Carson Making Up For Lost Time, Making Buchanan Contender as Districts Begin

By Wes Morgan
Special for

February 23, 2023

There’s really nothing about Faith Carson’s high school basketball career that went according to script.

Southwest CorridorYet, it has developed into quite a compelling story with one last chapter to be penned.

When asked if she felt four years ago that she would have ended up as arguably the top college prospect in the state of Michigan despite missing more than 30 games due to a pandemic-shortened sophomore season and a junior campaign mostly wiped out by an ankle injury, the Buchanan High School phenom and Ohio State University signee said all of that would have been laughable.

However, there were plenty of times, particularly last winter when the 6-foot-4 center was relegated to a walking boot and a chair on the sideline, when it was difficult simply to remain upbeat.

“I was talking to my mom the other day and said I never really realized how much I loved basketball until I couldn’t play,” said Carson, who did return in time last season to help the Bucks win a second consecutive Division 3 District championship before falling to Schoolcraft in the Regional Finals. “Going to practice every day and watching them play, it was a struggle.

“At first it was really hard. I do have a lot of individual goals for myself, but you just have to support your teammates and put a smile on your face. You never want to show up and be the person that is negative.”

Before school and after volleyball practice throughout the fall, Carson put in around three hours a day working on her shot in preparation for this season.

With the MHSAA Tournament set to commence, the Bucks benefitted greatly by Carson’s strong return to the tune of a 19-1 record, a Lakeland Conference title and No. 3 ranking in the latest Associated Press Division 3 poll. The Bucks opened the year with a five-point loss to still-undefeated Vicksburg and have mostly dominated ever since.

Carson elevates for a shot against Schoolcraft. Carson is averaging 19.3 points, 11.4 rebounds and 6.2 blocks per game as Buchanan gears up for a District Semifinal on Wednesday against the winner of the Bridgman/Cassopolis opener Monday.

She spent her spring and summer playing with her travel team and playing with us at the high school level trying to work herself back into shape,” Buchanan coach Gabe Miller said. “She really ramped it up in August and in the fall while simultaneously working her butt off on the volleyball court.”

Carson was named Lakeland Conference MVP after the Bucks’ volleyball squad went undefeated in league play en route to a District crown.

“She was getting up at 5 a.m. and lifting weights at the local fitness center and then coming in and shooting baskets with me from 6:30-7:15 about four or five days a week,” Miller said. “It wore me out, but I welcomed it. It was good to see. And she’d come in on Sundays, too. She was really adamant about making up for lost time the best she could.”

This year’s Buchanan group is primed for a postseason run as Carson combines with some savvy players who helped keep the wheels on last year in her absence, including junior point guard LaBria Austin, versatile senior forward Hannah Tompkins, junior defensive specialist Hannah Herman and sophomore forward (and sister) Alyssa Carson just to name a few.

Clearly, though, the Bucks are a decidedly more ferocious group with Faith Carson back in the lineup.

The things that get overlooked, unless you coach basketball, you might not see right off the bat is she always had really good hands and feet, even when she was younger,” Miller explained. “She spent a lot of time, especially this last year, working on her diet and researching things, being in the weight room and adding to her physicality and conditioning. 

“I think she’s got good court vision as far as seeing plays, seeing cutters, which helps her game out with double- and triple-teams. She wants to play basketball, so she spends a lot of time on it. Losing as much time as she lost last year — a full season — could have been a hindrance. But she definitely made up for it this year. When you take her love for the game with her God-given talents, her size, feet and hands, the work ethic she has put in, and the fact that she wants to work to meet her goals when she goes to college, that’s kind of got us to the player we have today.”

And now, after all the hours working on her shooting, that includes being a threat from range.

“In a game — I can’t remember which one — I had the ball at the 3-point line and their coach was yelling, ‘shooter!’” Carson recalled. “My whole family started to laugh because I’ve never really been called a shooter. It felt great.

“I’m going to do everything I can to help us go really far in the postseason. This is one of my favorite teams I’ve ever been a part of. I’m just really excited because I know what we’re capable of.”

Wes MorganWes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Buchanan’s Faith Carson (54) gets a hand up on defense against St. Joseph. (Middle) Carson elevates for a shot against Schoolcraft. (Photos courtesy of the Buchanan girls 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.