Breslin Bound: Girls Report Week 2
December 16, 2019
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
By next Monday, many girls basketball teams in Michigan will have at least 20 percent of their regular-season games played.
Given last season’s results and players expected back this winter, many of the most impressive performances were expected. But surprise teams are emerging already as well – and building toward what could be an exciting 2020.
This week’s “Breslin Bound” again highlights teams from both groups. “Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at MHSAA.com. Send corrections or missing scores to [email protected].
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Detroit Renaissance 49, East Kentwood 47 – After defeating Wayne Memorial by 34 on Friday in a Best of Michigan Classic first-day game, the Phoenix further cemented their status as one of the early teams to watch in Division 1 by edging the Falcons during the event’s second day.
2. East Lansing 49, Williamson 30 – The Trojans have loaded their nonleague schedule with title contenders, and the Hornets are among teams with high Division 2 hopes this winter.
3. Detroit Edison 59, Bolingbrook, Ill. 52 – Edison opened its Best of Michigan Classic two-day run with an impressive win against one of Illinois’ annual powers.
4. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 58, Grass Lake 55 – Carman-Ainsworth also has Division 1 aspirations this season, while Grass Lake looks like a team to beat in Division 3.
5. Howell 50, DeWitt 46 OT – The Highlanders finished just above .500 last season but are well on their way after defeating Midland Dow to start last week and finishing by avenging last season’s 10-point loss to the Panthers.
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Ann Arbor Huron (5-0) Few if any teams can boast a more impressive group of early opponents, as Huron’s first five averaged 18 wins last season and included 2018-19 Division 1 semifinalists Muskegon and Wayne Memorial and Division 3 semifinalist Ypsilanti Arbor Prep. The River Rats finished 12-10 last season, but appear ready to make a major jump.
Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (4-0) The Rockets have been one of the best from a strong lakeshore area for a few seasons, and fell to eventual Division 1 semifinalist Muskegon by just four points in last year’s District Final. Last week’s win 52-43 win over annual power Grand Haven might be telling of what’s to come; Reeths-Puffer fell to the Buccaneers by 25 a year ago.
Battle Creek Harper Creek (3-0) Last season’s 15-8 run included a District title, but also two losses to Marshall and another to Battle Creek Central. Harper Creek’s perfect start this winter has included a one-point win over BCC and Friday’s 38-30 victory over Marshall – during which Maddie Alexander scored her 1,000th career point.
Sault Ste. Marie (3-0) The Blue Devils always are solid – last season’s 13 wins were their fewest since winning 12 games in 2012-13. The early returns this winter indicate something more could be in store – after losing last season to Escanaba and splitting with Gaylord, Sault Ste. Marie this time beat the Eskymos by seven and Gaylord’s Blue Devils by 45.
Ann Arbor Greenhills (4-0) The Gryphons are one of few if not the only team that already has surpassed last season’s win total, stacking up four after finishing 2018-19 at 3-14. All four this winter have been by nine points or more, with the 48-38 opening win over Westland Huron Valley Lutheran a 25-point swing from last season’s first-night meeting.
Gwinn (2-0) The Modeltowners opened their season last week, and what a week to remember. First came a 61-58 double-overtime win over Bark River-Harris – avenging last year’s 10-point loss. That was followed by Friday’s 50-40 victory over Iron Mountain – which the Marquette Mining Journal reported was Gwinn’s first win in a conference opener since 2010-11. The Modeltowners finished 12-10 last winter.
Plymouth Christian Academy (3-0) The initial spark may have lit during the 2018 postseason, as the Eagles entered 5-15 and advanced to a Regional Final. They improved to 12-8 overall last winter, and have opened this season in part by avenging last year’s losses to Division 1 Canton and Livonia Franklin.
St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran (4-0) Fast starts are nothing new to the Titans – they won their first 10 games last season and 11 of their first 12 in 2017-18. But that doesn’t make this early surge any less notable – four wins by an average of 31.5 points, a pretty great way to build on last season’s 18-3 finish.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – Okemos (2-2) at Hartland (2-0) – The Eagles have opened with wins over two reigning Finals champions in Saginaw Heritage and Adrian Lenawee Christian, while Okemos’ two losses are by a combined five points.
Tuesday – Marquette (4-2) at Negaunee (3-1) – Marquette won 20 games last season and Negaunee won 16, with their first meeting going to the Miners by five and their second to the Redettes by a point.
Wednesday – Grass Lake (4-1) at Michigan Center (3-1) – Grass Lake was first and Michigan Center second in the Cascades Conference last season, but Michigan Center then defeated Grass Lake to win a District title.
Thursday – Midland Dow (2-1) at Midland (4-0) – Dow won last season’s three meetings by an average of 31 points, but Midland has nearly equaled last winter’s win total with an impressive start.
Friday – East Lansing (3-0) at DeWitt (2-1) – One of the state’s top rivalries saw the Division 1 powers split their two meetings and the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title last season.
Second Half’s weekly “Breslin Bound” reports 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.
PHOTO: A pair of Bridgeport defenders wall off the lane during Friday’s 57-50 overtime loss to Alma. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.