Bucs Take Place Among Beecher Greats

March 28, 2015

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING — Flint Beecher's basketball players warmed up Saturday wearing red and white T-shirts proclaiming the 2015 Buccaneers as Genesee Area Conference Red Division champions. 

It was certainly an understated look for a team with much loftier goals than league titles.

The expectation for young basketball players growing up in the Beecher community the past 40 years has been MHSAA Finals championships — and nothing less. 

This year's players added their names to the list of greats who have gone before them by beating Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian, 78-52, in the MHSAA Class C title game at the Breslin Center.

It was Beecher's third championship in the last four years and sixth overall. The Buccaneers have played in 10 Finals and 16 Semifinals over the last 40 years. 

There were some down years as well. But all any of the current players can remember are Beecher teams that have been legitimate threats to win it all.

"We don't think about losing," Beecher coach Mike Williams said. "We prepare to win. We don't prepare to lose. We set a standard that we want to win championships. It's important that the kids learn how to set goals and how to work toward them. That's one thing they get from me is that discipline, that structure that in life there's going to be competition, no matter what you do or where you go. You need to learn how to prepare. 

“The other thing is you have to have an edge and you have to have a chip on your shoulder. We don't want to be just an average team; we want to be the best."

There was no doubt Beecher was the best team in Class C this season. 

The Buccaneers (26-1) won their eight postseason games by an average margin of 31.4 points, with the closest game an 18-point decision over Southfield Christian in the Regional Final.

Not even a team good enough to play on the final day of the season could pose a serious threat to this Buccaneers squad. Beecher scored the first eight points of the game and led by 23 early in the second quarter. 

"You know, they're a great team," NorthPointe coach Jared Redell said. "They've been the gold standard of Class C basketball for a long time. ... Obviously, Flint Beecher's been here a ton. They know what to expect. All those kids growing up, when they're in middle school watching the high school kids win state championships and coming to the Breslin Center all the time, that has a big part in terms of the culture of the school."

This would have been Beecher's sixth straight trip to the Breslin Center if not for a devastating loss to Pewamo-Westphalia in last year's Quarterfinals. The Buccaneers led by four points with less than 15 seconds to go, but lost 42-41. 

It was a painful memory that drove the Buccaneers all season.

"Last year we learned we can't take anything for granted," said senior Samuel Toins, who was 5 for 10 from 3-point range while scoring 17 points. "Every day in practice, we went hard and didn't goof around. I just wanted to lead my team and leave my legacy with this program." 

Junior Aquavius Burks is the only Buccaneer who played in the nail-biter championship game Beecher won 40-39 against Laingsburg two years ago, scoring nine points in 21 minutes in that game. Backup Mike Herd was on the varsity that season.

Burks was one of four Buccaneers in double figures on Saturday, scoring 15 points to go with 11 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. 

"I feel relieved it's over with and we won," Burks said.

Other than Burks, it was an entirely different cast. The 2012 and 2013 championship teams were led by Monte Morris, the 2013 Mr. Basketball who is having a successful career at Iowa State. Morris, whose Cyclones were upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament, was in the stands cheering on his alma mater Saturday. 

"That's like their big brother," Williams said. "We knew he was coming home. He was at practice yesterday. Monte was calling, keeping up with us the whole way."

There would be no repeat of 2013, when Beecher had to hold on for dear life to turn aside an upset bid by Laingsburg. 

The Buccaneers were up 8-0 with 5:52 left in the first quarter and build leads of 25-5 and 28-8 during that opening period. A 3-pointer by Malik Ellison with 6:48 left in the second quarter made it 33-10 before the Mustangs (21-6) were able to settle down and play on relatively even terms the rest of the game.

"I felt like if we got out to a good start that we could play with them, and it was the start that killed us," Redell said. "We were down 20 at the end of the first quarter. Part of it was, obviously, them and their pressure. The other part was we're not beating them shooting 30 percent from the floor. We had to come out and make shots in order to be right there with them." 

Beecher's trademark pressure defense led to an 18-6 advantage in points off of turnovers for the Buccaneers.

"We wanted to throw the first punch," Williams said. "We wanted to get out and pressure them." 

NorthPointe got within 33-17 midway through the second quarter, but Beecher responded with a 12-2 run. Beecher shot 52.9 percent in the first half on its way to a 45-21 lead at the break.

The lead reached 52-26 with 5:04 left in the third quarter. The closest NorthPointe got after that was 18 points. 

All-stater Cedric Moten shot 11 for 13 from the floor while scoring a game-high 24 points.

"I just came out and tried to do my best to help my team win," Moten said. "That's basically it. Whatever it took to get the win was what I was going to do. The shots were going in." 

Ellison, a sophomore who took over for Morris last year as the starting point guard, had 10 points. Levane Blake grabbed 10 rebounds.

Kual Nhial had 16 points and 10 rebounds (eight offensive), Tyler Baker 14 points and Preston Huckaby 10 points for NorthPointe.

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

PHOTOS: (Top) Beecher's Mike Herd drives for a shot during Saturday's Class C Final. (Middle) NorthPointe's Preston Huckaby looks for an opening. 

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] 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.