C-D Preview: Favorites Seeking to Finish

March 16, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The proposed favorites at this weekend’s MHSAA Class C and D Girls Basketball Finals have unfinished business from trips to the Breslin Center a year ago.

Ypsilanti Arbor Prep and Pittsford entered the postseason as the top-ranked teams in those classes, respectively, by The Associated Press – Arbor Prep coming off a Semifinals loss in 2015 and Pittsford bouncing back from an overtime defeat in the Class D championship game.

But claiming a title this time won’t be as easy as returning to East Lansing. All four Class C contenders are seeking to play in an MHSAA Final for the first time. Stephenson is seeking the same in Class D – and along with the Wildcats, faces a Semifinal opponent with recent championship history.

All four Class C and D Semifinals will be played Thursday, with all four championship games Saturday. 

Semifinals - Thursday
Class C

Niles Brandywine (24-2) vs. Traverse City St. Francis (25-1), 1 p.m.
Ithaca (24-2) vs. Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (23-2), 2:50 p.m.

Class D
Pittsford (25-0) vs Waterford Our Lady (20-4), 6 p.m.
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (23-1) vs Stephenson (24-2), 7:50 p.m.

Finals - Saturday
Class A - Noon
Class B - 6 p.m.
Class C - 4 p.m.
Class D - 10 a.m.

Tickets cost $8 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session. All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.TV on a pay-per-view basis. All four Finals will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit’s primary channel, with the Class B game on a delayed basis at 10:30 p.m. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.

And now, a look at the semifinalists in Class C and D. Click on the name of the school to see that team’s full schedule and results from this season. (Statistics are through teams' Regional Finals; Ithaca’s include Tuesday’s Quarterfinal.)

Class C

Record/rank: 24-2, No. 7 
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference West 
Coach: Jessie Rayburn, fourth season (40-42) 
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final. 
Best wins: 51-43 over No. 2 Flint Hamady in Quarterfinal, 68-45 over Reese in Regional Final, 53-41 over New Lothrop in Regional Semifinal, 57-53 over Hemlock in District Final. 
Players to watch: Kayla Belles, 6-3 soph. C (18 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 4.2 bpg, 2.1 spg); Maddie Brock, 5-10 jr. F (9.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg); Brooklyn Dolloff, 5-4 sr. G (9.5 ppg, 3.9 spg).
Outlook: Ithaca has been on the verge of this best-ever run, but it’s still a little incredible given that coach Bob Anderson retired midseason because of health issues. In stepped assistant Rayburn, who was head coach from 2009-11, and the Yellowjackets have barely missed a beat with their only losses to Class B No. 8 Freeland and No. 9 Frankenmuth. Belles has put up some incredible games over her first two seasons, and she’s surrounded in the starting lineup by three seniors and a junior. The Regional title also was the first in program history.

Record/rank: 24-2, honorable mention
League finish: First in Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference Red
Coach: Josh Hood, seventh season (162-12) 
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final. 
Best wins: 53-47 over No. 9 Gobles in Regional Final, 40-24 over Grand Rapids Covenant Christian in Quarterfinal, 53-44 over Class B honorable mention Stevensville Lakeshore.
Players to watch: Makenna Hartline, 5-10 sr. C (no statistics submitted); Michaela Hartline, 5-10 sr. F (no statistics submitted).
Outlook: Brandywine is back at the Semifinals for the first time since 2010 and has won at least 20 games every season and never lost more than two under Hood since he took over the program that historic winter. Five seniors start, and while the Bobcats don’t go taller than 5-10, the Hartlines are strong in the post. The only losses this season were to South Bend Adams (Ind.) and Class A Southfield, which finished 20-2.

Record/rank: 24-1, No. 3 (tied)
League finish: First in Lake Michigan Conference 
Coach: Keith Haske, first season (24-1) 
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final. 
Best wins: 48-44 over No. 6 St. Ignace in Quarterfinal, 62-55 over Maple City Glen Lake in District Final, 76-72 over Class D No. 7 Frankfort, 51-38 and 54-29 over Kalkaska.  
Players to watch: Annie Lyman, 5-10 sr. F (14 ppg); Juliana Phillips, 6-4 jr. F (12 ppg, 10 rpg).
Outlook: St. Francis has won 23 straight since falling early to Class B No. 5 Manistee. Haske coached both the boys and girls teams this season and has taken a girls team this far before – his 2004 Charlevoix team finished Class C runner-up. With two sophomores and a junior in the starting lineup and only three seniors total, this might be the first of a few trips for this group. Senior center Lauren McDonnell adds another 10 points per game.

