D3 Preview: Contenders Earn Another Championship Chance

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 16, 2022

Three contenders who surely felt just a few steps away from claiming last season’s Division 3 championship are making the trip to Breslin Center this weekend to decide this year’s title, joined by a fourth set to make history when Thursday’s second Semifinal tips off.

Kent City was last season’s runner-up, losing 52-50 to Grass Lake in last year’s Final. Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, the overall top seed in Division 3 this winter, had lost to Grass Lake two games earlier in a Regional Final. And Maple City Glen Lake is back following its second-straight undefeated regular season and after suffering its lone defeat last year in the Quarterfinals.

They’re joined by Madison Heights Bishop Foley, which will play in its first Semifinal after also seeing last year’s run end a game shy of East Lansing.

DIVISON 3 Semifinals – Thursday
Maple City Glen Lake (25-0) vs. Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (23-2), noon
Kent City (25-0) vs. Madison Heights Bishop Foley (20-3), 2 p.m.
FINAL – Saturday – 4 p.m.

Tickets for this weekend’s games are $12 for both Semifinals and Finals and are available via the Breslin Center ticket office. All Semifinals will be broadcast and viewable with subscription to MHSAA.tv, and all four Finals will air live Saturday on Bally Sports Detroit’s primary channel as well as on the BSD website and app. Audio broadcasts of all Semifinals and Finals will be available free of charge from the MHSAA Network.

Here’s a look at the four Division 3 semifinals (with rankings by MPR and statistics through Regional Finals):

Record/rank: 25-0, No. 5
League finish: First in Central State Activities Association Silver
Coach: Aleah Holcomb, first season (25-0)
Championship history: Division 3 runner-up 2021.
Best wins: 34-33 over No. 6 Schoolcraft in Quarterfinal, 42-39 over No. 11 Hart, 43-23 over Division 2 No. 13 Sparta, 33-27 over Grand Rapids Christian.
Players to watch: Lexie Bowers, 5-7 jr. G (17 ppg, 71 3-pointers, 3.8 apg, 3.3 spg); Madelyn Geers, 5-9 soph. G (14.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.0 bpg); Taryn Preston (7.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg).
Outlook: The Eagles will return this weekend with four of the six players who saw minutes in that championship game, with 5-11 senior forward Emmalyn Geers (4.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg) joining Preston and Madelyn Geers as returning starters. Holcomb is a former Kent City standout as well and served five seasons as junior varsity coach before taking over the program this season. Preston and Emmalyn Geers are the only seniors.

Record/rank: 20-3, No. 7
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Intersectional #1
Coach: Ray Joseph, third season (50-15)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 55-48 over No. 14 Reese in Quarterfinal, 51-46 over Division 2 No. 18 Wixom St. Catherine, 60-23 over Clawson, 52-50 over Detroit Country Day.
Players to watch: Melanie Moore, 6-0 sr. C (17.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg); Alyssa Samartino, 5-7 jr. G (6.0 ppg, 3.0 apg); Ryan Moorer, 5-7 soph. G/F (10.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg).
Outlook: Bishop Foley has added its first Semifinal trip to its first Regional title won last week. The Ventures have won 16 games by double digits, with all three losses to teams with at least 15 wins including Division 3 overall top seed Arbor Prep by only five (66-61) in the regular-season finale. Moore and Samartino earned all-state honorable mentions last season, and Moore is the only senior starter and one of only two on the team.

Record/rank: 25-0, No. 8
League finish: First in Northwest Conference
Coach: Jason Bradford, 14th season (254-69)
Championship history: Class D champion 1978, runner-up 1979.
Best wins: 50-29 over Lake City in Quarterfinal, 53-39 over No. 3 Calumet in Regional Final, 53-34 over No. 2 St. Ignace in Regional Semifinal, 57-47 (District Final) and 59-40 over Traverse City St. Francis, 48-41 over No. 10 Elk Rapids, 63-41 and 60-23 over Kingsley.
Players to watch: Grace Bradford, 5-11 sr. G (22.9 ppg, 40 3-pointers, 10.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, 4.1 spg); Jessica Robbins, 5-8 sr. F (9.3 ppg, 4.3 spg, 1.4 bpg); Ruby Hogan, 5-7 jr. G (11.3 ppg, 3.2 spg).
Outlook: Glen Lake’s only loss over the last two seasons was last year’s to Calumet in a Quarterfinal, and the Lakers avenged it last week. This will be their third trip to the Semifinals over the last six seasons and first since 2018. The seven-point win over Elk Rapids on Dec. 7 was the only one by single digits this season. Grace Bradford made the all-state first team last season, and junior 6-foot center Maddie Bradford is another top contributor at 8.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

Record/rank: 23-2, No. 1
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Scott Stine, fifth season (96-24)
Championship history: Class C champion 2016, two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 66-61 over No. 7 Madison Heights Bishop Foley, 65-38 over No. 4 Grass Lake, 66-38 over No. 16 Jonesville, 67-41 over Division 1 No. 16 Wayne Memorial, 63-48 over Division 1 No. 19 South Lyon East, 54-51 over Division 2 No. 2 Redford Westfield Prep, 65-39 over Division 2 No. 7 Lansing Catholic, 75-45 over Division 2 No. 5 Frankenmuth, 89-57 over Division 2 No. 12 Imlay City, 57-47 over Division 2 No. 16 Lake Fenton.
Players to watch: Mya Petticord, 5-9 sr. G (22.9 ppg, 43 3-pointers, 5.0 apg, 4.3 spg); Karianna Woods, 5-8 sr. G (12.1 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3.6 spg); Stacy Utomi, 5-11 soph. F (11.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg).
Outlook: Arbor Prep will play its first Semifinal since 2019, when a freshman Petticord was the high scorer and Woods played 12 minutes in an overtime loss to eventual champion Pewamo-Westphalia. Three seasons later, Petticord was a Miss Basketball Award finalist and will continue her career at Texas A&M, and Woods will continue at Bethune-Cookman. The Gators have played one of the state’s strongest schedules in any division with their only losses to Division 1 No. 11 Parma Western and Division 2 No. 1 Detroit Edison. Sophomore Stephanie Utomi adds another 9.5 points and nearly a block per game.

PHOTO Kent City’s Lexie Bowers (23) and her teammates defend during Tuesday’s Quarterfinal win over Schoolcraft. (Photo courtesy of the Kent City athletic department.)


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.

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.