Muskegon Pairs Fast Start with Stellar D to Advance to Championship Day

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

March 24, 2023

EAST LANSING – Muskegon boys basketball coach Keith Guy had concerns about how his team would start in Friday’s Division 1 Semifinal.

It turned out he had little cause for worry.

The Big Reds knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in the first quarter to build a double-digit lead and were never seriously threatened in a 65-42 win over Orchard Lake St. Mary’s at Breslin Center. 

Muskegon (26-2) will face Detroit Cass Tech in Saturday’s Division 1 Final at 12:15 p.m. The Technicians defeated Grand Blanc 63-56 in overtime in the day’s first Semifinal.

It will be the Big Reds’ first appearance in the championship game since 2014, when they won the Class A title.

“They make 500 jumpshots a day, and they had to trust their work on this stage.” Guy said. “The basket is still 10 feet and the basketball court is still 94 feet, so we just couldn't make the moment bigger than who we are.

“I thought our kids did a great job of handling the moment to start this game because I was worried about us being a little tight, and we were loose.”

St. Mary’s opened the game with a 3-pointer from sophomore Trey McKenney, but that would be the Eaglets’ only lead.

The Big Reds’ Jordan Briggs (2) gets to the basket.

The Big Reds raced to a 15-4 advantage and never looked back.

“I feel like we were ready to go,” said Muskegon senior guard Jordan Briggs, who had a team-high 19 points and added seven rebounds and five assists.

“We've played in games like this with big crowds throughout the whole season, so we were kind of prepared for it. We played a tougher schedule with tougher teams. We just wanted to play loose and play our game, and we did that and were able to come out with the victory.”

The Big Reds were up 28-20 at the half and took a 39-27 lead into the fourth quarter before pulling away over the final eight minutes. 

“That’s a tough team we just beat, and we really respect what they do,” Guy said. “They are a tough team to defend and we are blessed to come out on top, and I’m blessed to be around these guys for another day.”

The Big Reds also clamped down defensively, holding the Eaglets to one of their lowest-scoring outputs of the season.

“We are committed to defense, and we try to make everything tough,” Guy said. “If we were going to get beat tonight, it was because Trey or one of their players had an unbelievable night.” 

Muskegon’s David Day III made 5 of 6 shots and finished with 16 points, while Anthony Sydnor III added 11 points and was tasked with the job of defending McKenney, who finished with 20 points on 5 of 13 shooting and had 10 rebounds. 

“I just took pride in my defense, and every shot he made I didn’t react,” Sydnor III said. “I just kept going, and my teammates helped me a lot. We just kept fighting the whole way.”

The Eaglets’ 42 points tied a season-low as they shot only 26 percent (11-42) from the field and 19 percent (4-21) from behind the 3-point line. 

They also were outrebounded 36-25.

“Muskegon is a very good team, and they are very well-coached,” Orchard Lake St. Mary’s coach Todd Covert said. “They do a lot of things very simple, but do them very well, and we got hurt on the boards pretty good and missed some shots early.

“But it was a pretty historic run we just went on, and a pretty tough road we had to get here.” 

The Eaglets (16-11) upset top-ranked Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice en route to their first trip to the Semifinals since 2006.

Sharod Barnes, a sophomore, chipped in 13 points for St. Mary’s.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Muskegon’s Anthony Sydnor III (4) elevates for a jumper during his team’s Division 1 Semifinal against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s on Friday. (Middle) The Big Reds’ Jordan Briggs (2) gets to the basket.

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.