Countdown to Calvin: Quarterfinal Preview
March 13, 2018
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The final minutes are ticking down until Michigan’s finest girls basketball teams play for MHSAA championships this weekend at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena.
The trip to this final week of the season has been four months in the making for 32 hopefuls that will take the court tonight in Quarterfinals all over our state.
Our final “Countdown to Calvin” report – powered by MI Student Aid – takes a glance at all 16 Quarterfinals, which are all at 7 p.m. unless noted. All Quarterfinals will be broadcast and viewable with subscription on MHSAA.tv. And come back Wednesday night for a more in-depth look at our 16 finalists as they head into this weekend.
Grosse Pointe North (19-5) vs. Detroit Martin Luther King (18-3) at Southfield Arts & Technology – 5 p.m.
Grosse Pointe North will play in its first Quarterfinal since 2010, while King will be back for the first time since 2012. The Norsemen have only one senior and are paced by 6-foot-2 junior guard/forward Julia Ayrault (19 ppg, 10.3 rpg). Senior guard Jordan Lewis (14 ppg) leads three Crusaders averaging double-digit scoring. Two of King’s three losses are to reigning MHSAA champions.
Clarkston (20-4) vs. Saginaw Heritage (24-1) at Grand Blanc
Heritage is back in the Quarterfinals for the third time in six years and first since 2015, while Clarkston has made the final week for the first time since 2005. The Hawks – whose only loss was to reigning Class C champ Detroit Edison, by a basket – are paced by junior guard Moira Joiner (14.6 ppg, 4.2 apg). Seniors Maddie Beck (14.4 ppg) and Kayla Luchenbach (14.1 ppg) have the Wolves on an eight-game winning streak.
East Lansing (24-0) vs. Muskegon (22-2) at DeWitt
East Lansing will play in its second Quarterfinal in three years to make it to the Semifinals for the first time since 2010. The Trojans are led by newly-honored Miss Basketball Award winner Jaeda Hampton (15 ppg, 57 3-pointers). Muskegon is coming off its first Regional title and has won 19 straight, keyed by junior guard Alyza Winston (19.6 ppg).
Wayne Memorial (21-4) vs. Hartland (20-5) at Southfield Arts & Technology
Wayne is another first-time Regional champion, led on this march by Miss Basketball finalist Camree’ Clegg (23.7 ppg, 6.4 apg). Hartland won its second Regional title, and second in four seasons, and will try to make its first Semifinal in part on the post power of 6-4 sophomore Whitney Sollom (10.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 4.7 bpg.)
Hamilton (24-1) vs. Jackson Northwest (23-1) at Marshall
Both of these quarterfinalists are coming off their first Regional titles in program history. Hamilton has won 24 straight since losing to Jenison in its opener, paced in part by senior Ashlen Wolfram (10.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg). Northwest’s only defeat came early as well to Battle Creek Harper Creek; the Mounties are on a 21-game winning streak with junior guard Sydney Shafer pouring in a team-high 17 ppg.
Michigan Center (22-2) vs. Harper Woods Chandler Park (17-6) at Tecumseh
Michigan Center, up from Class C this school year, is making its first Quarterfinal appearance since 2005. After falling to an uncharacteristic 6-15 in 2015-16, the Cardinals are 42-6 over the last two seasons and start one senior with four underclassmen. Chandler Park is playing in its first Quarterfinal, with freshman Emaia O’Brien (12.7 ppg, 43 3-pointers) an impressive leading scorer while playing against a loaded schedule.
Detroit Country Day (20-4) vs. Freeland (23-2) at West Bloomfield
Reigning Class B champion Country Day is going for its third title in four seasons, led by Miss Basketball finalist Kaela Webb (15.9 ppg). All four of its defeats are to teams still alive this week. Freeland advanced to the Semifinals a year ago, and its only losses are to Class A teams. The Falcons are led by the Argyle sisters – senior guard Kaylee and junior forward Alyssa, both averaging 11.5 points per game.
Muskegon Oakridge (22-3) vs. Kingsley (25-0) at Cadillac
Oakridge broke through with its first Regional title since 1991, and will try to extend the run against an undefeated Stags team playing in the final week for the first time since 2008. Junior guard Sophia Wiard is the playmaker for the Eagles, averaging 22.8 points and 4.2 assists per game. Sophomore guard Brittany Bowman (11.5 ppg) and junior guard Jacie King (10.1 ppg) are leading scorers and two of three Kingsley players with at least 30 3-pointers.
