Class C: Victory like no other

March 17, 2012

EAST LANSING – Alexis Huntey had never cried after winning a game. And it’s not like she and her teammates were new to the feeling.

Morley-Stanwood girls teams have achieved their share of significant milestones the last few years. And seniors Huntey, Bailey Cairnduff and Elyse Starck have been big parts of many of them.

But earning the Mohawks’ first-ever MHSAA basketball championship Saturday at the Breslin Center was like nothing those stars had experienced in sports before.

Huntey and Cairnduff also led the school’s volleyball team to the Class C title in the fall. And that was an emotional win. But there was just something different this time, evidenced by what fell with the final buzzer of the Mohawks’ 61-57 win over Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett and Miss Basketball Madison Ristovski.

“Basketball is just such an emotional sport out there. Every basket and every play is so key,” Huntey said. “I can’t even describe it. ... I cried today."

Cairndorff added, “We all cried like babies out there.”  

No doubt, a decade of just-misses dissolved with those tears.

Morley-Stanwood had won 11 straight league titles and seven straight Districts heading into this March. But the Mohawks had never reached the Semifinals – and needed a two-point win over frequent power Kent City in the Regional Final to keep this run alive.

Morley-Stanwood coach Bob Raven told his players he’d kiss the Spartan head at center court if the team got to Breslin. They did, and then went a step further by beating reigning champion St. Ignace in Thursday’s Semifinal. When the Mohawks finished their 28-0 run Saturday afternoon, Raven kept that promise.

 “I’ve been coming to these state Finals for a lot of years as a spectator. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better Class C game than that one,” Morley-Stanwood coach Bob Raven said. “I’ve know there have been some good ones over the years. (Flint) Hamady and St. Ignace a few years ago. But this one ranks right up there with them.”

Much of the credit fell to Miss Basketball.

University Liggett’s Ristovski, who has signed with the University of Michigan, scored 42 points – second most in MHSAA girls basketball championship game history to Peggy Evans’ 47 for Detroit Country Day in 1989. Ristovski did so on an impressive 15 of 29 shooting from the floor despite drawing attention from multiple defenders, just as she has all season.

The only defender who didn’t help on Ristovski was Starck, who instead focused fully on younger sister Haleigh Ristovski. Haleigh hit six 3-pointers in the Knights’ Semifinal win over Concord, and Raven knew that couldn’t happen again if his team was to come out on top. The plan worked – Haleigh Ristovski had only three points in the Final. But University Liggett also struggled to find additional help for their star, which might’ve cost the Knights in the end.

“We talked about it at halftime, and timeouts. We were stagnant, did a lot of standing around and stuff,” Knights coach Joe LaMagno said. “We showed signs of people moving, then went right back into it again. It was a trap we fell into ourselves.”

Madison Ristovski scored all 11 of her University Liggett's points in the fourth quarter as the teams remained within three points of each other throughout. Morley-Stanwood held a 59-57 lead after Starck split a pair of free throws with 37 seconds to play, giving Liggett another chance to tie or take a late advantage.

Ristovski moved around the 3-point arc looking for a shot, and settled for one from near the elbow at the top of the key. It missed – only the second miss on seven shots in the quarter. Two more free throw makes put the game out of reach.

“These girls don’t get rattled like their coach does,” Raven said. “They’re pretty low-key. We don’t have that rah-rah, fired-up girl on the team, and I think that helps us. They are so even-keeled when things are going great and then when they aren’t going great. I think that helps us battle through those situations.”

Huntey, Cairndorff and Starck combined for 55 points – Huntey had 27 and 16 rebounds, Cairnduff scored 18 with nine rebounds, and Starck added 10 points and five assists.

University Liggett also finished runner-up in 2011. For the second straight season, Madison and Haleigh Ristovski had to leave the Breslin floor with tears in their eyes as well – although not without plenty to be proud off in the days ahead.

“It's worse the second time,” Haleigh Ristovski said. “I'm still proud of her though. Madison played awesome.

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

PHOTOS: (Top) Morley-Stanwood celebrates its first MHSAA championship. (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.