'Me to We' Kingsley Could Make History

February 1, 2018

By Dennis Chase
Special for Second Half

KINGSLEY – It might have been the most thrilling shot of the season for the Kingsley girls basketball team.

It was certainly the most telling.

The memorable moment happened a couple weeks ago when junior guard Jacie King hit a buzzer-beating, half-court shot to give Kingsley an 11-10 lead over Maple City Glen Lake after the first quarter.

Kingsley went on to capture the battle of unbeatens, 61-45.

“They didn’t beat us one quarter (because of that shot),” King said.

Well, nobody has beaten 14-0 Kingsley in a quarter this season. Heading into Thursday’s contest with Onekama, that was 56 quarters and counting.

Not surprisingly, Kingsley, ranked No. 2 in this week’s Associated Press Class B poll, had won 13 of its first 14 games by 34 points or more.

“We’ve been pretty dominant,” said Matt Schelich, now in his 20th season as head coach.

With three weeks to go, Kingsley is within reach of what would be the program’s first 20-0 regular season.

The schedule ahead includes a rematch with once-beaten and reigning Northwest Conference champion Glen Lake, this time on the road Feb. 20.

But the Stags are more concerned about the present than the future.

“We’re taking a one day at a time approach,” Schelich said. “I tell the kids try to win every day, whether it’s in the classroom, at practice, whatever. Keep focused and win every day.”

That’s what his players are doing.

Schelich, who led Kingsley to the Class C Semifinals in 2008, returned the nucleus of last season’s 18-4 squad. It was a season that ended in the District Finals with a loss to Kalkaska, a team the Stags had beaten during the regular season.

“Last year ended in disappointment,” Schelich said. “We felt we had a legitimate shot to win the league and the District. In the long run, it might have been the best thing that happened. It was eye-opening. We didn’t have a focus on what was right in front of us.”

Schelich went to work in the offseason to change the team mindset from “me to we.” His intent was to get his players on the same page and help them “learn to play together,” senior guard Kelsie Bies said.

“If we use all our resources, all our talent, we can be that much better,” Bies said. “I love that about this team. We’ve learned how to trust each other.”

“Nothing we do is for ourselves,” junior forward Marie Pierson added. “It’s about team and how much better we can get (working together). Our motto is “All Heart.” We have to love each other, trust each other because we’re all in it together. We’re working really well together.”

It helps that there’s a strong chemistry between the players.

“What makes this team so special, so awesome, is that we all get along,” King said. “There’s hardly any arguments.”

Schelich rotates as many as eight players – Jalynn Brumfield, Lindsey Boyajian, Brittany Bowman, Bekah Crosby, Maddie Bies, Kelsie Bies, Jacie King and Marie Pierson. Brumfield has signed with Ferris State University, Boyajian with Lakeland University in Wisconsin.

“A majority of these kids could be averaging 20 a game, here or anywhere else,” Schelich said. “Basically, what we have, are eight kids averaging 8 to 12 a game.

“Balance is hard to beat. Balance with depth is really hard to beat. The kids have bought into the we. They don’t worry about who is getting credit.”

Schelich admits it’s a “competitive” group, and often practices are tougher than the games, especially when he can also draw from a 13-1 JV team.

“We divide our kids so we have two good varsity teams going at it in practice,” he said. “How many coaches can divide their team up, have it be competitive and have their players get better? Not many. Most teams, boys and girls, have two or three kids that have to get it done for the team to have a chance.”

The players like the competitive challenge at practice.

“We don’t go easy on each other,” Bies said. “We push each other. Most of the time, our games are not as intense as our practices.”

For Kingsley, it all starts with pressure defense.

“We create a lot of offense with our defense,” Schelich said. “As a group, we are very athletic. I talk about playing defense in waves. That first wave, well, it’s a pain to play against our guards. They are quick and relentless. If you think you’ve got one beat, here comes another one.”

Kelsie Bies is the catalyst on the press.

“She can really move her feet and make people uncomfortable,” Schelich said. “She can go baseline to baseline to make plays. It’s like a beagle on a bunny. It’s her defensive energy, tenacity, that gets us going.”

Bies has stepped up her offensive game as well. Through the first 10 games, she was hitting 49 percent of her 3-pointers.

Kingsley is currently without Boyajian, who has been battling knee injuries.

“She’s had both knees repaired, and one is acting up right now,” Schelich said. “She just had an MRI. We hope to have her back soon.”

But that’s where the depth pays off.

“It’s been a luxury,” Schelich admitted.

Much to the chagrin of opposing coaches.

Frankfort coach Tim Reznich, who has led the Panthers to two Class D titles, is a believer.

“They’re good,” he said. “They have a legitimate shot at being a Final Four team. They have great depth. I think (Schelich) has 9 or 10 kids that could start on any given night. When he’s making substitutions, it’s nothing to look forward to as an opposing coach. They keep the pressure on and, in some cases, turn it up more.

“They have all the tools. They have good perimeter play, solid posts, and they’re good in transition. If you slow them down, they have girls who score in the halfcourt set. It’s a complete team.

“I told Matt (earlier in the season) that he has a special group and to enjoy them while he can. They’re making the best of it. They’re all in rhythm on the court. It’s a fun team to watch.”

And it’s also a team that is starting to get more recognition in the polls.

“It’s definitely exciting to be ranked that high because most people don’t even know where Kingsley is,” Bies said. “But we don’t talk about it. We don’t focus on it.”

Instead, the focus is on improving every day.

“It’s February – we have to get better (for the MHSAA tournament),” Schelich said. “We can’t be content.”

That’s not good news for opponents in the north, especially since this run could last awhile.

“Our 10th, 11th and 12th grades are loaded,” Schelich said. “Three groups in a row, it’s awesome.”

Schelich has two sophomores on varsity in Bowman and Maddie Bies. Plus, more are on the way.

That’s not what opposing coaches want to hear.

“There will be a learning curve for some of the young players when they get there (to varsity),” Reznich said. “But, no question, they’re just reloading the next couple years.”

Dennis Chase worked 32 years as a sportswriter at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, including as sports editor from 2000-14. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Kingsley’s Marie Pierson drives to the basket against Benzie Central last month. (Middle) Jalynn Brumfield cuts through defenders in the Stags’ 67-30 win over the Huskies, who are 12-2. (Photos by Ron Stremlow.)

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]com 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.