Davis Adding to Pittsford Winning Ways

December 13, 2019

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

PITTSFORD – Aaron Davis doesn’t have to worry about rebuilding Pittsford girls basketball.

While Davis is putting his own stamp on the program that has won two MHSAA Finals championships over the past five seasons, he knows the pieces already were in place when he was named the varsity head coach in June.

“There is a lot of ground work already in place at Pittsford,” said Davis. “It all starts with the youth level, and that’s already there. That is a blessing.”

Davis is in his first season at Pittsford and has the Wildcats off to a 3-0 start. He took over for Chris Hodos, who helped make Pittsford a household name in Class D girls basketball circles over the past decade.

“There are things that I do differently, but Chris and I shared a lot of the same philosophies about basketball,” said Davis, a 2007 graduate of North Adams-Jerome. “There are some things that we do that are from Chris. We still run some of the same presses.”

Davis was a three-sport athlete at North Adams-Jerome, playing basketball, football and baseball. He was a four-year varsity baseball player and spent a year on the Adrian College diamond, but an injury that dated back to his high school days cut his college career short.

“I tried it for a year, but it got to be too much stress on my body and arm,” he said.

Davis said that while growing up, his dad coached him in multiple sports. Davis also learned a lot from his high school coaches while playing at North Adams.

“My wife and I had always talked about me getting into coaching someday,” he said.

Davis got his start in coaching at his alma mater. He coached the junior varsity boys basketball team and had coached baseball with Hodos. In fact, when Hodos contacted him about coaching at Pittsford, Davis thought he was talking about baseball.

“After a few minutes, I was like, ‘Oh, you are talking about basketball,’” Davis said. “Chris was a great mentor. He helped me become a better coach.”

Davis spent three seasons as the Wildcats JV girls basketball coach. Hodos, he said, let him run the JV team as he wanted. That valuable experience has paid off in multiple ways early this winter.

Pittsford’s 3-0 start includes wins over Hudson (41-25), Tekonsha (50-12) and Waldron (68-15). Thus far, the Wildcats are giving up just 17.3 points a game. That’s by design.

“We’re real athletic, and we play good defense,” Davis said. “I have a lot of great defenders. Everything starts with our defense.”

Davis said the team presses, often full-court, and likes to create havoc for the other team as it works to just get the ball over the timeline.

“We are built to run, pressure and play fast,” he said. “We do a lot of trapping and try and force the other team into making bad passes. We like to try and create our offense with our defense.”

The Wildcats have 11 players: five seniors, four juniors and two sophomores. Jordyn Cole has been the team’s top scorer through three games. Another senior, Sara Cole, is right behind her. The other seniors are MaKayla McDaniel, Sam Leggett and Brooke Campbell.

“Jordyn and Sara, I’d say, take the majority of our shots,” Davis said, “but we really don’t have just one girl who can score for us. We don’t have that one player we rely on. We have girls up and down the line who are comfortable shooting. We like to spread it out.”

One thing that has helped in his transition is that every girl on the varsity roster played for Davis for at least a season. They all are familiar with him and his systems. He also brought on Greg Mallar to coach the Pittsford JV team. Mallar is also familiar to the girls because he has been coaching in the Wildcats youth program.

“He’s actually helped develop a lot of the girls,” Davis said.

Pittsford became a state power under Hodos. In his seven seasons as the head coach, the Wildcats went 156-14, including five consecutive 20-0 regular seasons and the Class D titles in 2016 and 2017. They fell just shy of Michigan’s record of 78 consecutive wins during that time frame.

Pittsford athletic director Mike Burger said the program is in good hands.

"I think that the way that he approaches coaching girls basketball fits quite nicely with the overall small-school athletics philosophy we have here at Pittsford,” Burger said.

The Wildcats play in the Southern Central Athletic Association with North Adams-Jerome, Jackson Christian, Hillsdale Academy and Camden-Frontier. Camden-Frontier and Hillsdale Academy both return several players from quality teams and also will play in the same District as Pittsford.

“It’s still early,” Davis said. “We’ve struggled at times offensively, but I’m not worried about that at this point. If we play up to our potential, we can make a run. But, like I said, it’s early. We’ll see what happens.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) First-year Pittsford varsity girls basketball coach Aaron Davis talks things over with his team during a practice this season. (Middle) Davis and his team are off to a 3-0 start. (Top photo courtesy of James Gensterblum; middle photo provided by Pittsford girls basketball program.)

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.