Class A-B Preview: Recognizable Returns
March 18, 2015
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Plenty of familiar uniforms will be running the Breslin Center floor during Friday’s Class A and B Semifinals.
Only one team is seeking its first championship game berth – the other seven semifinalists have a combined 25 MHSAA titles.
And the familiarity doesn’t end there. Reigning Class A champion Bloomfield Hills Marian is top-ranked and played No. 2 Detroit Martin Luther King to a one-point win only three weeks ago – and they meet in a Semifinal. Capital Area Activities Conference Red rivals DeWitt and Haslett don’t meet this weekend because they play in different classes – but are representing their league well after sharing its championship.
Saginaw Heritage has a player whose dad made national headlines on the Breslin court, and Benton Harbor has a star who will join the Spartans upon graduation. Goodrich and Detroit Country Day are both regulars at Finals weekend, and back after a short time away.
All four Class A and B Semifinals will be played Friday, with all four championship games Saturday.
Semifinals - Friday
DeWitt (24-1) vs Saginaw Heritage (24-3), 1 p.m.
Bloomfield Hills Marian (24-1) vs Detroit Martin Luther King (24-1), 2:50 p.m.
Benton Harbor (20-5) vs Haslett (21-5), 6 p.m.
Goodrich (25-1) vs Detroit Country Day (20-4), 7:50 p.m.
Finals - Saturday
Class A - Noon
Class B - 6 pm
Class C - 4 pm
Class D - 10 am
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 title games on FOX Sports Detroit's primary channel and the Class B game on FOX Sports Detroit-PLUS. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.
And now, a look at the semifinalists in Class A and B. Click on the name of the school to see that team’s full schedule and results from this season. (Statistics are through Regionals Finals.)
BLOOMFIELD HILLS MARIAN
Record/rank: 24-1, No. 1.
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central.
Coach: Mary Cicerone, 32nd season (584-194).
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2014), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 51-42 over No. 7 Waterford Kettering in the Quarterfinal, 49-33 (Regional Final), 65-28 and 54-32 over honorable mention Farmington Hills Mercy, 47-36 over No. 3 Southfield-Lathrup in the Regional Semifinal, 50-49 over No. 2 Detroit Martin Luther King. 68-41 over Benton Harbor, 56-26 over Class C No. 3 Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.
Players to watch: Brittany Gray, 5-11, sr. F (12 ppg, 4.9 rpg); Samantha Thomas, 6-0 soph. G (11.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.4 spg).
Outlook: Marian is the favorite to repeat after last season winning its first championship since 1998. The Mustangs are 67-7 over the last three seasons and lost this winter only to Chicago Whitney Young, by four points. Senior guard Kara Holinski (9.7 ppg, 3.3 apg) and junior guard Bailey Thomas (7.4 ppg, 3.7 apg, 3.1 spg) joined Gray and Thomas starting in last season’s Final, and senior guard Jaeda Robinson played the most minutes off the bench and adds another 7.4 points per game to the starting lineup.
DETROIT MARTIN LUTHER KING
Record/rank: 24-1, No. 2.
League finish: First in Detroit Public School League East.
Coach: William Winfield, 33rd season (687-55).
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2006), six runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 43-36 over No. 9 Grosse Pointe South in the Regional Semifinal, 43-36 (District Final), 66-53 and 53-49 over Detroit Cass Tech, 49-35 (Quarterfinal) and 68-34 over Romulus.
Players to watch: Janae Williams, 5-8 sr. G (15.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.3 spg); Malaysia McHenry, 6-3 F/C, sr. (10 ppg, 12 rpg, 2.1 bpg).
Outlook: King is making its first trip to Finals weekend since 2006 but hasn’t won fewer than 22 games since 2002 or lost more than one in a season since 2010. The lone loss this winter was to top-ranked Marian, by a point, making their rematch Friday the must-see game of the Semifinal round. No team left has as much size as the Crusaders; McHenry is joined in the starting lineup by 6-3 senior Leah Mathis, with 6-2 junior Jasmine Flowers filling in off the bench. Sophomore guard Alicia Norman adds 11.4 points per game. Williams has signed with Division I Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.
Record/rank: 24-1, No. 4.
League finish: Tied for first in Capital Area Activities Conference Red.
Coach: Bill McCullen, 19th season (357-78).
Championship history: Class C champion 1977.
Best wins: 48-43 OT over No. 5 Ann Arbor Huron in the Regional Semifinal, 65-53 over Kalamazoo Central in the Regional Final, 53-38 (District Final), 62-48 and 54-51 over Lansing Waverly, 51-47 over Class B No. 8 Haslett.
Players to watch: Claudia Reid, 5-7 sr. G (10.3 ppg, 6.5 apg, 2.6 spg); Abby Nakfoor, 5-10 sr. F (12 ppg, 5.3 rpg).
Outlook: A three-time Class B semifinalist (most recently in 2009), DeWitt moved up to Class A for 2011-12 and has this winter tallied the third-most wins of McCullen’s successful tenure. Reid is a four-year varsity point guard and with Nakfoor is joined by two more seniors in the starting lineup in guards Cayce Palmer and Maria Moss, with junior 5-10 center Lilly George the team’s third leading scorer at 8.2 ppg.
Record/rank: 24-3, honorable mention.
League finish: Second in Saginaw Valley Association North.
Coach: Vonnie DeLong, second season (38-8).
