Finally ... Romulus Reigns in Class A
March 23, 2013
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Romulus coach Nate Oats called it abnormal rather than rare for his players to show up at school at 6 a.m. this season to take extra shots before class.
Point guard Wesley Clark made himself familiar with a few hills too as he took the extra steps necessary to avoid leaving Breslin Center again without a championship trophy.
This weekend’s trip to Michigan State was the Eagles’ fourth in six seasons, and they played in their first championship game Saturday since finishing runner-up in 2005. But those early mornings and extra shots became all worth it when, in Oats’ words, “We finally got this thing done.”
Romulus led the Final from start to finish in defeating Detroit Southeastern 61-49 to claim its first Class A title since 1986 and cap one of the finest seasons by a Class A team in recent memory.
“As a junior, it was my first time being here to the Breslin, and I didn’t understand what type of feeling it was to lose at Breslin,” Clark said. “Coming into senior year, I knew I didn’t want to feel that again. So I took that on in the offseason and in the spring, ... just to make sure this wouldn’t happen again.”
Romulus finished 27-1, its only loss to Detroit Pershing – which the Eagles then avenged in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal.
Of those 27 wins, all but six were by 10 or more points.
“Our theme of the year was ‘dominate,’ and dominating is mainly just winning and winning by a large margin,” Clark said. “We took that on as a statement and challenge. That’s what we tried to do, is dominate.”
Oats broke it down Saturday much like his team broke down opponents all season.
It started with talent, and the Eagles obviously weren’t lacking. Oats called the Missouri-bound Clark the most competitive player he’s coached. Rhode Island recruit E.C. Matthews is one of the biggest “gym rats” he’s had, and Louisiana Tech signee Leonardo Edwards showed in spurts that he might’ve been the top big man in Michigan. Plus, “we played harder than everybody,” Oats said.
“If you’re more talented than everybody, and played harder, you’re not going to lose most of the time,” he added. “If you’re not in our program, nobody has any idea how many hours these guys put in at the gym. … They’ve made themselves into really good players."
Matthews scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Final, giving him 86 points and 27 rebounds over three games this week. Edwards had 13 points and nine rebounds Saturday, and Clark had 12 points and five assists.
Similar to the Semifinal, Romulus jumped to a 7-0 lead off the opening tip. Southeastern got within four with a minute to play in the first half, but the Eagles led by double figures for all but 47 seconds of the second.
“They get the ball up the floor quickly, and they can shoot the basketball. They do it with precision. I said it (Friday), they do what they do probably better than anybody in the Midwest,” Jungaleers coach George Ward, Jr., said. “Is it unstoppable? Of course not. We just didn’t follow the game plan, so to speak. Once the heat of battle came, we kinda forgot about exactly what it was we really wanted to do to them defensively. And our frustrations really initiated off the fact that we didn’t score like we wanted to.”
Senior guard Jovone Haynes – whose last-minute steal made him the hero of Southeastern’s Semifinal win – led the Jungaleers again with 16 points and six steals.
Junior forward Daryl Bigham had 10 points and senior guard Kwesi Williams had 10 points and six rebounds. But Southeastern made only 27 percent of its shots from the floor and only 16 percent from 3-point range.
Southeastern finished 21-6 and with a second runner-up finish in three seasons. The Jungaleers also advanced to the Final in 2011.
“Toughness with some good talent is very important. Our guys showed mental toughness during the course of this season,” Ward said. “We always play a very good schedule, and if you just do things the right way, you’ll always be in position to win.
“Some kind of way, we always manage to win basketball games and get kids to college. … The toughness really can supersede some of the talent levels. We had some toughness, and that helped carry us.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Romulus’ Wesley Clark (15) drives for two of his 12 points in Saturday’s Class A Final. (Middle) Mays and teammate Juwan Clark (3) form a shell over a driving Jovone Haynes. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.