A-B Preview: Return of the Champs

March 15, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Three 2016 MHSAA champions will take the floor for Friday’s Semifinals in Classes A and B.

Warren Cousino is back attempting to repeat in Class A, and Marshall is seeking to do the same in Class B. The third guarantees there will be a new Class C champion this weekend; Ypsilanti Arbor Prep won that title last year but is in Class B and earned the top ranking during the regular season.

All four Class A and B Semifinals will be played Friday, with all four championship games Saturday. 

Semifinals - Friday
Class A

Warren Cousino (24-2) vs. Flushing (22-3), 1 p.m.
East Kentwood (25-1) vs. Southfield Arts & Technology (22-4), 2:50 p.m.

Class B
Detroit Country Day (24-1) vs. Marshall (23-2), 6 p.m.
Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (26-0) vs. Freeland (26-0), 7:50 p.m.

Finals - Saturday
Class A - Noon
Class B - 6 p.m.
Class C - 4 p.m.
Class D - 10 a.m.

Tickets cost $8 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session. All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv on a pay-per-view basis. All four Finals will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit, the Class D, A and C Finals on the network’s PLUS channel and Class B on the primary channel. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.

And now, a look at the semifinalists in Class A and Class B. 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, except Freeland’s are through the end of the regular season.) The Girls Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System.

Class A

Record/rank: 25-1, No. 9
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Coach: Jimmy Carter, sixth season (79-57)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 57-43 over No. 7 Muskegon Mona Shores in the Regional Semifinal, 59-45 and 63-46 over Grand Haven, 51-49 (District Final) and 52-43 over Grand Rapids Christian.
Players to watch: Lazurea Saunders, 6-0 jr. C (14 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 4.0 spg); Alona Blackwell, 5-10 soph. F (10 ppg, 3.0 apg);
Outlook: East Kentwood has its second 20-win season under Carter, but also has increased its win total each of the last four winters. The Falcons are 11 victories better than a year ago and won their first Regional title last week. The only loss was to Class B No. 4 Grand Rapids Catholic Central in East Kentwood’s second game. Eight players average at least five points per game; sophomore guard Mauriya Barnes (11.5 ppg) and junior center Corinne Jemison (10) add plenty of scoring off the bench. 

Record/rank: 22-3, unranked
League finish: First in Flint Metro League.
Coach: Larry Ford, 13th season (228-67)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 45-39 over No. 4 Midland Dow in the Regional Final, 47-25 over Flint Hamady, 65-37 and 50-39 (District Final) over Flint Carman-Ainsworth.
Players to watch: Lauren Newman, 5-8 sr. G (11.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg); Shelby Morrow, 5-7 jr. G (10.9 ppg, 2.5 spg).
Outlook: Flushing has advanced to its first Semifinal since 1976 and won 21 of its last 22 games after opening 1-2 this winter. The Dow win in the Regional Final avenged one of those early losses, and the others were to No. 3 Saginaw Heritage and Class B top-ranked Arbor Prep. Only league rival Fenton (41) has scored more than 40 points against the Raiders since Dec. 6. Senior 6-foot center Bre Perry adds to a balanced attack with 8.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. 

Record/rank: 22-4, No. 6
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Michele Marshall, 22nd season (276-92)
Championship history: First season as a program.
Best wins: 55-51 over No. 1 Detroit Martin Luther King in the Regional Final, 68-52 over Detroit Renaissance in the District Final, 52-38 over Ann Arbor Huron in the Quarterfinal.
Players to watch: Deja Church, 5-10 sr. G (20.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg); Alexis Johnson, 5-10 soph. F (14.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg).
Outlook: Although Southfield A&T technically is a new program, Marshall formerly built Southfield Lathrup into a top program before that school and the former Southfield High merged last fall. Lathrup won the Class A title in 2005. Church was a Miss Basketball finalist and will continue at University of Michigan. Freshman guard Cheyenne McEvans adds another 10.3 points and six rebounds per game and with Church is among three who had at least 22 3-pointers this season entering the week.

Record/rank: 24-2, No. 2
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Coach: Mike Lee, eighth season (150-43)
Championship history: Class A champion 2016.
Best wins: 47-41 over Farmington Hills Mercy in the Quarterfinal, 41-39 over Bloomfield Hills Marian in the Regional Final, 53-51, 52-34 and 66-45 over No. 7 Port Huron Northern.
Players to watch: Kierra Fletcher, 5-9 sr. G (22.7 ppg, 13 rpg, 6.2 apg, 5.2 spg, 2.1 bpg); Erin McArthur, 5-6 sr. G (13.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 5.4 apg, 4.1 spg, 65 3-pointers).
Outlook: Cousino was as big a surprise last season as a 23-win team could be – but definitely won’t be this weekend. Fletcher was a Miss Basketball finalist after starring in last season’s Finals, and she’ll continue her career at Georgia Tech. In addition to Fletcher and McArthur, senior Rachel Hayes and sophomore Mackenzie Cook also started in last season’s championship game and current starter senior Aubrey Fetzer played 21 minutes off the bench. Cousino also picked up two wins over league foe Macomb Dakota, which also made the Quarterfinals.

