Class D Final: 'Best We've Ever Played'

March 24, 2012

EAST LANSING – As a sophomore on Southfield Christian’s one-win team two seasons ago, Gavin Toma didn’t spend much time dreaming an about MHSAA championship.

And although the Eagles improved to 11-10 last season, they still seemed a long way from what they finished Saturday.

Two seasons after winning one game, Southfield Christian won its first MHSAA title, downing Climax-Scotts 76-44 in the Class D Final at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.

 “This season has been the greatest basketball we’ve ever played,” Toma said. “SCS hasn’t been a basketball school, until this year, so to win it for SCS is great. We put in so much work. It’s unbelievable.”

Both teams made their first MHSAA championship game appearance Saturday. Southfield Christian entered the postseason ranked No. 7, while Climax-Scotts was No. 5.

The Eagles put on one of the most incredible shooting performances in MHSAA Finals history. They tied the 2007-08 Saginaw team with a championship game record 12 3-pointers, including eight in the first half when they connected on 53 percent of their shots from behind the arc.

Southfield Christian (24-2) shot 46 percent from 3-point range for the game, a few ticks higher than its 43 percent from the floor as a whole.

“This is one of the best shooting teams I’ve ever coached. Obviously, (Chris) Dewberry is the best shooter I’ve ever coached, Southfield Christian coach Josh Baker said. “Hopefully we take good shots, and they’re naturally great shooters and put in a lot of time to be that way.”

The Eagles student section sang “Happy Birthday” to Dewberry during warm-ups .That, on its own, might’ve made for an unforgettable moment.

But the now 18-year-old senior also had a game-high 30 points, including six of those 3-pointers, on 10 of 13 shooting from the floor.

“My team, we talk about it all the time in practice. The coach says it. They say I’m one of the best shooters in the state, so we’ve got to get me the ball,” Dewberry said. “So when they had me open, or when I got myself open, or when there was a pick to get me open, they got me the ball. And I capitalized on it.”

Senior Lindsey Hunter III added 15 points and eight rebounds and Toma had 13 points. Hunter is 6-1 and Toma 6-2, and with Dewberry they took advantage of a few inches in elevation on the Panthers’ defenders.

“Their athleticism once they’re in person … We’ve got big guards, fast guards, and they’ve played defense all year long,” Climax-Scotts coach Steve Critchlow said. “(But) Dewberry had six 3-pointers for a 6-foot-2 guard, and that’s a tough matchup for us. We hoped to make our bigs the tough matchup. And their defense was just phenomenal in the paint.”

Southfield Christian contained 6-7 juniors Malachi Satterlee and Aaron Cook to a combined nine points and six rebounds, and the Panthers to 21 percent shooting from the floor as a team. Senior Jacob Hinga led his team with 11 points and eight rebounds.

Climax-Scotts finished 26-2 and will graduate five seniors – although three starters this season were juniors, including the all-stater Satterlee.

“We didn’t even realize what’s going on, because we were focused on the next game. But now we have time, back in the locker room, to sit and reflect on what they just did,” Critchlow said. “We had a lot of talent we haven’t had … but the hard work we put in with that talent, and the good attitude, that’s something we have to reflect on and say this is how we’ve got to get to the next step.”

“I think the highlight, honestly, was … the end, when the crowd stood up and supported us even when we lost,” Hinga added. “They were all there. Just to look around and see we made it to Breslin; we didn’t win, but we’re second place. That’s a pretty good feeling.”

Click for box score or to watch the game and press conferences at

PHOTOS: (Top) Lindsey Hunter III (11) and Ben Cookinham lead a championship celebration with Southfield Christian’s student section after Saturday’s Class D Final. (Middle) Chris Dewberry launches a 3-pointer over Climax-Scotts’ Brandon Eshuis. (See more at 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.