Munising Makes History with Semifinal Win, Earns Chance to Write More

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

March 23, 2023

EAST LANSING — Before Thursday’s Division 4 Semifinal, the Munising boys basketball team already had matched school history.

By the time the game was over, these Mustangs had made their own.

For the first time, Munising will play for a state championship in basketball following a 55-44 win over Marine City Cardinal Mooney. 

Munising was making its first trip to the Semifinals since 1954, when the team was led by Chuck Nebel, the grandfather of this season’s Mustangs leading scorer – senior guard Kane Nebel. 

Needless to say, it’s been a run that has the Munising community buzzing. 

“I think  somebody told the last person that left to turn off the lights,” Munising head coach Terry Kienitz joked about the amount of fans that made the trip to Breslin Center from the town of about 2,000 residents. 

Nebel was the biggest reason why his squad will go a step farther than his grandfather’s. 

He finished with a game-high 21 points, and more importantly, took charge at a time when Munising was staggering. 

The Mustangs (26-1) held a 27-13 lead at halftime, but saw Cardinal Mooney come out inspired in the second half, cutting the lead to 33-31 with 1:29 left in the third. 

The Mustangs’ Cully Trzeciak (14) works to get up a shot over Ryan Trombley.That’s when Nebel took over. 

Over the final 1:29 of the third and the first 4:30 of the fourth quarter, Nebel scored 12 consecutive points for his team, helping the Mustangs push their lead back to 45-35 with 3:30 remaining in the game. 

Nebel had two runners in the lane, back-to-back 3-pointers and made a pair of three throws to comprise his run. 

“That’s the goal, is to be a three-level scorer if you can,” Nebel said. “Getting to the bucket and getting down range is what makes people toughest to guard.” 

Cardinal Mooney head coach Mike McAndrews acknowledged that seemed to be a turning point. 

“We certainly thought the momentum in the basketball game had shifted to our favor,” McAndrews said. “We made a run, cut it to two, made some plays and we were digging in defensively. Credit to their kids. They made some really tough baskets in order to sustain our run. We could never get back to that two, three, four-point mark again.”

From there, Munising took care of the ball well enough and made free throws to prevent any sort of a rally down the stretch from Cardinal Mooney. 

“It is so great to give back to the community and bring that home,” Kienitz said of the Semifinal win. “Now, we are in uncharted territory.” 

Sophomore Carson Kienitz scored 12 points, and sophomore Trevor Nolan added 11 for Munising. 

Senior Trent Rice scored 19 points to lead Cardinal Mooney (16-12), which made quite a run in the tournament after going 11-11 during the regular season. 

“I’m certainly proud of my group of guys,” McAndrews said. “Apparently midnight struck on Cinderella.” 

Munising held a 15-11 lead after the first quarter and controlled the second quarter, opening on a 10-0 run to take a 25-11 lead with 2:12 until halftime. 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Munising’s Trevor Nolan (5) protects the ball while Cardinal Mooney’s Dominic Cattivera defends. (Middle) The Mustangs’ Cully Trzeciak (14) works to get up a shot over Ryan Trombley.

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.