Class D: Eagles Survive and Advance

March 22, 2012

EAST LANSING – All four Class D Semifinalists came to the Breslin Center this weekend seeking their first MHSAA basketball title. In fact, none had even played in a championship game.

Southfield Christian looked like a lock to reach its first Final, given its No. 7 ranking, the teams it had beaten so far and a Semifinals opponent – Muskegon Catholic Central – that was just two wins over .500 entering the postseason.

But with 2:16 to play, that was anything but guaranteed with the Eagles leading by just two points. So an Eagles assistant coach with a little bit of experience winning games – former Detroit Pistons guard  Lindsey Hunter – called over his son Lindsey III and seniors Chris Dewberry and Gavin Toma.

“He said, ‘You’re seniors. This is your last year. Is this how you’re going to come down and lose like this, let these guys come out here and be tougher than you?’” Hunter III said. “We looked at each other on the court and said ‘Guys, we’re not going to lose this game. No matter what it takes.’”

A little scare on the way to the MHSAA Finals often turns out to be a good thing. And Southfield Christian survived theirs with a 78-74 win over the Crusaders.

The Eagles (23-2) will face Climax-Scotts in Saturday’s 10 a.m. Final.

They had beaten all of their postseason opponents by at least 14 points entering Thursday. But none of those teams had a player like MCC’s Jason Ribecky.

Southfield Christian players and coaches might have nightmares about the 6-foot-4 senior for a few days. He seemed to be everywhere, playing all 32 minutes and making 14 of 22 shots from the floor for a game-high 37 points.

His ninth point of the fourth quarter gave MCC a 67-66 lead with 3:25 to play. Junior teammate Cari Campbell hit a 3-pointer with 2:25 to play to keep the Crusaders ahead 70-69.

“We were like, ‘They’re wearing down. They’re wearing down.’ But they did not wear down,” Southfield Christian coach Josh Baker said. “We missed some rotations. We tried to double (Ribecky), but that left other guys open. They hit a lot of open shots too. They made us pay for everything, and they were a little tougher than us on the glass.”

But the Eagles indeed had a little more left at the end.

Toma hit a 3-pointer to make the score 72-70, and that was followed by the timeout and inspiring words by Coach Hunter to the team’s seniors. Campbell tied the score up with a rebound and lay-in after the timeout, but Hunter III then scored five straight to push the lead to 77-72 with 1:28 to play.

MCC again pulled within three with 54 seconds to go, and got the ball back with 21 left on the clock. Ribecky pulled up for a 3-pointer that was on line – but just a bit deep, and it bounced off the back of the rim. “It looked good. But it didn’t go in,” he said.

Dewberry led Southfield Christian with 25 points and eight rebounds, while Toma added 20 points. Hunter III had 16 and freshman Bakari Evelyn came up big with 14 and four steals off the bench.

Campbell and senior Jacob Budde both added 13 points for the Crusaders, who finished 17-10.

“Coming into this tournament 11-9, not knowing what to expect but knowing what our goals were, and to exceed those goals and make it here is a fantastic thing,” MCC coach David Ingles said. “It hurts right now. But I’m so proud of my guys … for their efforts, not just tonight but during the whole tournament run.”

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PHOTO: Southfield Christian's Lindsey Hunter IV (12) and Muskegon Catholic Central's Jason Ribecky battle for a rebound during Thursday's Class D Semifinal. (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.