Southeastern Makes Final Minute Count

March 22, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Jovone Haynes saw a “weakness,” went after it, and Detroit Southeastern will play Saturday for the MHSAA Class A title.

Simple as that … and not at all.

With his team and reigning champion Saginaw tied and a minute to play in Thursday’s Semifinal, the Jungaleers senior made a steal at halfcourt and found teammate Leonard Harper-Baker for a go-ahead layup on the way to a 51-45 victory.

Four of the Jungaleers’ losses this season – including their 57-56 defeat to Saginaw in December – came down to the game’s final possession. Haynes wouldn’t let this one get to that point.

 “I saw he had the ball over his head. I just went at it,” said Haynes of his gutsy last-minute swipe. “I was just confident I could steal the ball.”

But there’s much more to explain why he and his teammates moved on.  

Detroit Southeastern (21-5) will face top-ranked Romulus for the Class A title at noon Saturday. Romulus is playing for its first championship since 1986; Southeastern for its first since 1926 and after finishing runner-up in 2011.

The Jungaleers probably weren’t the Detroit Public School League team expected to reach Breslin Center this winter – not with Detroit Pershing and Cass Tech ranked in Class A and Douglass ranked in Class B.

But Southeastern, an honorable mention in the final poll, benefited from facing them all and despite losing to two of the three.

Haynes and senior Kenyatta Singleton didn’t play in that first Saginaw game, but combined for 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight steals Friday. And they brought security to Southeastern’s offensive attack that was missing in the first matchup; the Jungaleers had only 12 turnovers this time.

“You’re not going to win a state championship in December or January, not in basketball. Us losing (those) four games, who cares?” Southeastern coach George Ward, Jr., said.

“We knew when we got these two on the floor, defensively or offensively, we could make something happen.”

For the first 31 minutes, the teams played to a stalemate. Although the Jungaleers jumped to an 8-0 lead off the opening tip, the margin was never more than four points over the 20 minutes prior to final minute, when Southeastern finished on a 6-0 run.

“They got us sleeping, forced a clean turnover,” Saginaw coach Julian Taylor said. “My guy took his eye off, he was trying to pay attention to the ref, and (Haynes) smacked it out of his hand. Then we had to play from behind, and we made another turnover.”

Junior forward Daryl Bigham led the Jungaleers with 14 points and six rebounds, and Haynes had 13 points.

Junior Keyon Addison scored 10 points to lead Saginaw, and 6-foot-6 freshman Algevon Eichelberger had nine blocked shots.

The Trojans entered the postseason ranked No. 6 and finished 23-4.

“It’s just a blessing to be in this position. They fought hard to earn their respect,” said Taylor of his players. “I love all of these guys. They worked their tails off for us. I’m on them to stay humble and stay focused, and I believe they did that. They’ve got nothing to hang their heads for.” 

Click for a full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Southeastern's Jovone Haynes (2) drives against Saginaw's Keyon Addison (15) and Algevon Eichelberger (42) on Friday. (Middle) Eichelberger gets one of his nine blocks. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.