Countdown to Calvin: District Preview

February 26, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Over the next three weeks, 700 Michigan high school girls basketball teams will play to become one of four to hoist trophies as 2017-18 MHSAA champions.

The first steps toward achieving that ultimate goal will come at District tournaments tipping off tonight all over our state.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll alter the format of our Countdown to Calvin reports – powered by MI Student Aid – still looking at some of the key results from last week but also at three of the most eye-catching brackets in each class for the upcoming week of playoffs.

This week, that means we’ll take closer looks at 12 Districts total in addition to scores from last week that saw some of the state’s best match up one more time before single elimination games begin. (Click here to navigate brackets for all 128 tournaments.)

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:

1. Detroit Edison 57, Saginaw Heritage 55 (2OT) – We’ll know March 17 if this titanic matchup featured the eventual champions in Class C and Class A, respectively.

2. Kingsley 70, Maple City Glen Lake 66 – Kingsley completed a perfect regular season and an outright Northwest Conference championship with this win over the second-place Lakers.

3. Wayne Memorial 50, Howell 46 – After coming back to beat Hartland in the semifinal, Wayne won this matchup of Class A contenders to claim the overall Kensington Lakes Activities Association title.

4. Traverse City St. Francis 56, Charlevoix 47 – St. Francis avenged a two-point loss to Charlevoix from Feb. 2 to break a first-place tie and clinch the Lake Michigan Conference title.

5. Ypsilanti Arbor Prep 44, Harper Woods Chandler Park 43 – Another Class C favorite, Arbor Prep, avenged a 24-point loss to the Class B Eagles from Jan. 25.

Districts at a Glance

These could be among our most competitive brackets. Host sites are in bold:


Flint Carman-Ainsworth 
Fenton (14-6), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (18-2), Flint Southwestern (2-15), Flushing (16-4), Grand Blanc (10-10), Linden (0-19), Swartz Creek (9-11).

Reigning Class A champion Flushing held on to win another Flint Metro League championship and has won 16 of its last 18. But host Carman-Ainsworth is the likely favorite thanks in part to a 21-point win over the Raiders in the season opener. Carman-Ainsworth finished second in the Saginaw Valley League to one-loss Heritage, with its only losses to Heritage and reigning Class B champion Detroit Country Day. Carman-Ainsworth and Flushing would see each other in the District Final – but Fenton could get in the way. The Tigers face Flushing in tonight’s opener and beat Flushing by 18 just two weeks ago.

Bay City Central (3-17), Bay City Western (17-3), Midland (13-7), Midland Dow (15-5), Mount Pleasant (11-9), Saginaw Heritage (19-1).

These teams all play in the Saginaw Valley League, and that familiarity could be advantageous and dangerous for just about every team in the field. Heritage is a favorite to win the whole thing this season – but on its side of this bracket, Mount Pleasant has enjoyed its best finish in years and Midland bounced back from a 0-3 start to place fifth in the 14-team league. Dow and Western meet to start the other side of the bracket, with the Chargers winning their lone meeting by 12 two weeks ago – but the Warriors hoping to re-catch the momentum that helped them to a 13-0 start.

DeWitt (19-1), East Lansing (20-0), Grand Ledge (12-8), Lansing Waverly (11-9), Owosso (5-15), St. Johns (14-6).

There may be no more closely contended recent rivalry in the state than DeWitt versus East Lansing. Those Class A contenders have played three straight games decided by a point. The Trojans, boasting recently announced Miss Basketball candidate Jaida Hampton, won the Dec. 5 meeting 52-51 and also last season’s District Final over the Panthers 48-47 – after DeWitt won last season’s first matchup 59-58. They would face off again in this District Final. But don’t forget: Grand Ledge made back-to-back Class A Quarterfinals in 2013 and 2014 and the Semifinals the second time, and St. Johns made the Semifinals only two seasons ago.


Battle Creek Pennfield 
Battle Creek Pennfield (15-5), Comstock (19-1), Marshall (10-10), Olivet (11-9), Parchment (6-14).

Comstock has been building to a season like this for the last five, and has increased its win total for the fourth straight already this winter. The Colts surely are looking forward to their first game this week against Marshall on Wednesday – the Redhawks have ended Comstock’s last four seasons. Marshall could be dangerous though with four wins in its last five games after making the Class B Semifinals last season and winning Class B in 2016. On the other side of the bracket, Pennfield finished third, two spots ahead of Marshall in a strong Interstate 8 Athletic Conference. The Panthers skidded a bit the last few weeks with three losses over their last five games, but those losses came to the other three top teams in the league.

Big Rapids 
Alma (15-5), Big Rapids (18-2), Clare (11-8), Remus Chippewa Hills (3-17), Shepherd (6-14), Stanton Central Montcalm (20-0).