Championship history: Class A champion 2002, runner-up 2001.
Best wins: 39-31 over No. 10 Flushing in the Regional Final, 50-31 over No. 7 Marquette in the Regional Semifinal, 52-38 (District Final) and 49-39 over No. 6 Midland Dow.
Players to watch: Allie Miller, 5-7 sr. G (9.6 ppg, 4.7 apg, 3.4 spg); Jaela Richardson, 6-0 fr. F (8.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg).
Outlook: Heritage has stormed through the postseason, beating Dow after finishing second to the Chargers in league play and then downing Flushing after falling to the Raiders in overtime Feb. 24. No player averages in double figures scoring, but six score at least six points per game and four players grab at least four rebounds per. Richardson, the daughter of Philadelphia 76ers guard Jason, surely will carry some intrigue as she plays on her dad’s former college home floor.
Record/rank: 20-5, honorable mention.
League finish: Second in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West.
Coach: Lisa Harvey-Gondrezick, fifth season (69-46).
Championship history: Class A champion 2009, Class A runner-up 1984.
Best wins: 50-47 over No. 10 Plainwell in the Regional Final, 56-53 over Class A honorable mention Stevensville Lakeshore, 90-79 over Kalamazoo Central.
Players to watch: Kalabrya Gondrezick, 5-8 sr. G (17.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 8.1 apg, 2.8 spg, 1.1 bpg); Kysre Gondrezick, 5-9 jr. G (27.5 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 5.4 apg, 3.6 spg).
Outlook: Benton Harbor has steadily improved in five seasons under Harvey-Gondrezick, a former Benton Harbor standout, and has won 13 straight heading into this weekend. Her daughters are stars now; Kalabrya was a Miss Basketball finalist and will play at Michigan State, while Kysre is the team's leading scorer and rebounder and only a junior. Senior guard Dennee Brown adds 10.1 points and 1.2 blocks per game, and 6-1 senior center Gabrielle Dortch is one of two players 6-0 or taller in the playing group; she averages 9.8 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
DETROIT COUNTRY DAY
Record/rank: 20-4, No. 6.
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Frank Orlando, 34th season (710-110).
Championship history: Ten MHSAA titles (most recent 2009), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 47-39 over honorable mention Dearborn Divine Child in the Quarterfinal, 57-43 over No. 8 Haslett, 72-36 over Class C No. 5 Flint Hamady, 59-52 over Class C No. 10 Saginaw Nouvel.
Players to watch: Destiny Pitts, 5-10 soph. F (15.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.8 apg, 45 3-pointers); Kaela Webb, 5-6 fr. G (7.8 ppg, 2.1 apg, 2.1 spg, 28 3-pointers).
Outlook: Country Day has won 18 straight Regional titles but is making its first Semifinal appearance since 2010 – although this lineup seems to indicate a return to Breslin regular. Although the Yellowjackets start two seniors, they are the only seniors on the team, and there are seven underclassmen including 6-3 starting sophomore center Tylar Bennett. The losses came to three strong Class A teams and Class C contender Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.
Record/rank: 25-1, No. 2.
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference Red.
Coach: Jason Gray, 17th season (340-45).
Championship history: Class B champion 2013 and 2012.
Best wins: 57-40 over No. 7 Manistee in the Quarterfinal, 55-43 over No. 8 Haslett, 45-41 over No. 9 Frankenmuth in the Regional Semifinal, 50-48 over No. 1 Midland Bullock Creek in the Regional Final.
Players to watch: Tania Davis, 5-5 sr. G (19.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 5.7 apg, 2.9 spg ); Alexis Sevillian, 5-7 jr. G (15.6 ppg, 2.2 apg, 2.4 spg).
Outlook: Not that it required justification, but Goodrich has more than proved why it belongs back at Breslin and as the likely favorite. The Martians eliminated three top-10 teams and handed Bullock Creek and its trio of 1,000-point scorers its only loss this season. Davis was named Miss Basketball on Monday and teams with Sevillian for a dominating backcourt. Senior Isabella O’Brien provides plenty of presence to complement the star guards down low; she’s 6-2 and averages 9.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
Record/rank: 21-5, No. 8.
League finish: Tied for first in the Capital Area Activities Conference Red.
Coach: Bob Currier, sixth season (102-38).
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 48-38 over No. 3 Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the Quarterfinal, 63-56 over No. 4 Wayland in the Regional Final, 53-43 over No. 5 Williamston in the District opener, 55-44 over No. 4 DeWitt.
Players to watch: Makenna Ott, 5-10 sr. F (13.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg); Karson Tripp, 6-0 jr. F (11.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.5 spg, 1.4 bpg).
Outlook: The Vikings are one of the most intriguing stories this weekend; they made the Regional Finals in Class A last season, then moved to Class B with a senior-dominated lineup and high expectations but worked through a tough stretch midseason with Ott out with an injury. She’s back and the team has knocked off three top-five teams during the last three weeks. Ott and Tripp are the leading scorers, but hardly the only key contributors. Senior guard Kenzie DeCook averages 11.5 points per game and had 34 3-pointers entering the week, while senior guard Adrianna Stolicker is a captain with Ott and averages 10.3 ppg.
PHOTO: DeWitt guard Maria Moss goes up for a shot in the Panthers’ Quarterfinal win over Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of tcp-photography.)
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.