C-D Preview: Perfection & Possibilities

March 15, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

One of the state’s most impressive winning streaks in any sport this decade will take the main stage again this weekend at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.

Reigning Class D champion Pittsford will attempt to finish a second straight undefeated season and build on a run that has seen the Wildcats win 101 of their last 103 games over the last four winters.

Meanwhile, four of eight semifinalists in Class C and D are seeking their first championships ever, with a fifth playing for its first title in nearly four decades.

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

Semifinals - Thursday
Class C

Detroit Edison PSA (19-5) vs. Flint Hamady (19-5)
, 1 p.m. 
Pewamo-Westphalia (23-2) vs. Maple City Glen Lake (23-3), 2:50 p.m.

Class D
Engadine (19-5) vs. Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (17-9),
6 p.m. 
Pittsford (26-0) vs. Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (25-1), 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, the Class D, A and C Finals on the network’s PLUS channel and Class B on the primary channel. 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.) The Girls Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System.

Class C

Record/rank: 19-5, No. 5 
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Monique Brown, sixth season (80-35)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 58-42 over No. 10 Blissfield in the Quarterfinal, 43-39 over Flint Hamady 58-55 over Detroit Mumford, 57-56 over Class A No. 6 Southfield Arts & Technology, 57-45 over Chicago Whitney Young.
Players to watch: Gabrielle Elliott, 5-10 fr. G (17.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.2 spg); Rickea Jackson, 6-3 soph. G (17.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.1 apg, 3.4 spg, 2.3 bpg).
Outlook: It’s difficult to not point out immediately that Edison has no seniors, two juniors, one sophomore and nine freshmen – and that they’ve been tested this season against top teams from Classes A and B as well as C. All five losses came to larger schools, including two still alive this weekend. Elliott – one of three freshman starters – made the all-state first team and Jackson was named to the second, while Brown was named Coach of the Year by The Associated Press.

Record/rank: 19-5, unranked 
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference Blue.
Coach: Keith Smart, 15th season (332-44)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2010), two runner-up finishes. 
Best wins: 38-36 over No. 1 Sandusky in the Regional Final, 75-67 over Dearborn Heights Robichaud, 51-46 over Goodrich, 81-27 over Lake Fenton, 55-50 over Flint Beecher in the District Final.
Players to watch: Deajah Cofield, 5-7 sr. G (15 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 5.0 apg); Sasha Penn, 5-7 jr. G (statistics not available for Penn).
Outlook: Hamady was unranked after taking losses to one Class A and three Class B teams, plus Detroit Edison. But Cofield was named Class C co-Player of the Year by The Associated Press and Penn and senior Krystal Rice earned all-state honorable mentions (although Rice is out for the season with a knee injury). This is Hamady’s third Semifinal this decade; the Hawks were Class C runners-up in 2015.

Record/rank: 23-3, unranked
League finish: First in Northwest Conference.
Coach: Jason Bradford, ninth season (146-58)
Championship history: Class D champion 1978, runner-up 1979. 
Best wins: 63-52 over No. 7 St. Ignace in the Quarterfinal, 50-44 over No. 2 Traverse City St. Francis in the District Semifinal, 55-40 and 42-38 over Kingsley.
Players to watch: Kelly Bunke, 5-6 sr. G (10.3 ppg, 4,4 rpg, 2.9 apg); Jennifer LaCross, 5-8 jr. F (10.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.0 apg).
Outlook: Glen Lake has won 20 games two seasons in a row for Bradford, with two league titles, and has shown it belongs among the elite in the postseason with two wins over ranked opponents, including avenging its opening-night defeat to St. Francis. The only other losses were to eventual Class B quarterfinalist Cadillac and in overtime to McBain. This will be Glen Lake’s first Semifinal since 1995. Bunek earned an all-state honorable mention.

Record/rank: 23-2, No. 6
League finish: Second in Central Michigan Athletic Conference.
Coach: Steve Eklund, eighth season (154-33) 
Championship history: Class C runner-up 1983 and 1984. 
Best wins: 40-31 and 38-31 over honorable mention Laingsburg, 50-27 over Ithaca, 55-34 over Springport in the Regional Final, 44-28 over Bath in the District Semifinal.
Players to watch: Emily Spitzley, 5-10 jr. F (13.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.2 spg); Hannah Spitzley, 5-10 fr. F (8.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.5 spg).
Outlook: P-W is returning to the Semifinal for the first time since 2002, avenging its two losses by beating CMAC champ Bath to open the postseason. The Pirates start two seniors but also two freshmen – guard Ellie Droste adds 8.6 points and 2.5 steals per game. Defense is this team’s strong point; Schoolcraft (19) in the Quarterfinal marked the 15th time this season P-W held a team under 30 points, and the Pirates have given up more than 31 only twice (in those losses to Bath). Emily Spitzley made the all-state second team.

