Breslin Bound: Girls Districts in Review

March 5, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Special to Second Half

The most-used coach cliche' this time of year revolves around the difficulty for a team to beat an opponent a third time in the playoffs after sweeping said opponent during the regular season. 

But those words of wisdom played out in more than a few cases during girls basketball Districts last week. 

See below for four champs from each class whose performances were particularly notable, including a handful that beat opponents after being swept by them earlier this winter. Records are based on results submitted for each team through the MHSAA Score Center

Class A

Canton (16-6) – Defense has been the name of the game lately for the Chiefs, who have given up exactly 23 points in each of their last three. Although the first was a regular-season finale loss to Waterford Kettering, the most recent was a 29-23 District final win over also 16-6 Northville.

Detroit Martin Luther King (20-0) – The Crusaders navigated one of the toughest District brackets in Class A to remain undefeated, beating Detroit Public School League runner-up Detroit Cass Tech 46-35 and then in the final Detroit Pershing, 66-38. King had beaten Cass Tech in the PSL Final only two weeks before.

Grand Ledge (19-4) – Much was expected of the resurgent Comets heading into this winter, but powerhouse East Lansing still stood in the way and swept them during the regular season. But Grand Ledge got a big one back, beating the Trojans 51-49 in the District final.

Saginaw Heritage (14-8) – The Hawks 53-44 District final win over Midland Dow might’ve been their best postseason victory in close to a decade. Heritage finished second in the Saginaw Valley Association North this season, but Dow finished first and was 21-0 entering the game.

Class B

Flint Powers Catholic (17-6) – The Chargers are back after finishing below .500 and falling in their District opener last season. Five of their six losses this winter were to Class A teams – the sixth coming to Class B Livonia Ladywood in their opener – and Powers is on a 14-1 streak.

Jackson Northwest (17-6) – The most impressive win of last week’s District run was the first, 47-38 in the opener over Eaton Rapids. The Greyhounds finished 18-3 and had beaten Northwest by 14 and 29 points this season in winning the Capital Area Activities Conference Gold – while Northwest finished third in that league.

River Rouge (14-6) – The Panthers won their District games by 30, 20 and then five points, respectively. The best win certainly came in the championship game, 57-52 over Dearborn Divine Child, an MHSAA Semifinalist last season.

Stevensville-Lakeshore (15-7) – The Lancers added another step to their success of 2011-12, this time winning a District title and doing so by beating a strong Benton Harbor team 60-59 in the championship game. Benton Harbor beat Lakeshore by 14 and 18 during the regular season.

Class C

Carson City-Crystal (20-2) – The Eagles last lost on Dec. 20, to Central Michigan Athletic Conference co-champion Portland St. Patrick. But Carson City-Crystal eliminated the other winner of that league title, Pewamo-Westphalia, 35-29 in last week’s District final. P-W finished 18-5.

Ishpeming (16-6) – The Hematites and Negaunee tied for the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference championship, but Ishpeming earned some final bragging rights last week by beating Negaunee, at Negaunee, 45-41 to claim the District title.

Michigan Center (15-8) – The Cardinals finished only fourth in a strong Cascades Conference, but beat third-place Grass Lake in the District semifinal before downing Concord 41-36 for the championship. Concord, which finished 18-4, beat Michigan Center by four early this season and made the MHSAA Semifinals in 2012.

Shelby (19-3) – The West Michigan Conference champion is two wins better than last season and continued to roll through some close games last week – a 41-39 win over Holton in the District semifinal and a 55-47 win over Hart in the championship game.

Class D

Fulton-Middleton (12-9) – The Pirates finished sixth in the always-strong Central Michigan Athletic Conference. But they beat co-champion – and 2012 Class D Semifinalist – Portland St. Patrick in the District final, 58-54 in triple overtime. Before that, Fulton beat CMAC fourth-place Fowler 53-45.

Pickford (15-6) – The Panthers shared the Eastern UP Athletic Conference championship with DeTour this season, and added another championship by edging Rudyard 28-24 in the District final. Pickford fell in last season’s District final to Brimley, which it beat during last week’s semifinals.

Powers North Central (15-8) – The Jets closed the regular season with two losses and were swept this season by Skyline Conference rival Bark River-Harris. But North Central got one back in their third and final meeting of the winter, beating the Broncos 70-68 in their District final.

Waterford Our Lady (17-4) – The reigning three-time MHSAA champion also lost its final two regular season games. But the Lakers escaped a close District final against Bloomfield Hills Roeper, winning 44-40, to continue their pursuit of a fourth-straight title. 

PHOTOS: Gaylord players celebrate last week's Class A District championship. The Blue Devils (14-9) edged Traverse City West 31-26 in overtime and now will face reigning Class A champion Grand Haven. (Photo courtesy of the Gaylord Herald Times

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.