Record/rank: 23-2, No. 1 
League finish: Does not play in a league. 
Coach: Rod Wells, fifth season (101-17)
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final. 
Best wins: 40-30 over No. 5 Napoleon in Regional Final, 66-42 over No. 10 Saginaw Nouvel, 52-41 over Class B No. 5 Manistee, 50-47 over Class B No. 2 Bay City John Glenn.
Players to watch: Nastassja Chambers, 5-8 sr. G (11.2 ppg, 2.8 apg, 2.8 spg); Ro’zhane Wells, 5-5 jr. G (11 ppg, 3.3 apg, 2.6 spg); Cydney Williams, 5-11 jr. F (7.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.6 bpg).
Outlook: Arbor Prep has won three straight Regional titles and fell to eventual runner-up Hamady in a Semifinal last season. Chambers is the lone senior starter but has been the team’s leading scorer during its two runs to Breslin. And big-game experience isn’t a problem: the Gators again played one of the toughest schedules for a Class C school, handing Class B contender John Glenn its only loss and falling to reigning Class B champion Detroit Country Day and Class A No. 5 Ann Arbor Huron.

Class D

Record/rank: 23-1, No. 3. 
League finish: First in Mid-South Activities Conference. 
Coach: Damon Brown, eighth season (153-39) 
Championship history: Class D champion 2014, runner-up 2008.
Best wins: 27-26 over Gaylord St. Mary in Quarterfinal, 44-25 over Fruitport Calvary Christian in Regional Semifinal, 54-34 over Big Rapids Crossroads Academy in District Semifinal, 45-40 over Class C honorable mention Morley Stanwood.
Players to watch: Averi Gamble, 6-3 sr. C (16.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.1 bpg); Scout Nelson, fr. G (9.2 ppg, 3.2 apg, 3.3 spg).  
Outlook: Sacred Heart has made the season’s final week the last four years and won Class D in 2014 with now-seniors Gamble and guard Megan English in the starting lineup. Gamble was named this week the Class D Player of the Year by The Associated Press. The Irish’s only loss was by five to Class C No. 10 Saginaw Nouvel, and they’ve had only four wins decided by double figures – and given up more than 40 points only three times. Sophomore forward Sophie Ruggles adds 7.6 points and five rebounds per game.

Record/rank: 25-0, No. 1 
League finish: First in Southern Central Athletic Association East
Coach: Chris Hodos, fourth season (89-8) 
Championship history: Class D runner-up 2015. 
Best wins: 61-43 over Class D No. 5 Climax-Scotts, 56-36 over Manchester, 53-41 over Belleville.
Players to watch: Maddie Clark, 5-10 jr. F (17.7 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 3.1 apg, 3.5 spg); Jaycie Burger, 5-9 jr. G (19.2 ppg, 72 3-pointers, 6.3 apg, 3.1 spg). 
Outlook: Pittsford’s 2015 Finals run ended with an overtime loss in the championship game. Three starters and six of eight players who saw the floor that day returned for this run, with Burger and Clark continuing to shine after breaking onto the statewide scene at Breslin a year ago. Senior center Maddie Ayers adds 8.5 points per game and sophomore guard Sydni Brunette had scored 8.3 off the bench a team outscoring opponents 67-23 on average. The Wildcats haven’t lost a regular-season game since 2011-12.

Record/rank: 24-2, No. 8 
League finish: Does not play in a league. 
Coach: Shanna Beal, second season (35-12) 
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final. 
Best wins: 60-35 over No. 2 Newberry in Semifinal, 60-36 over honorable mention Crystal Falls Forest Park in Regional Final, 57-56 (OT) over No. 4 Bark River-Harris in District Semifinal, 51-43 over Norway. 
Players to watch: Tori Wangerin, 5-10 sr. C (18 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 2.0 bpg); Karley Johnson, 5-8 sr. G (11 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 4.8 apg, 3.4 spg); Kelsey Johnson, 5-8 sr. G (14 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 4.6 apg).  
Outlook: Stephenson advanced from its first Quarterfinal since 1982 to its first Semifinal ever while facing most of the best from the Upper Peninsula and avenging an earlier loss to Bark River-Harris along the way. The Eagles made a huge jump after finishing 11-10 during Beal’s first season, and with Wangerin and the Johnsons as the team’s only seniors. Stephenson’s 10-game winning streak has included nine by 13 or more points.

Record/rank: 20-4, No. 6. 
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League East. 
Coach: Steve Robak, ninth season (166-56) 
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2012), one runner-up finish. 

Best wins: 51-43 over Kingston in Quarterfinal, 47-35 over Morrice in Regional Final, 40-24 over Madison Heights Bishop Foley, 46-44, 41-23 and 55-53 over Wixom St. Catherine.  
Players to watch: Alex Troy, 5-4 sr. G (12.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 3.0 spg); Tiffany Senerius, 5-8 soph. F (12.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.2 spg).  
Outlook: Our Lady will make its sixth Semifinal appearance in seven seasons and with all five starters back from last year’s surprise run, when the Lakers advanced after entering the postseason with a sub-.500 record. They have won 10 straight and avenged a loss to Bishop Foley by winning a final rematch in the Catholic League C-D championship game. Our Lady graduates four players, but 10 could return for another run in 2017.

The Girls Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System.

PHOTO: Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart's Averi Gamble grabs a rebound during a Regional Final win over Portland St. Patrick. (Click to see more at 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.

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.