Saints Hold On to Earn Chance at Perfection

March 21, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

GRAND RAPIDS – Dorene Ingalls has coached more great teams than most over 20 seasons leading the St. Ignace girls basketball program.

But it doesn’t take long to tell how much she’s enjoyed guiding this one.

There are plenty of reasons why – these Saints are selfless. They’re one of the hardest-working teams she’s coached. And they are just plain nice.

And like St. Ignace teams of the long and recent past, they know how to close out wins – and showed how again in holding on against senior-dominated Kingston 48-44 in Thursday’s first Division 4 Semifinal.  

“We wanted it really bad,” Saints sophomore guard Hallie Marshall said. “We wanted it for our seniors, and our team – it’s a special group this year.”

It’s also the first with a chance to finish 28-0 – only 18 teams have achieved that record – and the Saints will get that chance against either Adrian Lenawee Christian or Fowler in Saturday’s 10 a.m. championship game.

St. Ignace has won five Finals titles under Ingalls, including back-to-back to end her first two seasons running the show. The 2013 team finished 27-0 with only two District games on its tournament path.

It took a classic effort to earn this opportunity against a Kingston team also enjoying a historic run.

These Cardinals were the first in school hoops history, girls or boys, to reach the Semifinals. And led by an all-senior starting lineup, they didn’t show any intimidation taking on an annual state power with more history on the line.

The Saints got the lead up to seven multiple times during the first half, but Kingston got the margin back to four by the break. St. Ignace led by as many as 12, at 3:19 to play in the third quarter, but the Cardinals got within two twice during the final two minutes. Marshall had a three-point play – basket and free throw – the first time, and freshman guard Ally Schultz hit two free throws the second to establish the final margin.

Senior forward Carley Smith had 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Cardinals, and senior guard Lily Lyons added 12 points.

“When you’ve got seniors playing basketball as long as they have, they trust in each other,” Kingston coach Jay Green said. “What makes this team special is their teamwork.

“These guys work well together and know how to accentuate each other’s positives and make up for if they are lacking stuff in their game. I’m not surprised at all they came out with the confidence they had. These girls are special and proved it today – and we’re almost there.”

Senior Emily Coveyou scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Saints. Marshall had 14 points as one of only two players to make more than 50 percent of her shots from the floor.

Coveyou is battling through exertional compartment syndrome, an exercise-induced muscle and nerve condition that causes pain, swelling and sometimes disability as described by the Mayo Clinic. But averaging a team-high 22.9 ppg entering the week, she has St. Ignace on the verge of what would be its fourth title this decade and first since 2015.

“We had six players make over 15,000 shots before the season started and Coveyou is probably closer to 20,000,” said Ingalls, at the postgame press conference with her leading scorer. “Coveyou is playing at sub-70 percent. She’s just a warrior. It’s progressively getting worse every week we go.

“But we have only one more game sweetheart. I’m proud of you – you’ve willed your way.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) St. Ignace’s Emily Coveyou makes a move toward the basket during Thursday’s Division 4 Semifinal. (Middle) Kingston’s Gerilyn Carpenter looks for a teammate while Ally Schultz defends.

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.