Breslin Bound: Boys District Preview
March 9, 2020
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
If cold and snow send us into the gym every winter with basketball on our minds, the recent warmup (at least downstate) lets us know we’ll be moving to Breslin Center shortly.
Those who join us at the end of this month will take their first MHSAA Tournament steps this week.
District tournaments tip off all over the state, and again, for the first time, with the top two seeded teams separated on opposite sides of the bracket. Check out “Tracking the Tournament” on MHSAA.com 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 especially pop off the page.
“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at MHSAA.com. Send corrections or missing scores to [email protected]. Rankings below are by Michigan Power Rating (MPR).
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Ann Arbor Huron 64, Ypsilanti Lincoln 54 – This matchup could very well have been a preview of Huron (19-1) meeting Lincoln (17-3) again in this week’s District Final, as explained below. (Lincoln did bounce back to beat Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Thursday.)
2. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 70, Detroit Cass Tech 65 – The Eaglets (19-1) came out on top in the Operation Friendship matchup of league champions and Division 1 championship hopefuls, with Cass Tech (18-2) also in play for a trip to Breslin.
3. Negaunee 52, Iron Mountain 51 – A last-second basket gave Negaunee (18-2) shares of two conference championships with Iron Mountain, and avenged an 18-point loss to the Mountaineers (19-1) from Jan. 28.
4. Stevensville Lakeshore 53, Portage Central 27 – Lakeshore (16-4) avenged a six-point Jan. 31 loss to Central (16-4) in a big way, and in doing so clinched the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West title outright.
5. Benton Harbor 82, Wyoming 72 – Both finished 18-2 with this final tune-up before the playoffs begin, with Benton Harbor headed into the Division 2 bracket and Wyoming into Division 1.
Districts at a Glance
These could be among our most competitive brackets. Host sites are in bold:
1. River Rouge (19-1), 2. Detroit Cass Tech (18-2), Detroit Western (7-9), Melvindale (6-14), Dearborn Fordson (6-14).
It would take a pretty serious upset for No. 4 River Rouge and No. 9 Cass Tech to not meet in the championship game, and that matchup should be one of the best of the entire Division 1 bracket this month. Rouge was last season’s Division 2 runner-up, falling by three points while in pursuit of its first MHSAA Finals title in this sport since 1999. The Panthers then ended up in Division 1 this season, opened with a 10-point win over Lincoln, and have only an overtime loss to Division 2 contender Grand Rapids Catholic Central on an otherwise perfect ledger. Cass Tech won the Detroit Public School League West and Tournament titles, and its only losses were by one to No. 7 Flint Carman-Ainsworth and in overtime last week to No. 1 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
Detroit Martin Luther King
1. Eastpointe (17-3), 2. Hamtramck (16-3), Grosse Pointe South (16-4), Detroit Martin Luther King (13-6), Grosse Pointe North (3-16).
There isn’t an easy path through this District, as Eastpointe opens with North and then would face King, while South and Hamtramck match up in the other semifinal. All four of the anticipated semifinalists are ranked between Nos. 21-30 by MPR. Of Hamtramck’s three losses, two were to River Rouge (see above), while Grosse Pointe South and Eastpointe were league champions within the Macomb Area Conference and King won the PSL East (and also took an early loss to Rouge).
Saline/Eastern Michigan University
1. Ann Arbor Huron (19-1), 2. Ypsilanti Lincoln (17-3), Belleville (16-4), Ann Arbor Pioneer (12-8), Saline (13-7), Ypsilanti Community (9-11).
The first five teams listed above rank among the top 50 in Division 1 MPR, with Huron No. 3 and reigning Division 1 champion Lincoln No. 5. Huron won the Southeastern Conference Red that included Pioneer and Saline, and defeated Lincoln last week 64-54. The Railsplitters, of course, feature super sophomore Emoni Bates, and he’s gone over 60 points this season and can put them on his shoulders at any time. Belleville is almost the forgotten team and shouldn’t be – the Tigers won the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East title and rank No. 27 in Division 1 MPR. The openers at this District are scheduled to be played at Saline, with semifinals and the championship game at EMU.
1. Bridgeport (19-1), 2. Frankenmuth (17-3), Clio (15-5), Caro (7-13), Birch Run (3-17), Mt. Morris (6-14).
Home and mostly unstoppable this season, and ranked No. 3 in all of Division 2, Bridgeport is the presumed favorite. But Clio could provide the Bearcats a mighty challenge in tonight’s opener, and No. 11 Frankenmuth on the other side of the bracket and handed Bridgeport its only loss 43-38 on Feb. 7. Bridgeport still won the Tri-Valley Conference East by a game over the Eagles, and also beat them in last season’s District Final before suffering their only loss of the season the next game against Alma to start the Regional.
Hudsonville Unity Christian
1. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (17-3), 2. Hudsonville Unity Christian (16-4), Allendale (14-6), Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-10), Grand Rapids Wellspring Prep (9-11), Wyoming Lee (4-16).
Three of the top 14 in all of Division 2 MPR top this District – No. 1 GRCC, No. 7 Unity Christian and No. 14 Allendale. Unity Christian is the reigning champion in Division 2 and opens against Allendale, which it defeated by 16 in December. Unity went on to win the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green, while GRCC was first, Allendale second and West Catholic fourth in the O-K Blue. GRCC swept those two, losing this season only to Lincoln, No. 2 Benton Harbor and No. 5 Grand Rapids Christian.
1. Macomb Lutheran North (15-3), 2. Richmond (16-4), St. Clair (14-6), Marine City (15-4), New Haven (12-8), Algonac (20-0).
