Arbor Prep Earns Another Title Game Trip

March 15, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

GRAND RAPIDS – Ypsilanti Arbor Prep calls its championship pursuit a “4-mile run.” And the Gators got through about 3.9 a year ago.

They’ll get another chance to finish the final leg after a 53-35 Class C Semifinal win over Maple City Glen Lake on Thursday at Van Noord Arena.

The Gators, who won Class C in 2016 and then finished Class B runner-up a year ago, will face reigning Class C title winner Detroit Edison in Saturday’s 4 p.m. championship game.

Arbor Prep was the only team this season that defeated Edison, downing the Pioneers 54-49 on Jan. 11.

“Considering what happened with us last year, and the type of players we are and the type of team we have this year, we’re anxious that way,” Arbor Prep senior Jala Petree said. “We’re ambitious to get what we deserve. And I think we’re going to keep working. It isn’t over yet.”

Junior Mahri Petree – Jala and senior Lasha’s younger sister – said after she can feel “a different type of energy in our locker room and practices.”

Arbor Prep (21-5) came out with that drive, opening the Semifinal on a 12-1 run. Glen Lake (23-3) – a semifinalist last season as well – pulled to within four points with two minutes to go in the first half, but the Gators finished with another 7-0 surge.

“It’s like a roller coaster,” Glen Lake coach Jason Bradford said. “The first couple of buckets, (our) first two layups were in and out.

“We’ve been behind before, and the girls know how to work through the runs. We say it’s a roller coaster and just keep on fighting. We have confidence since these girls are used to fighting back, since freshman year, each tournament run … (they have) a lot of composure and a lot of heart.”

The Lakers played Arbor Prep even in the third quarter – notable especially because senior forward Jennifer LaCross, who scored 10 points during the first half, didn’t play at all during the second because of a broken nose.

But the Gators got rolling again in the fourth quarter, closing on a 12-5 run to earn the third straight championship game berth.

Jala and Mahri Petree both scored 12 points, Mahri grabbing seven rebounds with five assists and three steals. Lasha Petree, a Miss Basketball Award finalist this season, had eight points, five assists, five steals and four blocks.

“Last year, losing, that pain is still in my heart,” Lasha Petree said. “I want to avenge it, and I’m ready for it and want to help my teammates do whatever to win.”

Freshman Hailey Helling led Glen Lake with 11 points and five rebounds. LaCross, despite not playing the second half, was the second-leading scorer. The Lakers’ 35 points total were 10 fewer than their previous season low.

Guard Savannah Peplinski and forward Allie Bonzelet joined LaCross finishing four-year careers that included two league titles and two Semifinal trips – and many more memorable moments.

“As a team, it’s just fun the memories we make – not even during the games, but like at the hotel (during Finals weekends),” LaCross said. “I’ll probably be thinking about it when I’m missing basketball the rest of my life.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Maple City Glen Lake’s Allie Bonzelet (11) works to get past Arbor Prep’s Karli Waddell (11) and Lasha Petree. (Middle) Petree defends against Savannah Peplinski.

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.