Lake's Heroic Hurl Makes Holland History

January 20, 2016

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

HOLLAND – With 4.5 seconds remaining and his team trailing by two points, Demetrius Lake was only trying to help force overtime in last Friday’s Ottawa-Kent Conference Green showdown against visiting Zeeland West.

Instead, the standout junior guard from Holland High School made history with one dramatic shot.

“When they inbounded the ball to me, I was going to try and beat everybody down the floor to get a bucket and go to overtime,” Lake said. “That’s was all I was thinking. Get to the rim. Get to the rim.”

Lake altered his plan when he saw Zeeland West’s defense. He had only one option. 

“They came out in a half-court trapping situation to stop me, so I push the ball down the sideline as fast as I can and I look up and there is only two seconds on the clock,” Lake recalled. “So I shoot a 3 behind the arc, and I’m watching it go in as I follow through on my shot. It was like, wow, did that really happen?”

It did happen. A stunning buzzer-beater from the right wing that not only gave the Dutch a come-from-behind victory, but it gave Lake a school-record 50 points.

“Everybody was chasing me, and the place erupted,” Lake said. “Fans were jumping out of the seats and running on the court. It was a crazy atmosphere.”

Lake said the night was memorable for more than one reason.

“It was special in a lot of different ways,” he said. “It was a conference game against a Zeeland West team that played us tough, and breaking the record on a game-winning shot was real special because it was in front of my home crowd. The whole crowd, including the principal, superintendent and the athletic director. They were all there watching me, and it was just big for me and my teammates.”

Holland third-year head coach Paul Chapman has seen clutch shots from Lake before.

“He is not afraid to take those kind of shots, so I wasn’t surprised when it went in,” Chapman said. “It was a real tough shot, and he had guys all over him. He was way out by the sideline.

“He scored 50 points, and that overshadowed some other things because he also led us in that game in steals, assists and tied for the lead in rebounds. He played pretty much an all-around great game. He put the exclamation mark on everything with the 3-pointer at the buzzer.”

The 5-foot-11 Lake, who recently turned 17, eclipsed a longstanding school record. Ron Maat owned the previous mark, scoring 49 points during a game in 1960. 

Lake had his sights set on the record.

“I knew when I scored my first 40-point game against Cedar Springs that I was aiming for that record because I knew I was going to end up breaking it sometime this season,” Lake said. “It really wasn’t my main focus, but since I was playing middle school basketball one of the goals that I had was breaking records here at Holland High School.

“It’s special for me to have my name up there and in the record books. You have to work for that, and that’s what I did.”

Lake’s heroics helped improve Holland’s record to 6-3 and 2-0 in the conference. Through nine games, he’s averaging an astounding 33.3 points per game, with four games of 40 points or better.

Lake also contributes in other ways, averaging 4.6 rebounds, 4.1 steals and 3.0 assists per game. He’s shooting 43 percent from the field and 83 percent from the free-throw line.

Last season, as a sophomore, Lake averaged 25 points per game and earned a spot on the Class A all-state team. He scored at least 30 points eight times. 

While Lake has always possessed the ability to score points at a rapid pace, he improved other facets of his game during the offseason. 

“He’s a better ball handler, and that’s one thing he worked on, and he’s shooting a higher percentage,” Chapman said. “He’s been very aggressive with the ball, and he has the ability at times to put us on his back and kind of carry us through.

“He’s also a tremendous competitor. He really wants to win and wants to do well. He’s a fantastic athlete and not afraid to fail. He does a lot for us.”

Lake, who was pulled up to varsity from the junior varsity 11 games into his freshmen season, has seen all types of defenses from opposing teams in an attempt to contain him. 

It’s something he anticipated entering the season.

“I worked really hard this summer on being more consistent so I can be aware of teams running different defenses at me,” Lake said. “I really concentrated on my 3-pointers, lay-ups, free throws and getting other players involved. Alumni will come into practice and guard me, and we work on denying me the ball in practice.”

Lake also has stepped into a leadership role.

“He’s a much better leader,” Chapman said. “Last year he was on a senior-dominated team, but now he’s the guy with experience. He’s done a good job at getting guys in the right spots and getting them to compete and believe in themselves.”

Lake has received attention from several colleges including the likes of Purdue, Michigan State, DePaul and Youngstown State.

However, Lake has a wish list of three top programs he hopes to play for in the future.

“I really want to go to Duke because it’s a dream school for me, and number two is Michigan State, to play for Tom Izzo,” Lake said. “And then there is UCLA. Those are the top three I really want to go to.”

Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Holland's Demetrius Lake gets to the basket during a game last season against Hudsonville Unity Christian. (Middle) Lake throws down a dunk against Holland Christian. (Photos courtesy of Holland High School.)

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.