Godwin Heights Caps Long Trip to Top

March 28, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – The final seconds of Friday night at the Breslin Center were about relief for Wyoming Godwin Heights senior Delaney Blaylock, after he led the Wolverines to their first MHSAA championship game berth. 

Relief turned into disbelief Saturday – and satisfaction for a community that started this trip nearly 90 years ago.

Godwin Heights defeated Detroit Henry Ford 85-68 in the final game of this season to earn its first MHSAA title, 86 years after its first trip to the final week.

Grand Rapids Godwin made its first MHSAA Quarterfinal in 1929 and finished runner-up in 1950 and then as Wyoming Godwin in 1960. The Wolverines played in four more Semifinals – including in 2013 – and then fell in the Quarterfinals again in 2014.

“I was just thinking I can’t believe we’re here,” Blaylock said Saturday night. “I just didn’t want to be comfortable being in the state championship, but (wanted) to win the state championship.” 

Like Powers North Central did in winning Class D earlier Saturday, Godwin Heights (26-1) capped a three-year run that will go down among the most successful in MHSAA history.

The Wolverines were a combined 74-5 over the last three seasons, which tied them for the ninth-most wins over a period of that length. 

And the last of those wins was more or less decided by halftime.

Henry Ford scored the first basket of the game and never led again, as Godwin Heights build a lead as large as 23 points during the second quarter while shooting 55 percent from the field and making 8 of 11 3-point shots during the first 16 minutes. 

The Wolverines led 50-29 at the break and never by fewer than 14 points during the final two quarters.

“I don’t think I ever saw a team shoot like that in the Breslin,” Henry Ford coach Kenneth Flowers said. “The craziest part about it, they didn’t shoot the ball well yesterday (33 percent from the floor, 26 from 3-point range). They came out today on fire. … They played like state champions.” 

The Godwin Heights basketball community had to struggle through sadness at the end of summer. Junior-to-be Ta’Carhri Richardson – who played for first-year Wolverines coach Tyler Whittemore on the junior varsity in 2013-14 – was shot and died Aug. 3. 

Whittemore, a 2005 graduate, was promoted to the varsity job after coaching in the program at various levels for eight seasons. 

“Toughness is what defines them,” Whittemore said of his players. “It’s tough to go through what they did, have that tragedy happen (during) the summer before the basketball season was going to start. We had one of our games on his birthday, the second game against Holland (on Dec. 16). The guys rallied around each other. They were playing hard for one another, getting loose balls for one another … not for themselves.”

Blaylock led five scorers in double figures Saturday, with 19 points, and he also grabbed 10 rebounds. Freshman guard Lamar Norman came off the bench for 17 points, while senior forward Michael Williams and junior guard Leon Redd both scored 13 and junior forward Richard Major had 12. Williams also grabbed nine rebounds and had four assists. 

Detroit Henry Ford, playing in its first Final after also playing in and winning its first Semifinal on Friday, finished 21-6.

Senior forward Joshua Davis had 16 points and 11 rebounds and junior point guard James Towns had 15 points and six assists. They were the leading scorers this season as the Trojans bounced back from two straight sub-.500 seasons to also make their first Quarterfinal since 1984.

“I was telling them I know it hurts, and they’re crying their eyes out right now too,” Flowers said. “But they took Henry Ford High School to a place it’s never been before. These guys are the foundation of good things to come.”

Click for the full box score and video from the postgame press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Godwin Heights players celebrate the first MHSAA title in program history. (Middle) Henry Ford guard Antaun Carter is surrounded by Wolverines defenders in the lane.

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.

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.