Breslin Bound: Girls Districts in Review

March 4, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

District tournaments give teams the best kind of opportunity to pay back their neighbors for a disappointing loss (or two) from earlier in the winter.

Win, and the avenging team not only gets that revenge – but ends the opponent’s season.

A number of MHSAA girls basketball teams took advantage of those opportunities last week. And some of the more fortunate fought off a rival or two for the third time – another difficult task unto itself.

Below are four teams from each class that made impressions during the District tournaments. Regionals tip off tonight.

Class A

Haslett (22-1) – The Vikings have rattled off 22 straight wins since falling to another eventual Class B District champ, Eaton Rapids, on opening night. Haslett’s District title run included wins over East Lansing and Okemos followed by a third this season over rival DeWitt – a team that was capable as Haslett of making a run deep into this month if it had advanced instead.

Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (18-5) – The Cougars finished a game behind Clarkston in the Oakland Activities Association Red standings, losing to the Wolves by 10 and five points. But Stoney Creek won their third matchup, the District Final, 47-37. Not a bad way to step back up after finishing the regular-season on a 4-4 streak.

Waterford Kettering (20-3) – Friday provided some redemption for the Captains. They won the Kensington Lakes Activities Association North title by a game over Waterford Mott (also 20-3), then lost to Mott during the league tournament before beating Mott in the District Final 55-52 in overtime. The District sweep also came after Kettering finished the regular season with two straight losses.

Wyoming (21-2) – The Wolves now have won 21 games in each of their first two seasons as a school (created by the merger of Rogers and Park). And this season, they haven’t lost since Dec. 16. Wyoming’s opponent that night was Holland West Ottawa – and it avenged that 55-35 defeat by downing West Ottawa 48-46 in the District Final after surviving Grandville 58-57 in the Semifinal.

Class B

Ionia (18-5) – The Bulldogs finished third in a Capital Area Activities Conference Red that featured Class A contenders Haslett and DeWitt, and that no doubt prepared them well for last week’s run that included beating CAAC White co-champ Portland in the District Final. Ionia also had beaten Portland by six during the last week of the regular season before winning Friday 57-32.  

Menominee (14-7) – Winners of 10 games last season, the Maroons opened the District with a 55-45 win over league mate Gladstone, which it split with during the regular season. But the victory that resonated louder came in the Final, a 48-39 upset of 2013 MHSAA Semifinalist Houghton – which finished this season 19-3.

Parchment (21-2) – The Panthers have challenged to join the elite for a few seasons, but opened the 2013 District by falling by seven to Marshall – which went on to reach the Quarterfinals. But Parchment opened last week’s District with a seven-point win over Marshall and finished with a 35-29 edging of Battle Creek Harper Creek (15-7).

Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (20-3) – The Gators moved from Class C to B this school year, and this team is already two wins better after falling to eventual C champion Manchester during their second game in last season’s tournament. Arbor Prep took on a strong variety of opponents this season with wins over Benton Harbor, Southfield-Lathrup and Detroit Country Day, plus Manchester early.

Class C

Adrian Madison (19-1) – Madison was another powerful team that fell to Manchester during the latter’s championship run, but the Trojans might be the one to contend with this time. They followed a 10-point win over Addison with a 45-34 victory over previously-undefeated Pittsford in the District Final.

East Jackson (18-4) – Last week’s District at East Jackson looked to be pretty competitive, and the host beat two strong contenders to emerge with the title. East Jackson came off its Cascades Conference championship by beating 16-win Michigan Center by 18 and then frequent Class C contender Concord 46-43 in the championship game.

Grandville Calvin Christian (18-5) – Calvin Christian edged Kent City by a win to claim the O-K Silver championship during the regular season, and then ended the winter for the 17-5 Eagles with a 44-33 win in the District Final. Calvin Christian earned that one after eliminating River Valley Conference champion Grand Rapids Covenant Christian 59-37 in the District Semifinal.

McBain (19-2) – The Ramblers finished a perfect run through the Highland Conference and then won all three District games by double figures. They eliminated 17-win Traverse City St. Francis 57-42 in the District Semifinal and 16-win Maple City Glen Lake 57-35 in the championship game.

Class D

Bellaire (20-3) – The Eagles finished one game back of champion Gaylord St. Mary in the Ski Valley Conference standings, despite handing the Snowbirds their only league loss this season. But Bellaire made it two straight over St. Mary with a 44-32 win in the District Final.

Fowler (16-6) – These Eagles have had some solid teams over the last decade plus – but have spent most of that time in the shadow of rival Portland St. Patrick, a regular at the MHSAA Finals. Fowler fell to St. Patrick by seven on Feb. 15 – but came back to edge the Shamrocks 62-60 in the District Final.

Frankfort (21-1) – The Northwest Conference champion kept rolling last week, defeating 14-win Onekama and then 18-win Bear Lake in the District Final. Bear Lake had beaten Frankfort 47-26 in last season’s District championship game.

Martin (16-4) – Martin won 10 games a year ago but did advance to the District Final before losing to Climax-Scotts – which went on to the Class D Semifinals and just missed knocking off eventual champion St. Ignace. Martin and Climax-Scotts met again in the District Final last week, and this time the Clippers moved on with a 41-37 victory.

PHOTO: Haslett (white jerseys) defeated rival DeWitt last week for the third time this season to claim a Class A District championship. (Photo courtesy of the Lansing State Journal).

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.