Kent City Shooting for Long Tourney Run

March 7, 2019

By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half 

RAVENNA – As Zara Weber explains it, part of growing up in Kent City is learning how to properly shoot the basketball.

“They start us young at camps, working on our form and things like that,” said Weber, one of two senior starters for Kent City (18-4), which rolled over Holton 55-13 on Wednesday and into Friday’s Division 3 District Final against Muskegon Western Michigan Christian at Ravenna.

“They get us started, and then it’s up to all of us to put in the time. We spend a lot of time in the gym. A few of us made it our goal to shoot 10,000 3-pointers over the summer.”

So, for Weber, the 3-pointer that she made late in the first quarter on Wednesday was just another shot – but it was also the shot that tied the team state record for most 3-pointers made in a season.

It was fitting that the record-breaking trey, which came less than a minute later, was made by a reserve, senior Janelle Krueger – because all of these Eagles can shoot.

“Almost every girl on the team can shoot it,” said 10th-year Kent City coach Scott Carlson, who knows something about scoring as the all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,263 career points. “I don’t think the record really mattered. We knew we were getting close. I just have a great shooting team.”

Kent City, which was ranked No. 8 in the final Associated Press Division 3 poll, finished with eight 3-pointers on Wednesday, pushing its season total to 244 – and breaking the old record of 237 triples by Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central set in 2005.

The boys state record is 356 by Whitmore Lake in 2009-2010.

Carlson did not make a big deal about the state record. The game was not stopped after Krueger’s record-setting shot, and no announcement was made; in fact, most of the Eagles did not know until after the game.

Earlier this year, Kent City broke the state record for 3-pointers in a single game, making 25 in a home win over Holton. Kent City had the previous record of 23 in a single game, set during the 2012-2013 season, when current assistant coaches Kendal Carlson and Aleah Holcomb were on the roster.

How do they do it?

The Eagles’ motion offense normally features four players spotted up at different points along the 3-point arc, with players taking turns driving and kicking it back out to one of those players, who are always ready to shoot. KC shoots 32 percent from 3-point range and averages 11 treys per game.

The “big three” for KC all season long has been Weber and sophomore standouts Jenna Harrison and Kenzie Bowers – who have all made more than 50 3-pointers this season. The other starters for the Eagles are sophomore Audrey Dreyer and senior Lauren Freeland, an all-state track and cross country standout who will run at Michigan State next year.

“Shooters got to shoot,” explained Harrison, who led all scorers on Wednesday with 13 points, including two 3-pointers. “We know that we have to shoot if we are open; that’s the way our offense works. If the defense comes out on us, then we have to drive.”

The Eagles know their games will keep getting tougher, starting with Friday’s District championship game against Western Michigan Christian. If the Eagles prevail, it could set up a blockbuster Regional Semifinal matchup at home Monday against top-ranked Pewamo-Westphalia.

“That’s the game everyone in town is talking about, but we’re just taking them one at a time,” Harrison said.

The Eagles’ outstanding season has been a pleasant diversion for Carlson, who has experienced more family tragedies resulting from car crashes than any one man should ever have to endure.

In 1989, his younger brother Todd was paralyzed in a car accident. One year later, his younger sister Shannon was paralyzed and suffered a closed head injury in a car accident. In 2009, his mother, Jane, died in another car accident (Todd lost his right leg in the same accident).

Then last August, Todd – who served as an assistant coach for the Eagles and helped run Kent City’s youth basketball program for 15 years – died in yet another crash at the age of 49.

“It’s been tough because he was such a big part of this team,” said Carlson. “I’ve learned you just have to keep going forward. Basketball is something we have always had to focus on and work on.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Kent City’s Jenna Harrison lines up to shoot a 3-pointer against Cedar Springs during a Feb. 19 win. (Middle) Mikayla Loew (21) looks for an opening around the perimeter. (Photos courtesy of the Kent City athletic department/Sue Harrison.)

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.