Lakers' Historical Runs Lives On

March 14, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – One way or another, Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes was going to be one of the most intriguing stories from this weekend’s MHSAA Girls Basketball Finals at the Breslin Center.

But with a quarter to play in Thursday’s last Class D Semifinal, it wasn’t going to be for the reason the Lakers would’ve liked.

Our Lady will play Saturday to become only the second team in MHSAA girls basketball history to win four straight Finals championships. But it’s an opportunity that came about only because the team survived arguably its greatest scare since starting this incredible run in 2010.

The Lakers didn’t score in the second quarter and trailed Athens by seven with a eight minutes to play before emerging with a 35-27 victory over the team they also beat in last season’s championship game.

“I was just kinda waiting for when it was going to happen,” Our Lady senior guard Ava Doetsch said. “I knew it was going to happen. After halftime came, (I thought) it has to be the third quarter. Then, it has to be the fourth quarter. And then it did.”

The No. 9 Lakers (21-4) will face top-ranked St. Ignace in Saturday’s first championship game, at 10 a.m. The Saints, like Our Lady, have made it to the Breslin Center each of the last three seasons. They won Class C in 2011 and fell in that class’ Semifinals a year ago.

Another championship would tie the Lakers with Flint Northern’s 1978-81 teams for the longest girls basketball streak in MHSAA history. Only four teams, boys or girls, have won four or more consecutive MHSAA titles – on the boys side, River Rouge won four from 1969-72 and five from 1961-65, and Crystal Falls Forest Park won four straight Upper Peninsula championships from 1938-41 during the era when separate tournaments were held for each peninsula.

But before Our Lady could consider any of that, it had to get past Athens again. And that proved much tougher than in last winter’s 53-37 Finals victory.

After senior guard Lexie Robak hit a 3-pointer with 3:37 to go in the first quarter to give the Lakers a 9-3 lead, they didn’t make another field goal until 3:10 into the third quarter – a stretch of nearly 15 minutes.

That shot cut Athens’ lead to 18-13. The Indians (22-4) went into the fourth quarter up 22-15.  

“We knew we had to come out and play our game and not worry about the other team,” said Robak, who with Doetsch has started all four of the team’s Finals wins. “I don't know why we were nervous, but we were. When we got rid of those, we started playing our game.”

Both teams struggled to find the basket – Our Lady shot only 26 percent from the floor for the game, and Athens came in at 19 percent.

But the Lakers found their sharpness in the fourth, hitting 5 of 7 shots from the floor and 8 of 15 free throw attempts to finish on a 20-5 run that was nearly as shocking as the drought had been earlier.

Meanwhile, Athens had 11 of its 21 turnovers over the final 7:41 as the Lakers turned up the pressure.

“I don’t think we got in the positions that we should’ve gotten in to be successful in breaking that press,” Indians coach Calvin Quist said. “We’ve been pressed during this season, but not a whole lot because we usually handle it well. We didn’t handle it well, and that was the difference in the game.”

Lexie Robak finished with 13 points and Doetsch had eight and five steals. But the key may have been junior forward Anna Robb, who made 3 of 5 shots for seven points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds as well.

Senior Chantel Davenport led Athens with 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds, and junior Audrey Oswalt grabbed 11 rebounds.

“It’s probably not the way we imagined it might go,” Our Lady coach Steve Robak said. “But when the fourth quarter rolled around, and this group’s backs were against the wall, there was never any doubt in our huddle. And certainly (not) with this group.”

Click for a full box score. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Waterford Our Lady's Ava Doetsch (20) works to drive around Athens' Allison Fuller during Thursday's Class D Semifinal. (Middle) Athens' Audrey Oswalt (22) make a strong move to the basket. (Photos by 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.