Class A: Comeback Classic

March 17, 2012

EAST LANSING – Shar’Rae Davis had one thought when she received the ball with only a few seconds  remaining and Grand Haven’s first championship on the line in Saturday’s MHSAA Class A Final.

She saw the rim on Breslin Center’s north basket. And she knew she had 12 seconds to reach it.

“I didn’t even see the rest of my team. So I was like, I’ve got to score,” Davis said. “That was my mentality.

Not only did Davis race the length of the court; she drove to finish the third-longest comeback in MHSAA Girls Basketball Finals history.

Davis completed her lay-up with six seconds to play. Grosse Pointe South couldn’t connect on its final last-second attempt. And the only thing Davis was a second late for was the start of the celebration: Grand Haven 54, Grosse Pointe South 53.

 “When I made the basket, I thought it was tied or something. I was looking around for the timeout. Nothing was happening,” she said. “Then I saw Abby (Cole) jump, everyone run at me. I still didn’t believe it. I had to look at the score.”

Believe it: Grand Haven won its first MHSAA championship after surviving a harrowing double-overtime Quarterfinal against East Lansing, and a late rush by 2011 champion Inskter in Friday’s Semifinal.

But Saturday’s comeback topped them both.

Starting at the end of the first quarter, Grosse Pointe South led for 24 minutes, 5 seconds straight. The Blue Devils’ advantage reached 18 points with 1:51 to go in the third quarter.

“Obviously things weren’t looking good for us down 18. It was another nightmare,” Buccaneers coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “But there was a lot of time left on the clock. And we just talked about getting back into it one possession at a time. You can’t get it all at once. We couldn’t foul just to foul because we knew if the game was going to come down to free throws and we put them at the line, we wouldn’t have a chance.”

Instead, she directed her players to deliver the ball repeatedly to Cole.

The 6-foot-5 junior scored nine of her 18 points over the final 9:38 of the game, including seven straight free throws as the Devils tried to keep her from getting any closer to the hoop (she also had eight rebounds and eight blocks). Davis scored 14 of her game-high 19 points during that 27-10 run.

But those efforts still nearly weren’t enough.

Reeling a bit after giving up the big lead, Grosse Pointe South got a jolt of hope from freshman guard Cierra Rice. Grand Haven took its first lead in two quarters with 1:10 to play, and held a two-point advantage with 24 second to go when Rice dropped in a lay-up, was fouled, and made the free throw to give the Devils back a one-point edge.

But after Davis’ ensuing full-court scoring run, the last attempt by the Devils didn’t fall.

Only Farmington Our Lady of Mercy in 1982 (19 points) and Detroit Cass Tech in 1987 (20) made bigger championship game comebacks than Grand Haven – both to win Class A titles as well.

“We knew we could do anything because of that Quarterfinal game,” Grand Haven senior Alex Law said of the 42-40 win over East Lansing. “It was crazy, but that gave us so much confidence. I was like, ‘Let’s go, we can do this. We’ve got this. It’s our last game. Let’s do it right.’”

Grand Haven finished 27-1, losing only to East Kentwood – a loss the Buccaneers avenged later in the season. They were ranked No. 1 heading into the postseason.

Grosse Pointe South (23-4) was only an honorable mention heading into playoffs. But that didn’t make Saturday any less heart-breaking.

Four Blue Devils scored at least 10 points, led by Rice with 14 and junior Claire DeBoer with 13. Three grabbed at least 10 rebounds – Senior Caitlin Moore had 12 to go with her 12 points, and senior Catherine Palazzolo had 10 to go with her 10 points as Grosse Pointe South outrebounded the taller Buccaneers by 19.

But nine of the Blue Devils 19 turnovers also came during that final Grand Haven run, caused in large part by the Bucs’ “monster” press defense, as they call it. It produced monstrous – and championship – results.

“The past couple of games when the pressure got on, we haven’t always handled it well. And they making the adjustment and really going inside, throwing into the big girls, definitely hurt,” Blue Devils coach Kevin Richards said. “What can you say? We made plays all but right at the very end. We had a great effort and the gameplan worked. We just need to have a little bit better ball security.”

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

PHOTOS: (Top) Grand Haven 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.