Plymouth Christian Academy Taking Historic Run to Season's Final Day
By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com
March 17, 2022
EAST LANSING – When the MHSAA Tournament began, Plymouth Christian Academy senior point guard Anna Fernandez had never won a District game in her high school career.
Three weeks later, Fernandez and her teammates will play for the program’s first Finals championship.
The Eagles continued their storied postseason run Thursday night with a 50-39 win over Adrian Lenawee Christian in a Division 4 Semifinal at the Breslin Center.
Plymouth Christian will meet Fowler in Saturday’s Division 4 Final at 10 a.m.
Fowler turned back a comeback attempt from Baraga to win, 51-45, in the first Semifinal.
“Ever since last year and losing in Districts, I didn’t want to lose like that again and get out early,” said Fernandez, a four-year varsity player who scored 14 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.
“The state finals were always in the back of our minds, but we had to play it one game at a time. Our motto has been that we’re not guaranteed another game, so we have to play all out each game. We definitely thought we could do this, and getting here was our goal.”
The Eagles achieved their goal by beating the Cougars for the second time this season.
Plymouth Christian defeated Lenawee Christian 58-56 late in the regular season on a buzzer-beater from junior Morganne Houk.
“We had high hopes of coming in here and playing great defense because we had some success in our last game against them defensively,” Eagles coach Rod Windle said. “We were excited about the match-ups, and we thought we could contain them and make plays out there.
“Our offense clicked well in the first half, and then we committed to defense in the second half.”
Houk was a major factor in the rematch as well and finished with a game-high 19 points. She also had eight rebounds and four assists.
“She’s our energizer and gets from free throw line to free throw line in a blink of an eye, and all of a sudden has points on the board,” Windle said. “She’s the cheerleader on the floor for our players, and her play tonight was inspiring.”
The Eagles jumped out to a 19-10 lead by the end of the first quarter, and maintained a 23-18 advantage at the half despite managing only four points during the second period.
Lenawee Christian would get as close as five points (39-34) in the fourth quarter before Houk scored on a jumper and Madison Yeager followed with a 3-pointer to put PCA up double digits.
The Cougars (19-6) shot just 29 percent from the field and were led by Cara Anderson’s 12 points. Kylie Summer added 10.
“It was a hard-fought game and I give Plymouth Christian a lot of credit for playing well,” Lenawee Christian coach Jamie Salenbien said. “The first quarter was rough, and you can’t let good teams jump on you like that, but then we locked down and went into the locker room with some momentum. They were able to hit some big shots in the second half and make some timely free throws.”
Lenawee Christian, which won the Division 4 title in 2019, will graduate six seniors.
“It’s hard to lose, but I’m very proud of this group and they have cemented their legacy at this school and in the community,” Salenbien said. “And it’s because of their hard work and commitment as a whole group from day one."
PHOTOS (Top) Plymouth Christian Academy celebrates during Thursday’s Division 4 Semifinal win at Breslin Center. (Middle) Lenawee Christian’s Isabelle Kirkendall (33) walls off PCA’s Morganne Houk. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
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.