Freshman Shines As Eagles Repeat in D
March 23, 2013
By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING — There was no need for Eugene Brown to sit quietly in the background and ease his way into a prominent role on Southfield Christian's basketball team.
One game was all it took for the freshman guard to prove he belonged on the defending MHSAA Class D Finals champion.
When Brown scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a season-opening overtime victory over traditional Class A power Orchard Lake St. Mary's, it justified coach Josh Baker's decision to put a ninth-grader in the starting lineup of a team with Breslin-or-bust aspirations.
"To come in as a freshman, that's a pretty good first game against a great team," Baker said.
Brown was a mere spectator at the Breslin Center when the Eagles won their first championship last season. He thrived under the bright\ lights on Saturday as Southfield Christian repeated as Class D
champion with a 65-46 victory over Wyoming Tri-unity Christian.
He jump-started the Eagles' championship victory, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the first half and helping Southfield Christian build a 16-point second-quarter lead. Brown shot 5 for 8 from the field,
3 for 3 from the line, grabbed nine rebounds, dished out four assists and had three steals.
Freshman jitters? Not in this kid.
"I just tried to come out and not be nervous," Brown said. "Just play the game like you know how, just go out and do your best."
Baker wasn't concerned how his freshman phenom would respond on the big stage, just as he was confident that Brown could handle making his high school debut against a team like St. Mary's in early December.
"He's usually pretty cool and casual under pressure," Baker said. "Part of that is his problem, because he's not aggressive enough all the time. We wanted him to be aggressive. We've been on him all year to be aggressive. He did it tonight, and he showed he can make plays. He's so skilled as a freshman. When he's aggressive and he keeps the ball low, he's really good."
As Brown started sinking shots during a decisive second quarter, the Southfield Christian student section chanted, "He's a fresh-man!" It was a warning to the rest of Class D that Brown will have to be reckoned with for three more seasons. For that matter, the entire program could dominate Class D for years to come.
It's not too early to begin speculation that Southfield Christian is a dynasty in the making. Winning back-to-back championships is an excellent start. All 65 of the Eagles' points against Tri-unity were scored by players who are eligible to return next season.
The team's only two seniors didn't play until a 58-40 lead had been built midway through the fourth quarter. The Eagles started a freshman, two sophomores and two juniors.
"We can only get better," said 6-7 junior Damarco White, who had 15 points and five blocks.
"The sky's the limit," added junior guard Lindsey Hunter IV, who scored 11 points.
A man who is an expert on Class D dynasties is Mark Keeler, who has coached four MHSAA Finals champions and four runners-up in his 26 seasons at Tri-unity.
"Seeing how young their team is, they're definitely going to be a force in Class D," said Keeler (499-142), who was trying to celebrate a Finals championship and his 500th victory on the same day.
The Eagles rebuilt on the fly after winning the title last year. Their returning players combined for only 12 points in last year's MHSAA Final, with Hunter scoring eight of them.
After a 3-4 start, Southfield Christian won its final 20 games.
"We knew we had the potential. It's just that early on we struggled with understanding the work ethic you have to put in," Baker said. "It's not just handed to you. Every game you play, every team is going to come after you. That's why we started off 3-4. We just got drilled by some guys. When they understood the work ethic and what it takes every game, we started to go on a nice run."
Tri-unity (25-3) got out to an 8-6 lead, but Southfield Christian took the lead for good by scoring the next nine points to ignite a 26-8 run. The lead reached 34-18 with 3:48 left in the second quarter. The Eagles didn't score the rest of the half, while the Defenders cut the margin to 34-23 at the intermission.
Matt Wachter's basket with 7:04 left in the third quarter trimmed the deficit to single digits at 34-25, but Tri-unity didn't put together consecutive scores again until Southfield Christian was comfortably ahead, 56-34.
Tri-unity forward Joey Blauwkamp, The Associated Press' Class D Player of the Year, was held to seven points on 2 for 9 shooting before fouling out with 2:38 left in the game.
"For us coming into halftime, being down only 11, I wasn't too concerned," Keeler said. "But when Joey picked up three and four (fouls) so quickly, it definitely messes with you."
Sophomore Bakari Evelyn scored 11 points for Southfield Christian, which shot 22 for 42 from the field and 17 for 21 from the line.
Daniel Cole scored 21 points and Wachter 11 for Tri-unity.
PHOTOS: (Top) Southfield Christian coach Josh Baker presents the championship trophy to his team Saturday at the Breslin Center. (Middle) Eagles freshman Eugene Brown goes up for a shot against Wyoming Tri-unity Christian's Joey Blauwkamp (4) and others. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.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.