Cass Tech's Time Arrives as Technicians Claim Most Memorable Win
By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com
March 25, 2023
EAST LANSING — The Detroit Cass Tech boys basketball program no longer will have to look at all the state championship trophies and banners won by the football team in the school's halls and wonder when its time will be.
That time finally came Saturday.
After years of building toward this moment, the Technicians claimed to their first championship in boys basketball with a 78-63 win over Muskegon in the Division 1 Final at Breslin Center.
Cass Tech was in control throughout the game and for much of the season, finishing with a 27-1 record. The only loss was a one-point overtime defeat to Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice in the Operation Friendship title game.
Cass Tech’s previous best season was a Class A runner-up finish in 1974.
“We had established that as a goal,” said Cass Tech head coach Steve Hall, who won three-straight Class D championships from 2003-05 coaching Detroit Rogers. “It looks good on paper, but to carry it out and pursue it, it is unbelievable what we’ve been able to do.”
Cass Tech led most of the way, but then had to deal with some adversity after Muskegon took a 47-46 lead with 1:46 left in the third quarter.
The Technicians responded beautifully, first closing the third quarter with four straight points to take a 50-47 lead. Cass Tech then opened the fourth with a 9-1 run to take a 59-48 lead on a layup by Sean Hodges with 3:54 remaining.
Muskegon never threatened the rest of the way as Cass Tech broke defensive pressure for layups and hit free throws in the final minutes.
Sophomore Darius Acuff, who banked in a tying 3-pointer in the final seconds to force overtime in Friday’s Semifinal win over Grand Blanc, and senior Travon Cooper both scored 19 points to lead the way for Cass Tech.
Cooper also pulled down eight rebounds, and senior Kenneth Robertson added 15 points for Cass Tech.
The Technicians dominated along the interior, collecting 40 points in the paint to just eight for Muskegon.
“In the fourth quarter, we had to come together and talk to each other as a team,” Acuff said. “Just talk to each other and listen to Coach, and just respond. We didn’t want to go out like that. We had to make a run, and everyone contributed.”
Senior Jordan Briggs scored 19 points, and senior David Day added 15 to lead Muskegon (26-3).
“There was no flow to the game,” Muskegon head coach Keith Guy said. “But in these games there is going to be adversity, and the teams that handle it best are going to win.”
After Cass Tech took a 45-36 lead with 6:15 left in the third quarter, Muskegon made a charge, going on an 11-1 run to grab a 47-46 advantage with 1:46 remaining in the third after a 3-pointer by Justin Watson.
Cass Tech held a 14-11 lead after the first quarter, and then the second quarter was a high-octane period more reminiscent of an NBA game.
Muskegon scored 20 points in the second, but Cass Tech was even better, scoring 27 in the frame to take a 41-31 lead at halftime.
PHOTOS (Top) Detroit Cass Tech players celebrate their Division 1 championship win Saturday along with a last-second 3-pointer by teammate Mathieu Collins (30). (Middle) The Technicians’ Kenneth Robertson (14) makes his move toward the basket. (Below) Cass Tech’s Darius Acuff (5) works to get a shot up over Muskegon’s Anthony Sydnor III.
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.
But 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 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 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.