Breslin Bound: Girls Quarterfinal Preview

March 16, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Five teams in Tuesday's Quarterfinals have reached the final week of the MHSAA girls basketball season for the first time.

But the celebrations are just getting started. 

See below for a glance at all 16 Quarterfinal games to determine which teams advance to this weekend's final rounds at Michigan State University's Breslin Center. All quarters tip off at 7 p.m. unless noted.

Class A

DeWitt (23-1) vs. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (17-8) at Charlotte

Four seniors starters have guided DeWitt to its first Quarterfinal since 2009 in Class B. Despite having no player taller than 5-foot-10, the Panthers are the tough matchup because of their versatility and balance led by senior guard Claudia Reid (10.3 points, 6.5 assists per game) and senior forward Abby Nakfoor (12 ppg, five rebounds per game). Forest Hills Central has won its first Regional title in its first season under former East Grand Rapids star Kelvin Grady. Senior center Sophia Sanfilipo will stand the tallest in this game at 5-11 and averages 13.1 points and nine rebounds per game. 

Hartland (18-6) vs. Saginaw Heritage (21-3) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth

Hartland rebounded from three losses over its final five regular-season games to win its first Regional championship as well. Sophomore forward Lexey Tobel (12.1 ppg) leads five players averaging at least five points per game. Heritage will play in its second Quarterfinal in three seasons to make its first Semifinal since 2002, when it won Class A. The Hawks might be even more balanced than Hartland – six players average at least six points per game, but not score 10. 

Bloomfield Hills Marian (23-1) vs. Waterford Kettering (23-1) at St. Clair Shores Lake Shore

The reigning Class A champion, Marian hasn’t lost to an in-state opponent since last season’s Detroit Catholic League Final; its only loss this season was the Chicago Whitney Young by four Jan 17. The Mustangs beat four teams still alive this week. Kettering has won two Regional titles in four seasons and at least 20 games three of the four, and probably couldn’t imagine a more impressive way to break through to the Semifinals for the first time since 2000. Senior forward Lauren Tewes leads five players scoring at least eight points per game, with 10.6 ppg. 

Romulus (18-5) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (23-1) at Dearborn Fordson

The Romulus girls have caught up to the powerhouse boys program with Regional titles the last two seasons, and they did so this time despite falling in three or their final four regular-season games. The team has eight seniors, and guard Jayla Nichols leads at 12.1 ppg. It may be tough to believe, but King hasn’t made the Semifinals since its last title run in 2006. The Crusaders are always in the mix and lost this season only to Marian, by a point, in the regular-season finale. Guard Janae Williams leads a strong group that includes six seniors.

Class B 

Benton Harbor (19-5) vs. Flat Rock (21-3) at Eaton Rapids 

The Tigers have improved their win total every season of five under coach Lisa Harvey-Gondrezick and are led by her daughters, Miss Basketball finalist and Michigan State University recruit Kalabrya (17.9 points, 8.1 assists per game) and junior forward Kysre (27.5 points, 10.6 rebounds per game). Flat Rock also has a parent/daughters combination with coach Marc Villemure, 6-foot-1 senior guard Paige (14.6 points, 3.8 blocks per game) and 6-1 junior forward Morgan (13.3 points, 6.5 rebounds per game). They helped the team to its first Regional title.

Haslett (20-5) vs. Grand Rapids Catholic Central (23-2) at Wayland

The Vikings have pointed toward this season after most of the same group made it to the Class A Regional Finals last season. Four Haslett girls score in double digits led by senior forward Makenna Ott, who missed nine games through the middle of the season with an injury but brings 13.2 points per game to the lineup – Haslett lost only once with her this winter. GRCC has been surging with 13 straight wins since falling to rival Wayland, which Haslett beat in the Regional Final (and GRCC beat in their second meeting by 22 points). The Cougars have won District titles all three of coach Trevor Hinshaw’s seasons and are returning to the final week for the first time since 2012. 

Goodrich (24-1) vs. Manistee (23-1) at Mount Pleasant

Goodrich just missed the Quarterfinals last season but is back for the fifth time in six and after winning back-to-back Class B titles in 2012 and 2013. Senior Tania Davis (19.1 ppg) and junior Alexis Sevillian (15.6 ppg) make up one of the strongest backcourts in the state; Davis was named Miss Basketball on Monday. Manistee is an incredible 45-2 over the last two seasons and in its first Quarterfinal since 1994. It avenged its lone loss, to Traverse City West, in a rematch Feb. 20. 

Dearborn Divine Child (20-5) vs. Detroit Country Day (19-4) at Marysville

Subtract three losses to reigning Class A champion Bloomfield Hills Marian, and Divine Child’s record looks even better – Dearborn Heights Robichaud (17-3) was the only postseason opponent of five to come within 15 points of the Falcons, who are led by senior guard Riley Blair (15.5 ppg). Country Day started this season with 11 straight wins before losing four of its next six – but against some of the best teams in Class A and a Class C favorite. The Yellowjackets came back to beat Haslett during the final week of the regular season and haven’t been challenged during the MHSAA tournament as they pursue their first championship since 2009.

