Class B: Milestone Momentum

March 16, 2012

EAST LANSING – Shellis Hampton and Tiesha Stokes have enjoyed more victories during their Grand Rapids Catholic Central careers – literally – than most players in MHSAA history.

But there’s something special about winning a championship as a senior – and they hope to cap their final seasons with that lasting feeling Saturday evening.

They and Grand Rapids Catholic earned that opportunity Friday with a 72-49 Semifinal victory over Freeland.

One more win would give Hampton and Stokes each 100 wins for their careers – which would leave them tied for second in the MHSAA girls basketball record book. Both also were key contributors on the Cougars’ 2010 Class B championship team. But they’re cherishing this run even more.

“I think it’s better. We’re seniors. This is our last year in high school,” Hampton said. “We got to win sophomore year, which is great. But you always want to go out with a win. And the only way to go out with a win is to win the state championship.”

Grand Rapids Catholic Central, ranked just No. 10 entering the postseason, will face either Goodrich or Dearborn Divine Child in Saturday’s 6 p.m. Final.

The Cougars were 75-5 over the last three seasons coming into this one, and improved to 24-3 this winter with Friday’s victory. A four-year varsity player can win a maximum of 112 games during her career (and only if her teams don’t receive District byes). Grand Rapids Catholic has reached three of the last four Class B Finals weekends – another big advantage Friday against a Freeland team with no seniors that was playing for its first championship game berth since 1998.

“You have a sense of composure and familiarity, every time you come (to Breslin),” Cougars coach Colleen Lamoreaux-Tate said. “It’s fun to play here, but it felt like just another game.”

That was evident early Friday. Grand Rapids Catholic jumped out to a 23-8 lead midway through the second quarter and led by as many as 35.

Stokes finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists, and Hampton added 13 points and seven rebounds. Junior Courtney Zenner added 12 points and senior Addie Johnson had 10.

And those were just the offensive contributions. Freeland junior Tori Jankoska, who will sign with Michigan State this fall, ranked multiple Cougars as the best defenders she’s faced this season – although she still finished with 29 points and nine rebounds.

“Normally we can take away either the inside or outside game. But this team had both going tonight,” Freeland coach Tom Zolinski said. “Our inexperience showed a little bit. Definitely, their experience took over early and throughout the entire game.

“It’s an emotional ride. To go high and low just like that, it’s a feeling that will help us for next year.”

The seeds of Friday’s loss should take hold immediately, as Freeland (22-4) had no seniors this season. Zolinski spoke as well of not having to give a sad good-bye speech after the loss; instead, he got his Falcons revved to make a return trip to East Lansing.

“That’s the best part about it. I’ve grown so close to this team already, and we don’t have to say bye to any of our family members, essentially,” Jankoska said. “I don’t think any of our team had ever been to a Regional Finals beside me. … Everyone’s going to be back next year, and hopefully we can make a run at it, since nobody expected us to get here this year. No one knows how far we’re going to get next year."

Click for the box score. Watch the game and both teams' postgame press conferences at 

PHOTO: Grand Rapids Catholic Central senior Tiesha Stokes takes a shot Friday. She made 8 of 13 for a team-high 17 points. (Photo courtesy of 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.