Breslin Bound: Boys Report Week 5

January 13, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

With the beginning of January comes the end of holiday basketball showcases and a switch in focus by MHSAA teams toward local opponents, conference races and the haul of the second half of the regular season.

The first week of 2015 saw the ranks of the undefeated decreased by 35 boys teams statewide to 64 remaining, with some listed below among those that caught my eye during the first days of the new year.

Class A

Alpena (6-0) – The Wildcats not only sit alone atop the Big North Conference standings as they look to repeat as champions, but avenged their two losses from last season – by 10 over Traverse City West before break and by 20 over Traverse City Central last week.  

Detroit East English (4-2) – The Bulldogs are early leaders in a Detroit Public School League East Division 1 that includes powers Pershing, Cass Tech, Martin Luther King and Southeastern; East English’s current three-game winning streak started with a big win over solid Southfield and includes a five-pointer over better-than-its-record Cass Tech from last week.  

Grand Ledge (5-0) – Last season’s somewhat-surprise Capital Area Activities Conference Blue runner-up isn’t sneaking up on anyone this winter; a strong backcourt has paced a fast start that’s included wins over Lansing Sexton on the first Friday of the season and much-improved Jackson by 15 last week.

Middleville Thornapple Kellogg (5-0) – The Trojans have bounced back from last season’s sub-.500 finish thanks in part to four wins by four or fewer points, including a 49-46 victory last week over Caledonia.

Class B

Detroit Henry Ford (7-0) – Ford is off to a strong start again this season after starting and ending strong a year ago; the Trojans look good to avoid the five-game losing streak they encountered at this time last year, although Cass Tech and Pershing are up next.

Dowagiac (4-1) – A one-point loss to Wolverine Conference West leader Paw Paw before break surely smarted a bit, but the Chieftains came back to start 2015 with a 58-55 win over rival Niles; they pick up league play Friday against Berrien Springs.

Flint Northwestern (5-0) – After struggling mightily the last two seasons, Northwestern has begun like the Northwestern of old, with a nine-point win over Midland and 37-pointer over Saginaw Heritage last week keeping the Wildcats among the undefeated.

Williamston (6-1) – Only a loss to Class A Dexter in the championship game of Coldwater’s holiday tournament has kept the Hornets from perfection – and also from beating all of their opponents by double figures as they did last week versus East Lansing and Fowlerville.  

Class C

Burton Bendle (6-0) – The Tigers are halfway to last season’s 12 wins and tied for first in the Genesee Area Conference Blue thanks in large part to a 72-67 overtime win last week over New Lothrop, last season’s league runner-up.

Detroit Loyola (5-2) – The newly-crowned Division 7 football champion has been pretty good at basketball too over the years – but has looked better than that early with its only losses by six or fewer points to much bigger Henry Ford and Detroit Renaissance.

Gwinn (4-2) – The Modeltowners have won four straight after two big losses to start and beat Houghton and Norway on back-to-back nights last week – they took the lead against Norway with 31 seconds to play on the way to winning 43-41.

Laingsburg (5-0) – The Wolfpack have made a smooth transition from coach Greg Mitchell (now at Hope College) to Dan Blemaster (formerly coach of Brown City). Laingsburg sits atop the Central Michigan Athletic Conference by a half-game over Fulton-Middleton (see below).

Class D

Fulton-Middleton (5-1) – The Pirates are right behind Laingsburg in the CMAC after having last week’s game against Bath postponed, but did open the week with a 55-53 victory over reigning Class C runner-up Pewamo-Westphalia – one of only three teams to beat Fulton during 2013-14.

Peck (5-1) – The 8-player football power is strong at basketball too, with its only loss to Class B Richmond, 45-41, on Jan. 3. The Pirates lost only once in 2013-14, to eventual Class D champion Southfield Christian in their Quarterfinal.

Morenci (3-1) – The Bulldogs are following their football success of the fall with a nice start to the winter including a one-point win last week over Whitmore Lake after a two-point win to kick off the new year against Gorham-Fayette (Ohio) on Jan. 3.

Onekama (4-0) – The Portagers sit atop the West Michigan D League standings in part because of a two-point win last week over reigning league champion Baldwin; Onekama followed up with another two-point win against Manistee.

PHOTO: Detroit East English defenders block the lane during their 75-70 win over Detroit Cass Tech last week. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public School League.) 

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.