Performance: Unity's Noah Wiswary

March 22, 2019

Noah Wiswary
Hudsonville Unity Christian senior – Basketball

The 6-foot-1 senior point guard entered the final week of the season as Unity Christian’s fourth-leading scorer at 7.8 points per game. But Wiswary led the Crusaders in scoring in their Quarterfinal, Semifinal and championship game wins as the program won its first MHSAA Finals championship, earning Wiswary the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.” 

Wiswary had 15 points and eight assists in the Quarterfinal as Unity avenged an earlier two-point loss with a 71-45 win over Grand Rapids South Christian. He added 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting against Ludington in a 69-30 Semifinal win, and then 17 points again on 6-of-9 shooting as the Crusaders edged River Rouge 58-55 on Saturday. Wiswary also scored 11 points in Unity’s Regional Final win the week before over Benton Harbor, last season’s Class B champion. His final week of work raised Wiswary’s scoring average to 8.7 ppg for the season, to go with 4.5 assists per game. The varsity’s ball boy before high school, Wiswary finished his career either first or second all-time on Unity’s career assists list – the numbers are being tabulated – and the team was a combined 63-12 during his three seasons on varsity, including 26-2 this winter.

This was the second championship of this school year for Wiswary, a starting defensive back on the football team that won the Division 5 title in the fall. He also plays center field and pitches for the baseball team, and is hoping he’ll continue his basketball career at the college level. Wiswary is undecided where, but plans to study criminal justice in pursuit of a career in law enforcement.

Coach Scott Soodsma said: “If you wanted to look at one key individual who stepped up his game during the tournament run, there is one unanimous choice and it’s him. It’s not that he was always the best player, but where he came from to where he ended was sensational. The kid obviously led us through the tournament. I really was impressed with his hustle at both ends of the floor. He’s always been a pretty good offensive player, and he really turned it up defensively a lot. He’s capable of guarding almost everything, and his leadership, his will to win – he was willing to do whatever it took, and the urgency set in being a senior. … Just the expectation was there. Without an expectation, it’s a lot more difficult to win. When you expect to win rather than hope to win, you think you’ll win. The expectation we are going to win is a huge asset, and I think that’s exactly where he was at – he really believed we were going to win, and he played like that.”

Performance Point: “I just think we took the role as underdog. Last year we lost to Benton Harbor, so we were like, ‘This is our year.’ Nobody really looked at us because obviously there’s Benton Harbor, River Rouge, South Christian, and we were going to just shock the world – and that’s what we did. … I knew we had to turn it up a notch because (there were) only three games left in our season, and my teammates, they got me the ball in the right spots. When I have shooters that other people are worried about, it just got me open way more. I’ve got four shooters on the floor. I’m going to get them the ball. But the opportunity was there. I was open – I was going to shoot it.”

Winner’s mentality: “We’ve been here (to Finals in other sports) before, and nobody really cares – I play good, T.J. (VanKoevering) plays good, nobody really cares as long as we win. If I scored 40 points and we lost, we’d all still be really mad and I’d be mad, but all we wanted to do was win. We had that winning mentality of we just wanted to win. … I thought we could beat Benton Harbor, but I didn’t actually think it was going to happen. Once we beat Benton Harbor I was like, ‘All right, we can beat anyone now.’ We did not have an easy path. In our District we had to beat a good Holland Christian team, and we had to beat them three times in a year which is not easy to do. In the Regional we’ve got play Benton Harbor, which beat us last year by 15, and in the Finals we gotta play River Rouge, which is a historic program. Beating those three teams in a playoff run, and South Christian – who was on a 19-game winning streak – beating those teams on a playoff run, that’s unheard of.”

Multi-sport crossover: “That River Rouge game was physical; it was practically a football game out there half the time. Football prepares you for physicality and footwork and quick spurts on the floor. All three sports – the more experience you have in sports, the more experience you have being on a team and being able to be a leader. And (with) communication – communication is a big part of our team this year.”

Know your role: “Everybody just did their roles and nobody tried to do more than that. We had shooters, and if they were shooters they would shoot. Rebounders, they would rebound. Passers, they would pass. We just all did our roles, and it meshed really good. My role was to lead everyone. Get the ball to the shooters, if I had to score I’ll score, and push the ball in transition." 

Take the lead: “If my guys are hot and doing their thing, I’m just going to let them be. But if they’re struggling, I’m going to be like, ‘You’re still in it. You’re still good.’ I’m going to try to get them an open look as a point guard, get them an easy look under the basket, get their confidence going. Give them a little bump on the back, just try to pick them up. … My coach ever since sophomore year, when I came in (to varsity) he told me I would be a leader. I wasn’t really a leader sophomore or junior year, but he kept pushing on me that I’ve gotta step up, I’ve gotta be more confident in my guys. Senior year I just said hey, I’ve gotta do it now.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard recognizes a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Past 2018-19 honorees

March 14: Cam Peel, Spring Lake swimming - Read
March 7:
Jordan Hamdan, Hudson wrestling - Read
February 28:
Kevon Davenport, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling - Read
February 21:
Reagan Olli, Gaylord skiing - Read 
February 14:
Jake Stevenson, Traverse City Bay Reps hockey - Read
February 7: Molly Davis, Midland Dow basketball - Read
January 31:
Chris DeRocher, Alpena basketball - Read
January 24:
Imari Blond, Flint Kearsley bowling - Read
January 17: William Dunn, Quincy basketball - Read
November 29:
Dequan Finn, Detroit Martin Luther King football - Read
November 22: Paige Briggs, Lake Orion volleyball - Read
November 15:
Hunter Nowak, Morrice football - Read
November 8:
Jon Dougherty, Detroit Country Day soccer - Read
November 1:
Jordan Stump, Camden-Frontier volleyball - Read
October 25:
Danielle Staskowski, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep golf - Read
October 18:
Adam Bruce, Gladstone cross country - Read
October 11: Ericka VanderLende, Rockford cross country - Read
October 4:
Kobe Clark, Schoolcraft football - Read
September 27: Jonathan Kliewer, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern soccer - Read
September 20: Kiera Lasky, Bronson volleyball - Read
September 13: Judy Rector, Hanover-Horton cross country - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Unity Christian's Noah Wiswary (1) looks for an open teammate during Saturday's Division 2 championship game against River Rouge. (Middle) Wiswary brings the ball upcourt during the Semifinal win over Ludington.

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.