Lights-Out Loyer Leads Clarkston to Final

March 23, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Warm-ups don’t count, but it seemed like Foster Loyer couldn’t miss while getting ready for Friday’s first Semifinal at the Breslin Center. 

The last four seasons, that’s been a good sign for Clarkston.

The Wolves’ senior point guard went on to make 12 of 17 shots from the floor and score 42 points – becoming the fifth player ever to drop at least 40 in a boys basketball Semifinal – in leading reigning champ Clarkston back to the Class A Final with a 74-49 win over Warren DeLaSalle.

Loyer scored 17 of his team’s 23 first-quarter points, on 6 for 10 shooting, as the Wolves quickly built a double-digit lead that never fell below nine points the rest of the game.

“When he gets going, there are not a lot of people who can stop him,” Clarkston senior backcourt mate CJ Robinson said. “When he gets going like that, we try to key on getting him the ball. He knocks shots down for us, and it opens things up for others, and he does a good job of finding everybody.”

Clarkston (25-1) will attempt to finish a repeat at 12:15 p.m. Saturday against Holland West Ottawa.

Loyer drained seven 3-pointers among his 12 field goals and all 11 of his free throw attempts – against a DeLaSalle defense focused on slowing down the recently-named Mr. Basketball Award winner and Michigan State recruit.

“I don’t think in 31 years of being a varsity coach that anyone has remotely scored that many points,” Pilots longtime leader Greg Esler said. “I think about when we were here in (20)07, Manny Harris had 13. But the thing about Loyer that’s so good is he’s so deceiving – he reminds you of Cassius Winston in the fact that he’s not the most athletic guy, he might not be the fastest but all of a sudden he’s shooting the 25-footer and getting to the rim and making everybody on his team better. So there’s no question, he’s a winner.”

Those comparisons, of course, are high praise – Harris, who went on to star at Michigan, had 14 for Detroit Redford in a Semifinal win over the Pilots that season, and DeLaSalle saw its share as well of Detroit U-D Jesuit’s Winston, who’s currently running the point for MSU.

Longtime Clarkston coach Dan Fife extended the praise to include Robinson, who had nine points and five assists while sharing a game-high 31 minutes on the floor.

“When you’ve got two guards who can play like this, it makes it a lot easier to coach,” said Fife, who’s in his 36th season. “My first year coaching, we had a bunch of bigs, and our guards weren’t near like this, we played Flint Central and we just got tattooed because we couldn’t handle the pressure. These guys handle the pressure.

“The two of them feel comfortable, and it makes everybody else relax a little bit.”

As a team, it was a smooth performance. The Wolves had only 10 turnovers to 11 assists and made 53 percent of their shots from the floor.

“I think as a point guard, for both of us, it’s important that we’re in control of the pace of the game, that we play how we want to play,” Loyer said. “Just to come out and throw that first punch and get an early lead is very important for us.”

Of course, Clarkston has more than great guards – senior forward Taylor Currie, headed to Wisconsin after graduation, chipped in 16 points and 12 rebounds and had the first basket of the game. As a team, the Wolves outrebounded the Pilots 36-19.

Senior forward Luke Pfromm led DeLaSalle (19-8) with 17 points, while senior forward Jordan Winowiecki had 12 and senior forward Kole Gjonaj had 10. Senior guard Justin Fisher had nine assists.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Clarkston’s Foster Loyer launches a shot during Friday’s Semifinal win over Warren DeLaSalle. (Middle) DeLaSalle’s Justin Fisher had nine assists and four points for the Pilots.

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.