Terwilliger Shines in Leading Irish

March 13, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Marine City Cardinal Mooney knew about point guard Sara Hansen, the Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart’s only senior. It had a plan for 6-foot-3 sophomore center Averi Gamble, and it worked well at the start of Thursday’s Class D Semifinal.

But Cardinals’ coach Susan Everhart admitted after that Irish junior guard Riley Terwilliger was not on her team’s radar before their trip to the Breslin Center.

She showed up in a hurry.

Terwilliger, who averaged a respectable 9.3 points per game entering the week, scored 19 and grabbed 10 rebounds and led the key run as Sacred Heart broke away for a 54-42 win and its first MHSAA Final berth since finishing Class D runner-up in 2008.

“I felt I needed to step up at some point in the game, and they were focused a lot on Sara and Averi,” Terwilliger said. “I just did what I had to do.”

Sacred Heart will face either Crystal Falls Forest Park or Athens in Saturday’s 10 a.m. Final. The Irish (21-5) have played only in that one championship game, and as such are seeking their first title.

But they’ve played in plenty of big games this winter, including against a few of the top teams in Class C. And coach Damon Brown could tell that experience paid off in one of the best wins in program history.

Sacred Heart trailed much of the first quarter and half of the second as Cardinal Mooney zoned to give Gamble double coverage and attacked the Irish with its trio of senior standouts. 

But when Terwilliger caught fire, it swung everything in the Irish’s favor – including the Cardinals’ defense that had focused so much attention on the post.

She had 11 points, a rebound and a steal as Sacred Heart closed the first half on a 15-5 run to take a 27-20 lead into the break.

“We know going into games that Sara is number on one people’s scouting reports and Averi is number two. They often forget about Riley, but she finds a way to get open in zones,” Brown said. “She’s the ultimate utility player, and that’s what we need in order to be successful.”

She did so during the second half in part by opening things up for Gamble and Hansen. Gamble had eight of her 10 points after the break, and Hansen had eight of her 16 points during the last three minutes of the game.

Hansen hit a 3-pointer with 2:55 left to push Sacred Heart’s lead from four to seven points, and Terwilliger then made it nine after a steal and layup to effectively put the game away.

“We thought we had a great gameplan … and we got away from it,” Cardinal Mooney coach Susan Everhart said. “They got a little physical at times for us, and that’s where they got a jump on us.”

Whereas Sacred Heart has just one senior in Hansen, Cardinal Mooney followed a strong class of six to its first Semifinals since 2009.  Guard Katie Theut had 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots, and center Madison Southers added 13 points and 14 rebounds.

The Cardinals finished 19-6.

“Our girls made it however many years ago, and the guys made it four years ago, so it means a lot to me to be part of the program and get here,” Theut said. “I couldn’t ask to do it with a better group of girls. They’re all my best friends, and sharing this moment with them means the world to me.”

Hansen exited the game during the final minute, and appeared to take pause when the final buzzer sounded before she rushed into Terwilliger to celebrate the moment.

“The last 30 seconds, you just want to get it over. It’s my first State Finals ever, and it’s just really special,” Hansen said. “It’s kinda fun (being the only senior). Everybody looks up to you and stuff, but I don’t look at it as being the only senior. I’m really good friends with everyone, and it’s just really fun. They play really hard for me, and I play really hard for them.”

Click for a complete box score and video of the press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Sacred Heart's Riley Terwilliger tries to drive around Cardinal Mooney's Madison Stouthers. (Middle) Megan Engish (10) puts up a shot over the Cardinals' Lauren Higgins.

HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Sara Hansen of Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart cans a 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer. Sacred Heart went on to beat Cardinal Mooney 52-42 in the Class D Semifinal. (2) Cardinal Mooney hits its own trey to end the third quarter. Katie Theut beats the buzzer to cut the Irish lead to 36-33. 

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.

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.