Latest Flushing Title Creates Lasting Buzz

April 17, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The banner is on its way.

Those who followed Flushing’s unexpected run to this season’s Class A girls basketball title – the school’s first in any sport since 1977 – should quickly understand the significance.

History, at least in small part, played a motivational role for the MHSAA/Applebee’s Team of the Month for March as it reached the Semifinals in girls hoops for the first time since 1976 and then added that second title in Raiders history to the first won by the girls golf team four decades ago.

And the fever is still going strong. On Tuesday, the team is scheduled to be recognized by the Flushing school board. On Thursday, the Raiders will join Sen. Ken Horn for an introduction on the Senate floor in Lansing. On Friday, the girls will be recognized during a ceremony at the school, hopefully with that banner to unveil. And of course, they’ll be part of Flushing’s annual Summer Festival parade June 7.

“I’ve been with the program 20 years – the first seven as an assistant – and when I first started, back when girls basketball was in the fall and we played in the old Big Nine Conference, we always had probably some of the bigger fan support than a lot of the other schools in the conference,” Flushing coach Larry Ford said. “Girls basketball has really been embraced by the community. When we switched seasons (to winter), it dropped off a little … but I still feel we have one of the better followings in the area. What the community did behind the run this year, it was second to none.”

And the same was true for a team not necessarily expected to be standing with the trophy on the season’s final day, despite a group that played for that moment going back to middle school.

After playing together at Flushing's junior high, now-seniors Lauren Newman, Breanna Perry and Kamryn Chappell joined the varsity starting lineup as freshmen, and senior guard Carson Wilson was added the following winter as a sophomore. They were four of six seniors from a class that dominated in middle school and over the last four seasons led the varsity to a combined 81-16 record – including a school record 24 wins both this winter (finishing 24-3) and in 2014-15 (24-1).

Still, the Raiders entered this postseason unranked by The Associated Press after losing two of their their first three games of the season but winning 17 of their final 18. Flushing’s only defeats came to Saginaw Heritage and Midland Dow during that opening run and eventual Class B runner-up Ypsilanti Arbor Prep during the final week of the regular season.

Flushing more than proved its merit during the playoffs. The Raiders opened by avenging last season’s District Final loss to St. Johns, and went on to eliminate 18-win Flint Carman-Ainsworth, 17-win Lapeer, 21-win Dow and 19-win Macomb Dakota. They knocked out reigning champion Warren Cousino (24-3) in the Semifinal 52-36 before downing East Kentwood (26-2) in the championship game, 49-38. All but the Dow win were by double figures.

“When they were eighth graders, we started talking to them about state championships,” Ford said. “I was over there for one of their games, and talked to them, or maybe at practice the next day, and I asked them if they knew what a state championship is. When they’re in eighth grade, that look at you like what is that?

“But we started making it a point (freshman year) what we wanted to do. I thought as juniors and seniors they might have a decent chance to make a run like this. These last two years they really were committed to it.”

The Raiders also can boast some all-around successes. Perry and sophomore Thailyia Christensen are multi-sport athletes also competing in track & field, while Wilson and Chappell play soccer during the spring and Newman played softball as well earlier in her high school career. Newman and Wilson carry 4.0 grade-point averages, while Chappell is at 3.5. Perry, a 6-foot forward, will continue her academic and basketball careers next season at Temple University.

But for now, she and her teammates have a busy week ahead and a lot more to celebrate from their history-making winter.

“They are humble beyond belief, and it’s really nice to see,” Ford said. “They’re very appreciative of the accolades they’re getting, the number of cards and emails they’ve gotten from fans and supporters. They’re really enjoying it."

Past Teams of the Month, 2016-17
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central girls skiing - Report
Powers North Central boys basketball - Report
Dundee boys basketball - Report
Rockford girls swimming & diving - Report
Rochester girls golf - Report
September: Breckenridge football - Report

PHOTO: Flushing's girls basketball team poses with its championship trophy after winning the Class A title last month. 

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.