Central Montcalm has jumped from seven to 12 to 17 and now 20 wins over the last four seasons and won the Central State Activities Association Gold with wins of nine and seven points over Big Rapids. Those were the only defeats this season for the host Cardinals, and a Semifinal rematch would be one of the state’s biggest Wednesday games. But Big Rapids can’t look past Alma in the opener – the Panthers finished second to Freeland (18-2) in the Tri-Valley Conference Central. On the other side of the bracket, Clare tied for third in a competitive Jack Pine Conference after sharing the league title a year ago.

Benzie Central (16-4), Cadillac (3-17), Kalkaska (15-5), Kingsley (20-0), Ludington (12-8), Manistee (11-9), Reed City (14-6).

Kingsley joins Central Montcalm as one of only two undefeated teams left in Class B, and the Stags’ run included handing Benzie Central two of its defeats. Kingsley would see Lakes 8 Conference runner-up Ludington in a District Semifinal, but wouldn’t see Benzie or Kalkaska until the championship game. Those two could meet Wednesday. Benzie must get past a Reed City team that finished fourth in a strong CSAA Gold – see references to Central Montcalm and Big Rapids above – while Kalkaska must get past a Manistee team that has won five of its last six.


Gwinn (9-11), Ishpeming (17-3), Ishpeming Westwood (14-6), Negaunee (20-0).

This is an all-Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference District, and these are four of the top five finishers. Negaunee improved five wins this regular season despite scares from both Ishpeming and Westwood – the Patriots missed breaking up the perfect run by just a basket on Jan. 19, and they and Negaunee face off on one side of the bracket Wednesday. Ishpeming, which got within seven of Negaunee on Feb. 10, lost only to the Miners and Westwood this season but got a close game from Gwinn in their first meeting Jan. 9.

Bath (13-7), Brighton Charyl Stockwell (5-12), Byron (16-4), Dansville (2-18), Laingsburg (17-2), New Lothrop (18-2).

Host Laingsburg’s only losses this season were to reigning Class C runner-up Pewamo-Westphalia, but those two wouldn’t meet again until the Regional Semifinal. However, on the other side of this bracket Genesee Area Conference White champion New Lothrop won 18 straight before losing to Class B contender Goodrich last week, and Byron shared the GAC Blue title. They and Bath, also from Laingsburg’s Central Michigan Athletic Conference, will provide a strong challenger for this District title.

Traverse City St. Francis 
Grand Traverse Academy (12-7), Manton (17-3), Maple City Glen Lake (18-2), Traverse City St. Francis (17-3).

Tonight’s opener will be one of the most intriguing in the state regardless of Class. Glen Lake finished second in the Northwest Conference with its two defeats both to Class B Kingsley (see above), and the Lakers beat St. Francis 60-49 on Dec. 6. St. Francis, meanwhile, finished off a Lake Michigan Conference championship with a win over rival Charlevoix last week (also see above). On the other side of the bracket, Manton also is a league champion, in the Highland Conference, and Grand Traverse Academy started 11-3 before running into a rough patch over the last few weeks.  


Adrian Lenawee Christian
Adrian Lenawee Christian (19-1), Jackson Christian (7-13), Morenci (16-4), North Adams-Jerome (7-13), Waldron (15-5).

The host Cougars would appear a strong favorite. Their only loss was by a point to Class A Monroe (12-8) on Jan. 9, and they downed possible District Semifinal opponent Morenci 61-42 a week ago. However, Morenci has two 1,000-point scorers and is coming off a Tri-County Conference championship. The Bulldogs must be careful to not look past Southern Central Athletic Association Central champion Waldron tonight, however. The other side of the bracket may have the teams with lesser records, but their third meeting could be a classic after Jackson Christian edged North Adams-Jerome by only two and six points during the regular season.

Battle Creek St. Philip
Athens (16-4), Battle Creek Calhoun Christian (16-4), Battle Creek St. Philip (11-9), Bellevue (18-2), Marshall Academy (0-11).

Bellevue and Athens finished first and second, respectively, in the SCAA West, and are on opposite sides of this bracket. St. Philip also plays in that league, and four of its losses came to those two teams. Calhoun Christian won the Mid-South Conference but won’t be unfamiliar with the competition after playing and falling to all three SCAA teams during the season’s first two weeks. The Cougars are 15-1 since a 1-3 start.

Hillman (19-1), Onaway (10-9), Posen (10-8), Rogers City (15-4).

Hillman won its fourth straight North Star League Big Dipper title, and Rogers City has finished runner-up the last three seasons – this time the Tigers won their meetings by three and 13 points. They meet in one District Semifinal on Wednesday, while NSL Little Dipper champion Posen takes on host Onaway, which came in fourth in a Ski Valley Conference featuring at least a pair of possible Class D state contenders.

PHOTO: Laingsburg, here in a win over Fowler on Jan. 25, is among District hosts that could earn championships this week. (Click for more from Varsity Monthly.)

Little Provides Major Stride as 1st Woman to Officiate Boys Hoops Final since 1995

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

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.