Eves Helps Hillsdale Keep Expectations High
December 14, 2018
By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half
HILLSDALE – Brad Felix found out as much about his 2018-19 Hillsdale boys basketball team in its first loss of the season Thursday as he did during its surprising 4-0 start.
The Hornets returned only one starter and just a few players that had much to do with last year’s Lenawee County Athletic Association championship team. But that hasn’t deterred Felix’s 18th squad at Hillsdale from being tied atop the LCAA and looking much better than it did on paper coming into the season.
“No one picked us to win the league, and I don’t blame them,” said Felix, who is inching closer to 300 wins as Hillsdale’s head coach. “I get it. But we haven’t lowered our expectations. We’ve done really well the last eight to 10 years. The kids expect to win. Nobody wants to be the team that goes from league champions to winning only five games.”
Thursday, the Hornets fell behind early and leading scorer Spencer Eves was on the bench with foul trouble against Brooklyn Columbia Central, one of the preseason favorites to win this year’s LCAA title. The Hornets, who came into the game 4-0, stayed in it with solid defense. When Eves hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, Hillsdale erased what had been a 35-21 deficit. CC held on for the win, but Hillsdale showed it’s not going to roll over this season for anyone.
“I think I’m more impressed, and proud, of my guys rather than surprised,” Felix said of the start to the season. “They still embrace the role of being champions and aren’t willing to just lie down and not compete.”
Felix and Hillsdale have been a model of consistency, especially in recent years. The Upper Peninsula native has coached one level or another since 1991 at Hillsdale, where he’s led both the girls and boys varsity programs. The Hornets boys have won six of the past seven LCAA championships and 10 league titles and eight District championships total under Felix.
Another thing he’s done is coach a lot of talented, high-scoring players. Most recently, Tyler Laser, Martin Peterson and Bryce Drews have donned the Hornets uniform and put up big numbers in the scoring column. This year, it’s Eves taking the reins and running with them in a big way.
“He just has that mindset that it’s his team, his time,” Felix said of the 6-foot-1 senior captain. “He’s embraced that role of a scorer. I thought we could get 15 or 20 from him. I wasn’t expecting him to be averaging 33 points a game.”
Eves has been outstanding, scoring 28 in the season opener against Jonesville and 35 against Leslie a couple of nights later. In LCAA play, he has had games of 37 against Hudson, 45 against Blissfield and 22 against Columbia Central. He’s scored more than 60 percent of his team’s points this season.
“He’s shooting the ball better than he ever has,” Felix said. “And, he really does a nice job of getting to the free throw line.”
Eves already has shot 71 free throws. He’s averaging 33.4 points a game and has eight 3-pointers. One point that makes Eves scoring so interesting is he’s really the Hornets’ point guard.
“I brought him up to the varsity his freshman year because I knew he was going to be my point guard for the next three years,” Felix said. “I wanted him to learn. He didn’t get a ton of playing time as a freshman, but he learned a lot.”
Eves did average 12 points a game last year, but even he admits to being somewhat surprised to be averaging more than 20 points more a game at this point in the season.
“I just want to go out there and do the things that give us a chance to win,” Eves said. “I’ve played with a lot of great players here. They’ve all been great mentors to me. Now, I’m trying to carry on that tradition.”
Eves said the success of the program over the last decade carries over from year to year.
“Coming up through the system, I think it definitely helps,” he said. “We have had a lot of success.”
Against Blissfield, Eves was nearly unstoppable, scoring 45 of Hillsdale’s 71 points. He made 15 field goals and was 12-for-15 from the charity stripe. Remarkably, through five games, only one other Hillsdale player has reached double figures in scoring in a game – Coby Nash scored 10 in the season opener.
These early-season wins will only help Hillsdale gain confidence as the season goes on. Besides Eves, other seniors on the squad are Nick Baxter, Noah Lopresto and Nash. Hillsdale also has a freshman and one sophomore, Felix’s son Adam.
“We have a lot of role players,” Brad Felix said. “The guys know their roles. They are buying into those roles. We’ve played well. We’re going to keep getting better.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTO: Hillsdale’s Spencer Eves brings the ball upcourt.
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.