Senior Standout Squires Knows Role, Relishes it as Petoskey Seeks to Rise

By Tom Spencer
Special for

February 17, 2023

A year can make a big difference.

Northern Lower PeninsulaBut a year of hard work can make a much bigger difference.  

It certainly did for Petoskey senior Michael Squires.

“Petoskey boys basketball will ‘go down swinging’ with the Michael Squires of this world,” said second-year Northmen coach Matt Tamm. “Michael is a great teammate and even better person.

“Michael is a great young person that I have had the honor of coaching for three years.”

The first year Squires played for Tamm was as a sophomore on the junior varsity team.  The second, Squire’s junior season, began to make Squires think about not returning for his senior year. He opted instead for a year of hard work before coming back to the court.

Northmen fans are glad he did. Squires is the team’s leading rebounder and strongest defender.

After my junior year, I debated coming to play my senior year after my limited play time, but I am glad that I did,” Squires said. “The work that I put in my junior year paired with an increase in size and strength allowed me to earn a role on the team and contribute to the success we have had.”

Squires, who sports a 3.98 GPA while taking honors and advanced placement courses, is finding tremendous success on the court after a stellar fall soccer season filled with postseason honors. He’s also looking to wrap up his senior year helping his golf team reach the Finals this spring.

The Northmen are 12-5 overall and 5-3 in Big North Conference play heading into tonight’s home contest with Cadillac, the conference leader. Petoskey lost to Cadillac in the first meeting, 68-65 in overtime, as Jaden Montague hit a 3-pointer well outside of the arc with just four ticks remaining. The Northmen’s last shot in regulation was blocked by Cadillac.

A win tonight and another over second-place Traverse City Central next week could wreak havoc on the title race. Petoskey lost to Central 72-59 earlier this season, and its other conference loss was in double overtime at Traverse City West.

Squires elevates again, this time on the soccer pitch against Traverse City West.“Our focus is on playing good basketball,” Tamm said.  “If we play good basketball, winning and losing will take care of itself.  

“Cadillac is a quality opponent, and we look forward to the challenge.”

The Northmen are also looking forward to postseason play after winning their District last year. Four Big North Conference opponents, along with Marquette and Sault St. Marie, are the initial competition.

A postseason run could be in the cards again, Squires believes.

“This year I believe that the District is open for us to win, but once we reach the Regional round we will likely play teams such as Grand Blanc who are very good,” Squires said. “If we play to the quality of basketball that we have shown earlier in the season, and I know we are capable of, winning the region is something that I think we can accomplish.”

Squires’ senior-season success wasn’t exactly anticipated — due to his first three seasons at Petoskey. His freshman year featured his offensive side. His sophomore season saw most all of his playing time recorded as a substitute.

Limited playing time on the varsity as a junior led to thoughts of no more basketball. But all that changed.

Tamm has always focused on individual roles. He and Squires believe they found the right one for the 6-foot-2 standout.

“The biggest difference between this year and last year for me, I believe, was my mentality toward basketball and how I would contribute to the team,” Squires said. “As many people do, I would love to score a lot of points – but this year the realization that that’s not my role was key in my development. 

“That realization allowed me to put forth all my effort into what I’m best at – defense and rebounding,” he continued. “This year I took my role of shutdown defender and rebounder more to heart and committed myself to doing what I am good at and what our team needs me to do for us to be successful.”

Squires officiates during a Petoskey youth tournament earlier this month.Tamm said Squires plays the exact role the Northmen need.

“Michael understands and accepts his role on the team,” Tamm said. “He is not our strongest offensive player — he understands that.  

“But he plays excellent defense, rebounds, sets screens, slashes at the basket and dives after loose balls,” Tamm continued. “Michael does not take the ill-advised shot. … He seldom —  if ever — misses a defensive assignment or box out and generally takes care of the ball and makes the right pass.”

Tamm also points to Squires’ work ethic and positive attitude as keys to his success. Squires worked closely with Mike Zenk, the Petoskey boys basketball strength and conditioning coach, and made gains.  

“Michael grew, and he filled out,” Tamm said. “He shows up every day – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – and he always remained positive.”

Squires, who prides himself on playing outstanding defense and attacking the offensive boards, finds tremendous joy in shutting down the opposing team as Tamm normally assigns him the other team’s best player to defend.

“Some people find the most enjoyment in scoring points but I equally enjoy stopping someone from scoring and throwing someone off their game,” Squires said.

When basketball ends next month, Squires will turn his thoughts to his last career sports goal, and likely move on to study mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan. He’s also been accepted at Michigan State and Purdue.

“Before I graduate I would like to make it to the state tournament in golf as we missed out on it last year,” Squires said. “This year we have a pretty good team, and I feel we have a good shot at making it.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Petoskey’s Michael Squires rises above a pair of Traverse City Central defenders for a shot. (Middle) Squires elevates again, this time on the soccer pitch against Traverse City West. (Below) Squires officiates during a Petoskey youth tournament earlier this month. (Photos by Billy McNamara.)

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.