Senior-Led Stevenson Makes Statement

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

March 22, 2016

STERLING HEIGHTS – Three times coach Rick Bye took Sterling Heights Stevenson to the MHSAA Finals in football.

Since the mid-1980s few schools in the Metro Detroit area have a football program as successful as that at Stevenson. Since 1985, Stevenson has qualified for the football playoffs 20 times. Twelve times the Titans won 10 or more games. During one stretch they reached the Semifinals six consecutive seasons (1993-98).

The baseball program has thrived recently under coach Joe Emanuele. The Titans won the Division 1 title in 2005, reached the Semifinals twice (2011 and 2013) and went to the Quarterfinals in 2014.

But in boys basketball, the Titans have not been able to compete at nearly as high a level as football and baseball. Before this season, Stevenson had one Regional title.

Now it has two.

Stevenson (20-4) defeated Roseville, 60-44, last Wednesday in a Class A Regional Final. The Titans will face North Farmington (22-2) in tonight’s 7 p.m. Quarterfinal at Calihan Hall at the University of Detroit Mercy.

Perhaps we should have seen this coming. Coach Mark LaCombe is in his third season, and the Titans have shown improvement each winter. They were 13-8 in 2013-14 and 16-5 last season, a finish that included a Macomb Area Conference White title.

But first-round knockouts in the MHSAA Tournament didn’t sit well with the five seniors who start for LaCombe this season.

Luke Lamoreaux, a 5-foot-9 point guard and a three-year starter, is one of four returning from last season’s lineup. He was the captain on the soccer team in the fall and is the leader of this team. Lamoreaux said the difference between last season and the team this season is experience.

“We’ve gotten stronger in the weight room,” he said. “We hit the weight room a lot.

“It’s a lot of hard work. Plus it’s a senior-led team. We played a lot of tough teams in the summer. And we played a tough nonconference schedule. We played (Macomb) Dakota. We had a 15-point lead and lost in overtime. We said if we can play with the No. 2-ranked team, we can play with anybody. We’d like another shot.

“We’ve always been a good football school. We’ve wanted to make our mark in basketball. What we’re doing now is we’re making a statement with this run.”

Stevenson isn’t a tall team. Its tallest starter is Stacy Howard at 6-2. LaCombe uses a four-guard lineup and generally subs two to three off the bench. Jahi Hinson (6-3) is one of those reserves, and he’s the lone junior in the rotation.

“We’re undersized,” LaCombe said. “The kids play harder than anyone we play. The kids that play, play at a high level.”

Three players, including Lamoreaux, average between 11 and 12 points. Mylon Weathers (6-0) and Vince Ramachi (6-1) averaged 12 points apiece, Lamoreaux 11.5. Lamoreaux has stepped up his game in the tournament. He’s averaging 15.5 in four tournament games.

“The basket looks really big to him now,” LaCombe said. “He’s getting a name for himself. He plays well on the big stage.”

Weathers is the team’s top defender and will guard the opposition’s top scoring guard. In a District Semifinal, he held Clinton Township Chippewa Valley senior Steven Lloyd to 11 points, 10 below Lloyd’s average.

Stevenson hasn’t received much publicity this season for obvious reasons. LaCombe knows a team has to earn respect, and he said that’s what his team has done. The MAC White isn’t a strong basketball division, and to prepare his team for a long run LaCombe scheduled nonleague games against Rockford, Detroit Western International, Rochester Adams, Warren DeLaSalle and Detroit Country Day. Stevenson’s four losses were to teams that won District titles.

“We weren’t quite ready last year,” he said. “Defensively they’ve executed as well as a coach could ask for. They’ve made adjustments. We trap a lot.

“The brackets were set up perfectly for us. A lot of times you set goals for the season: a league and district titles. That wouldn’t have been good enough for this group. I don’t think we’ll have a group like this come out of Stevenson for a long time.”

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Luke Lamoreaux and assistant coach Bill Szlaga share a celebratory embrace during Stevenson's Quarterfinal run. (Middle) Stacy Howard (3) prepares to signal a 3-pointer as teammate Austin Beba launches the shot. (Photos courtesy of the Sterling Heights Stevenson boys basketball program.) 

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.