Breslin Bound: 2021-22 Girls Report Week 3
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
December 20, 2021
How last season ended can affect how next season begins – and among trends this season are a number of girls basketball programs picking up again after strong finishes last winter.
That’s also a theme among headliners in our Breslin Bound report this week, as we cruise into a holiday break that will slow things down for some – but still include a number of notable matchups, as we’ve also covered below.
“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at MHSAA.com.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Detroit Edison 67, Hudsonville 48 The Pioneers (3-1) continued another great start with a big win over the reigning Division 1 champion Eagles (3-2) at the West Michigan Spotlight.
2. Wayne Memorial 61, Detroit Renaissance 44 This win over the reigning Division 1 runner-up Phoenix (2-2) started an impressive week that also included double-digit victories over Belleville and East Grand Rapids that pushed Wayne to 3-1.
3. Portland St. Patrick 53, Fowler 49 Two of the state’s best in Division 4 are neighbors, and the Shamrocks improved to 6-0 by handing reigning Finals champion Fowler (5-1) its first defeat; they meet against Feb. 1.
4. Hudsonville 59, Byron Center 56 (OT) While the Eagles’ losses have come to statewide contenders Edison and Midland Dow, they’ve stacked some wins closer to home with Byron Center (2-2) coming off a league title.
5. Sault Ste. Marie 51, St. Ignace 29 Reigning Straits Area Conference champion Sault Ste. Marie (5-3) earned a key win in what could be a three or four-team (out of five) race this winter, with the Saints (3-1) always a factor.
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Haslett (6-0) The Vikings are building on a 14-3 finish from last winter that included two losses to East Lansing, including the season-ender in the District Final. They avenged those with a 43-42 win last week, with their only other single-digit victory so far a noteworthy 41-38 edging of Jackson Northwest in the opener.
Utica (6-0) The Chieftains followed two straight 15-win seasons by finishing 6-10 last winter, but closed with a District title. They’ve rolled right into this winter with four wins by 28 points or more, but also two by just a bucket that have been the most impressive – handing the only losses to Port Huron (42-40), and last week, Macomb Dakota (48-45).
Otsego (6-0) Despite last winter’s abbreviated schedule, Otsego did improve a win to 9-6 and has continued to rise this winter. A 53-47 victory over Portage Central on Dec. 7 remains Central’s lone defeat, and the Bulldogs have a chance to close the calendar year with another nice statement when they host Marshall on Dec. 30.
Saginaw Swan Valley (5-1) The Vikings won five of their last six games to close 2020-21 at 10-7, their first winning season over the last three, and they’ve also carried some momentum into December. The lone loss was to still-unbeaten Lansing Catholic, and Swan Valley dealt the only defeats to Reese and Essexville Garber by matching 54-43 scores.
Carson City-Crystal (4-0) Last season’s 8-10 finish included a pair of losses to Mid-State Activities Conference rival Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, and the highlight of this start has no doubt been the 37-32 win over the Irish last week. All three of the Eagles’ other victories were by 16 points or more. The first matchup with reigning MSAC champion St. Charles is Jan. 21.
Hancock (5-1) Hancock’s only loss came to undefeated Calumet last week as it builds on last winter’s 11-5 finish. The Bulldogs’ highest win total over the last five seasons has been 13 wins, and they should make a run at surpassing that after also handing Ewen-Trout Creek its lone defeat and avenging last season’s District loss (and also a two-point regular-season defeat) to Negaunee.
Baraga (6-0) The Vikings are perhaps the Upper Peninsula’s strongest program that remains a bit under the statewide radar, but they’ve won league and at least District championships the last three seasons and show no signs of slowing down. After opening with a five-point win over Ontonagon, Baraga has won its last five games by an average of 33 points per contest.
Lake Leelanau St. Mary (4-0) Edging a Rudyard team 47-45 on Saturday that could contend in the Straits Area Conference was an attention-grabber for the Eagles, who won five of their last six last season to finish 9-7. Games this week against Saginaw Valley Lutheran and then at Carlton Airport’s showcase to end December will provide opportunities to make noise as well.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (3-0) vs. Grand Rapids West Catholic (3-0) at Cornerstone University – These two will meet in a Blue opener of Cornerstone’s annual holiday event.
Wednesday – Grand Rapids Christian (4-1) vs. Kent City (6-0) at Cornerstone University – They will play for the Gold title, with Grand Rapids Christian defeating reigning Division 2 runner-up Newaygo on Monday to advance.
Dec. 29 – Frankenmuth (4-0) vs. Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (4-0) at Redford Westfield Prep – This may be the premier game of the Motor City Roundball Classic, matching contenders in Divisions 2 and 3, respectively.
Dec. 29 – St. Ignace (3-1) vs. Port Huron (3-1) at Redford Westfield Prep – This is another of the most intriguing Motor City Roundball Classic matchups.
Dec. 30 – Marshall (3-1) at Otsego (6-0) – As noted above, this pairs two Division 2 teams that appear on the rise, with Marshall’s only loss by three opening night to Division 1 Battle Creek Lakeview.
Second Half’s weekly “Breslin Bound” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.
PHOTOS (Top) Davison evened its record last week with a 55-40 win over Saginaw Arthur Hill. (Middle) Otsego moved to a 6-0 with a 72-46 win over Vicksburg. (Photos by Terry Lyons and Gary Shook, respectively.)
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.