Muskegon, Mr. Basketball End Title Wait
March 22, 2014
By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half
EAST LANSING — Deshaun Thrower had this moment in mind back in November, even while the pain — literal and figurative — was still fresh from his final high school football game.
"I'll try to get healthy for basketball and try to win it in that," a banged-up Thrower said after he and his Muskegon teammates lost to Birmingham Brother Rice for the second straight year in the MHSAA Division 2 championship game at Ford Field.
Fast forward to March 22, and Thrower sat in another postgame press conference following an MHSAA championship game.
This time, he wasn't hanging his head and talking in hushed tones. Instead, he was smiling and clutching the Class A basketball championship trophy following Muskegon's 91-67 rout of Bloomfield Hills at the Breslin Center.
"It feels fake right now, because we're so used to being on the other end," said Thrower, a star quarterback in football and winner of Mr. Basketball this winter.
"This year, it's tears of joy instead of tears of sorrow. It feels good to get it for us, coach and the rest of the players who didn't get it.
"Just knowing I won my last high school game ever, won it with my teammates ... it feels good to leave on a good note."
Muskegon coach Keith Guy said Thrower's leadership was as big a key to the championship run as his numbers and physical tools.
"I don't think anybody's been in more big games than he has in football and basketball," Guy said. "He's a tough leader. He makes sure everyone is doing what they're supposed to do and holding themselves accountable. To have a leader on your team like that, everybody else follows."
The Big Reds won their first MHSAA championship since 1937 and third overall. They also rode future University of Michigan two-sport All-American Bennie Oosterbaan to a title in the 1923 Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament; the MIAA was the predecessor to the MHSAA.
It's also the school's first MHSAA title in any sport other than football since the 1937 boys basketball team won the championship. The Big Reds have won five football championships, but took a big step toward removing the label of being just a football school. They reached the MHSAA Quarterfinals last season, losing 64-61 to Grand Rapids Christian.
The basketball team had six members of the football team.
"We want to build what they have here at Michigan State, a two-headed monster," Guy said. "(Football) coach Shane Fairfield does an excellent job. We share the kids and teach them the same message; it shows. The football team finished in the finals and the basketball team finished as champions, so I think that formula works."
Muskegon finished 28-0, joining the 2003 Rockford team (also 28-0) as one of only two unbeaten Class A champions in the last 24 years. Only two other Class A teams have had 28-0 seasons: Flint Central in 1981 and Flint Northwestern in 1985.
"They're good," Bloomfield Hills coach Duane Graves said. "We knew they were good. You can't go 28-0 and not be good. They have a good balanced attack. It had us on our heels all night."
Thrower affirmed why he was chosen Mr. Basketball as the state's top senior, scoring 21 points on 7 for 12 shooting.
Junior center Deyonta Davis may have established himself as the front-runner for next year's award, scoring 26 points on 12 for 14 shooting, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking three shots.
"He's a different kid where he doesn't show a lot of emotion," Guy said. "There are no big moments for him. You won't see him cry. You probably won't see him smile. He's always even-keeled. Tonight he relaxed and played the way he's capable of playing. He came out with a lot of energy, and I thought he controlled the game."
The game was close for much of the first quarter, but Bloomfield Hills couldn't keep pace with Muskegon for long.
The Big Reds held an 18-15 lead when they scored nine straight points to ignite a 15-2 run that put them comfortably ahead for the rest of the game.
Muskegon built its lead to 43-22 with 24.2 seconds left in the first half and led 45-25 at halftime.
Senior guard Dylan Deitch gave Bloomfield Hills a glimmer of hope in the third quarter, hitting two 3-pointers and scoring eight points. His drive to the basket with 5:06 left in the third cut Muskegon's lead to 47-32, but the Big Reds responded with the next six points to put to rest any doubt about the outcome.
"Everything was geared toward the postseason," Guy said. "We've been trying to climb this mountain for years, and got here. These guys have the formula for success. We don't have any egos on our team. They're genuinely playing for one another. They're happy for one another. If one does better than the others tonight, they're happy as long as we get the win. It's truly a brotherhood and a family."
William Roberson Jr. had 17 points and five assists, while Joeviair Kennedy had 14 points for Muskegon, which scored a season-high 91 points.
Bloomfield Hills is a first-year school that formed when Andover and Lahser merged. Neither of the original schools ever won a regional championship, with Lahser reaching a Class A Regional Final last year under Graves' coaching before losing 65-41 to Rochester.
Xzavier Reynolds scored 21 points, going 4 for 4 from 3-point range, while Yante Maten had 13 points and three blocks for the Black Hawks (24-4).
Bloomfield Hills shot 9 for 31 (.290) in the first half before going 15 for 24 (.625) in the second.
"Shots just didn't fall," Graves said. "That happens. The ball didn't bounce our way. We couldn't make a layup in the first half — in and out, in and out. Someone forgot to take the Saran Wrap off the rim for us. Other than that, I thought the boys fought as hard as they could."
Click for the full box score and video from the press conference.
PHOTOS: (Top) Muskegon's Deshaun Thrower blocks off Bloomfield Hills' Todd Weiss during Saturday's Class A Final. (Middle) Bloomfield Hills' Cameron Dalton (00) works to get past Muskegon's Jordan Waire.
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.