D3 Preview: Repeat Faces Roadblocks

March 13, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

After making is first MHSAA championship game in boys basketball a year ago – and winning it – Detroit Edison is back at the Breslin Center seeking a repeat this weekend.

But the field lined up to halt the Pioneers is full of potential obstacles. Iron Mountain and Pewamo-Westphalia have not lost this season, and rarely been challenged. Erie Mason is having its best season ever and features one of the most productive scorers who will take the court at Michigan State University over the next three days.

Division 3 Semifinals – Thursday
Iron Mountain (26-0) vs. Detroit Edison (19-7), Noon

Erie-Mason (23-2) vs. Pewamo-Westphalia (26-0), 2 p.m.

Division 3 Final – Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $10 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session (Divisions 3 and 2). All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a pay-per-view basis. The Divisions 2, 3 and 4 championship games will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit’s primary channel, while the Division 1 Final will be shown live on Fox Sports Detroit PLUS. All four championship games will be streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com and the FOX Sports app. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.

Below is a glance at all four semifinalists. Click on the name of the school to see that team’s full schedule and results from this season. (Statistics are through teams' Regional Finals.)

18-8, unranked
League finish: Does not play in a conference.
Coach: Brandon Neely, sixth season (92-48)
Championship history: Class C champion 2018.
Best wins: 76-69 over No. 1 Flint Beecher in Quarterfinal, 77-68 over Division 2 No. 1 Benton Harbor, 69-66 over Division 1 No. 3 Canton.
Players to watch: Brian Taylor, 6-5 sr. F (16.6 ppg); Vincent Cooley, 6-2 jr. G (Statistics not submitted).
Outlook: Edison filled its regular-season schedule with larger and elite opponents, and its seven in-state losses all came to Division 1 or 2 teams, including four that made it to this week and two to this weekend (Detroit U-D Jesuit and Harper Woods Chandler Park). Taylor is the lone returning starter from last season’s championship game win, although current starters Cooley and junior forward Raynard Williams were among those on the bench. Taylor also is the only senior on the roster.

23-2, honorable mention
League finish: First in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Kevin Skaggs, eighth season (99-75)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 55-48 over No. 4 Hanover-Horton in Quarterfinal, 56-46 (District Final) and 64-44 over honorable mention Petersburg-Summerfield, 59-51 over Detroit Loyola in Regional Final.  
Players to watch: Joe Liedel, 5-10 jr. G (28 ppg, 81 3-pointers, 5.1 apg, 3.1 spg); John Sweeney, 6-7 sr. C (11.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 42 3-pointers).
Outlook: Erie-Mason will make its first Semifinal appearance after winning its first Regional title since 1973, and hasn’t lost since Dec. 11. Liedel has been one of the state’s most prolific scorers and went over 700 points for this season with 40 more Tuesday; he earned an all-state honorable mention a year ago. The Eagles beat another league champion, Riverview Gabriel Richard, in the Regional Semifinal. Senior Jake Trainor adds 12.5 ppg.

26-0, No. 3
League finish: First in Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Iron and Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference
Coach: Harvey Johnson Jr., 19th season (275-151)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 1939).
Best wins: 61-56 over No. 7 Sanford Meridian in Quarterfinal, 66-52 over Traverse City St. Francis in Regional Final, 71-41 (District Final) and 78-71 (OT) over Calumet.
Players to watch: Marcus Johnson, 5-10 jr. G (23.3 ppg, 94 3-pointers, 4.6 apg); Foster Wonders, 6-5 soph. G (23.9 ppg, 55 3-pointers, 7.0 rpg).
Outlook: Iron Mountain advanced to the Quarterfinals for the second straight season and has moved on to its first Semifinal since 1994. Johnson – an all-state first-team selection last year – and Wonders make up what should be one of the most entertaining backcourts of the weekend. Both are hitting about 38 percent of their 3-point tries to lead a team that hadn’t played a single-digit game from Dec. 7 until Tuesday’s win over Meridian.

26-0, No. 2
League finish: First in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Luke Pohl, 22nd season (415-96)
Championship history: Class C runner-up 2014 and 1993.
Best wins: 70-50 over Cassopolis in Quarterfinal, 32-14 over Carson City-Crystal in District final, 50-32 over Morley Stanwood in District Semifinal, 57-54 (OT) over honorable mention Wyoming Potter’s House Christian, 52-35 over Division 4 No. 5 Wyoming Tri-unity Christian.
Players to watch: Andre Smith, 6-7 sr. C (14.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg); Hunter Hengesbach, 6-3 sr. G (8.5 ppg, 2.7 apg).
Outlook: P-W emerged from a league that produced two more District title winners to claim its fifth straight and return to the final week and weekend for the first time since finishing Class C runner-up in 2014. Four seniors anchor the starting lineup for a team with seven players averaging at least four points per game and three averaging at least a pair of assists. Only three wins were by fewer than 10 points, and all have been by double digits since Jan. 24.

PHOTO: Iron Mountain's Charlie Gerhard puts up a shot during his team's win over Ishpeming on Feb. 1. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)

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.