Coldwater's McGuire Focused on Final Goal

February 21, 2019

By Wes Morgan
Special for Second Half

Four year ago, Gage McGuire sat down with his mother, Carrie, and made a list of high school basketball goals. That piece of paper is still hanging on his bedroom wall, and nearly all the items have been checked.

“Looking back on it, I can’t thank her enough,” said the 6-foot-6 Coldwater senior forward. “Once you set a goal, you know you can chase it.”

Except for hitting a bit of turbulence earlier this month that resulted in a three-game skid, the Cardinals (14-5) have been flying high. The cast includes starters Dylan Targgart, a 6-2 junior center who has won an individual Division 2 Finals championship in the shot put as well as a team state title. Damon Beckhusen, a junior guard who helps set the tone for everything the Cardinals do on the court, was an all-Interstate 8 Athletic Conference football selection. And underclassmen Ethan Crabtree (freshman guard) and Spencer Rodesiler (sophomore guard) have played more like veterans.

But it’s undeniably McGuire’s team, and his list of accomplishments is quite impressive. The small forward set an all-time scoring record for the Cardinals back in December when he hit 1,180 points — a tally that will be significantly higher once the season ends. McGuire was an Associated Press Class A all-state honorable mention last year, and his sophomore season, as well as the Interstate 8 Most Valuable Player last winter.

Averaging around 20 points, 12 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks and steals per game, the future Emporia State University player has one last thing to check off that list.

“One of my goals was to become the all-time leading scorer,” McGuire said. “When I got it, it was pretty exciting. But I’d much rather have a state championship than an individual record.”

Noticeable improvement on defense and rebounding the ball this year has made McGuire one of the more complete players in the state.

“He has gotten a lot better,” first-year Coldwater coach Aaron Bucklin said. “He has really bought into the kind of system we want to play. That’s something he has added to his game, and his rebounding numbers are up a ton from the previous year.

“He is able to do so much. If we are being pressed, he can be the guy to bring the ball up the court as well. We just kind of try to exploit any mismatch. Defensively, he does a pretty good job on the ball and can guard all five positions as well. He causes problems for guards with his length and centers with his athletic ability.”

McGuire’s actions off the court, including a work ethic in the classroom and a willingness to speak up in the locker room have equally influenced the program.

“I think it’s just his sense of leadership and his ability to add that part to the game and the mental toughness he can bring to this game,” Bucklin said. “I think in years past he has kind of gone with the flow and done very good things on the basketball court. But his senior year he has really stepped up and become a leader. He gets everybody else involved, whether it’s offseason workout stuff or getting into the gym extra times. He’s that guy. He wants to be in the gym 24/7. That’s been big for us.”

Emporia State, a Division II school in Kansas that competes in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, believes McGuire can do the same there. But McGuire is focused on closing out his prep career strong.

After losing three straight, McGuire and fellow captains called a players-only meeting to get things sorted out as the regular season winds down and the Cardinals prepare for their Division 1 District Semifinal game Feb. 27 against either Battle Creek Lakeview or Battle Creek Central.

“We called everybody out — just kind of a man-to-man conversation to see what we’re doing wrong,” McGuire explained. “The past couple games we had averaged like 20 turnovers per game. You’re not going to win the game with 20 turnovers. We have a special team, and we needed to figure it out to make the deep run in the playoffs that we know we’re capable of.

“Everybody took it like a man, and I think it worked out really well. I asked everyone if they truly believed we could win state. Everyone said yes.”

Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Coldwater’s Gage McGuire (standing, fourth from left) and his teammates celebrate his becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer this winter. (Middle) McGuire goes for a block against Jackson Lumen Christi. (Photos courtesy of the Coldwater boys basketball program.) 

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.