seasons and just missed making it farther a year ago, falling by two in the Quarterfinal to eventual Class C champion Flint Beecher. The Cougars’ slate of wins this season includes many of the best from the Detroit PSL, including Southeastern and Douglass, plus wins over Class A Saginaw, Romulus, Saginaw Arthur Hill, and Class B Country Day. The lone losses were in a rematch against Country Day, by a point, and by two to Class A contender Pershing.

Mount Clemens (19-1) – It’s fair to call the Battling Bathers the favorites since the start of this season, or at least one of a few, and they haven’t fallen below that expectation. Mount Clemens won the Macomb Area Conference Gold title by four games after taking on a number of Class A schools including Detroit Martin Luther King and Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills during the season's first month. Only undefeated Class A Muskegon was able to give the Bathers a loss this winter.

Negaunee (19-1) – The Miners have reached at least the Quarterfinals the last three seasons and fell to Laingsburg in last season’s Semifinal by only two points. The only loss this season came in December to Class A Marquette, and was avenged with a six-point win three weeks ago. Negaunee played the biggest and many of the best in the Upper Peninsula and handed rival Ishpeming its only two losses in the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference – which Negaunee won.

Class D

Bellaire (20-0) – The Eagles faced only a few bumps in rolling to a flawless regular season record, needing a two-point win over second-place Mancelona and a three-pointer over third-place Onaway on Thursday to claim the Ski Valley Conference title outright. But perfection is nothing new to this bunch; Bellaire’s only loss last season came to Frankfort in the Regional Final, and the Eagles were perfect until the Quarterfinal in 2011-12.

Peck (18-0) – The Pirates’ success during their 8-player football championship run apparently is carrying over to basketball. Or maybe it was the basketball team’s success that carried over to football – the Pirates’ hoops team made its Regional Final last season before falling to eventual MHSAA Semifinalist Lansing Christian. Peck’s three single-digit games this winter came against rival Kingston and Class B Armada and Richmond. 

Powers North Central (20-0) – Coming off its first MHSAA Semifinal appearance since 1985, North Central has crushed most of its competition this winter with 11 wins by 30 or more points. Only Skyline Conference foe Carney-Nadeau and Munising got within single digits of the Jets, and no opponent did so before February. Carney-Nadeau does also play in the same District, however, after falling to North Central by only a point in their rematch.

Southfield Christian (19-1) – The back-to-back reigning champion looks good to go for three, losing only to Class A contender Saginaw Arthur Hill this season while beating Walled Lake Western and Detroit Community among solid bigger opponents. The Eagles haven’t allowed an opponent within single digits since Allen Park Inter-City Baptist (14-6) on Jan. 10.

PHOTO: Detroit Consortium found the rim plenty during a 66-38 win over Jenison at the Breslin Center in December, and hopes to return to East Lansing at the end of this month. (Click to see more fromHigh School Sports Scene.) 

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.