Arthur Hill Books Return Trip to Finals

March 27, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Saginaw Arthur Hill's run to this season's Class A championship game has been the result of strong on-court performances – but with a boost from a pair of behind-the-scenes conversations as well.

For the first meeting, coach Greg McMath invited all of his players except standouts Eric Davis and Brian Bowen, and told the other 10 how much more was needed from them for the Lumberjacks to contend for their third MHSAA title.

The second came during halftime of Friday’s Semifinal against Lansing Everett. Davis, a senior and this season’s Mr. Basketball runner-up, had scored 16 points to give Arthur Hill a three-point lead at the break. He told Bowen, arguably the top sophomore in the state, that the second half belonged to him.

Bowen scored 10 points over the final two quarters and four Lumberjacks scored at least 11 points total as they broke away for a 73-61 win over the Vikings at the Breslin Center.

“Coach said to go out there and have fun, and really there wasn’t too much to say,” said Davis, who will play next season at the University of Texas. “I talked to Brian, said big-time players make big-time plays. The first half was my half; this half will be your half. He’s the number one player in the country in my eyes, and I think he proved that in the second half.”

Arthur Hill will face top-ranked Detroit Western International in the noon Class A Final on Saturday. The No. 6 Lumberjacks (24-3) faced and fell to both this season, but have made significant strides over the last six weeks since suffering the last of their three defeats.

Davis finished with 20 points and six assists Friday and Bowen had 15 points, but they were matched by junior Billy Burton with 18 points and senior forward De’Quevion Johnson’s 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

Johnson had nine of his points and Burton his final 11 during the second half.

“If I was coaching against us, it would be to stop these two,” McMath said of Davis and Bowen. “I had a meeting with the other 10 guys on the team, with these guys not being there. I told them if we’re going to make a run and win a state championship, it’s going to be on you guys. (Davis and Bowen) get the press, and they deserve it. But that’s how much better we’ve gotten from the beginning of the season as a team.”

Everett led by at many as seven points while maintaining control for most of the first 13 minutes. But recalling disappointing third quarters in season-ending losses the last two seasons to rival Saginaw, McMath prepped his team this winter to make third-quarter runs.

The score Friday was last tied, 28-28, with 2:21 to go in the second quarter. From that point, Arthur Hill built a 13-point lead over the rest of the half and third quarter.

Eight points during that Lumberjacks run came on dunks as Arthur Hill sped up the pace and made extra passes to find open teammates cutting to the hoop. Ten of the team’s 16 fast-break points came during the second half.

“We did a poor job getting back on transition defense. On missed shots, sometimes we were going for too many steals in the backcourt, allowing dunks and not reacting on defense,” Everett coach Desmond Ferguson said. “It was a poor night for us defensively … and (defense) is what we hang our hat on.”

The No. 9 Vikings (24-3) can hang their hats on an improvement from 5-16 only a year ago. A sizable reason for the turnaround was the addition of senior center Trevor Manuel, who returned to Lansing after a year out of state and finished third in the Mr. Basketball voting. But three others scored in double figures Friday, and the strength of that supporting cast was as significant a reason behind this winter’s run.

The 6-foot-9 Manuel, who will continue at the University of Oregon, finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds. But junior guard Jamyrin Jackson was the team’s leading scorer with 16 points, senior guard Deshae Doll had 11 and junior guard Leandre Wright scored 10 and grabbed eight rebounds.

Click for the full box score and video from the press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Arthur Hill's’Willie Rodgers makes one of his three blocks during Friday’s Semifinal win over Lansing Everett. (Middle) The Lumberjacks’ Eric Davis works to get past Everett’s Leandre Wright.

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.