Detroit Edison (21-1) vs. Flint Beecher (18-5) at Howell
Reigning Class C champ Edison has been even more dominant this season, beating Wayne Memorial (twice), Country Day, Heritage and St. Ignace among others. Junior 6-3 guard Rickea Johnson (22.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg) and sophomore guard Gabrielle Elliott (16.4) are stars. Beecher got through rival Hamady and others to reach its first Quarterfinal since 2003, with senior guard Imani Thompson (13.5 ppg) leading three averaging double-digit scoring.
Pewamo-Westphalia (24-0) vs. Kent City (22-3) at Cedar Springs
Reigning Class C runner-up P-W has had one single-digit game all season, in the District Final against Springport, but should expect a good one tonight from a Kent City team coming off its first Regional title since 1989. Freshman guard Kenzie Bowers leads Kent City with 19.5 points and 5.1 steals per game. Senior guard Emily Spitzley (17 ppg) keys a Pirates starting lineup that features three sophomores.
Schoolcraft (25-0) vs. Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (19-5) at Bronson – 6 p.m.
After making the Quarterfinals last season for the first time, Schoolcraft is back for the second straight. Senior guard Lydia Goble (19.5 ppg) has made an astounding 75 3-pointers and will have to be a focus for Arbor Prep, last season’s Class B runner-up. The Gators are led by Miss Basketball finalist and senior guard Lasha Petree, who averages 20.2 points per game and has 42 3-pointers.
Maple City Glen Lake (22-2) vs. St. Ignace (23-1) at Gaylord
Glen Lake is seeking its second straight trip to the Semifinals after getting past St. Ignace in last year’s Quarterfinal. The Lakers’ only losses this winter are to undefeated Class B contender Kingsley, and senior guard Savannah Peplinski (15.6 ppg) leads a mostly veteran lineup. The Saints surely have been looking forward to this opportunity. Their only loss this season was to Edison. Junior forward Emily Coveyou (18.3) and senior forward Linnie Gustafson (16.3) are a productive 1-2 scoring punch.
Gaylord St. Mary (23-1) vs. Chassell (24-1) at Sault Ste. Marie – 6 p.m.
St. Mary has lost three Quarterfinals over the last six years by a combined five points. The Snowbirds are hoping senior guards Averi Bebble (11.5 ppg) and Alex Hunter (13.7 ppg, 31 3-pointers) can help them get to the Semifinals for the first time since 2002. Chassell battled through a pair of close Regional games to reach the Quarterfinals for the first time. The Panthers are keyed by a senior pair as well – guard Milly Allen (15.5 ppg) and 6-1 center Sydney Danison (13.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg).
Waterford Our Lady (18-4) vs. Kingston (23-0) at Burton Bendle – 6 p.m.
These two will meet in a Quarterfinal for the third time in four seasons. Kingston is looking to reach its first Semifinal and Our Lady its seventh in eight seasons after falling in the Quarterfinal to Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary a year ago. Junior forward Carley Smith (10.7) leads a balanced Kingston lineup with four players averaging at least 8.5 ppg. Senior forward Tiffany Senerius puts up 14 ppg for Our Lady and has made 41 3-pointers.
Athens (21-4) vs. Adrian Lenawee Christian (23-1) at Richland Gull Lake
Athens will play in its fifth Quarterfinal this decade but first since 2014 against a Lenawee Christian team making the trip back for the first time since finishing Class D runner-up in 2010. Four senior starters have helped the Indians through a tough tournament run that’s included avenging a loss to rival Bellevue. Lenawee Christian is paced by 6-2 freshman guard Bree Salenbien (21.3 ppg) and has been perfect this season aside from a one-point loss to Class A Monroe.
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (24-0) vs. Bellaire (21-3) at Scottville Mason County Central
The Irish have won six straight Regional titles and come into this game undefeated for the second year in a row. Last season they made it to the Semifinals before falling to eventual champion Pittsford. Sacred Heart is leaning on a lineup with four seniors, including Sophia Ruggles (15.6 ppg), and junior guard Scout Nelson (13.8 ppg, 5.1 apg) to take another step. Bellaire has won more than 20 games for the third time in five seasons and broke through for its first Regional title, led by senior forward Lexi Niepoth (14.9 ppg, 11.5 rpg).
PHOTO: East Lansing’s Aaliyah Nye (32) guards a Grand Ledge ball handler during a District win two weeks ago. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)
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.