Class C: Mohawks get their title shot

March 15, 2012

EAST LANSING – Morley-Stanwood coach Bob Raven said his team has been knocking on the Breslin Center door for a long time.

Clichés aside, the top-ranked Mohawks finally have busted right through.

After four Quarterfinal tries over the last seven seasons, Morley-Stanwood broke through on their fifth attempt earlier this week. And by knocking off reigning Class C champion St. Ignace 60-50 in Thursday’s Semifinal, the Mohawks have earned their first opportunity to play for an MHSAA championship.

"I think we have the experience this year for sure. All of our tournament games have been tough, and we weren't as nervous as we've been in past games," Huntey said. "It's definitely exciting to be here. But then again, you have to make sure you stay calm, do what you've always done and be prepared for the next game."

Morley-Stanwood (27-0) will face No. 9 Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (23-4) in the Class C Final at 4 p.m. Saturday.

The Mohawks won their 11th straight league and seventh-straight District championships earlier this year. But Breslin was a foreign building, while St. Ignace was quite familiar with it after also finishing Class C runner-up in 2010.

“I think St. Ignace had the advantage having played down here,” Raven said. “But I wouldn’t trade this group of girls for anybody.”

All-state seniors Bailey Cairnduff and Alexis Huntey also led the Morley-Stanwood volleyball team to the Class C championship in the fall. They and senior guard Elyse Starck took over Thursday when it was needed most.

Cairnduff broke a 38-38 tie with a basket and free throw with 7:20 to play. She scored 10 of her game-high 28 points during the fourth quarter, and Starck had 10 of her 19 points over the final eight minutes as well as the two combined to score 20 of the team’s 22 points in the final period. Huntey scored only a point in the fourth quarter, but had four rebounds and two assists. She finished with 11 points and five assists.

The Mohawks made 60 percent of their shots from the floor during the second half.

“We definitely got beat tonight by a team that was on fire,” St. Ignace co-coach Dorene Ingalls said. “We went through some things for Morley, but we would’ve liked one more day to prepare. They caught us on that back-door cut way too much. But I thought we battled back.”

Sophomore guards Kelley Wright and Emily Hinsman both scored 12 points to lead the Saints (25-1). Senior Lauren Goldthorpe – who began playing basketball seriously only three seasons ago and earned all-state special mention this season – had 11 points, six rebounds and four steals.

St. Ignace presented Morley-Stanwood with the toughest press defense the Mohawks had seen this season. Now they’ll take on Miss Basketball Madison Ristovski and the team that fell to St. Ignace in last season’s Final.

“We’ll definitely have a great game on our hands. We’ll have to play hard and take care of the ball and do what we do best, and I think we’ll be all right,” Starck said. “It’s always been our dream to even be here. And to make the state Finals is absolutely a blessing for our team and our community.”

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

PHOTO: Morley-Stanwood senior guard Elyse Starck takes a shot Thursday. She scored 19 points. (Photo courtesy of Terry McNamara Photography.)  

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.