Southfield Christian Claims 3-Peat in D

March 22, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – First one and then a second starter fouled out of Saturday’s Class D Final as Southfield Christian tried to catch Adrian Lenawee Christian with only a few minutes remaining.

Fortunately for the Eagles, they had a few more players left with experience finishing a championship run. 

Southfield Christian had never during the last three seasons played from situation it faced early Saturday afternoon. But a number of its players had helped win one or both of two straight MHSAA championships – and that no doubt assisted those left on the floor as they claimed a third.

Junior guard Bakari Evelyn scored five of his game-high 28 points after teammates Lindsay Hunter IV and Damarco White fouled out in the fourth quarter, and 2013 championship game standout Marlo Brown also scored during the same stretch as Southfield Christian claimed its third straight MHSAA title with a 63-61 nail-biter over Adrian Lenawee Christian. 

“It was tough once I saw we were losing Lin and Damarco for a few quarters. My whole objective was to keep the game as close as possible,” Evelyn said. “I thought we were going to come out with the win, through the whole game and everything. It was good to finally be right.”

Evelyn, who started last season’s Class D Final and came off the bench in 2012 as a freshman, also had seven rebounds, four assists and four steals and handled the ball almost exclusively after Hunter fouled out with 16 points, 3:47 left to play and the Eagles trailing 54-51. 

The 6-foot-6 White fouled out just more than a minute later with only two points, but five rebounds and five blocked shots after spending most of his morning defending Lenawee Christian’s trio of 6-7 post players. 

But Evelyn had plenty of help down the stretch. Sophomore guard Jalen Bouldes played only 38 seconds during the closing minutes, but scored, was fouled and made the ensuing free throw to give Southfield Christian a 56-55 lead with 3:09 to play. Brown scored a minute later to push the lead to three. Evelyn then made five of six free-throw attempts over the final 1:13 to keep Lenawee Christian just a few points short. 

“We’ve never had this where all of our main guys were in foul trouble. Other guys like Harding (Fears) and Benny (Cookinham) had to step up,” Eagles coach Clennie Brundidge said. "I’d put (Hunter and White) back in here and they’d get another foul. I told them that at the end, our depth was going to win this.”

Fears grabbed eight rebounds in 12 minutes and junior guard Kameron Garner – a starter last season who this winter came off the bench – had five points and five rebounds despite taking a hard fall during the first half. Brown had only four points, but both baskets put Southfield Christian up at points in the game.

Lenawee Christian (21-5), an honorable mention in the Class D poll heading into the postseason, came back from an early nine-point deficit to make it back-and-forth over the final three quarters. 

Senior center Kingsley had 22 points on 7 of 11 shooting from the floor and with sophomore forward Maxwell (11 points) allowed the Cougars to slow the game’s tempo and keep Southfield Christian’s usually active fastbreak to only 11 points.

“We wanted them to come beat us at our game, and I think for the most part we were able to control tempo,” Lenawee Christian coach Scott McKelvey said. “Our free-throw shooting hurt us (19 of 31), but we got opportunities and we couldn’t ask for anything more than that. It’s a team that probably no one in the state thought we could beat.” 

“If we could’ve had two more minutes,” Kingsley added, "I’m pretty confident we could’ve changed something.”

Senior forward Grant Hohlbein, also set to accept an MHSAA Scholar-Athlete Award later Saturday, added 15 points for Lenawee Christian. The Cougars’ Semifinal on Thursday was its first since 2001, and the championship game berth was their first ever. 

Brundidge said that after seeing Lenawee Christian in a summer game, he knew that was the team his Eagles would face if they returned for a third straight Final. Southfield Christian’s only loss this season was to Class A No. 5 Saginaw Arthur Hill, and it finished 26-1 and 74-5 over the last three seasons – good to tie for eighth-most wins over a three-season span.

“I’m in awe,” Hunter said. “My freshman year we lost in the first round of Districts to (Bloomfield Hills) Roeper, went 2-19. I never thought we’d be sitting here in this position with three state championships.” 

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

PHOTOS: (Top) Southfield Christian’s Bakari Evelyn (22) works to get to the rim around Adrian Lenawee Christian’s Maxwell and Grant Hohlbein. (Middle) Lenawee Christian’s Nick Mewborn dribbles upcourt with Southfield Christian’s Kameron Garner defending. 

HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Southfield Christian uses a block to start a fast break, resulting in a basket – and one – for Jalen Bouldes. The free throw gave the Eagles the lead to stay in the Class D finale. (2) With 12 seconds to go, Grant Hohlbein of Lenawee Christian scores on an inbounds pass and draws a Southfield Christian foul. Hohlbein completed the three-point play to pull his team within a point at 62-61.

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.