D2 Preview: Formidable Foursome Expected to Make for Memorable Matchups
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
March 23, 2022
This weekend’s final four contenders for the Division 2 boys basketball championship make up a high-echelon group, to say the least.
On one side of the bracket, reigning champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Ferndale will meet in a Semifinal rematch after both played many of the state’s best on the way to East Lansing. On the other side? Just the only two undefeated teams playing at Breslin Center this weekend.
Additionally, Ferndale's Treyvon Lewis (Loyola of Chicago signee) and Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Jack Karasinski (William & Mary) were two of four finalists for the Mr. Basketball Award this week.
DIVISION 2 Semifinals – Thursday
Grand Rapids Catholic Central (24-1) vs. Ferndale (21-3), 5:30 p.m.
Williamston (25-0) vs. Freeland (25-0), 7:30 p.m.
FINAL – Saturday – 6:45 p.m.
Tickets for this weekend’s games are $12 for both Semifinals and Finals and are available via the Breslin Center ticket office. All Semifinals will be broadcast and viewable with subscription to MHSAA.tv, and all four Finals will air live Saturday on Bally Sports Detroit, with the Division 4 and 1 games on BSD EXTRA and the Division 3 and 2 games on BSD’s primary channel. All four will be broadcast live as well as on the BSD website and app. Audio broadcasts of all Semifinals and Finals will be available free of charge from the MHSAA Network.
Here’s a look at the four Division 2 semifinals (with rankings by MPR at the end of the regular season, and statistics through Regional Finals):
Record/rank: 21-3, No. 4
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Juan Rickman, fourth season (62-26)
Championship history: Class A champion 1966 and 1963.
Best wins: 68-55 over No. 12 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in Quarterfinal, 60-55 over No. 18 Detroit Country Day in District Final, 57-46 over Division 1 No. 9 Muskegon, 63-52 over Division 1 No. 5 Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice, 56-49 over Division 1 No. 13 North Farmington, 63-52 and 58-47 over Division 1 No. 14 Oak Park.
Players to watch: Jason Drake Jr., 6-2 sr. G (16.8 ppg, 6.7 apg); Treyvon Lewis, 6-5 sr. F (22.4 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, 2.1 bpg); Chris Williams, 6-5 jr. F (10.2 ppg, 9.8 ppg).
Outlook: After making the Semifinals last season for the first time since 1985, Ferndale is making the trip for the second season in a row after navigating one of the strongest schedules in the state. Four of five starters are back from the team that lost 81-55 to Grand Rapids Catholic Central last year at Breslin, with junior guard Cameron Reed (9.1 ppg, 4.9 apg, 2.9 spg) joining Drake, Lewis and Williams. Drake made the all-state second team last season, and Lewis earned an honorable mention. The Eagles’ losses this season were all to Division 1 teams that won Regional titles – Grand Blanc, Warren De La Salle Collegiate and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
Record/rank: 25-0, No. 14
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference 10
Coach: John Fattal, third season (49-15)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 67-47 over Cadillac in Quarterfinal, 55-52 (OT – Regional Semifinal), 68-47 and 69-57 over Alma, 82-59 over Flint Hamady in Regional Final, 63-57 over Division 3 No. 17 Pewamo-Westphalia.
Players to watch: Josh Elliott, 6-3 sr. F (18.5 ppg, 70 3-pointers); Bryson Huckeby, 6-4 sr. F (14.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 6.4 apg); Alex Duley, 6-4 sr. C (13.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.4 apg).
Outlook: After winning its first Regional title since 1971, Freeland will make its first trip to the Semifinals and after playing only three single-digit games during this season’s undefeated run. Huckeby earned an all-state honorable mention last season and guides a high-scoring offense that’s gone over 80 points in three of five postseason games. In addition to the three double-digit scorers, junior Cullum LeBaron added 8.3 points per game and had 63 3-pointers entering the week. Both he and Elliott connect on 44 percent or better of their attempts from beyond the arc, with Elliott nearing 50 percent.
GRAND RAPIDS CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank: 24-1, No. 6
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold
Coach: TJ Meerman, ninth season (141-64)
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2021, Class B runner-up 2018.
Best wins: 86-60 over No. 9 Benton Harbor in Quarterfinal, 69-44 (Regional Final) and 48-45 over Grand Rapids Christian, 68-48 over No. 2 Hudsonville Unity Christian in District Final, 64-59 over Division 1 No. 8 Grand Blanc, 80-66 over Division 1 No. 1 Detroit U-D Jesuit.
Players to watch: Jack Karasinski, 6-6 sr. F (16.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.1 ppg); Kaden Brown, 6-0 jr. G (21 ppg, 65 3-pointers, 4.2 apg); Durral Brooks, 6-2 soph. G (14.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.5 apg).
Outlook: The reigning Division 2 champion has lost just one game over the last two seasons – to 2021 Division 3 champion Flint Beecher, 75-69 on Jan. 8. Otherwise it’s been all wins despite a loaded schedule, but with four starters back from last season’s undefeated title earner. Karasinski made the all-state first team last season, while Brown made the second and Brooks earned honorable mention, and senior Jorden Brooks (11 ppg, 59 3-pointers) joins them as a returning starter. No opponent, including previously-undefeated Unity Christian, has come closer than 11 points since the Beecher loss.
Record/rank: 25-0, No. 7
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference White
Coach: Tom Lewis, sixth season (record N/A)
Championship history: Lower Peninsula Class C champion 1940.
Best wins: 70-54 over No. 20 Detroit Edison in Quarterfinal, 57-38 over No. 3 Onsted in Regional Semifinal, 66-29 over Chelsea in District Final, 66-37 over Division 1 No. 7 East Lansing, 49-32 over Division 1 No. 13 North Farmington.
Players to watch: Jacob Wallace, 6-4 sr. G (13.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg); Mason Docks, 6-0 sr. G (16.2 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.8 spg); Max Burton, 6-10 sr. F (13.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg).
Outlook: Williamston will be playing in its first Semifinal since 2016, led by a pair of 1,000-point career scorers in Wallace and Docks. The Hornets have had one single-digit game all season, against Lansing Everett, and they’ve won their five postseason games by an average of 27.2 points per. Wallace made the all-state second team last season, and with Docks and Burton is part of a group of 10 seniors.
PHOTO Freeland, including Alex Duley (42), defends the lane during Tuesday’s Quarterfinal win over Cadillac. (Photo courtesy of the Freeland athletic department.)
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.