Class C: Buccaneers land in Finals again

March 22, 2012

EAST LANSING – When the buzzer sounded and long after subs filled the floor in Thursday’s first Class C Semifinal, Flint Beecher junior Monte Morris quietly pointed to the Breslin Center rafters, symbolically signing No. 1.

Beecher needs just one more win to finish in that top spot for the first time since 1987.

This was the Buccaneers’ third-straight Semifinal appearance. The first two ended in disappointments.

But they climbed step closer to forgetting those with a 65-45 win over reigning champion Schoolcraft to earn a first championship game berth since 2008.

 “Not too many teams get this opportunity we have right here. It’s just something special,” Beecher senior Antuan Burks said. “Monte’s a junior and might not get to go through this his senior year. We just want to go out physical, play hard, and bring that championship back home.”

The Bucs will face Traverse City St. Francis in Saturday’s noon Final.

Burks and Beecher (27-0) haven’t lost since last season’s Semifinal against McBain. Saturday’s Final will be Beecher’s fourth in 13 seasons. Two of those three championship game losses during the run were by just three points apiece.  

“All year long, I kept reminding these guys that the number one ranking means nothing,” Beecher coach Mike Williams said. “Schoolcraft had what we wanted, which was a state championship. I keep reminding our kids, we were ranked in the top two all last year. And that meant nothing. These kids have felt and dealt with disappointment.”

By the end of Thursday’s first quarter, they had to feel confident that this season’s good vibes would last at least two more days.

Taking advantage of Schoolcraft turnovers – and turning them into quick-strike points – Beecher rolled to a 12-2 run to finish the first quarter up 10 points. The Bucs extended that advantage to 36-19 by halftime, and for the game scored 29 points off Schoolcraft’s 23 turnovers.

“They’re quicker, and it’s hard for us to have that happen in practice to prepare for that,” Schoolcraft senior all-stater Luke Ryskamp said.

It also didn’t hurt that Beecher shot 49 percent from the floor. Burks made 67 percent of his shots and finished with a game-high 24 points. Morris, this season’s Associated Press Class C Player of the Year for the second straight, added 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

“Last year we did get off to a quick start (too), but this year we showed the maturity and wherewithal to sustain that lead and build on it,” Williams said. “We had miscues. We had mistakes. But we were able to overcome them.”

Ryskamp finished with 22 points and six rebounds. He was one of only two starters back from last season’s team – making it more impressive that the Eagles finished 22-5 and returned to East Lansing.

Senior Bryan Jones, the other returning starter, had seven points and a game-high nine rebounds in his final high school game.

“We’re an entirely different team this year,” Schoolcraft coach Randy Small said. “We’re not the prettiest team. We had to have a lot of guys do the dirty work, the behind-the-scenes stuff, the scratching, clawing, digging kind of stuff. The kids have done that real well.

“Last year we were probably a little more fun to watch. … But I’m proud of my guys for getting back here.”

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PHOTO: Beecher's Monte Morris attempts a shot in Thursday's Semifinal win. He finished with 18 points. (Photo courtesy of Terry McNamara Photography.)

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.