'Downtown' Heats Up as Saints Advance

March 19, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – It just happens sometimes, Margo Brown said after she landed her name among the most accomplished long-range shooters in MHSAA Finals history.

And Thursday was just about the best time for another of the hot streaks that have earned the St. Ignace senior a reputation as one of the top bombers in the state. 

Brown drilled seven straight 3-pointers to drive the Saints on a 19-point swing and into their third straight MHSAA Final with a 59-50 comeback win over top-ranked Frankfort in the late Class D Semifinal at the Breslin Center.

"Downtown Margo Brown," as her coach called her after, made her first 3-pointer with St. Ignace trailing midway through the second quarter, and her seventh put the Saints up six points with 6:14 to play. Total, she made 7 of 9 from behind the arc to contribute to team percentages that generally defy logic. For the game, St. Ignace shot a respectable 49 percent from the field – but 64 percent from 3-point range. 

“It was just a huge momentum change. It got everyone pumped up, the crowd and team especially,” Brown said. “The first half only a couple of us stepped up, and the second half I knew I had to bring it. It was now or never, we’ve gotta get there Saturday. Let’s make some shots, make some plays.

“I just get pumped up. I have a lot of intensity.” 

And an incredible shooting touch. She’ll surely be St. Ignace’s most marked player when she and the No. 6 Saints (21-5) face No. 2 Pittsford (26-0) in the Class D Final at 10 a.m. Saturday.  

Brown made 11 3-pointers in a game earlier this season, which will tie for third-most in MHSAA girls basketball history when added to the record book this spring. She had made 51 coming into this week, and should push to make the MHSAA record book list for single-season 3-pointers as well, depending on how many she adds in the championship game. 

She played the biggest part in earning that opportunity – but one of a number of parts needed in the comeback effort.

Making a pair of 3-pointers as well, Frankfort (24-2) built an eight-point lead six minutes into the game. The Panthers pushed the advantage to 13 with 5:46 left in the first half. Junior Mackenna Kelly did most of the damage, scoring 13 points on 5 of 9 shooting to that point.

Enter Saints junior forward Shakir Smith, who took over defending Kelly and helped hold the Central Michigan University recruit to 2 of 13 shooting the rest of the game.

Junior guard Abbey Ostman and senior center Sarah Smith joined Brown on St. Ignace’s 2013 Class D championship team, and they had roles to play Thursday as well. Brown had 23 points and four assists, and Ostman added 20 points on 8 of 9 shooting from the floor. Smith had seven points plus game highs of eight rebounds and four blocked shots. 

“Basically, I said it’s going to have be an all-out team effort. You’re going to have to dive on the floor and show how bad you want it,” St. Ignace coach Dorene Ingalls said of her halftime time pep talk, given with the Saints trailing 28-20.

“We weren’t just going to get an 8-point basket. We had to go one play at a time. And when Margo can shoot from halfcourt, it helps.”

Frankfort cut its late deficit to five on senior Shayla Soto’s bucket with 54 seconds to play. But the Saints made 7 of 8 free throw shots down the stretch – including the final two by Brown.

“When Margo came out nuclear – that was beyond hot – that was something else,” Frankfort coach Tim Reznich said. “She’s been a great player for quite a while. And we had our best player chasing her." 

Kelly finished with 18 points and nine rebounds to lead Frankfort, which played in its first Semifinal since winning back-to-back championships in 2005 and 2006. Sophomore guard Cecilia Schmitt added 15 points, five rebounds and three steals.

Frankfort is a combined 47-4 over the last two seasons. 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) St. Ignace’s Margo Brown (24) drives to the basket Thursday against Frankfort. (Middle) The Panthers’ Mackenna Kelly works for space with the Saints’ Jade Edelman defending.

Little Provides Major Stride as 1st Woman to Officiate Boys Hoops Final since 1995

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

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.