Comeback Saints Win Class D OT Thriller

March 21, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – St. Ignace is used to driving three hours to East Lansing for the last weekend of girls basketball season. This marked the sixth straight they’ve made the trip. 

But only one other team has come from so far back to win an MHSAA championship.

With good reason, St. Ignace looked like a 2014-15 runner-up in the making trailing undefeated Pittsford by 20 two minutes into the third quarter of Saturday’s Class D Final. But the Saints never saw it that way – and launched a comeback that tied the largest in MHSAA girls basketball championship game history. 

The Saints needed overtime to finish the run, but edged Pittsford 64-60 to claim their third title in five seasons.

“A lot of heart. You have to come out there and give it your all, after halftime, and we tried to,” said St. Ignace junior Abbey Ostman, whose 31 points tied for 11th most in a girls MHSAA Final. “I felt like my teammates were trying really hard, and I felt I needed to step up to help them. I knew they were here to give it their all.” 

And that’s what it took for the Saints to claim their fifth championship in historic fashion.

The comeback tied Detroit Cass Tech’s in the 1987 Class A Final, when it came back from 20 down in the third quarter to defeat Saginaw 52-51 at Grand Valley State University. 

The Saints (22-5) trailed Pittsford 41-21 just two minutes into the third quarter after a first half that saw St. Ignace uncharacteristically miss all nine of its 3-point attempts and shoot only 32 percent from the floor. The Wildcats, meanwhile, made half of their shots and 5 of 11 from behind the arc.

But a half, and more, remained to play. 

“I told (my players) they were going to make a run. We had to weather it, and we didn’t,” Pittsford coach Chris Hodos said. “I didn’t know if it would be Ostman or (Margo) Brown who would get hot. I just didn’t know. They have two senior players who have been here a lot of times, and they know how to win games.”

Brown was the hero of Thursday’s Semifinal, when the Saints came back from 13 down to beat top-ranked Frankfort on the wave of her seven straight 3-pointers during the second and third quarters. 

She followed Ostman on Saturday with 19 points, and only one 3-pointer this time. But that shot pulled the Saints within 48-43 just 17 seconds into the fourth quarter – and four minutes later she was fouled on a made lay-up and added the free throw to cut Pittsford’s lead to 50-49.

“Margo’s got the biggest heart out of any player I’ve ever coached,” said St. Ignace coach Dorene Ingalls, who has led the Saints for 16 seasons. “It’s heart like that as a senior, to come out and have two comeback wins, down 20, and never give up. 

“When she makes that (3), the kids start to believe, but the other team starts believing, ‘Uh oh. We’re in trouble,’ if they watched the other game’s second half.”

Ostman made the score even for the first time since the game’s second minute with a free throw that tied it 54-54 with 35 seconds left in regulation. Regulation ended that way after a Brown drive during the final seconds was stopped short. 

Ostman scored the first two baskets of overtime, and Pittsford answered. But junior forward Natalee Lee then gave the Saints a 60-58 lead on two free throws – and after two Pittsford turnovers Brown added two free throws as well to make it a four-point game again with 44 seconds to play.

The Wildcats got no closer.

Ostman also grabbed 10 rebounds as the Saints earned the advantage overall in that category, 42-33.

Junior forward Laura Smith led four Pittsford scorers in double figures with 14 points; sophomore Jaycie Burger added 13, senior Morgan Dominique had 12 and sophomore Maddie Clark had 12 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. 

Ostman started in St. Ignace’s 2013 Class D Final win as a freshman, and Smith and guard Autumn Orm came off the bench as sophomores in that game. Senior center Sarah Smith came off the bench to play big minutes as the team finished Class C runner-up a year ago.

All of that experience surely paid off Saturday, and Saturday’s could pay off quickly for a Pittsford team graduating only two players after completing the longest tournament run in program history. 

“We tried not to let the size of it and the pressure of the game get to us,” Burger said. “We learned what it’s like to play in front of all of these people, how not to get caught up in the surroundings, how not to get rattled when they make their runs. We learned how to stay focused and keep ourselves under control.”

Click for the full box score and video from the postgame press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) St. Ignace’s Abbey Ostman breaks to the basket with Pittsford’s Maddie Clark (10) defending. (Middle) Pittsford’s Morgan Dominique looks for an opening in the Saints’ defense, which includes Margo Brown (24).

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.