U-D Jesuit Wins Matchup of Undefeated

March 25, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

EAST LANSING – Detroit U-D Jesuit’s first trip to the Class A Semifinals in 2014 was filled with awe.

The second trip, last season, ended in disappointment. 

There was no longer awe Friday, and no less excitement – just a laser-like focus on taking the next step for the first time in program history, led by the best player to wear a Cubs uniform.

Senior guard Cassius Winston has played prominent roles in getting U-D Jesuit to the Breslin Center the last three seasons, and his 27 points and 12 rebounds were one of a few reasons the Cubs got past Macomb Dakota 72-51 in a matchup of undefeated teams considered the best in Class A heading into the postseason.

“Like I’ve said before, this is the final to my high school career, and I don’t think I’ve had a successful high school career unless we can win a state championship,” Winston said. “It means the world to finally get over that hump. We came in two years expecting to win it and came up short. Now we made it past that hump to make it to Saturday, so we’ve got to finish it off.”

The Cubs (27-0) will face North Farmington in Saturday’s noon Class A Final.

U-D Jesuit and Dakota were ranked 1 and 2, respectively, by The Associated Press at the end of the regular season, and both were playing to make an MHSAA Final for the first time. Dakota also was riding a perfect run, with the loss Friday ending its season at 26-1.

The Cubs’ 2014 run ended with a 10-point Semifinal loss to eventual runner-up Bloomfield Hills. Last winter, U-D Jesuit edged a point closer, losing by nine to eventual champion Detroit Western International. 

The Quarterfinal win over No. 4 Ypsilanti Community on Tuesday to make this third straight trip definitely was worth celebrating. But Cubs coach Pat Donnelly said hoots and hollers were replaced by a quieter focus that showed him again that his players were all business.

“We did discuss the last two years and the feeling that we had leaving here Friday afternoon, and we talked about that throughout the season,” Donnelly said. “That allowed us to win the Quarterfinal and be very focused walking off the floor. … I think you saw the result of that today.”

It was quickly apparent during an 18-3 run that began 2:41 into the game and ended 2:28 into the second quarter with U-D Jesuit up 25-9. The lead grew to as many as 25 points as the Cubs also held Dakota to its second-fewest in a game this season.

The more sizable U-D Jesuit outrebounded the Cougars 39-24 and also shot 58 percent from the floor to Dakota’s 35 percent success rate, which got off to a cool 19-percent first-half start.

Winston, who will next play at Michigan State and was named the state's Mr. Basketball on Monday, made 8 of 16 shots from the floor in front of a Breslin crowd that included a full lower bowl and a number of fans in the upper bowl as well.

“That was probably the hypest game I ever played in,” Dakota junior Jermaine Jackson said. “Cassius is a great player. Mr. Basketball coming in, that’s a tough task.” 

Junior Gregory Eboigbodin added 13 points and 18 rebounds for U-D Jesuit. Senior guards Steven Marshall and Tavin Allison led four Dakota players in double figures with 13 points apiece, and Jackson and sophomore Thomas Kithier each scored 12. Kithier also had nine rebounds and four assists.

Donnelly said he told Dakota coach Paul Tocco after not to let a Breslin loss take anything away from an excellent season, as the Cougars were now experiencing what the Cubs had experienced twice before.

“Obviously we’re disappointed, but we’ve very proud of the season we had,” Tocco said. “I know the experience of losing to Clarkston in the Regional championship last year was a big-time motivator for us to move beyond that point. It motivated our entire program. And we took another step, two steps, beyond that this year.

"To get here, I’m not going to lie – it’s a lot of fun. We tried to treat it as a business-type trip. We weren’t just happy to be here. We just got outplayed tonight.”

Click for the full box score.

The Boys Basketball Finals are presented by Sparrow Health System.

PHOTOS: (Top) U-D Jesuit’s Ike Eke (1) launches a shot over the outstretched hand of Macomb Dakota’s Thomas Kithier. (Middle) Dakota’s Jermaine Jackson (1) works to get past U-D Jesuit’s Elijah Collins.

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.

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.