Clarkston, Loyer Dazzle at Breslin Again

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

March 24, 2018

EAST LANSING – Foster Loyer hasn’t enrolled yet at Michigan State University, but it’s safe to say he’s already plenty comfortable on his future school’s basketball court.

A day after torching the Breslin Center nets for 42 points in a Semifinal, Loyer poured in 40 more Saturday to lead Clarkston to an 81-38 win against Holland West Ottawa in the MHSAA Class A championship game.

“To be honest, I think playing in front of this atmosphere and this stage, I think it definitely helped being here last year,” Loyer said. “For me there were no nerves coming in. I thought our team, honestly, when we came in we weren’t bright-eyed or scared of playing in a big place. Having been here that helped me, and coming into the game I had the mindset to attack. I’ve been working on my shot quite a bit, so I was happy a few of them went down.”

It was the second straight title for the Wolves (26-1), who gave longtime coach Dan Fife the first of his storied career a year ago.

“The first one was pretty special for me, but this one here really was special,” Fife said. “From the day we left this building (a year ago) everybody started talking about back-to-back, and I know how hard that is because it took me so long to get the first one. To think that these kids could look up to that, it’s just a tremendous challenge. I can’t say enough about these kids.”

Saturday’s game marked the end of an amazing four-year run for Loyer and his classmates, as the Wolves were 97-6 during the Class of 2018’s tenure. It’s the best four-year run in Fife’s 36 seasons as Clarkston coach.

“These kids have been fun to work with,” Fife said. “I don’t know how it started last year – I’m sure Foster had something to do with it – but we started getting in the huddle and leaving the huddle with ‘Family,’ and these kids are extremely close. They have a good relationship on and off the floor, and I’ve gotta believe that’s going to carry on forever. This kind of moment, back-to-back, is incredible. These kids have played with a bulls-eye for four years, and to continue to play like they have and meet every challenge is really a tremendous success story about who they were as kids, and how they went about business.”

Fittingly, the final shot of Loyer’s career was a 3-pointer to put him at 40 points and tied for the seventh-best scoring performance in an MHSAA Finals game. The 2018 Mr. Basketball winner finished 14 of 19 (73 percent) from the field and 6 of 11 (54 percent) from 3-point range in the game, and was 26 of 36 (72 percent) from the floor on the weekend.

He left the court he’ll play his college basketball on to a standing ovation, and he leaves Clarkston as the program’s all-time leading scorer.

“Foster Loyer is a pretty darn good player,” Holland West Ottawa coach Steve Windemuller said. “To see him in person is really special, because he is a special player. What he did today, it looked it was pretty effortless at times. I wish him all the best at Michigan State. Coach (Tom) Izzo’s got a good one.”

Loyer, who also had seven assists, was far from alone in his hot shooting, as the Wolves were 29 of 49 (59.2 percent) from the field, and 13 of 22 (59.1 percent) from 3. C.J. Robinson scored 18 points, while Taylor Currie had 13 points to go with 10 rebounds.

And it all started quickly, as Clarkston’s first four makes were from 3-point range, helping it to a 19-6 lead after one quarter, and a 49-20 lead at halftime. Holland West Ottawa (25-3), meanwhile, struggled from the jump, shooting 2 of 13 (15.4 percent) from the field in the opening quarter.

“Clarkston is really good,” Windemuller said. “If that’s any news to anybody, you’ve been living under a rock or in a cave. They were obviously really, really good today. It’s just one of those things, we get to play them one time, and I’m not sure us playing them 10 times was going to make a difference. Today wasn’t quite the way we wanted to end it, the way we wanted to play, for sure. But congratulations to them; they’re one heck of a team.”

Xavier Wade led West Ottawa with 13 points, while Liam Cavanaugh had 10. It was a rough ending, but the Panthers won’t let that take away from the deepest postseason run in program history.

“We’re thankful for the opportunity to be here,” West Ottawa senior Tyler Bosma said. “Obviously it’s not the way we wanted to go out, but I was very lucky to be part of the biggest run in West Ottawa history. I’m very thankful for that. I’m thankful for my teammates, coaches, our students, everybody that came out and supported us today and throughout the whole season. It’s really special to see and to be a part of that.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Clarkston’s Foster Loyer drives to the basket during Saturday’s Class A Final. (Middle) The Wolves’ C.J. Robinson works to get past Holland West Ottawa’s Jason Fairfield.  

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.