Bad Memory Fades with Eagles' Fast Start

March 22, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – In case his players didn’t remember the heartache, Southfield Christian coach Josh Baker made sure they remembered.

Every practice, he’d mention last season’s Class D Semifinal loss to Powers North Central, decided in overtime on a last-second shot.

The Eagles never let Thursday’s return to the Semifinals get that far, or that close.

Southfield Christian opened up a double-digit lead before Dollar Bay scored its first point, and finished with a 71-32 victory at the Breslin Center.

“The mindset was just completely different this year,” Southfield Christian senior Bryce Washington said. “Coach brings up every day in practice that loss last year, how we have to play our hardest every possession. You see defensively we’ve been a lot better in the playoffs. It’s just played into our game.”

The Eagles (22-4) will play at 10 a.m. Saturday for their fourth Class D title this decade and first since 2014, against either Buckley or Hillsdale Academy.

Defense indeed is a renewed strength for Southfield Christian, and the 32 points were 13 fewer than Dollar Bay’s season low this winter.

Hand in hand with that improved defense is the team’s increased depth – and it played a major role in shutting the Blue Bolts down as Baker rotated multiple players to handle Dollar Bay seniors Devin Schmitz and Jaden Janke. They combined to score only 17 points.

“Last year we (played) about six or seven guys every game,” Eagles junior guard Harlond Beverly said. “This year we go 9-10 deep, and that makes it a lot easier for all of us … to get a two-minute break every game, come back in and keep that energy going.  

The Blue Bolts (26-1) responded to the opening run with a 13-11 stretch, and Schmitz’ 3-pointer with 2:17 to play in the second quarter pulled his team within 12 of the lead.

It would get that close one more time 44 seconds later, but never closer.

Dollar Bay coach Jesse Kentala and his players all admitted it was just about impossible to prepare for Southfield Christian’s speed, even as the Blue Bolts often have that advantage on opponents.

“That was the first time anyone’s matched our speed,” Kentala said. “We’ve kinda lived off being able to go by guys and exposing defenses. I think we were shocked because the first three or four minutes of that game, we couldn’t go by them. And (my players) kept looking at me going, ‘Coach, what do you want us to do?’

“They are so fast and such active defenders … we just don’t see athleticism like we saw tonight.”

Washington led Southfield Christian (22-5) with 23 points, 10 rebounds and three steals. Junior guard Caleb Hunter added 17 points, four assists and five steals and Beverly – who opened the game with a reverse dunk – added 12 points and four steals. Junior guard Jon Sanders had 10 points and three assists off the bench.

Janke had 12 points, six rebounds and two steals to lead the Blue Bolts in all three categories.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Southfield Christian’s Harlond Beverly throws down a dunk during his team’s Class D Semifinal win Thursday. (Middle) Dollar Bay’s Devin Schmitz (20) works to get around Southfield Christian’s Rahmon Scruggs.

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.