Beecher Back in Breslin Center Form

March 26, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

EAST LANSING – Few high school teams have made a home of Michigan State University’s Breslin Center like Flint Beecher over the last decade. 

That’s what made last season’s just-miss of MHSAA Finals weekend so unsettling. And Beecher seemed to take out all of its disappointment on Hanover-Horton during the first half of Thursday’s Class C Semifinal.

Back at Breslin for the sixth time in eight seasons, Beecher scored the first 11 points to pull away almost immediately on the way to defeating the Comets 71-43. 

The Buccaneers’ 2013-14 season ended with a one-point Quarterfinal loss to eventual runner-up Pewamo-Westphalia. In its return to the semis, Beecher led by 20 at the end of the first quarter and 31 by halftime.

“I just wanted to get off to a quick start, start the team off fast. We wanted this bad,” Beecher senior guard Samuel Toins said. “Last year we suffered a heartbreak, and we didn’t want to feel that pain like we felt last year.” 

Top-ranked Beecher (25-1) will seek its sixth MHSAA title at 4 p.m. Saturday against Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian. A title would be the Bucs’ third in four seasons – they won back-to-back in Class C in 2012 and 2013.

They’ve had similar hot starts to Thursday, Toins said, “but this is the most important.” 

He had 11 points, with three 3-pointers, and all five starters scored as Beecher built a 23-3 advantage by the end of the first quarter.

Bucs coach Mike Williams said his only worry coming into Thursday was that his players might be distracted by their return. But again, they seemed right at home making 51 percent of their shots from the Breslin floor – including 56 percent of their tries from 3-point range. 

Beecher scored 27 points off turnovers and outscored Hanover-Horton on the break 11-0, taking advantage of 21 turnovers brought on in part by the defensive press.

That all has been part of the plan for getting back to Breslin – Williams puts his players through practices where they run to exhaustion first, and then scrimmage, to prepare for championship-caliber pace.

The Bucs set it Thursday. 

“There have been some days when … these guys wanted to strangle me,” Williams said. “But to get to this point, I told them if they can’t handle me in practice, when the pressure is on in games, they won’t be able to handle it. … I like to think that’s what got these kids over the top.”

Senior guard Cedric Moten added 18 points for Beecher, and sophomore forward Levane Blake had 11 and eight rebounds. 

Junior forward Preston Laketa had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Hanover-Horton (24-2), which did outscore Beecher 30-27 during the second half.

The Semifinal was the Comets’ first since 2003, and Beecher was the fourth ranked opponent they’d faced this tournament. Hanover-Horton, No. 8, beat No. 4 Hillsdale, No. 6 Jackson Lumen Christi and No. 9 Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central during the run.

“(The first half) was probably the worst half of basketball we’ve played, and I know they had a lot to do with it,” Hanover-Horton coach Chad Mortimer said. “We started off with turnovers, didn’t take a shot for a few minutes. … It was over quick. 

“We ran into some really good teams along the way in the tournament, but we ran into a buzz saw today that was on top of their game, and we weren’t.”

Click for the full box score and video from the postgame press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Beecher players celebrate their victory over Hanover-Horton and return to the Class C Final. (Middle) Beecher and Hanover-Horton players scramble for a loose ball Thursday.

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.