This intriguing grouping includes a pair of MAC co-champs in Marine City (Bronze) and St. Clair (Gold), and the Blue Water Area Conference and Detroit Catholic League AA runners-up in Richmond and Lutheran North, respectively. There have been just a pair of regular-season meetings among the bunch: Marine City edged St. Clair 43-42 on Dec. 19, while Richmond defeated Marine City 58-47 two days before that. All of the first four teams above are ranked among the top 36 in Division 2, with Lutheran North at No. 12 and Richmond No. 19.
1. Niles Brandywine (17-3), 2. Bridgman (15-5), Cassopolis (15-5), Watervliet (7-13), Benton Harbor Countryside Academy (7-11).
Brandywine enters No. 3 overall in Division 3 after winning the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference Red just ahead of co-runner-up Bridgman. Brandywine won their regular-season matchups by 10 and eight points, but they wouldn’t meet again this week until Friday’s championship game. The Bees tonight must get through Cassopolis, which shared the championship in the Southwest 10 Conference. That’s also a rematch, as Bridgman won a Dec. 28 meeting 70-60. Bridgman also opened this season with a 74-38 win over potential Wednesday opponent Countryside.
1. Erie Mason (17-3), 2. Blissfield (18-2), Petersburg Summerfield (19-1), Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (12-8), Ottawa Lake Whiteford (2-18).
It’s possible no District this week has teams sharing more ties. Erie Mason rode one of the top scorers in the state, now-senior Joe Liedel, to last season’s Division 3 Semifinals. The Eagles won the Lenawee County Athletic Association title this season, claiming a second meeting against runner-up Blissfield 62-58 after falling to the Royals 61-59 in their first meeting. Erie Mason is 12-1 over its last 13 games, but that lone defeat came 47-33 to Petersburg Summerfield, which won the Tri-County Conference handily but suffered its lone loss Jan. 16 to Blissfield. Monroe St. Mary, meanwhile, has to be considered a scary darkhorse, just two season’s removed from making the Division 3 Semifinals and co-runner-up this winter in the Huron League with Division 1 Riverview behind Division 2 Flat Rock. SMCC was eliminated in its District opener last season – in overtime by Blissfield. If Mason defeats Whiteford tonight, it will see SMCC on Wednesday, while Summerfield and Blissfield meet Wednesday on the other side of the bracket.
1. Maple City Glen Lake (18-2), 2. Traverse City St. Francis (17-3), Elk Rapids (12-8), Mancelona (15-5).
All four of these contenders are ranked among the top 39 in Division 3 MPR, with No. 6 Glen Lake leading the way but No. 39 Mancelona looking pretty dangerous as a 15-win host. Those two meet on one side Wednesday, while No. 12 St. Francis and No. 36 Elk Rapids tangle for the third time on the other side of the bracket. St. Francis won both regular-season meetings on the way to the Lake Michigan Conference title, while Glen Lake won the Northwest Conference and Mancelona ran third of three superior contenders in the Ski Valley Conference. St. Francis defeated Glen Lake in last year’s District Final 59-44.
1. Frankfort (15-5), 2. Brethren (16-4), Onekama (11-9), Manistee Catholic Central (12-8), Mesick (6-14), Bear Lake (2-18).
Frankfort finished the regular season No. 19 overall and Brethren at No. 20, and the Panthers finished Division 4 runners-up a year ago. The bracket is set up for those two to meet Friday. But given this season’s first three months, a number of possibilities for this week seem reasonable. Frankfort finished second in the Northwest Conference to Glen Lake, but split with third-place Onekama winning the first meeting by five but losing the second by three. Brethren shared the West Michigan D League title, but opened this season with a 10-point loss to Manistee Catholic Central before winning the rematch by three six weeks later. Mesick split with MCC and nearly upset Brethren, losing by just a point in their Jan. 31 game. MCC and Mesick join Frankfort on one side of the bracket, with Brethren, Bear Lake and Onekama on the other.
1. Camden-Frontier (17-3), 2. Hillsdale Academy (18-2), Litchfield (11-9), Hillsdale Will Carleton Academy (12-6), Tekonsha (4-15), Coldwater Pansophia (0-15).
If all goes as set up, top-seeded Camden-Frontier will get a third chance against Hillsdale Academy after the latter edged C-F by a game to win the Southern Central Athletic Association East championship. They split their regular-season meetings, the Redskins winning the first 67-46 with Hillsdale Academy winning the second 59-37. Litchfield lost to both but did win the SCAA Central. Will Carleton split with Litchfield, losing the first meeting by two and winning the second by 25. Both of those potential upsetters are on Camden-Frontier’s side of the bracket.
1. Dollar Bay (18-2), 2. Chassell (16-4), Painesdale Jeffers (14-6), Lake Linden-Hubbell (9-11), Baraga (2-18).
Dollar Bay has reached the Semifinals and Breslin Center two straight seasons, and started this season off with 17 straight wins. But the Blue Bolts fell to both Chassell and Jeffers over the last 10 days, leading those three teams to share the Copper Mountain Conference’s Copper Country championship. That late surge also helped all three rank among the top 33 in Division 4 MPR, Dollar Bay still tops in the group at No. 11. The Blue Bolts play their first game this week against the host Wednesday after Jeffers won their Friday meeting 49-47. Chassell, which split its two regular-season games with Jeffers, has Copper Country fourth-place finisher Lake Linde-Hubbell tonight with sixth-place Baraga awaiting the winner Wednesday.
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PHOTO: Grand Blanc defeated Flint Beecher 62-55 in a matchup last week of contenders in Divisions 1 and 3, respectively. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)
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.
But 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 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 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.