Class C-D Preview: Pursuing perfection
March 18, 2015
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
A pair of undefeated teams from Class C and D will play for their first MHSAA girls basketball championships this weekend.
Laingsburg, in Class C, and Class D Pittsford also won their first Regional titles on the way and are joined by two others hoping to reach championship games Saturday at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center for the first time in their programs’ histories.
But standing in the way are a three-time champ in Class C and three teams with a combined nine titles seeking to win again in Class D.
All four Class C and D Semifinals will be played Thursday, with all four championship games Saturday.
Semifinals - Thursday
Calumet (22-2) vs Laingsburg (26-0), 1 p.m.
Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (22-3) vs Flint Hamady (25-1), 2:50 p.m.
Pittsford (25-0) vs Waterford Our Lady (12-12), 6 p.m.
Frankfort (24-1) vs St. Ignace (20-5), 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 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.)
Record/rank: 22-2, unranked.
League finish: Second in Western Peninsula Athletic Conference.
Coach: Jeff Twardzik, first season (22-2).
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 43-37, 53-36 and 45-37 (District Final) over Hancock, 46-23 over Tawas in the Quarterfinal.
Players to watch: Lexie Rowe, 5-5 sr. G (11 ppg, 2.7 spg); Ellen Twardzik, 5-10 sr. C (9.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg).
Outlook: Calumet is making its first Semifinal appearance after playing in its first Quarterfinal since 1977. The Copper Kings are only a pair of losses to Class B and league rival Houghton from a perfect record. Seven seniors lead a veteran group, with four in the starting lineup. Junior Clara Loukus adds 7.6 points and 3.1 assists per game. Twardzik took over the varsity after previously leading the junior varsity to a 38-0 mark.
Record/rank: 25-1, No. 5.
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference Blue.
Coach: Keith Smith, 13th season (292-38).
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent Class C 2010), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 44-42 over No. 10 Saginaw Nouvel in the Quarterfinal, 42-26 over honorable mention Sandusky in the Regional Semifinal, 45-33 over honorable mention Flint Beecher in the District Final, 54-29 and 44-32 over Class D No. 9 Morrice.
Players to watch: Jalisha Terry, 5-7 jr. G; Aaliah Hill, 5-9 sr. C (statistics not provided).
Outlook: Hamady is back at the Semifinals for the first time since 2011 after winning back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. The Hawks again cruised through the GAC Blue for their sixth league title in seven seasons, and fell only to Class B semifinalist Detroit Country Day. Terry is a three-year varsity player at the point and one of the state’s top juniors, and she and Hill are surrounded by three underclassmen in the starting lineup with another freshman playing a key role off the bench.
Record/rank: 26-0, No. 1.
League finish: First in Central Michigan Athletic Conference.
Coach: Doug Hurst, third season (55-15).
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 33-26 over No. 2 Niles Brandywine in the Quarterfinal, 40-29 over Morley Stanwood in the Regional Final, 33-24 over Kent City in the Regional Semifinal, 28-17 over No. 10 Carson City-Crystal in the District Final, 32-26 (District opener), 36-33 and 39-29 over Pewamo-Westphalia.
Players to watch: Lindsey Smith, 5-7 jr. F (11.2 ppg, 2.4 spg, 41 3-pointers); Julia Angst, 5-4 jr. G (8.0 ppg, 2.8 apg).
Outlook: Although Laingsburg has had nice seasons playing in a league that includes multiple previous MHSAA champions, this clearly has been the Wolfpack’s best run. The juniors above are the leading scorers but surrounded by three seniors in a starting lineup that is balanced not just in putting points on the board but rebounding and defensively as well – four players have between 54-64 steals and seven have grabbed at least 50 rebounds.
YPSILANTI ARBOR PREP
Record/rank: 22-3, tied for No. 3.
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Rod Wells, fourth season (78-14).
Championship history: Has not played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 59-39 over No. 8 Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett in the Regional Final, 58-38 over No. 6 Blissfield in the Regional Semifinal, 59-55 over Class B No. 3 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 54-39 over Class B No. 6 Detroit Country Day.
Players to watch: Nastassja Chambers, 5-9 jr. G (15.3 ppg, 2.1 apg, 3.7 spg); Karlee Morris, 5-11 sr. F (8.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.4 spg).
