D4 Preview: Contenders Closing In On Completing Championship Chase

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 23, 2022

It will be the first time, first time in a long time, or first time in at least a while for whichever Division 4 boys basketball contender emerges as champion this weekend at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.

Ewen-Trout Creek is seeking its first Finals championship since 1972, and Lake Leelanau St. Mary and Genesee Christian are pursuing a first title in program history.

Even Wyoming Tri-unity Christian, one of the more frequent travelers to Breslin for Finals weekend, is seeking its first championship in more than a decade.

DIVISON 4 Semifinals – Thursday
Ewen-Trout Creek (22-3) vs. Lake Leelanau St. Mary (21-4), 5:30 p.m.
Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (19-6) vs. Genesee Christian (21-4), 7:30 p.m.
FINAL – Saturday – 
10 a.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 4 semifinals (with rankings by MPR at the end of the regular season, and statistics through Regional Finals):

Record/rank: 22-3, No. 2
League finish: First in Copper Mountain Conference Porcupine Mountain
Coach: Brad Besonen, 14th season (227-87)
Championship history: Class D champion 1972, runner-up 1982.
Best wins: 56-40 over No. 5 Rudyard in Quarterfinal, 56-44 over No. 4 Powers North Central in Regional Final, 57-38 (Regional Semifinal), 77-62 and 79-59 over No. 14 Wakefield-Marenisco; 59-58 (OT) over Division 3 No. 1 Menominee, 39-37 over Division 3 No. 20 Painesdale Jeffers.
Players to watch: Jaden Borseth, 6-4 sr. F (18.8 ppg, 43 3-pointers, 4.0 apg); Eric Abramson, 6-5 sr. F (13.7 ppg, 44 3-pointers); Kelsey Jilek, 6-4 sr. F (10.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg).
Outlook: Ewen-Trout Creek is returning to the Semifinals for the first time since that 1982 runner-up run, and has won 13 of its last 14 games on the way. The Panthers didn’t allow more than 40 points in 12 games – with 44 the most scored against them during the postseason. Borseth made the all-state first team last season. Senior 6-3 center Brendan Polkky adds another 9.7 points per game.

Record/rank: 21-4, No. 6
League finish: Tied for second in Genesee Area Conference Red
Coach: Dan Chapman, 16th season (195-148)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 77-66 over No. 10 Southfield Christian in Quarterfinal, 59-46 over No. 12 Ubly in Regional Semifinal, 80-63 over Adrian Lenawee Christian, 55-50 over No. 13 Clarkston Everest Collegiate, 69-60 over No. 19 Webberville, 75-65 over Lake Fenton, 70-62 over Flint Hamady.  
Players to watch: Trenton Boike, 5-10 jr. G (23.3 ppg, 44 3-pointers, 5.6 apg); Tyler Chapman, 6-1 jr G (20 ppg, 82 3-pointers, 5.7 rpg). (Statistics include Quarterfinal.)
Outlook: Genesee Christian will make its first trip to the Semifinals led by Boike, who made the all-state first team as a sophomore. The Soldiers have won 11 straight games, with all four losses to larger opponents including two to Division 3 reigning champion Beecher. They could be building for another big run next season as well, as only two starters and three of their top nine players are seniors. Sophomore forward Jonah Derderian adds another 6.9 points per game.

Record/rank: 21-4, No. 9
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Matt Barnowski, second season (35-9)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 61-57 over No. 3 McBain Northern Michigan Christian in Regional Final, 61-44 (Regional Semifinal) and 71-63 over Ellsworth, 68-64 (District Final) and 66-52 over No. 17 Buckley, 84-69 (District Semifinal), 47-46 and 65-45 over Traverse City Christian, 60-46 over Flat Rock.
Players to watch: Dylan Barnowski, 6-1 jr. G (21.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 7.1 apg); Shawn Bramer, 6-2 jr. F (20.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg); August Schaub, 6-1 sr. F (13.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.0 apg).
Outlook: After winning its first Regional title since 1950, St. Mary is making its first trip to the Semifinals. The Eagles started the season 2-3 but have lost only once since, to Division 3 Benzie Central (20-4). St. Mary is allowing opponents to make only 38 percent of their shots, and just under 28 percent from 3-point range. Dylan Barnowski and Bramer both earned all-state honorable mentions last season, and the future looks bright as well as they are joined by only one senior starter.

Record/rank: 19-6, No. 30
League finish: First in Alliance League
Coach: Mark Keeler, 35th season (647-204)
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2011), five runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 69-57 over Adrian Lenawee Christian in Quarterfinal, 57-40 over No. 1 New Buffalo in Regional Final, 55-36 over Wyoming Potter’s House Christian.
Players to watch: Brady Titus, 5-9 sr. G (29.8 ppg, 4.0 apg); Jordan VanKlompenberg, 6-1 soph. G (7.4 ppg); Owen Rosendall, 5-10 soph. G (6.0 ppg). Outlook: Tri-unity is headed back to Breslin for the fourth season over the last seven and after reaching last year’s Final and falling 47-41 to Detroit Douglass. Titus leads the way again, upping his scoring average another eight points this season after making the all-state first team last year. Senior Aidan DeKlyen also is back in the starting lineup, and Rosendall was the top sub during last year’s championship game. Junior 6-5 center Hanif James adds 5.8 points and 6.3 rebounds, and Titus, VanKlompenberg and Rosendall all had connected on at least 36 3-pointers entering the week.

PHOTO Ewen-Trout Creek's Eric Abramson (11) makes a basket during the third quarter of last week’s Regional Final win over Powers North Central. (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.