D4 Preview: 2021 Champ Fowler Back Leading 2022 Title Charge
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
March 16, 2022
The four remaining contenders for the MHSAA Division 4 girls basketball championship won’t be complete strangers when they arrive at Breslin Center for Thursday’s Semifinals.
All three opponents should have some knowledge of reigning champion Fowler, which returns three starters from last year’s title run. The Eagles also faced and defeated Plymouth Christian Academy this regular season, while PCA defeated Adrian Lenawee Christian just a month ago.
The lone outlier in this conversation is Baraga – the only Upper Peninsula team making the trip downstate this postseason. But the Vikings have seen their share of top competition too defeating two of the other three U.P. teams among the final top 20 by the MHSAA’s Michigan Power Ratings (MPR).
DIVISON 4 Semifinals – Thursday
Baraga (23-1) vs. Fowler (22-3), 5:30 p.m.
Adrian Lenawee Christian (19-6) vs. Plymouth Christian Academy (21-4), 7:30 p.m.
FINAL – Saturday – 10 a.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 4 semifinals (with rankings by MPR and statistics through Regional Finals):
ADRIAN LENAWEE CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 19-6, No. 4
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Jamie Salenbien, fifth season (104-16)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2019), one runner-up finish.
Best wins: 36-27 (Regional Final) and 48-32 over Athens, 63-31 over Genesee Christian, 38-29 over Onsted.
Players to watch: Kylie Summer, 5-9 sr. G (11.3 ppg, 62 3-pointers); Lizzy Scharer, 5-4 sr. G (10.3 ppg, 2.8 apg, 2.7 spg); Avery Sluss, 5-8 jr. F (8.8 ppg, 42 3-pointers).
Outlook: After ending last season in the Division 3 Regional Semifinals, Lenawee Christian has added another impressive achievement to several over the last half-decade by earning this Semifinal trip after graduating four-time all-stater Bree Salenbien last spring. Four seniors start, and Scharer and forward Cara Anderson saw time during the 2019 championship game win over St. Ignace. Three of Lenawee Christian’s five in-state losses this winter came to opponents in larger-school divisions; the other two were to the top two teams in final Division 4 MPR (PCA and Portland St. Patrick).
Record/rank: 23-1, No. 10
League finish: First in Copper Mountain Conference Copper Country
Coach: Tyler Larson, first season (23-1)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 57-40 over No. 7 Pickford in Quarterfinal, 61-47 over No. 14 Carney-Nadeau in Regional Final, 50-29 (Regional Semifinal) and 40-28 over Ontonagon.
Players to watch: Reide Osterman, 5-8 sr. G (16.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.8 apg, 6.7 spg); Cori Jahfetson, 5-3 sr. G (13.8 ppg, 62 3-pointers, 3.5 apg); Makenna Hendrickson, 5-4 soph. G (8.4 ppg).
Outlook: Baraga is making its first Semifinal trip since 1992, with its only loss this season to Division 2 No. 9 Houghton on Jan. 6. All but two wins came by double digits, including all five during the postseason. Larson coached at every level of the girls basketball program before taking over the varsity this winter, and he inherited a program that has now won four straight league titles and made the Quarterfinals in 2019. Osterman earned an all-state honorable mention last season.
Record/rank: 22-3, No. 3
League finish: Second in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Nathan Goerge, 12th season (156-114)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2021), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 58-26 over No. 8 Gaylord St. Mary in Quarterfinal, 52-42 (Regional Final) and 60-44 over No. 6 Saginaw Nouvel, 50-41 over No. 2 Portland St. Patrick in District Final, 43-35 over No. 1 Plymouth Christian Academy.
Players to watch: Mia Riley, sr. G; Emma Riley, 5-7 jr. G. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: The Eagles avenged a pair of losses to league rival St. Patrick to win the District, and the only other defeat this winter was to 2021 Division 2 champ Portland High. Both Riley sisters made the all-state first team last season, and Mia was the Division 4 Player of the Year by The Associated Press and will continue at Ferris State. Junior guard Avery Koenigsknecht also started in last season’s championship game, and junior Grace Epkey supplied the second-most minutes off the bench and has joined the starting lineup this winter.
PLYMOUTH CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
Record/rank: 21-4, No. 1
League finish: First in Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue
Coach: Rod Windle, 17th season (191-174)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 45-39 (OT – Regional Final), 35-29 and 34-25 over No. 11 Allen Park Inter-City Baptist, 58-56 over No. 4 Adrian Lenawee Christian, 51-36 over Division 3 No. 6 Schoolcraft, 65-49 over Detroit Country Day.
Players to watch: Anna Fernandez, 5-7 sr. G (17.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.3 apg, 3.6 spg); Morganne Houk, 5-7 jr. G (14.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.2 apg, 3.3 spg); Hailey Maulbetsch, 5-8 jr. F (12.6 ppg).
Outlook: PCA is making its first trip to the Semifinals since 2013 paced by returning all-state first-teamer Fernandez and honorable mention Houk. The Eagles loaded their schedule this winter; in addition to the wins above and loss to Fowler, PCA also lost to Division 3 top seed Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, Dearborn Divine Child and Wixom St. Catherine and defeated Genesee Christian during the regular season before also winning the rematch in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal. Fernandez is the only senior.
PHOTO Fowler’s Mia Riley (25) drives do the basket during last season’s Division 4 championship game win over Bellaire. (Photo by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
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.