Breslin Bound: Girls District Preview

February 24, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Special to Second Half

Nearly 700 girls basketball teams will begin a march this week they hope will end March 15 with an MHSAA championship trophy at Michigan State University's Breslin Center. 

District tournaments tip-off all over the state tonight, giving every team an equal start – even though the last three months have given us a decent idea which we might be following to East Lansing next month. 

Follow the brackets on Below are some of the teams we could see emerge when these three weeks are done. 

Class A

Detroit Martin Luther King (17-1) – The Crusaders have been favorites since the fall, with some of their most impressive wins over Grand Ledge and rival Detroit Cass Tech. King won the Detroit Public School League tournament championship again this month, with its only loss to Ohio’s Kettering Fairmont in December. Miss Basketball candidate Marte Grays dominates the middle at 6-foot-2.

Farmington Hills Mercy (19-1) – Mercy gets the slight nod above Bloomfield Hills Marian out of the Detroit Catholic League after avenging an earlier overtime loss to Marian with a one-point win in the league tournament championship game. Mercy finished the regular season with a three-point victory over reigning Class B champion Goodrich, and also beat reigning B runner-up Flint Powers earlier this season.

Grand Ledge (18-2) – The Comets should be a slight favorite to emerge from an incredibly-strong mid-Michigan Class A group that includes contenders Haslett, DeWitt and Holt. The lone losses were to Detroit King and while missing one of their top players against DeWitt on opening night. However, Richland Gull Lake (18-1) will be a tough obstacle in the District.

Grosse Pointe South (18-1) – The Class A runner-up the last two seasons, South is undefeated in Michigan this winter; the Blue Devils' lone loss was by a bucket to Illinois’ Crete Monee in December. Only two teams – Canton and league opponent Utica Ford – have gotten within single digits since the calendar turned to 2014. The best win so far might’ve been against Farmington Hills Harrison, which finished 17-3.

Class B

Detroit Country Day (17-1) – Given their longtime record of success, it’s tough to believe the Yellowjackets haven’t played in an MHSAA championship game since 2010. This could be the season for a return – a 16-point loss to Ypsilanti Arbor two weeks ago hurt, but a number of solid wins seems to indicate Country Day could still be there at the end of March. Point guard Asia Doss is a Miss Basketball finalist.

Flint Powers Catholic (17-2) – Last season’s MHSAA runner-up showed signs it was on the way back up with a junior-loaded lineup that maybe wasn’t expected at that point to reach the final game of the season. The Chargers have met much higher expectations this winter, even despite a late loss last week to Class C Saginaw Nouvel. Powers won its mostly Class A league, a good prep for what should be a competitive District.   

Goodrich (18-2) – The Class B champion the last two seasons, Goodrich might be the favorite again with its only losses to Class A powers Haslett and Farmington Hills Mercy (see above). Only two other teams have gotten within single digits – Freeland and Class A Detroit Cass Tech – and Goodrich owns another solid win over Class B contender Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.

Grand Rapids South Christian – An MHSAA Semifinalist a season ago, South Christian has looked even stronger this winter, with only a few schools including league rivals Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Wayland giving the Sailors much of a challenge. They shouldn’t have too much trouble this week, although the Regional could include GRCC and Holland Christian – the latter looking for a rematch after falling to South Christian by only three in early January.  

Class C

Blissfield (17-0) – The Royals have upped their collective game after winning a District title in 2013 despite finishing third in the Lenawee County Athletic Association. This season, they’re league champs and in a District with three teams they beat by double digits during the regular season. They’ll be favored through the Regional as well, although they could run into reigning champ Manchester.

Flint Hamady (20-0) – Hamady is looking to get back to an MHSAA championship game for the first time since winning Class C back-to-back in 2009-10. So far, so good; only Class A Davison and Flint Carman-Ainsworth and Genesee Area Conference Blue rival New Lothrop got within single digits of the Hawks during the regular season. Four of six opponents in the District also are from the GAC Blue.

Saginaw Nouvel (15-5) – Don’t judge this one by record alone. Last season’s MHSAA runner-up played one of the toughest schedules among Class C contenders. Four losses were to Class A Haslett and Class B Midland Bullock Creek, Flint Powers Catholic and Detroit Country Day – all four of those could be in the conversation for MHSAA titles in their respective classes – and the fifth loss was to Indiana’s South Bend St. Joseph. Class C contender Reese and strong Class A Midland were among those Nouvel toppled this month.  

St. Ignace (18-2) – A regular at Breslin Center, St. Ignace could be back despite moving back into Class C after winning the Class D championship in 2013. The Saints once again mixed in a good share of competition from downstate, falling to Reese but beating Detroit Renaissance, and Petoskey twice, among others. The Regional could provide some challenges, but St. Ignace should be up to them again as it pursues its fifth straight Semifinal trip.

Class D

Athens (17-3) – The Indians play in one of the state’s most competitive small-school leagues, the Big 8 Conference, and have made the Class D Quarterfinals the last three seasons and the Semifinals the last two while finishing MHSAA runner-up in 2011-12. All three of their losses were to Class C teams – Concord, Reading and Mendon – that could make noise in that class. Athens then won rematches against Concord and Reading. 

Frankfort (19-1) – This could be Frankfort’s best since its back-to-back MHSAA championship teams of 2005-06. The Panthers have improved from 13-10 last season, with their only loss this winter to undefeated Class B contender Manistee. They’ve had a few more close games than other favorites, but that can be a good thing – Frankfort staved off Class C Traverse City St. Francis to win by four, Class B Kingsley to win by six and Class A Romulus also to win by four. The Panthers then beat Kingsley by 22 in their rematch.

Crystal Falls Forest Park (20-0) – The Trojans are attempting to finish an impressive three-season run that’s included two Regional titles and an MHSAA Semifinal appearance. No opponent has come within 20 points of Forest Park this season. Guard Lexi Gussert caught the state’s attention with 34 points in that Semifinal loss in 2012 and has scored more than 2,400 points during a career that’s made her a Miss Basketball finalist. 

Posen (20-0) – The Vikings hope to ride their second straight perfect regular season past the Regional Final, where they fell last season to eventual MHSAA champion St. Ignace. Only Lincoln Alcona on opening night has come within single digits of Posen, and the Vikings bested Alcona by 13 in their rematch this month.

PHOTO: Detroit Martin Luther King's Marte Grays (35) pushes the ball upcourt during the Detroit Public School League tournament championship game win over Detroit Cass Tech. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public School League.)

Little Provides Major Stride as 1st Woman to Officiate Boys Hoops Final since 1995

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

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.