New Haven Locks Down, Lifts Class B Trophy

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

March 25, 2017

EAST LANSING – The New Haven boys basketball team has made a habit of lighting up scoreboards with explosive offensive performances.

But in their biggest game of the season, when pulled into a slowed-down game by Ludington, the Rockets dug deep and won with defense.

They held Ludington scoreless for the first 6½ minutes of the fourth quarter Saturday on the way to a 45-36 win to claim the Class B title at the Breslin Center. It was the first MHSAA Finals title for the Rockets, who were also making their first appearance in a boys basketball championship game.  

“It was a great game, they’re a great team – they took away things that we do and played a great zone,” New Haven coach Tedaro France II said. “We kept our composure. It wasn’t a game that if you told me, we would come here and win this way. We scored the lowest point total we scored the whole year, and we found a way to win.”

The Rockets held Ludington to 11 of 49 (22.4 percent) shooting from the field, and while they were credited with just four blocks – all by sophomore Romeo Weems – the presence of shot blockers clearly caused problems for the Orioles, especially in the fourth quarter, when they shot 2 of 15 (13.3 percent) from the floor.

“You have to give a lot of credit to New Haven for that,” Ludington coach Thad Shank said. “They’re long and athletic and make it hard to finish. I thought we got a lot of great looks tonight, but that’s the game of basketball; sometimes they don’t always go in.”

Weems, who is already fielding Division I college offers, led all scorers with 19 points. He added 10 rebounds and three steals as well. Senior Eric Williams, Jr., had 14 points and seven rebounds for the Rockets (27-1), and Ashton Sherrell grabbed 11 rebounds.

Ludington was led by Calvin Hackert, who had 16 points. Sam LaDuke scored 10, and Noah Laman pulled down 10 rebounds for the Orioles. Six of Hackert’s points came in the final 1:30 on a pair of 3-pointers. Those were the only points the Orioles scored in the final quarter.

“We went with our man-to-man press trapping (in the fourth quarter), and they called a timeout because I don’t think they knew what to do,” Weems said. “I started giving everything I had left, getting scrappy, started rebounding more and got more aggressive.”

The game was played at a pace Ludington dictated, as the Orioles killed clock with long possessions and limited second-chance opportunities for the Rockets despite a massive size disadvantage. Ludington actually grabbed more offensive rebounds than the Rockets (14-10), and matched the Rockets in second-chance points (11).

Thanks to that, New Haven’s lead was just one heading into the fourth quarter.

“It was absolutely the way we wanted it to be,” Shank said. “We were hoping we would have the ability to control this game with our offense a little bit coming in. Be aggressive but patient, and really force them to guard a lot of things, and keep them from getting out in transition, and we did a pretty good job of that.”

Ludington (25-3) led by as many as eight, taking a 15-7 lead in the second quarter. But a Weems 3 sparked a 16-4 New Haven run to end the first half, giving the Rockets a 23-19 lead heading into the break. The game remained tight from there until the Rockets were able to break it open in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter.

“We started off and nobody was hitting shots,” Weems said. “I just looked at (Williams) and was like, ‘He’s not in it yet,’ so I hit the shot and was like, ‘I have to hit this and let him know I have his back.’

“We started hitting shots and started going on runs, then they started going on runs. In the second half, we just took off, started playing hard, started pressuring them and got them out of their comfort zone.”

For France, a New Haven graduate, bringing home a Class B title was extra special.

“It just means a lot – you could see all the fans here – it just means so much to our school, to our town, the Village of New Haven,” France said. “This sport here is what a lot of people live through. I had a family that’s been coming to the games the last two years – they were sick, the wife is dying. He said they come to watch these kids play, and when they come they don’t feel pain, they don’t feel stress. For that hour and a half, they’re just there to watch these kids play, and it brings so much pride to them.

“Like I tell (the players), you’re not just playing for yourselves, you’re playing for more than just you, and these kids get that.”

Ludington’s season ended with its first trip to an MHSAA championship game since 1953, and one night after a buzzer-beating overtime win against River Rouge.

“It’s pretty cool to know that we made history and this team will probably never be forgotten,” Hackert said. “It’s a huge accomplishment. It’s just awesome, and we’ll never forget it.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) New Haven’s Romeo Weems (23) and Ashton Sherrell (3) help surround a Ludington ballhandler during Saturday’s Class B Final. (Middle) Ludington’s Joshua Laman looks for an open teammate while being doubled by Rockets defenders.

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.