Southfield Christian Earns Return

March 21, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Damarco White was not part of Southfield Christian’s run to the Class D championship last season. But he got an earful from teammates Bakari Evelyn and Lindsey Hunter IV about what to expect Thursday at the Breslin Center.

Not that he didn't believe them. But it didn’t take long for the 6-foot-7 junior to truly understand what they meant. 

The Eagles' physical and fast-paced Class D Semifinal against Lansing Christian featured 123 shots and 67 free-throw attempts, 15 tie scores and 17 lead changes. But over the final 2:15, Southfield Christian simply outlasted the Pilgrims in pulling away for a 75-68 win and another title game berth. 

“They told me it wasn’t easy, and they were right,” White said. “I just tried to play my best. I try not to let my team lose every game I go out there.

“We’ve won 19 straight. We’re trying to make it 20.”

Southfield Christian (22-4), No. 3 at the end of the regular season, will face top-ranked Wyoming Tri-unity Christian at 10 a.m. Saturday to decide the title.

The Eagles no doubt will spend some of Friday resting up.

Only over the final two minutes – and after three Lansing Christian players fouled out – was Southfield Christian able to secure Thursday’s win. And those final two minutes followed six during which either the Pilgrims led or the score was tied.

“That’s what these guys have done all year. In tough games, tough situations, they hang in,” Eagles coach Josh Baker said.

“Our guys definitely picked up the intensity, picked up the ball pressure, sped up the pace. Part of it was (Lansing Chrstian) got into foul trouble and lost some guys. But I think we’re a little deeper. Hopefully we wore them down.”

Southfield Christian also took advantage of its ability to make free throws, connecting on 35 of 44 after entering the game on a streak of 23 straight makes. Sophomore guard Bakari Evelyn made 13 of 15 on the way to a team-high 22 points, and Hunter hit 8 of 9 in scoring 21 points total. White made 7 of 8 and finished with 19 points.  

The game style and pace indeed took a toll on the Pilgrims, who played mostly their starting five through the first three quarters. Lansing Christian’s standouts showed lots of hustle and forced a number of the Eagles’ 24 turnovers. But only two starters were around for the final minutes.

“That’s how we’ve played all year long. We’ve got great kids on the bunch, but a lot of them are just getting their start in the game of basketball,” Lansing Christian coach Steve Ernst said. “Certainly, that was a different type of game than we’ve seen this year.”

Still, it took a final jolt to get the Eagles moving on. And Hunter delivered it during a timeout, when he told his teammates that “this is our stage” and they needed to play to that level.

White had six of his points and three of his seven blocks during the fourth quarter. He also grabbed 12 rebounds for the game. Evelyn had six steals and Hunter had five.

“We’ve been in that situation before, and we just had to stick with each other,” said Evelyn, a top sub on last season’s team.

“For some reason, we always play better defense in crunch time. I guess that’s our fault, but we noticed they got tired. I guess we turned up the heat.”

Senior Skylar Ross led Lansing Christian with 23 points. Senior Josh Whitney had 16 and eight rebounds, and senior Jay Noyola had 14 points, 10 rebounds and five steals. Junior Jordan Terry added 11 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Lansing Christian finished 22-4 and tied its longest postseason run. The Pilgrims also made the Semifinals in 1984.

“Certainly we appreciate being able to play on this big stage,” Ernst said, “and the tremendous group of seniors who helped transform this program in a short period of time. We’re proud of their effort, and we were excited to play a program like Southfield Christian.”

Click for the full box score. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Southfield Christian's Lindsey Hunter IV rises toward the basket during Thursday's Class D Semifinal at the Breslin Center. (Middle) Southfield Christian's Bakari Evelyn (22) works to get around Lansing Christian's Jay Noyola while Pilgrims coach Steve Ernst directs his players from the sideline. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.