Countdown to Calvin: Regional Preview

March 5, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

We're just days removed from one of the most highlight-filled and upset-loaded Girls Basketball District weeks in recent memory. We could spend this entire "Countdown to Calvin" report noting every single game that sent a wave through the brackets.

But the tournament is about advancing and looking ahead, and we've got plenty to preview as Regional Semifinals tip off tonight. 

Below we mention five of the District results that especially made an impression, plus look at three Regionals of particular note in each class – all powered by MI Student Aid. Host sites are bolded, and matchups shown are for Regional Semifinals. (Click for brackets for every Regional in all four classes.)

Week in Review

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

1. Caledonia 46, East Kentwood 45 – A last-second basket pushed Caledonia past the reigning Class A runner-up and undefeated Falcons after East Kentwood has won the first two meetings between the teams.

2. Manchester 46, Pittsford 45 – In Class C, Manchester ended Pittsford’s winning streak at 76, two wins short of the MHSAA record.

3. Big Rapids 49, Stanton Central Montcalm 34 – In Class B, Big Rapids handed Central Montcalm its only loss after falling twice to the Hornets during the regular season.

4. Dexter 41, Ann Arbor Huron 36 – The Dreadnaughts knocked out a Class A contender in the District opener, ending the River Rats’ 18-game winning streak.

5. Ishpeming Westwood 59, Negaunee 44 – Westwood ended the Class C contender Miners’ perfect season after also falling twice to Negaunee earlier this winter.

Regionals at a Glance

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


Mount Pleasant
Marquette (16-6) vs. Saginaw Heritage (22-1), Flint Carman-Ainsworth (21-2) vs. Davison (11-12)

All three of Heritage’s District opponents last week had winning records, and things of course aren’t going to get easier. Marquette was the Great Northern Conference champion, and Carman-Ainsworth finished second to Heritage in the Saginaw Valley League. The Cavaliers’ losses came to the Hawks 60-44 on Jan. 5 and reigning Class B champion Detroit Country Day the next day 65-59. Davison had lost seven of nine to close the regular season, but bounced back at the right time to win three and the title last week.

West Bloomfield
Utica Eisenhower (19-3) vs. Waterford Kettering (16-6), Clarkston (18-4) vs. Bloomfield Hills Marian (18-4)

Eisenhower won the Macomb Area Conference White, Clarkston shared the Oakland Activities Association Red title and Marian shared the Detroit Catholic League Central championship. Kettering only finished second in the Lakes Valley Conference but then won its fifth straight District title. Marian has a 52-38 win over Kettering from Nov. 30 and some tournament experience as well having won the Catholic League A-B title and its seventh straight District championship.

Zeeland East
Caledonia (18-5) vs. Muskegon (21-2), Hudsonville (16-7) vs. East Grand Rapids (20-3)

Caledonia should be riding high after shocking previously undefeated and reigning Class A runner-up East Kentwood last week, and the Fighting Scots ran their winning streak to six in clinching the District title one game later. Next up is Muskegon, which hasn’t lost since Dec. 22 and survived a three-point scare against Grand Haven in their District Final. Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold runner-up East Grand Rapids has won 11 straight, and Hudsonville was one of six teams from the seven-team O-K Red that finished the regular season with a winning record.


Corunna (16-6) vs. Birch Run (20-3), Goodrich (18-4) vs. Freeland (21-2)

Half of the six-team Genesee Area Conference Red won District titles, including champion Goodrich and third-place Corunna. Next up they face two of the best from the Tri-Valley Conference – East champion Birch Run and Central title winner Freeland. The Falcons downed the Panthers 70-55 in a crossover Jan. 30, and also have a 61-43 win over the Martians from Jan. 16.

Comstock Park (19-4) vs. Muskegon Oakridge (20-3), Grand Rapids South Christian (18-4) vs. Howard City Tri-County (15-8)

Oakridge has won six straight West Michigan Conference titles and four Districts during that time, but is seeking its first Regional championship during this string of successes. It won’t come easy if this is the year. Comstock Park won the O-K Blue and has improved 11 wins this season from 2016-17. On the other side of the bracket, South Christian won the O-K Gold and is only two seasons removed from finishing Class B runner-up. And Tri-County is dangerous too; the Vikings claimed a trophy last week after finishing third in the Central State Activities Association Gold behind Stanton Central Montcalm (20-1) and Big Rapids (21-2). 

Ida (19-3) vs. New Boston Huron (20-2), Michigan Center (20-2) vs. Dearborn Henry Ford Academy (16-6)

Ida won the Lenawee County Athletic Association, Huron shared the Huron League title, Michigan Center won the Cascades Conference outright and Henry Ford Academy finished second in the Charter School Conference. Ida finished the regular season with a 19-point win over Huron co-champ Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central, and that could be telling. Henry Ford Academy has the most losses for a reason – all but one came against teams that went on to win District titles as well. Michigan Center and New Boston Huron both found success after playing in different classes last year, Michigan Center Class C and Huron in Class A.


