North Farmington Reaches 1st Final

March 25, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – North Farmington coach Todd Negoshian was glad his team drew the second Class A Semifinal on Friday at the Breslin Center.

That meant an opportunity for the Raiders to get here for part of the day’s first game and soak in the atmosphere before taking the floor themselves against Lansing Everett.

And they clearly were ready. North Farmington, playing in its first MHSAA Semifinal, jumped to a 9-2 lead over the first four minutes and never trailed in downing Everett 60-48 to earn an opportunity to play for the program’s first Class A championship.

The No. 5 Raiders (24-2) will take on top-ranked Detroit U-D Jesuit in Saturday’s noon Final. The Cubs ended North Farmington's season in a Regional Final a year ago.

“With (that) being back then our first trip to a Regional Final, we folded a little bit,” North Farmington senior Alex Darden said, recalling the last time his team faced U-D Jesuit. “We weren’t used to the atmosphere. But thankfully we learned from that, and we have 11 seniors this year, and we know what it’s like. Going on this run, we’ve been playing in a great atmosphere for three or four games.

“I think we’ll be prepared – we’ll know what to expect this time.”

Seniors supplied 75 percent of North Farmington’s scoring Friday, led by guard Billy Thomas’ 26 points. Total, eight seniors saw the floor, bringing valuable experience against a team that had more at Breslin – Everett also made the Semifinals last season, and this month became the first team since 2006 and just the sixth Class A team ever to reach this round of the tournament after beginning the postseason with 10 or more losses.

The two starters back from that team – senior guards Jamyrin Jackson and LeAndre Wright – led the charge to keep it close. A Jackson 3-pointer with 3:48 to go in the third quarter took North Farmington’s lead to nine, and another jumper kept the Vikings only nine down heading into the fourth quarter.

Another Jackson 3-pointer pulled Everett within eight points with 4:37 to play. But North Farmington continued to answer and made all six of its free throws over the final minute to keep the Vikings (16-11) at arm’s length.

The Raiders led by as many as 17 during the third quarter and 15 during the fourth, extending again and again every time Everett tried to catch up.

“This season would’ve ended a week, or two, or three weeks ago but we kept coming back and winning games in the third or fourth quarter,” Everett coach Desmond Ferguson said. “We’ve had slow starts all season for a number of different reasons. I don’t know if we’re not warming up good enough or think we can just turn it up. That’s something that’s plagued us all season, and it came back to bite us." 

Jackson finished with 27 points and Wright had 10 points, six assists and six rebounds.

Junior Amauri Hardy added 15 points for North Farmington, and Darden had 14 rebounds and four blocks. All five Raiders starters scored at least five points, and eight players saw the floor for at least seven minutes. 

“Any time you have kids the caliber that we do, with how unselfish they are, who sacrifice for the betterment of the team so we can keep winning, it shows their true character,” Negoshian said. “When we left the gym this morning (at North Farmington), we talked about how it would be the last time that this group would be in the gym together. We wanted to make the most of it – and we’re doing that right now.”

Click for the full box score.

The Boys Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System. 

PHOTOS: (Top) North Farmington's Alex Darden connects on one of his four blocks during Friday's Class A Semifinal. (Middle) Lansing Everett's Diego Johnson also gets a block, one of his two for the game.

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.