Constantine Looks to Build on Comeback
By Wes Morgan
Special for MHSAA.com
December 7, 2015
On one of the last summer days in town before leaving for college, Joey Steiner and Cody Ley spotted some youngsters on the east side of Constantine playing basketball in the street on a portable hoop. They stopped and played 2-on-4 with the boys.
The group of eighth-graders talked about how they were going to keep a reignited Falcons basketball program burning hot. That legacy Steiner and Ley, two outgoing seniors who helped fuel the Falcons to an unimaginable turnaround in 2014-15, and their classmates left behind means more than being named Associated Press Class C all-state honorable mentions.
“They told us that they were going to keep it going and they were going to go further than we did,” said Ley, a post player who developed a dangerous inside-outside game over the last two seasons and earned a scholarship at Lake Michigan Community College. “We were like, ‘You guys better, and we’ll be there to work with and support you guys, too.’ That’s one of my biggest things I’m proud of.”
Constantine had just one win in 2013-14, but head coach Chuck Frisbie knew he had a group of dedicated players that was going to surprise folks in 2014-15.
The Falcons did just that, finishing with a 21-3 record after a loss to New Buffalo in the MHSAA Regional Semifinals.
Constantine looks this winter to replace Ley’s 16 points and 12 rebounds per game, as well as the 14 points and four assists per contest by Steiner, who now plays at Goshen College.
Frisbie, last year’s Associated Press Class C Coach of the Year, knows this year’s team will look quite a bit different as it transitions from the now-defunct Kalamazoo Valley Association to the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Different isn’t bad, however.
The Falcons return seniors Anthony Bontrager, Tyler Shank, Noah Beegle, Travis Brown, Brian Doering and Devin Knight. Juniors Evan Herschbach, Anthony Evilsizor, Charles Hamilton, Bryce Corte and Ryan Miller join the varsity fold, and 6-foot-4, springy freshman Seth Wright is expected to make an immediate impact.
Of those players, 10 are 6-foot-1 or taller — a pretty big lineup compared to recent Constantine squads.
“I think we can protect the basket,” Frisbie said. “I think we’re young. (Defense) is my biggest concern this year. Travis, Tyler and Brian can really play defense. I think we can put a crew out there that can play defense, although I don’t know if it is necessarily our best offensive group. We’re going to try to find that right mix.”
Frisbie isn’t putting too much pressure on rookie Wright, but the freshman has tremendous size for a guard and the skills to match.
“Seth is one of those kids that could be a special kid,” Frisbie said. “Honestly, if he’s open, we’re going to let him shoot. He’s the kind of kid that can go to the basket and dunk pretty easily, too. He has to learn how to play defense. More than anything, he has to be able to get wider, rebound and play good defense. If he can do those things, he’s going to be hard to get off the floor.”
Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and ESPNChicago.com, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of JoeInsider.com. He can be reached at wmorga[email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Anthony Bontrager (11) looks to get to the baseline during a game last season. (Middle) Constantine secures a rebound in a game against Kalamazoo Christian. (Photos courtesy of JoeInsider.com.)
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.