Schoolcraft (23-0) vs. Kalamazoo Hackett (15-8), Niles Brandywine (21-2) vs. Bronson (17-6)

Schoolcraft has followed up its Quarterfinal run of a year ago with perfection, including wins of 13 and 18 over Hackett as they finished first and second, respectively, in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley. All but one of the Eagles’ win have been by double digits; that lone single-digit win came 62-61 over Bronson on Dec. 12. The Vikings tied for third in the strong Big 8 Conference and face Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference Red runner-up Brandywine, which has won Regional titles five of the last six seasons. The Bobcats’ only losses this season were to Class B Comstock (19-2).

Iron River West Iron County (18-4) vs. Ishpeming (19-3), St. Ignace (21-1) vs. Houghton (15-7)

Ishpeming – which finished runner-up to Negaunee in the Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference – emerged from their District last week after rival Westwood ended the undefeated Miners’ season. Now the Hematites could get their chance to topple another undefeated power; first up is Western Peninsula Athletic Conference runner-up West Iron, but St. Ignace looms on the other side of the bracket. The Saints open with West PAC champ Houghton, annually one of the Upper Peninsula’s best as well. But St. Ignace’s only loss was to reigning Class C champ Detroit Edison, and it put up an impressive 87-56 win on Class B Goodrich (also noted above) on Feb. 10.

Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian
Pewamo-Westphalia (22-0) vs. Laingsburg (20-2), Grandville Calvin Christian (11-11) vs. Hemlock (20-3)

Reigning Class C runner-up Pewamo-Westphalia has been all but unstoppable, winning by an average margin of 41 points per game. Springport, falling only 34-27 in the District Final, gave the Pirates by far their toughest test; two teams, including Class A District champ Detroit Renaissance, got within 23 during the regular season. Laingsburg got within 24 on Feb. 15, and both of its losses this season were to P-W – this matchup could be even closer. On the other side, Calvin Christian finished second in the O-K Silver despite playing a number of larger schools. Hemlock won the TVC West, with its losses to Class B Freeland and Birch Run (see above) and league runner-up Saginaw Valley Lutheran. The Huskies made the Quarterfinals last season.


Big Rapids Crossroads Academy
Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (22-0) vs. Onekama (12-10), Fruitport Calvary Christian (19-3) vs. Bear Lake (17-5)

Sacred Heart is arguably the favorite to win the entire Class D tournament after falling to reigning champion Pittsford in either the Semifinals or Final the last two seasons. Onekama has been on a roll, though, with five wins in its last six games and seven over its last 10 – with the three losses during that run to Class B Kingsley (23-0) and Benzie Central (17-5) and Class C Maple City Glen Lake (20-2). Bear Lake shared the West Michigan D League title and has rattled off nine wins over its last 10 games. The Lakers open against Alliance League champion Calvary Christian, which has won 15 straight and avenged one of those three losses by beating Muskegon Heights Academy in the District Final.  

Bark River-Harris (17-5) vs. Crystal Falls Forest Park (13-9), Munising (22-1) vs. Chassell (22-1)

The second game of the night pits the Skyline Central Conference large-school division champion Mustangs against the Copper Mountain Conference Copper Country title winner Chassell. The Panthers haven’t lost since falling to L’Anse by four in their opener. Munising’s lone defeat came Jan. 4 to Gwinn. Tonight’s first game is a rematch of SCC-Large rivals – the teams split 12-point wins, with Forest Park’s coming in the regular-season finale Feb. 22 as part of a six-game winning streak. Bark River-Harris has won nine of its last 11, however.

St. Ignace
Harbor Spring Harbor Light Christian (19-2) vs. Cedarville (19-3), Gaylord St. Mary (21-1) vs. Rudyard (9-13)

Cedarville has taken a big jump this season after going 13-9 a year ago. Not only did the Trojans win the Eastern UP Athletic Conference, but their lone losses were twice to Class C contender St. Ignace and once to Sault Ste. Marie, a Class B District champ. But Northern Lakes Conference champ Harbor Light Christian will provide an immediate challenge this week. Rudyard, which plays in two leagues including the EUP, upset Engadine to win its District and has won five of its last six games. Gaylord St. Mary has won 21 straight, with a perfect run through the Ski Valley Conference, as it looks to get back to the final week of the season after falling in its Regional Final by three points a year ago.

PHOTO: Unionville-Sebewaing celebrates its Class C District title after defeating Cass City in overtime last week. (Click to see 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.