Cousino Makes Name in Semifinal Debut

March 18, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – By at least some in the know, little was expected of Warren Cousino and Hudsonville heading into this MHSAA Tournament – both entered unranked.

Both then won Regional titles for the first time last week, and extended dream seasons with a Semifinal matchup Friday that was going to end with one getting to play for the ultimate goal for the first time. 

By the end of the first quarter, Cousino – often mispronounced, but reads like a member of a family – left little doubt which team would get that opportunity.

Riding the powerful drives of junior guard Kierra Fletcher – whose 37 points tied for third most in MHSAA Semifinals history – the Patriots carried that early jumpstart to a 60-45 win and a return trip to East Lansing on Saturday.

“We came into this tournament and we knew we were sleepers,” Fletcher said. “We just wanted to prove everyone in the state wrong because half of Michigan calls our school ‘casino’ or ‘coosino,’ so we’re happy getting Cousino on map. I think we’ll go far … next year and years on because of this.”

Cousino will take on No. 4 Detroit Martin Luther King at noon Saturday in the Class A Final, facing a program seeking its sixth title and with much more experience at this late date in the season. 

But it was impossible to tell the Patriots (22-4) were newcomers in their Breslin debut.

Fletcher made 14 of 20 shots from the floor as her team connected on 50 percent as a whole. She also grabbed nine rebounds and had five assists, driving and dishing to shooters on the perimeter who took advantage.

Freshman guard Kate McArthur added 13 points and made three 3-pointers, and freshman guard Mackenzie Cook made her only try from beyond the arc. 

With Fletcher scoring eight points, Cousino as a team jumped to an 11-0 lead off the tip. Hudsonville sophomore Kasey DeSmit’s 3-pointer with 2:29 to play in the first quarter cut a 10-point lead to seven – but that was the last time the margin was in single digits.

“We set the tone early on as far as defensively, and it helps when you hit your first four shots you take,” Cousino coach Mike Lee said. “Kate set the tone especially from the outside range, and Kierra set the tone from the inside part of it.”

He could tell the afternoon might turn out well after his team brought a focused but light approach to the bus ride to Breslin. 

Lee told his players that Hudsonville would be just as nervous. But Cousino seemed to turn any anxiety into intensity. 

“We set that aggressive tone because we were faster and we had more athletes,” Fletcher said. “And I think our mindsets were just right at the time.”

The teams played nearly evenly after Cousino finished the first quarter with a 21-8 lead. Hudsonville took advantage of its size in the post, with 5-foot-10 senior forward Shaina DenBesten finishing with 15 points and nine rebounds and 6-0 junior center Chloe Guingrich adding 12 and 10, respectively.

Friday’s end was an incredible one for the Eagles (23-4), who were 2-19 two seasons ago and then 15-9 last winter. 

“For us, we’ve been in situations where we’ve had to play from behind, but I don’t know if we’ve ever had a situation where we’ve been that far behind and had to come back,” Hudsonville coach Casey Glass said. “I’m just proud of these kids, because I think at the beginning of the year no one would have ever given us a chance to be right here.”

Probably not Cousino either. But Friday showed the Patriots have the ability to achieve more. 

“For a little school like Warren Cousino to finally get over that hurdle,” Lee said, “I’m pretty proud today.”

Click for the full box score.

The Girls Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Warren Cousino players celebrate at the end of their Class A Semifinal win Friday. (Middle) Cousino’s Kierra Fletcher (3) bursts into the lane while a Hudsonville player defends.

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.