Outlook: Arbor Prep won Regional titles the last two seasons – it fell to eventual champion Eaton Rapids in last season’s Class B Quarterfinal – and is tested against some of the biggest and best in Michigan with losses to Class A Southfield-Lathrup, Ann Arbor Huron and Bloomfield Hills Marian. Five players score at least six points per game, with senior guard Payton Sims adding eight points per and making 44 3-pointers heading into the week.
Record/rank: 24-1, No. 1.
League finish: First in Northwest Conference.
Coach: Tim Reznich, 13th season (236-72).
Championship history: Class D champions 2006 and 2005.
Best wins: 49-42 over No. 7 Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart in the Quarterfinal, 52-30 over No. 3 Bellaire in the Regional Final, 61-38 over St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran.
Players to watch: Mackenna Kelly, 5-10 jr. G (17.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.3 spg); Cecelia Schmitt, 5-10 soph. G (13.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg).
Outlook: Frankfort emerged from a 10-11 record only two seasons ago to go a combined 47-3 over the last two – and knocked off reigning champion Sacred Heart to reach its first Finals weekend since winning the back-to-back titles. The only loss was in December to Portland, a Class B District finalist. Kelly and Schmitt are strong shooters – Schmitt better than 50 percent from 3-point range – and Kelly gets plenty of rebounding help from seniors Shayla Soto (9.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.1 apg) and Madison Stefanski (4.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg).
Record/rank: 25-0, No. 2.
League finish: First in Southern Central Athletic Association East.
Coach: Chris Hodos, third season (63-7).
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 65-20 over No. 9 Morrice in the Regional Final, 50-45 over St. Joseph Michigan Lutheran in the Quarterfinal, 47-39 over Manchester.
Players to watch: Maddie Clark, 5-9 soph. F (19.4 ppg, 10 rpg, 4.0 spg, 1.4 bpg); Jaycie Burger, 5-9 soph. G (17.9 ppg, 6.5 apg, 3.9 spg).
Outlook: Pittsford has gotten here in part with an incredible defensive effort. The Wildcats are giving up an average of 27.6 points per game during the postseason and total have kept opponents under 30 points 18 times this winter. Only four of 13 players are upperclassmen, making this potentially the first of a few impressive runs to come.
Record/rank: 20-5, No. 6.
League finish: First in Straits Area Conference.
Coach: Dorene Ingalls, 16th season (335-65).
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent Class D 2013), three runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 66-51 over No. 10 Crystal Falls Forest Park in the Quarterfinal, 81-51 over Hillman in the Regional Final, 55-40 over Cedarville, 52-48 and 56-35 over Sault Ste. Marie.
Players to watch: Margo Brown, 5-7 sr. G (13.8 ppg, 3.2 apg, 3.4 spg, 51 3-pointers); Abbey Ostman, 5-9 jr. G/F (16.6 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 3.8 apg, 4.0 spg).
Outlook: Class C or D matters not to the Saints; they’ve made six straight Finals weekends and played in two straight championship games, finishing as runner-up in Class C a year ago. Ostman and Smith also started last season and 6-0 senior center Sarah Smith played the most minutes off the bench in the Final; she’s averaging 8.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. St. Ignace has won 10 straight since falling to Class A Gaylord on Feb. 2, and all five of its losses were to bigger schools.
WATERFORD OUR LADY
Record/rank: 12-12, unranked.
League finish: Third in Detroit Catholic League East.
Coach: Steve Robak, eighth season (147-52).
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2012), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 38-35 over honorable mention Birmingham Roeper in the Regional Semifinal, 39-36 over Kingston in the Quarterfinal, 46-44 over Allen Park Inter-City Baptist in the Regional Final.
Players to watch: Tiffany Senerius, 5-8 fr. G (10.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg); Alex Troy, 5-6 jr. G (10.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.8 apg).
Outlook: Our Lady is in the rare situation as a surprise at the Finals – the Lakers won three straight titles and then finished runner-up from 2010-13 before falling to 8-13 a year ago. They’ve been revived with two freshmen starters and a sophomore in the playing group to go with three junior starters. This weekend will continue to provide valuable experience for a lineup that has gone 8-4 over its last 12 games.
PHOTO: Clara Loukus (10) stands in the way of a Hancock ball handler during Calumet's District championship win. (Photo courtesy of Calumet High School.)
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.