Class A: Grand Haven stands tall

March 16, 2012

EAST LANSING – Grand Haven wasn’t prepared for its trip to Michigan State’s Breslin Center last season. It’s as simple as that, Buccaneers’ senior guard Shar’Rae Davis said Friday.

This time?

Grand Haven defeated reigning Class A champion Inkster 43-40 to advance to its first MHSAA Final. And the game got that close only over the last minute, thanks to Inkster’s closing 10-2 run.

“We came in on cloud nine, just floating out there, happy to be there,” Davis said of last season’s run, which ended with a 39-38 Semifinal loss to Detroit Renaissance. “This year, we’re about to win. I’m not taking any other option. I’m so determined to win right now.”

Top-ranked Grand Haven (26-1) will face Grosse Pointe South (22-3) at noon Saturday.

How much difference did a year make for the Buccaneers?

The stat sheet doesn’t tell the story. Grand Haven shot only 33 percent from the floor Friday, was outrebounded and had more turnovers than Inkster.

Instead, consider:

  • Senior guard Alex Law scored 16 points and made four 3-pointers. Grand Haven coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer noted a Regional Final two years ago at a smaller gym at Traverse City St. Francis where Law stepped out of bounds multiple times setting up for a long-range shot. A few of her makes Friday were no doubt from similar long distance.
  • Junior center Abby Cole, measuring 6-foot-5, had five points, nine rebounds and 10 blocked shots facing a frontcourt filled with players measuring 6-0 or taller.
  • Davis also scored 16 points, with six rebounds, and got in her teammates’ ears when Inkster started its late run.

“We learned (from last year) that we have potential. We’re good enough,” Cole said. “We’re even better this year. … We wanted it so much more.”

That the Buccaneers would move on remained in question only through the first quarter, and for maybe that final minute at the end. Grand Haven’s 15-3 run through the second quarter eventually led to a 10-point lead at halftime.

Inkster’s slow start was rooted mostly in its 18 percent shooting during that first half – a result, in large part, of Cole’s presence around the hoop. The Vikings made 4 of 8 shots from the floor during that closing stretch. But they ran out of time.

“First of all, Abby is 6-5 and she presents a presence in the lane, just to start with. I was very impressed with her timing. She was able to not, so to speak, try to block shots while the ball was in our shooters' hands. She was waiting until the ball was released,” Inkster coach Ollie Mitchell said. “Her play in volleyball (this fall) really, really helped her. That was pretty much the biggest concern of mine going into this game. … How we were we going to be able to disrupt her physically.

“For the most part, I think we struggled in that area. But as resilient as our team is, I just felt in the fourth quarter we were going to put a surge on.”

Inkster, ranked No. 10 entering the postseason, finished 21-6. Senior Kelsey Mitchell had nine points and 11 rebounds in her final game before joining the University of Michigan’s program. Senior guard Jamie Madden scored a team-high 13 points.

Grand Haven coaches were told just before tip-off about a vehicle accident that sent multiple students to the hospital as they were en route to the game Friday. Kowalczyk-Fulmer informed her players after the game ended.  

“We are happy about the win, but shaken up about their condition,” she said.

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

PHOTO: Grand Haven junior Abby Cole launches a shot over Inkster defenders Friday. She had five points, nine rebounds and 10 blocks in the Semifinal. (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.