Class C

Tawas (21-4) vs. Calumet (21-2) at Petoskey 

Tawas is back in the final week for the first time since 2003 and after finishing only 8-11 a year ago. Senior guard Jenna Szostak leads three players scoring in double figures with 19.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Calumet is making its first trip to the Quarterfinals since 1977 and is two losses by a combined 12 points to Class B Houghton from a perfect record. The Copper Kings have won at least 15 games three straight season.

Niles Brandywine (23-1) vs. Laingsburg (25-0) at Comstock Park 

Niles Brandywine will play in its fifth Quarterfinal in six seasons, seeking its first Semifinal berth since 2010. The Bobcats are an incredible 138-9 under coach Josh Hood over those six seasons and lost this winter only to Class A Kalamazoo Central. Junior forward Makenna Hartline is the leading scorer at 14.4 ppg. Laingsburg has made its first Quarterfinal with a balanced approach – only junior guard Lindsey Smith (11.2) averages more than eight points per game. The Wolfpack beat four teams this postseason that had won at least 17 games.

Homer (21-4) vs. Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (21-3) at Michigan Center 

Homer finished runner-up in the Big 8 Conference and continued into its first Quarterfinal appearance since 1982 – and despite finishing only 10-11 a year ago. Arbor Prep will play in its second straight Quarterfinal with a chance to win 22 games for the second straight as well despite a schedule loaded with Class A and B teams including three still playing this week. The team has only three seniors, but all three start. Junior guard Nastassja Chambers leads, scoring 15.3 points per game.

Saginaw Nouvel (19-6) vs. Flint Hamady (23-1) at Davison 

Nouvel, the reigning Class C champion, has faced plenty of challenging opponents in all four classes this season, although Hamady should be one of the toughest with a combined record of 47-2 over the last two seasons. Junior guard Jalisha Terry has plenty of experience on the winning side in her third season on varsity, while Nouvel junior guard Laurel Jacqmain scores 18.9 points per game and also was the Cougars’ leading scorer in last season’s MHSAA Final.

Class D

St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran (21-1) vs. Pittsford (24-0) at Battle Creek Harper Creek

Michigan Lutheran has won an incredible 19 straight league titles and six District crowns in seven seasons, but added their first Regional title since 2004 last week. The lone loss was early to Frankfort, also a quarterfinalist, and senior guard Hailey Maas leads three scorers averaging double figures at 14.5 ppg. Pittsford has been the lone undefeated Class D team since midseason and will be making its first Quarterfinal appearance – but is a combined 62-7 over the last three seasons. Sophomores Maddie Clark and Jaycie Burger lead with 19.4 and 17.9 points per game, respectively.

Waterford Our Lady (11-12) vs. Kingston (21-3) at Warren Mott, 6 p.m.

Our Lady followed up its run of four straight Class D championship games from 2010-13 with a sub-.500 finish last season, but can get back to even this winter by continuing this surprise run. The Lakers likely are on the rise for the next few seasons, as no starter this winter is a senior, and with freshman Tiffany Senerius and junior Alex Troy (both 10 points per game) their leading scorers. Kingston won its second Regional title ever and first since 2003, and benefits from a balanced starting lineup with four starters scoring 8.8-11.5 points per game, including seniors Jenna Boyl and Cassidy McGuire.

Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (20-4) vs. Frankfort (23-1) at Traverse City Central

The reigning champion Irish have a similar but more veteran look after graduating only one senior from last season’s team. Sacred Heart this time has six seniors including 2014 tournament heroes Averi Gamble (16 ppg) at center and Riley Terwilliger (9.5 ppg) at guard. Frankfort hopes to take the next step after also reaching the Quarterfinals last season. Junior guard Mackenna Kelly leads with 17.1 points per game, and sophomore Cecelia Schmitt adds 13.5.

St. Ignace (19-5) vs. Crystal Falls Forest Park (21-4) at Negaunee

This is a matchup of 2014 Finals runners-up – Forest Park from Class D and St. Ignace formerly of Class C. The Trojans are back in the final week despite graduating Miss Basketball winner Lexi Gussert last spring; three senior starters and first-year coach Jackie Giuliani have led this team to its fourth straight Quarterfinal. The Saints are seeking their sixth straight trip to the Semifinals and have a pair of standout scorers in junior forward Abbey Ostman (16.6 ppg) and senior guard Margo Brown (13.8 ppg, 51 3-pointers). 

PHOTO: Detroit Martin Luther King defeated Grosse Pointe South during last week's Regional. (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.