NorthPointe Comes Back to Land 1st Final

March 26, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Preston Huckaby is a four-year varsity starter for Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian’s basketball team. 

So he had a decent idea what was necessary to earn one more chance to suit up for the Mustangs, and with history on the line.

NorthPointe trailed Boyne City by 12 points less than a minute into the second quarter of their Class C Semifinal at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center. 

Huckaby sank his first shot seconds later – and went on to score a game-high 26 points to lead the Mustangs back and into their first MHSAA Final with a 48-45 edging of the Ramblers.

“I think going into the game, we were a little nervous, this being our first time in this type of environment. We said if we want to play another game, we have to do what we need to do to win this game,” Huckaby said. “I think I needed to be more aggressive. That’s what I needed to do to get our team where we needed to be.” 

And that’s in Saturday’s 4 p.m. Class C Final, where NorthPointe (21-5) will seek its first MHSAA title, taking on Flint Beecher.

Huckaby was a solid 9 of 20 from the floor and also grabbed nine rebounds. And falling in line with that "aggressive" approach, he made a final deciding play at the other end of the court. 

Boyne City (21-6) came back from a 23-point swing to pull within 46-45 with 31 seconds to play. The Ramblers took two strong drives to the basket – the first ended with miss but an offensive rebound; Huckaby stepped in front of the second and took a charge that all but sealed the win. He made two free throws to extend NorthPointe's lead to three, and Boyne City’s final shot to tie hit off the front of the rim.

“He might be the all-time leading scorer in our school’s history, but in my three years at NorthPointe he’s probably taken 75 charges,” NorthPointe coach Jared Redell said of his senior guard. “If there was a stat on all-time charge takers, I imagine not only at our school, but he’d be close to a state record.” 

Boyne City senior guard Cole Butler scored 11 of his team’s first 15 points as the Ramblers quickly built their early double-digit advantage. Huckaby scored 11 points during the second quarter, his last-second shot tying the score at 26-26 heading into halftime.

Senior Andrew Holesinger opened the second half with a 3-pointer to give NorthPointe its first lead in more than 13 minutes. But Butler got hot again in the fourth quarter, scoring five more points to put Boyne City in position to take back the lead. 

“We talked about coming in today, playing loose, playing confident and playing to win. And I felt we did that tonight,” Boyne City coach Nick Redman said. “We got off to a great start, and I’m super proud of that. They gave themselves an opportunity to win, and that’s all you can ask for.”

Butler had 16 points and 10 rebounds taking on the lead role from senior teammate Corey Redman, who will play at Central Michigan University next season. Redman ended with only six points and five rebounds playing 30 minutes despite a foot sprain he suffered during the District that required he wear a walking boot. 

Senior guard Zach Napont added five points, five rebounds, seven assists and four steals for the Ramblers, who started four seniors total. Holesinger added nine points for NorthPointe and a key blocked shot on Boyne City’s first attempt to re-take the lead with 1:25 to play.

Leaders from both teams brought experience at this level into Thursday – both schools’ football teams advanced to the Division 6 Semifinals this fall. 

But NorthPointe coach Jared Redell saw his team’s nerves early in the shots it was allowing and the way the Mustangs seemed out of sync.

“The third quarter always has been great for us, all tournament long,” Redell said. “We barely hung on, and you don’t want to hang on; we want to make sure we finish and we put them away. There’s a lot of things to learn from the game, and the good thing is we get to learn from them and play another game.” 

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

PHOTOS: (Top) NorthPointe Christian’s Andrew Holesinger (23) drives during Thursday’s Class C Semifinal. (Middle) Boyne City’s Zach Napont pushes the ball upcourt against a number of 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.