Class A: Home Sweet Breslin Again
March 23, 2012
EAST LANSING – No one from this season’s Saginaw team had played in an MHSAA Semifinals before this weekend. That’s saying something, given how the Trojans have made Breslin Center a regular March destination over the last two decades.
After a slow start Friday, they looked at home once more.
Saginaw made just 19 percent of its first-quarter shots, but then 51 percent the rest of the game to cruise into its first Final since 2008 with a 59-46 win over Macomb L’Anse Creuse North.
“(Breslin) was real big, and we had to get the feel of the court for the first quarter,” Saginaw senior Davario Gaines said. “After we got the feeling of the court, we started playing at our level.”
Saginaw (25-2), ranked No. 1 at the end of the regular season, will take on Rockford in the Class A Final at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Trojans have been to the Semifinals eight times in the last 17 seasons and have won five MHSAA championships total during their history.
A lot of those teams – with guys like Draymond Green and Anthony Roberson of late – were led by big-time stars. But this Saginaw team is a little bit different.
Only two players have averaged at least 10 points per game this season, and none more than 15. Junior Julian Henderson scored a team-high 11 on Friday, with six teammates adding between six and nine.
“We’ve got a bunch of players that can step up at any time,” Saginaw first-year coach Julian Taylor said. “We’ve got a lot of interchangeable kids that have accepted the team concept. They are playing for each other, playing for team pride. That’s what we’re all about.”
L’Anse Creuse North, meanwhile, was making its first Semifinal appearance Friday and finished 10-11 just a year ago. Junior guard Tyler Conklin scored a game-high 22 points, and junior forward Ramone Griffin added 10 and nine rebounds.
This season came with an especially difficult moment for the Crusaders. District athletic supervisor Dave Jackson, who previously had served as the L’Anse Creuse North principal, died unexpectedly in mid-February. The basketball team became a rallying point amid the mournful times that followed.
“The biggest thing we experienced today with the send-off and community, the staff and our administration; it’s been a rough emotional ride, but we were able to create some diversion with this basketball run,” Crusaders coach Jay Seletsky said. “To bring the community together and see this support that we can have, and with a little diversion (from) emotional things, it’s been awesome. Besides the outcome, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.”
“We worked hard for it every day in practice,” Conklin said. “We’re all going to keep our heads up, work all offseason and come back next season and try to make it this far.”
Click for box score or to watch the game and press conferences at MHSAA.tv.
PHOTO: Saginaw junior forward Julian Henderson swats a L'Anse Creuse North shot during Friday's 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 MHSAA.com
April 13, 2023
Delonda Little was already a trailblazer to many before this year’s MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals.
But 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 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 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.