Pressure? No problem as Our Lady Advances

March 24, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – The bright lights have worn off for Waterford Our Lady’s seniors.

And that might have made all the difference over the final minutes of what could’ve been their final high school basketball game.

Andrew Kline and brothers Clay and Devin Senerius brought the Lakers to the Class D Semifinals a year ago for the first time since 1993, and they just missed a football championship losing by seven points in the Division 8 Final this fall.

So when the score of Thursday’s first Class D Semifinal sat tied for the seventh time with 5:49 to play, the Our Lady seniors weren’t phased by the building Breslin Center pressure.

The Lakers closed on a 15-3 run to finally break away from Wyoming Tri-unity Christian and earn their first MHSAA championship game appearance with a 64-53 victory.

“Playing on the big stage, it’s not as hard as it used to be,” said Devin Senerius, who led four Our Lady players with 17 points. “At the beginning of last year, at the Semifinals we were all nervous. And then at the state finals (for football), we were a little nervous. Now we all just wanted to win instead of lose.”

They’ve got a chance to win one more time, and for the first time in program history on the final day of the season, when they face Powers North Central at 10 a.m. in Saturday’s Class D Final. 

The Lakers (22-4) were ranked No. 3 at the end of the regular season, so this run was hardly a surprise. But they also lost the final two games before the District began, putting the senior leaders in a position to pull their team back on track.

Our Lady responded by winning four of seven tournament games by at least 10 points.

“First off, it’s their personality. They want to win, and that’s vital,” Our Lady coach Paul Robak said. “It doesn’t matter if it is basketball, football, whatever; they want to win. That’s the most important part of the culture, teaching that not only to others in their class but the younger classes.

“We took a step backward toward the end of the year, and we got a little sloppy. But to their credit, we went back to being more competitive on the practice floor. And it starts with these three guys.”

Still, the final score Thursday was not indicative of how close the game stayed until the final six minutes.

To that point, neither team built a lead of more than six points. From 2:25 to play in the second quarter until 1:17 remained, neither team got ahead by more than four. There were 14 lead changes, seven in the third quarter and five during the fourth.

There would be only one run – and it would belong to Our Lady.

Kline scored nine of his 15 points during the final go-ahead drive, while Tri-unity Christian made only 1 of 9 shots from the floor during the final six minutes.   

“Coach told us it’s crunch time,” Kline said. “We’ve got to buckle down. We knew we were the better team.”

Freshman Noah Robak added 12 points and Clay Senerius had 11 for Our Lady. Devin had 12 rebounds and Clay added 10 and six assists as the Lakers outrebounded the Defenders 37-15.

Senior guard Collin Rosendall led Tri-unity (20-6) with 17 points and four steals, and senior forward Javi Cuevas had 12 points and four assists.

Although the Defenders made a decent 44 percent of its shots from the floor, they connected on only 7 of 27 tries from 3-point range – struggling at what’s usually a strength.

“All year long we’ve done a good job of maintaining the bleeding on the boards,” Tri-unity coach Mark Keeler said. “Tonight we didn’t do a good job of that. They have good shooters and I think they knocked down key shots at the right time.

"They stayed in their zone, and I was happy they stayed in their zone because our 3-point shooting is normally good. But it failed us at the end.”

Click for the full box score.

The Boys Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Our Lady’s Clay Senerius looks for an opening while Tri-unity’s Javi Cuevas defends. (Middle) The Defenders’ Collin Rosendall works to get past a Lakers player during the Class D Semifinal.

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.