Buzzer Beater Sends Laingsburg to Final

March 21, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Had the final second of Thursday’s Class C Semifinal ended differently, Shaun McKinney surely would’ve felt worse about three lay-ins he missed during the game’s first 31 minutes.

Good thing he got one more chance to score the most meaningful points in Laingsburg basketball history.

With two tenths of a second remaining, the Wolfpack senior banked a layup from the left side of the glass to cement himself in Michigan hoops history – and send his team to its first MHSAA championship game.

McKinney’s make gave Laingsburg a 45-43 victory in front of what had to be most of the residents of his small town located just 15 miles northeast of the Breslin Center, and set his neighbors up for a return visit Saturday when the Wolfpack faces reigning champion Flint Beecher at 4:30 p.m..

“I was just saving them,” McKinney said of his early misses. “I knew it was going to come down to the last one. I had to make sure I saved one.”

The shot was described after as “legendary” and one “to remember” by those who played a part. And McKinney’s focus in that brief moment was laudable.

But he also was the end recipient of two more heads-up plays by senior teammates Jake Zielinski and Zach Walker.

With the score tied 50-50 and 52 seconds left, Zielinski made a bit of an overly-aggressive decision. He tried to take on three defenders in the Negaunee lane and had his shot blocked by Miners senior Andrew Katona.

But Zielinski would get another chance.

During a Negaunee timeout with 30 seconds left, Wolfpack coach Greg Mitchell reminded his players they had a foul to give and told them to keep the pressure high. And if one grabbed a rebound or made a steal, the rest should “just go” to the basket, he said. “I would’ve sent seven guys if I could have.”

Negaunee did get off a final shot with nine seconds to play. But the rebound fell right to Zielinski below the basket, and after a few dribbles he fired a near-fullcourt football pass down the right side of the floor to a streaking Walker.

“Just don’t overthrow it. Just give them a chance to make a play,” Zielinski recalled of his thought as he threw.  

Walker couldn’t corral the pass in the air – but did grab it off the first bounce. As he began sailing out of bounds, Walker fired the ball back to McKinney, who scored the last and most important of his 16 points. (Click to watch the game's final minute.)

“Obviously, you think as a coach that you’re in a position that you want to be in, 39 seconds and you have the ball in a tie game. But it just didn’t work out for us,” Negaunee coach Michael O’Donnell said. “As a coach, it’s tough. There’s not much you can say in the locker room. After a fun, exciting, successful season, there’s not a whole lot you can say.”

Aside from the final second, the teams battled to nearly a statistical draw.

Both shot between 35-37 percent from the floor and finished with one rebound and one turnover of each other's totals. 

Laingsburg (24-2) led most of the game, but didn’t open up its largest advantage of six until sophomore Ryan Wade hit a 3-pointer with 2:32 remaining. Negaunee senior Tanner Uren scored five points and junior guard Tyler Jandron also drained a 3-pointer to pull the score back even heading into the final minute.

“Coming out, it definitely was a bigger stage than we thought it was going to be,” Uren said. “But by halftime, all of those jitters were gone, and after we came out (for the third quarter), we finally played our game. We said, we’re going to get back in it.”

Zielinski led the Wolfpack with 18 points and eight rebounds, and McKinney had four steals. Uren had 16 points and nine rebounds to lead Negaunee, and Jandron added 12 points and four assists.

The Miners, ranked No. 3 entering the tournament, finished 24-2. 

Click for a full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Laingsburg's Shaun McKinney scores two of his 16 points in Thursday's Semifinal. (Middle) Laingsburg's Zach Walker (12) looks for a teammate as Negaunee's Tyler Jandron defends. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.