Manchester Celebrates 1st Championship

March 16, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Taylor Manders placed a hand on each side of her head Saturday, not entirely sure what to say when her sister Jessie ran up and gave her a huge hug.

A few seconds later, they and their teammates would celebrate the first MHSAA Finals championship in Manchester High School history.

Manders’ speechlessness probably had something to do with simple joy – before this season, Manchester had never even played in a Quarterfinal. There might’ve been some disbelief in there too after a start that made this look early like a Saginaw Nouvel win going away.

And don’t forget a little anticipation. The Lady Dutch had built for this season throughout Manders’ high school career and improved throughout. This winter they picked up a final edge, and it might’ve been the difference-maker in a 57-52 championship game win over the Panthers.

“When I was a freshman, we had a pretty good team. But we lacked chemistry. Sophomore year definitely was a rebuilding year,” Manders said. “Junior year, we were there. But we didn’t have the mental (side). This year we gained all the mentality. The biggest difference was our mentality in us being so strong this year.”

Manchester finished 27-1, its only loss to Class A Semifinalist Dexter. The Dutch entered postseason play ranked No. 3 in Class C, while Nouvel was No. 4.

Along the way the last three weeks, Manchester also eliminated No. 2 Niles Brandywine and two more teams that had received votes in the final Associated Press poll, Ypsilanti Arbor and Adrian Madison.

The Dutch knew how to beat strong teams. But the good news Saturday is they also knew how to climb out of a deficit.

Manchester had gotten down early against Michigan Center in the Regional Semifinal and trailed Riverview Gabriel Richard by eight just minutes into Thursday’s eventual seven-point win. This time, the Dutch found themselves down 14-2 to Nouvel with less than a minute to go in the first quarter.

“The thing is, we’ve seen more pressure defense before. … We just weren’t moving to the seams they gave us,” Manchester coach Cori Kastel said. “We were forcing things. We weren’t patient. And when we try to force and make things happen, that’s when we fall apart instead of maintaining our composure.”

But where other teams might have, Manchester didn’t lose it.

Nouvel had eliminated two top-10 teams during the tournament, including No. 1 Reese. The Panthers closed out a number of elite squads throughout the season. 

The Dutch didn’t become the last.

Nouvel outrebounded Manchester 12-4 during the first quarter; Manchester outrebounded Nouvel 31-16 the rest of the game. Nouvel shot six free throws and made two during the first quarter, while Manchester didn’t have an attempt. Nouvel made two free throws on seven tries the rest of the game; Manchester made 17 of 21.

“Somehow, offensively, we really struggled. We weren’t executing the way we did in the first quarter. For whatever reason, we just lost that flow in our offense,” Nouvel coach Kris Hengesbach said. “And then, coupled with them making big 3-point shots, when we did make a stop they’d get an offensive rebound and put it back in. That did us in.”

“We didn’t play like we were down either. We were just playing our game,” said Dutch senior center McKenna Erkfritz, who had game highs of 22 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks. “When we had a chance to push the ball, we pushed the ball. We really composed ourselves. We used what we’ve been using all season, and it worked for us.”

When Manchester took its first lead of the game on an Erkfritz jumped with 2:48 to play in the third quarter, more than a thousand maroon-clad fans in Breslin’s northeast corner erupted.

The Dutch pushed the lead to 35-32 by the end of the quarter. And only a jumper by Nouvel senior Taylor Hengesbach with two seconds to play brought the final margin back to five.

She finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists in her final game of an all-state career playing for her mother Kris. Junior Rachel McInerney added 15 points and six rebounds.

“Our student body is really close; our school is kinda like a family, and I knew they were still proud of us in the end even though we didn’t come out with the number one trophy,” Taylor Hengesbach said. “They’re still proud of us, and I’m still proud of our team.”

Click for a full box score. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Manchester players prepare to embrace senior McKenna Erkfritz during Saturday's medal ceremony after winning their first Class B championship. (Middle) Lady Dutch senior guard  Taylor Manders finished with nine points, five rebounds and six assists. (Click to see more at

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.