Class D

Record/rank: 19-5, honorable mention
League finish: Second in Eastern Upper Peninsula Athletic Conference.
Coach: Roger French, seventh season (79-64)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 44-41 over No. 8 Crystal Falls Forest Park in the Quarterfinal, 50-48 (Regional Final) and 40-39 over honorable mention Pickford in the Regional Final, 60-55 and 63-57 over No. 10 Cedarville
Players to watch: Olivia Vaughn, 5-9 sr. F (18.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.2 spg); Aubrey Simmons, 5-10 jr. C (12 ppg, 12.7 rpg).
Outlook: Engadine is playing in its second Semifinals after also making the final weekend in 2005. The Eagles were one of three Class D teams from their EUP conference to receive state poll votes and emerged with eight wins over their last nine games. Vaughn and starting forward Keely Fuller are the only seniors, while freshman guard Sophie Vaughn – Olivia’s sister – adds 8.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Engadine won only four games four seasons ago, but has upped its win total every season since.

Record/rank: 25-1, No. 2
League finish: First in Mid-State Activities Conference.
Coach: Damon Brown (ninth season (178-41)
Championship history: Class D champion 2014, runner-up 2016 and 2008.
Best wins: 48-37 over Frankfort in the Quarterfinal, 52-25 over Fruitport Calvary Christian in the Regional Final, 23-17 over Carson City-Crystal.
Players to watch: Scout Nelson, 5-9 soph. G (13.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.1 apg, 4.0 spg); Sophie Ruggles, 6-0 jr. F (14 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.4 spg).
Outlook: Few Class D teams would have this kind of success the year after graduating an all-state center and three-year starting guard. But the Irish rose again in a league featuring 19-win Class C Carson City-Crystal, and Frankfort was the only playoff opponent to score more than 30 points. Nelson and Ruggles made the all-state first team and with junior Hadyn Terwilliger (8.3 ppg) started in last season’s Class D Final.

Record/rank: 17-9, unranked
League finish: Fifth in Tri-Valley Conference West
Coach: Brian Blaine, first season (17-9)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 56-48 over Waterford Our Lady in the Quarterfinal, 44-39 over Portland St. Patrick in the Regional Semifinal, 56-34 over Bay City All Saints in the District Final, 45-39 over Hemlock.
Players to watch: Meghan Blaine, 5-10 soph. F (12.1 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.7 apg); Rylee Pankow, 5-10 sr. C (10.ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.0 spg).
Outlook: MLS may not have been the pick to advance farthest from the mostly Class B-C TVC West that had four teams total win at least 16 games. But the Cardinals have won 10 straight games and did make the Quarterfinals as recently as 2012, although this will be the program’s first Semifinal. Meghan Blaine can also score from the outside, with 46 3-pointers entering the week, and total six players have scored at least 12 points in a game this season.

Record/rank: 26-0, No. 1 
League finish: First in Southern Central Athletic Association East
Coach: Chris Hodos, fifth season (117-8)
Championship history: Class D champion 2016, runner-up 2015.
Best wins: 62-19 over No. 6 St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran in the Quarterfinal, 59-47 over Manchester, 59-33 over Bellevue, 57-39 over Grass Lake.
Players to watch: Maddie Clark, 5-9 sr. F (16.4 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 3.4 spg); Jaycie Burger, 5-9 sr. G (19.2 ppg, 5.3 apg, 3.2 spg, 62 3-pointers).
Outlook: Pittsford’s 53-game winning streak is just short of making the MHSAA record book list, and it’s four-season run of 101-2 can’t have many rivals although that statistic hasn’t been kept. Clark was named Class D Player of the Year by The Associated Press and Burger also a first-team all-stater as both continued to star in leading their team to Breslin for the third straight season. Junior guard Marissa Shaw adds another 8.6 points and 6.2 steals per game, and she’d made 56 3-pointers entering this week. 

PHOTO: Pittsford celebrates last season's Class D championship at the Breslin Center.

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.