Muskegon Makes Return to Semis Count

March 21, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Muskegon High School has waited a long time for this.

And after waiting one more year than they'd hoped, the Big Reds finally have earned the opportunity to play for their first MHSAA boys basketball title since 1937.

Senior Deshaun Thrower said he and his teammates thought last year might’ve been theirs – but fell by three points to Grand Rapids Christian in a Quarterfinal.

Playing Friday in its first Semifinal since 1947, Muskegon earned that title chance with a 63-47 win over Mount Pleasant at the Breslin Center.

“Last year we were 32 minutes away from here, and we felt we could’ve won it. We beat ourselves,” Thrower said. “That feeling never left us. It’s something we’ve prepared for and something we go off of every game and every practice.”

The top-ranked and undefeated Big Reds (27-0) will finish this season facing either Detroit U-D Jesuit or Bloomfield Hills at noon Saturday.

And despite discussions about Mount Pleasant possibly pulling off the biggest comeback in MHSAA Semifinals history – the record is 18 points – the result never felt completely up for grabs after the end of the first quarter. 

Muskgon led by as many as 23 points, nearly halfway through the third quarter before the Oilers were able to wither the advantage to nine twice during the fourth quarter. But they could get no closer.

“When you dig yourself a hole the way we dug it, you’ve got to press so hard to try to make a comeback because you’ve got to start giving up things on the defensive end," Mount Pleasant coach Dan Schell said. "And when you don’t capitalize when you do have opportunities, it’s huge because possessions are so limited and important at that point in time.

“You can go down the stretch when we had a chance, but the first 8 to 14 minutes is what cost us the game.”

All five Muskegon starters scored between nine and 14 points and grabbed 4-6 rebounds. Combined, the starters shot 50 percent from the floor and scored all but five of their team’s points.

Senior William Roberson, Jr., and junior Joeviair Kennedy led with 14 points, while senior guard Jordan Waire added 11 and junior center Deyonta Davis had 10 points, six rebounds and six blocked shots.

Thrower – this season’s Mr. Basketball Award winner – scored only nine points, but grabbed six rebounds to go with five assists. Kennedy had 13 of his points during the first quarter as Muskegon jumped to an 18-9 lead.

“It’s the flow of the game. Because I think in that starting lineup, we’ve got five guys who can put it in the basket,” Muskegon coach Keith Guy said. “(Kennedy) got it going early and it didn’t do anything but help us. Hopefully he can do the same thing (Saturday).

Mount Pleasant, itself ending a long Semifinals absence by playing in this round for the first time since 1981, finished 22-5 to double its win total from 2012-13.

The Oilers started five seniors, with center Jaleel Hogan leading with 14 points and 10 rebounds and guard Aaron Leasher adding six points, eight rebounds and five assists.

“People around the state who know basketball know how hard it is to get through our Regional because you have to go through Saginaw or Saginaw Arthur Hill every year, or a good Flint team,” said Schell, an Oilers player during the early 1990s. “So just to get out of the Regional, we were happy but not content.

“We sure wanted to bring a state championship back. Hopefully we’ll get another special group some day and we’ll find a way to get back here.”  

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

PHOTOS: (Top) Muskegon's Jordan Waire works to get past Mount Pleasant's T.J. Johnson on Friday. (Middle) The Big Reds' Deshaun Thrower drives to the basket.

HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Mount Pleasant got a 14-point, nine -ebound effort in the Class A Semifinal against Muskegon from Jaleel Hogan. Here he takes a feed from Aaron Leasher and scores to give his team a 4-2 lead. (2) Off the long miss, Muskegon's Deyonta Davis scores on the putback for two of his 14 points. He was one of four players in double figures for the Big Reds.

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.