Dollar Bay Adding to UP's D Dominance
By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com
March 6, 2018
DOLLAR BAY — Small school. Huge tradition.
That’s pretty much the way it is with the boys basketball program at Dollar Bay, a high school of 100 students in this tiny community in the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Dollar Bay completed a perfect regular season Thursday night with a 70-59 victory at Painesdale Jeffers and opened District play Monday with a 47-24 win over Chassell in Class D.
The Blue Bolts (21-0) hope to go deeper into this year’s tournament and next host Baraga in a Wednesday District Semifinal.
A year ago, they reached the Regional opener at Negaunee where they dropped a 75-73 decision to Powers North Central. The Jets then went on to capture their third consecutive Class D title.
“The biggest thing I took from that game is what we can do as a team,” said senior forward Jaden Janke, an all-Upper Peninsula Class D second-team pick last season. “That got us excited for this season. It made us want to work that much harder.”
Senior guard Devin Schmitz, an all-U.P. Class D first-team selection, had similar thoughts.
“We wanted to show we had good Class D teams up here,” he said. “We didn’t have Brandon (Thompson) for that game. Just having all the guys coming back made us excited for this season.”
If the Blue Bolts win the District, they would be shooting for the school’s first Regional crown since 1979.
“To have a successful program at Dollar Bay, it has to start from the ground up,” said coach Jesse Kentala. “The kids love basketball and play it on their days off. It’s really a joy being around these guys every day. In a small community, you get to know the families real well. There’s a lot of basketball history here.”
Pete Dix, a 1994 graduate, holds the all-time career scoring record at Dollar Bay with 1,556 points.
Schmitz scored 30 at Painesdale on Thursday, running his career total to 1,537. But Kentala said the players have always put the team before their personal goals.
“I’ve been coaching for 11 years and these are some of the most competitive practices I’ve seen,” he added. “The strength of our team is we have all five guys working together. This is the most unselfish group of guys I ever coached. For them it’s all about sharing the ball.”
“Our second unit is also real good,” Schmitz added. “Having these guys to practice with helps the starters. It’s kind of like playing with your little brother. They’re going to beat you sometimes.”
Dollar Bay already has some experience playing on a big stage this season. Last month it earned a 51-42 victory over Ewen-Trout Creek in front of a crowd of nearly 3,300 at nearby Michigan Tech.
“We were originally scheduled for Tuesday (Feb. 6) at our place, then we changed it to Wednesday night because nothing else was going on,” said Kentala. “We thought they would draw 1,000-1,500 people. None of us expected that kind of atmosphere. They were at capacity. There were people sitting on the hardwood. That might have been the biggest attendance for a jayvee game in the U.P.”
The contest was heavily promoted by Houghton Daily Mining Gazette sports editor Bryce Derouin and got media attention statewide.
“Bryce promoted the game real well,” said Kentala. “We had two real good basketball teams, programs that have had success for years. I think it was great for both programs.
"Moving the game to Tech is a decision we’ll never regret, and that’s something the kids will remember for the rest of their lives. I even talked to a writer from the Detroit Free Press who did a small article on our team. You can’t help but chuckle when you think about it.”
What was it like playing in front of so many fans?
“It was real exciting,” said Schmitz. “We never played in front of that many people before. It was very loud. We couldn’t hear the coaches. When we went out and saw that many people, we said, ‘This is going to be fun.’ It made us want to dunk before the officials came to the floor. We could feel the building shake. We were lucky to experience that.”
Dollar Bay had a close call two nights later, edging Ontonagon 62-61 on its home floor.
“The week before, (the Ewen-Trout Creek game was) all people were talking about,” said Janke. “We’re trying not to make that game our peak. It was exciting to play at Tech, but we were glad to be on our home floor. Ontonagon has a good team. They’re not to be taken lightly.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Dollar Bay's Devin Schmitz goes up for a layup during Monday’s District win over Chassell. (Middle) Dollar Bay's Jacob Iacono drives to the basket. (Below) This season’s Dollar Bay boys basketball team, after its win Monday. (Top and middle photos courtesy of Bryce Derouin/Houghton Daily Mining Gazette. Below photo courtesy of the Dollar Bay 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.