Flushing Celebrates 'Banner' Season
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
March 18, 2017
EAST LANSING – Breanna Perry was tired of looking at a lonely state championship banner in the Flushing gymnasium – especially one twice her age.
So the Flushing senior and her teammates went out and got another one.
The Raiders defeated East Kentwood 49-38 Saturday in the MHSAA Class A girls basketball championship game at the Breslin Center. It was the school’s first MHSAA Finals title in the sport, and first in any since winning a girls golf title in 1977.
“We had one banner, and it was how many years ago?” said Perry, who had 12 points and 13 rebounds in the win. “It’s nice to have another banner, and it’s nice that it’s recent. I’m going to have to come back like every day just to look at it.”
Flushing (24-3) was making its first appearance in a girls basketball championship game, and had just one run to the Semifinals (1976) in program history. It entered the postseason not only outside The Associated Press’ top 10 rankings in Class A, but also wasn’t listed in the “others receiving votes” category.
On the way to the title, the Raiders knocked off No. 4 Midland Dow – which had defeated them earlier in the season – and reigning Class A champion Warren Cousino.
“This whole tournament has been an out-of-body experience for me, and I think for all the other girls,” Flushing senior Carson Wilson said. “We’re just still trying to comprehend it all. It’s a lot to take in.”
While Flushing was a veteran team – with four seniors in the starting lineup – it was short on postseason experience, as the program had not made it out of the Regional since 2009. That didn’t seem to bother the Raiders on the biggest stage.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world right now, to be able to be part of what these guys have accomplished at Flushing,” Raiders coach Larry Ford said. “What they did today and throughout the whole tournament, I think was nothing short of special – almost, probably, divine in some respects. They’re a team that stays true to themselves, and they showed that today. Everything for these guys starts on the defensive end, and they let the offense take care of itself.”
Lauren Newman led Flushing with 19 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Shelby Morrow added 10 points and six rebounds, while Kamryn Chappell had five assists. Perry added four steals and three blocks.
Corinne Jemison led East Kentwood (26-2) with 12 points, while Mauriya Barnes had seven. East Kentwood shot 28.1 percent from the field, and was held to six second-chance points despite grabbing 18 offensive rebounds.
“We shot very poorly from the free throw line (36.4 percent) and we shot very poorly from the floor,” East Kentwood coach Jimmy Carter said. “You’re not going to win a game like that against a good team with that type of shooting.”
Flushing held a 19-17 lead at the half after getting points from six players, led by six points from Newman.
Aggressiveness on defense and the offensive glass kept the Falcons close in the half, as they shot just 21.4 percent from the field, compared to 47.1 percent for Flushing. East Kentwood grabbed 11 offensive rebounds in the first half, and forced 14 Flushing turnovers. East Kentwood had an 11-5 advantage in points off turnovers at the half.
But in the third quarter, Flushing cleaned things up, both on the offensive glass and in the turnover department, to start to pull away from the Falcons. Perry had seven rebounds in the quarter to spark the effort.
“I think we were a little bit more focused, and effort was part of it,” Ford said. “That first half was pretty physical, so we talked about what we had to do at the half – bear down and get a little more physical without fouling. We knew we had to take care of the turnover situation, and I think we cut down our turnover situation.”
The Raiders led by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter, and as the clock ticked down, the student section sang “We Are the Champions,” and Ford was able to give his seniors a curtain call.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me that we are state champions,” Newman said. “It kind of just feels like another game in our season. But to achieve that goal and finally get a banner to put up, it’s an unreal feeling and it’s a great accomplishment for our team.”
While East Kentwood didn’t get to finish the season with the same feeling, the Falcons were able to lift their program to a place most didn’t expect it to be four years after winning just one game.
“I’m really proud of our team,” East Kentwood senior Andraya Johnson said. “We went from being an unranked team to being second in the state. That’s a pretty big deal even though we didn’t win.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Flushing’s Breanna Perry pushes the ball upcourt during Saturday’s Class A Final. (Middle) East Kentwood’s Andraya Johnson (21) gets a shot past the outstretched hand of Flushing’s Lauren Newman.
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.
But 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 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 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.