Class D Preview: New Champ to Emerge
March 14, 2018
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
For two straight seasons, Pittsford didn’t lose a game.
But the Wildcats ended up in Class C this school year, and that means we’ll have a new champion in D this weekend – with a mix of familiar and new faces making the charge.
Waterford Our Lady and Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart are regulars for the final weekend of the season, and both have won Class D titles this decade. Adrian Lenawee Christian and Chassell have far less experience at this level – in fact, this is Chassell’s first trip to the Semifinals – but between them they are a combined 49-2 this winter.
Semifinals and Finals this weekend will be played at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena in Grand Rapids.
Class D Semifinals – Thursday
Chassell (25-1) vs. Waterford Our Lady (20-4), 5:30 p.m.
Adrian Lenawee Christian (24-1) vs. Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (25-0), 7:30 p.m.
Class D Final – Saturday, 10 a.m.
Tickets cost $10 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session (Class D and Class A). All Semifinals will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv and viewable on a pay-per-view basis. All four Finals will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Detroit and streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com and the FOX Sports Go! app. Free radio broadcasts of all weekend games will be available on MHSAANetwork.com.
Below is a glance at all four semifinalists. 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.)
ADRIAN LENAWEE CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 24-1, No. 3
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Jamie Salenbien, first season (24-1)
Championship history: Class D runner-up 2010.
Best wins: 62-31 over honorable mention Athens in Quarterfinal, 63-33 (District Semifinal) and 61-42 over honorable mention Morenci, 63-47 over Ida, 52-38 over Dexter.
Players to watch: Bree Salenbien, 6-2 fr. F (21.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 3.5 spg, 3.1 bpg); Dani Salenbien, 5-9 soph. G (13.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.7 apg, 3.8 spg, 46 3-pointers).
Outlook: Lenawee Christian is nine wins better than a year ago and will play its first Semifinal since 2010 under Jamie Salenbien, who formerly led Onsted to league titles all three of his seasons as head coach from 2011-13. This team has just one senior and seven underclassmen, with Bree Salenbien one of the most intriguing freshmen in the state. She followed her sister Dani with 37 3-pointers entering this week, and sophomore guard Libby Miller had 33. The schedule was filled with larger teams – the lone loss came by a point to Class A Monroe, while Class B Ida was a league champion and Dexter pulled off one of the biggest District upsets in Class A.
Record/rank: 25-1, No. 6
League finish: First in Copper Mountain Conference Copper Country
Coach: Brandi Hainault, sixth season (79-57)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 58-41 over No. 4 Gaylord St. Mary in Quarterfinal, 52-46 over No. 2 Munising in Regional Semifinal, 58-55 (OT) over Bark-River Harris in Regional Final, 62-35 over Ewen-Trout Creek.
Players to watch: Milly Allen, 5-3 sr. G (15.5 ppg, 3.7 apg, 4.0 spg); Sydney Danison, 6-1 sr. C (13.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg).
Outlook: Chassell won its first Regional title last week, and after going 5-16 in 2014-15 has upped its win total for the third successive season. The Panthers have eliminated two top-five teams over the last two weeks and sandwiched the close win over Bark River-Harris (18-6) between them. They haven’t lost since opening night to Class C L’Anse. Junior guard Jenna Pietila adds another 9.6 points and 4.2 assists per game in helping to lead the veteran group.
MOUNT PLEASANT SACRED HEART
Record/rank: 25-0, No. 1
League finish: First in Mid-State Activities Conference.
Coach: Damon Brown (10th season (204-41)
Championship history: Class D champion 2014, runner-up 2016 and 2008.
Best wins: 49-29 over Bellaire in Quarterfinal, 37-20 over Fruitport Calvary Christian in Regional Final, 57-43 over Beaverton, 39-30 and 53-13 over Carson City-Crystal.
Players to watch: Scout Nelson, 5-9 jr. G (13.8 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.7 spg, 4.2 rpg); Sophia Ruggles, 6-0 sr. F (15.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg).
Outlook: The Irish have made the Semifinals for the third straight season returning their entire starting five from last year’s loss to eventual champion Pittsford – seniors Grace Reetz (7.8 ppg), Haydn Terwilliger (6.8) and Megan Nowak (6.1) join Nelson and Ruggles. Terwilliger, Nelson and Ruggles also started for the 2015-16 team. Although Sacred Heart doesn’t have wins over any opponents ranked at the end of the regular season, they saw their share of strong competition. Class C Carson City-Crystal finished 19-4, while Class C Beaverton and Calvary Christian were league champions and Bellaire finished 21-4.
WATERFORD OUR LADY
Record/rank: 19-4, No. 8 (tie)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League A North
Coach: Steve Robak, 11th season (204-65)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2012), runner-up 2013.
Best wins: 42-28 over No. 5 Kingston in Quarterfinal, 51-22 over Marine City Cardinal Mooney in Regional Final, 47-39 over Allen Park Cabrini, 41-40 over Royal Oak Shrine, 51-47 over Bloomfield Hills.
Players to watch: Tiffany Senerius, 5-8 sr. F (14 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 41 3-pointers), Isabelle Kline, 5-8 soph. G (10.5 ppg, 25 3-pointers).
Outlook: After falling in a Quarterfinal last season, Our Lady is back for its third Semifinal in four seasons and seeking its fourth championship over the last nine. The Lakers have won 18 of their last 19 games after an opening stretch that included losses to reigning Class B champion Detroit Country Day and current Class C contender Ypsilanti Arbor Prep. Cardinal Mooney, Cabrini and Shrine ended the regular season unranked, but all three won league titles. Three more players average at least six points per game – seniors Catherine Weddle (6.5) and Kayla Sanders (7.9) and freshman Brooklyn Robak (8.0).
PHOTO: Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart's Grace Reetz drives past a defender during her team's Regional championship win last week. (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.