Class B

Record/rank: 24-1, No. 2
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Frank Orlando, 36th season (757-113)
Championship history: 
Eleven MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), four runner-up finishes.  
Best wins: 55-46 over Class A No. 1 Detroit Martin Luther King, 56-46 over Class A No. 4 Midland Dow, 60-51 over Class A No. 6 Southfield A&T, 53-35 over Ann Arbor Huron.
Players to watch: Destiny Pitts, 6-0 sr. G (22.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.3 apg, 71 3-pointers); Kaela Webb, 5-7 jr. G (14.8 ppg, 3.0 apg, 36 3-pointers).
Outlook: Country Day returned to the Semifinals last season and will try to send off Pitts with a second title in three seasons. She also was a Miss Basketball finalist and will continue at University of Minnesota. She was named Class B Player of the Year by The Associated Press, and Webb also made the all-state first team. In addition to an impressive Class A lineup and its Class B run, the Yellowjackets beat Class C semifinalists Detroit Edison PSA and Flint Hamady during the regular season.

Record/rank: 26-0, No. 5
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference Central.
Coach: Tom Zolinski, 10th season (198-45)
Championship history: Class C champion 1998.
Best wins: 68-45 over No. 9 Bay City John Glenn in the District Semifinal, 57-35 and 39-38 over Saginaw Swan Valley, 53-38 over Cadillac in the Quarterfinal.
Players to watch: Jenna Gregory, 5-10 sr. F (10 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.5 spg); Alyssa Argyle, 5-9 soph. F (9.7 ppg, 2.7 spg);
Outlook: The Falcons are back in the Semifinals for the first time since 2012 and with only two wins decided by fewer than 10 points. Freeland is 47-3 over the last two seasons and has dominated this one with a balanced lineup; five players average at least seven points per game, and five entered the postseason with at least 20 3-pointers. Bullock Creek was the other opponent to get within 10 points, and the Falcons beat the Lancers in the District Final by 40.

Record/rank: 23-2, No. 6
League finish: First in Interstate Eight Athletic Conference.
Coach: Sal Konkle, 17th season (305-95)
Championship history: Class B champion 2016, runner-up 1981.
Best wins: 49-27 over No. 4 Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the Quarterfinal, 55-29 over Comstock in the District Semifinal, 41-40 and 50-29 over Jackson Northwest.
Players to watch: Nikki Tucker, 5-10 sr. F (15.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg); Jill Konkle, 5-6 sr. G (11.3 ppg, 43 3-pointers).
Outlook: The reigning Class B champion is surging again, avenging its second loss by beating GRCC in the Quarterfinal; the other defeat came to No. 3 Williamston on opening night. Four senior starters are back from last season’s Final. Balance and defense are again the names of Marshall’s game: six players score at least 4.8 ppg, and of the 23 wins, only that first over the league rival Mounties came by fewer than 10 points.

Record/rank: 26-0, No. 1
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Rod Wells, sixth season (129-17)
Championship history: Class C champion 2016.
Best wins: 41-39 over No. 3 Williamston in the Quarterfinal, 53-38 over No. 8 Ida in the Regional Semifinal, 38-28 over Flushing, 53-33 over Ann Arbor Huron, 72-31 over Detroit Mumford, 57-39 over Class A No. 7 Muskegon Mona Shores.
Players to watch: Adrienne Anderson, 5-7 sr. G (13.7 ppg, 4.2 spg); Ro’zhane Wells, 5-5 sr. G (10.6 ppg, 3.6 apg, 2.9 spg).
Outlook: Arbor Prep’s encore to last season’s Class C title has been to move to Class B and go undefeated. Senior forwards Cydney Williams (9.1 ppg) and Kayla Knight (4.8) joined Anderson and Wells starting in last season’s championship game, and 6-0 junior forward Lasha Petree adds another 10.4 ppg this winter. Only Williamston and Dearborn Heights Robichaud in the District Final have gotten closer than 10 points as the team has given up more than 40 only five times. Arbor Prep also downed Class C quarterfinalist Detroit PSA.

PHOTO: Freeland downed Ithaca last week to claim a Class B Regional title. Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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.