D3 Preview: Welcome Back, Contenders
March 20, 2019
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Three of this weekend’s Division 3 semifinalists have become regulars checking in for the final rounds of the season.
The fourth semifinalist hasn’t made it this far in more than 40 years – not since it became one of the MHSAA’s first girls basketball champions, pre-dating the other three teams’ successes.
We’ve become quite familiar with Flint Hamady, Ypsilanti Arbor Prep and Pewamo-Westphalia especially this last decade. Lake City, meanwhile, hasn’t played this late in the season since 1976 – when it won Class D in the fourth season of MHSAA-sponsored girls hoops.
Division 3 Semifinals – Thursday
Lake City (22-2) vs. Flint Hamady (20-5), Noon
Ypsilanti Arbor Prep (19-6) vs. Pewamo-Westphalia (25-1), 2 p.m.
Division 3 Final – Saturday, 4 p.m.
Tickets cost $10 per pair of Semifinals and $10 per two-game Finals session (Divisions 3 and 2). 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 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.)
Record/rank: 20-5, No. 10
League finish: Second in Genesee Area Conference Red
Coach: Keith Smith, 16th season (345-50)
Championship history: Three Class C titles (most recent 2010), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 40-35 over No. 2 Hemlock in the Regional Final, 45-36 over New Lothrop in Regional Semifinal, 50-42 over Division 2 honorable mention Corunna, 44-39 over Detroit Cass Tech.
Players to watch: Treshondra Williams, 6-1 sr. F (11.2 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 3.2 spg); Aryana Naylor, 6-2 jr. C (12.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 2.2 bpg).
Outlook: After a season away, Hamady is back at the Semifinals for the fourth time this decade and after playing a regular-season schedule filled with larger opponents. All five losses came to Division 1 or 2 teams, and Hamady avenged its defeat against Corunna. Williams and Naylor give the Hawks an impressive frontcourt, while 5-9 junior Xeryia Tartt (15.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 3.8 apg, 2.8 spg) leads in scoring and senior guard Jordan McKeller (5.6 apg) is the top distributor.
Record/rank: 22-2, unranked
League finish: Second in Highland Conference
Coach: Bill Tisron, fifth season (83-30)
Championship history: Class D champion 1976.
Best wins: 50-46 over Ishpeming Westwood in Quarterfinal, 49-35 over Oscoda in Regional Semifinal, 57-42 over Morley Stanwood.
Players to watch: Rylie Bisballe, 6-2 jr. F (16.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.7 bpg); Makayla Ardis, 5-5 sr. G (12.6 ppg, 3.7 apg, 3.7 spg).
Outlook: Lake City is back at the Semifinals for the first time since its championship season, having fallen only to league rival Manton (twice) this winter. The Trojans have won at least 12 games all five seasons under Tisron and two District titles, and the Regional title was also the program’s first since that last long run four decades ago. Ardis earned an all-state honorable mention last season, and she and Bisballe get additional scoring help in part from sophomore guard Olivia Bellows (10.2 ppg) – who with Ardis had combined for 50 3-pointers entering the week.
Record/rank: 24-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Steve Eklund, 10th season (205-36)
Championship history: Class C runner-up 2017, 1984 & 1983.
Best wins: 43-19 over No. 4 Niles Brandywine in Quarterfinal, 35-33 over No. 8 Kent City in Regional Semifinal, 69-41 over Detroit Country Day, 45-25 over Division 1 No. 4 Midland Dow, 56-26 over New Lothrop.
Players to watch: Hannah Spitzley, 6-0 jr. F (13.9 ppg, 38 3-pointers); Ellie Droste, 5-8 jr. G (13.9 ppg, 39 3-pointers).
Outlook: The Pirates were runners-up in Class C in 2017 and made the Semifinals in 2018, and arguably have been the favorite in Division 3 all year with only a loss to Division 2 power Detroit Edison. Spitzley and Droste both earned all-state honorable mentions a year ago – Droste hits an outstanding 61 percent of her shots from the floor, including 47 percent from 3-point range. Senior guard Rachel Huhn is another perimeter ace – she had 38 3-pointers heading into the week while making 41 percent from beyond the arc.
YPSILANTI ARBOR PREP
Record/rank: 19-6, unranked
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Scott Stine, second season (40-12)
Championship history: Class C champion 2016, two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 59-31 over honorable mention Adrian Madison in Quarterfinal, 59-55 over No. 5 Maple City Glen Lake, 54-40 over Division 2 No. 10 Muskegon Oakridge, 48-46 over Division 2 No. 9 Harper Woods Chandler Park, 61-46 over Dearborn Heights Crestwood.
Players to watch: Mya Petticord, 5-8 fr. G (19.3 ppg, 47 3-pointers, 3.3 apg); Mahri Petree, 5-11 sr. F (13 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.0 apg).
Outlook: Arbor Prep has made the Semifinals five straight seasons and finished champion or runner-up the last three (in Class B in 2017). The Gators have won 10 of their last 11 games, the only defeat in overtime to Chandler Park. Petticord was highly touted entering high school and has made good on those expectations. Petree, who earned all-state honorable mention last season, also provides plenty of boost, and 6-foot senior forward Kashyra Jackson is averaging 8.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game coming off the bench.
PHOTO: Lake City’s Olivia Bellows make a move toward the basket during her team’s Tuesday Quarterfinal win over Ishpeming Westwood. (Photo courtesy of Cadillac News.)
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.