Guards Answer Call for Country Day
March 23, 2013
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
EAST LANSING – Before Saturday’s MHSAA Class B Final, Kurt Keener challenged guards Edmond Sumner, Mory Diane and Austin Price to carry Detroit Country Day to one more win.
In the recent past, Keener might’ve asked something similar of guys like 6-foot-11 Amir Williams or 7-0 Da’Shonte Riley. But this was not like most teams Keener has coached to 678 wins over the last 35 seasons.
Of course, Country Day has had outstanding guards lately as well – Ray McCallum and Kenny Knight keyed the 2010 title run – but it’s been a while since a Yellowjackets team has been this guard-driven.
But as they’ve done all season, the trio was ready to answer. Price had 15 points, Sumner 13 and an ill Diane seven in just 16 minutes as Country Day survived its closest game of the tournament to defeat Detroit Community 57-49 and earn its ninth MHSAA championship.
“We’re used to it. With our hard work in practice, we knew what to do when we came down the stretch,” Edmond said. “It was nothing new to us.”
But a title is to this group. Although Price played in Semifinals the last two seasons and Diane joined him in the starting lineup in 2012, none had played in a championship game before facing Community, located just 10 miles south of the Yellowjackets’ campus.
Country Day (25-3) was the favorite coming in to the tournament as the top-ranked team in the final Associated Press poll. But Community (18-10) proved to be much closer in ability than the teams’ records indicated.
Much has been mentioned during the tournament of the tough schedules both played during the regular season, and particularly of the ranked Class A teams that handed Community a few losses but also pointed the Hurricanes down the path toward their first championship game.
Although Country Day led by a handful of points for most of the final three quarters, Community tied the score 36 seconds into the fourth.
“Sports at times, you’ve got to just dig deep and make a stop. I just kept saying, ‘one more,’” Keener said. “I asked Mory at one point at halftime, ‘Can you give us one or two plays?’ One or two plays in a game like this make all the difference in the world.”
Diane made the jumper that put Country Day back ahead 46-44 with 7:09 to play. Price hit six free throws and Sumner a pair down the stretch as the Yellowjackets finally pulled away for good.
But not until the final minute did it feel like Community had run out of comeback opportunities.
Country Day broke 100 points twice but scored fewer than 62 points only once before Saturday. The Hurricanes outshot the Yellowjackets 41 percent to 39 and had only one fewer rebound. The difference came in part at the free throw line, where Country Day made 20 of 26 tries and Community made only 9 of 16.
“The pressure bothered us a little bit. … If we made some free throws and layups, I think we’re right there,” Community coach Venias Jordan, Jr., said. “This is right where we wanted it. Going into the game, I told (my players) if we keep them 55ish, we had a chance to win.”
But Country Day and especially 6-foot-4 sophomore Deshawn Thomas also did well in limiting South Florida recruit Byron Zeigler. The 6-6 senior had 17 points Friday, but only nine on five shots in the Final.
“They made it pretty hard for us to get in our spots on offense, made it tough for us in the post,” Zeigler said. “They fronted us, double-teamed us, trapped us. They did everything possible to make us uncomfortable so we couldn’t get into our sweet spots.”
Senior forward Jerrell Martin led Community with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Thomas had six points and eight rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench for the Yellowjackets.
PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Country Day's Maurice Ways (22) and his teammates rush the floor after the Yellowjackets clinched the Class B title Saturday. (Middle) Country Day's Austin Price (14) and Community's Landie Davis go for a loose ball during the championship game. (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.