Class A Final: Trojans ring up a title

March 24, 2012

EAST LANSING – Every time Draymond Green visited a Saginaw basketball practice this season, he reminded the current Trojans of the same thing:

The Michigan State and former Saginaw star has two Class A championship rings. They had none.

And he brought that up one more time when he went to dinner with the team Friday night.

He can’t tease them anymore. Saginaw – top-ranked entering the tournament – ended it that way with a 54-42 win over Rockford in Saturday’s Class A Final.

“Now I don’t gotta hear Draymond Green’s mouth saying we don’t have a ring. Now I can take my ring to his face and say, ‘Yes, now we do,’” Saginaw senior Davario Gaines said. “He said (Friday), ‘You’re happy just to be here,’ since we won yesterday. We said, ‘No, we’re not happy to be here.’ We hadn’t won anything yet.

“So now we won.”

The championship is Saginaw’s sixth, and first since 2008, when Green led the Trojans to their second straight. But this title-winner had a different look from those that won under previous Saginaw coaches Lou Dawkins and Marshall Thomas.

Those two sat behind the Trojans’ bench Saturday as first-year coach Julian Taylor guided a team that didn’t have a Green-esque star, but a number of contributors who didn’t get down during the streakiest play of the weekend.

Saginaw jumped out to a 7-0 lead. Rockford countered with 18 straight points. The Trojans came back from that with an 18-6 run to lead 25-24 at halftime.

The score was knotted 40-40 with 5:01 to play. But Saginaw finished on a 14-2 run, scoring the final 11 points of the game.

“You try to control runs and limit them,” Rockford coach Nick Allen said. “Saginaw is a very good team, and obviously we didn’t do a very good job of it.”

The Rams did hit 10 3-pointers, tying for fourth-most in MHSAA boys basketball championship game history. They made 55 percent of their first-half tries from beyond the arc.

But the Trojans turned up the pressure to full-court, and limited mistakes at a level rarely seen. Saginaw had just five turnovers and only nine fouls – and Rockford didn’t get to shoot a free throw.

Senior guard Travontis Richardson led the Trojans with 13 points and junior Julian Henderson had 12. But seven players scored at least four points and six grabbed at least six rebounds.

“We don’t have to have a big player. As long as we have parts to the team, they balance out the floor,” Gaines said. “We played D that they haven’t seen before, probably. We fought hard.”

So did Rockford, just to reach Breslin. Allen also was in his first season coaching after taking over for longtime coach Steve Majerle, who is battling Parkinson’s disease. The Rams entered the postseason unranked, but won seven games to finish 22-6.

Junior Chase Fairchild scored 14 points off the bench Saturday to lead the team for the second straight game. He’s one of seven juniors who won’t be nearly as big a surprise if they make a run again in 2013.

“No one expected us to go all the way to the state championship game,” Rockford junior guard Chad Carlson said. “We got here and played together as a team. It was a great season for us. We just couldn’t get it done.”

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

PHOTOS: (Top) Saginaw players embrace each other at midcourt after clinching the 2011-12 Class A championship. (Middle) Saginaw sophomore Joseph Williams-Powell (42) sends up a shot above the reach of Rockford senior Ivy Johnson. (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.