Defense Keys Hamady Semifinal Surge

March 21, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

GRAND RAPIDS – Flint Hamady made it to Van Noord Arena this season on a defensive effort that gave up only 40.4 points per game heading into Thursday’s Semifinal matchup with Lake City.

During the second half, the Hawks nearly shut down the Trojans entirely to lock down a spot in Saturday’s championship game.

Trailing heading into the third quarter, Hamady allowed just 13 points over the final 16 minutes to get past Lake City 42-33 and earn a return to the Finals for the sixth time and first since finishing Class C runner-up in 2015.

“We didn’t come with the best first half,” Hamady senior guard Jordan McKeller said. “But we look at each other as sisters, and at the end of the day it’s us and the coaching staff. We were able to keep our heads up and play together as a team.”

The Hawks (21-5) will play for their first MHSAA championship since 2010 at 4 p.m. Saturday against Pewamo-Westphalia.

Hamady is putting up just under 52 points per game this season. But the defense has hit another level during the tournament as the Hawks have gone from facing a number of larger opponents to schools their size. Including Thursday’s game, Hamady is giving up just 36 points during the playoffs.

Major differences in slowing down Lake City were 6-foot-1 senior forward Treshondra Williams and 6-2 junior center Aryana Naylor. Hamady outrebounded Lake City 37-27 – and 20-9 during the seconds half – and those two combined for 20 boards over the four quarters.

“I thought we did a good job defensively in the first half. They’re just a good shooting team,” Hamady coach Keith Smith said. “We wanted to stay more attached to number 12 (Makayla Ardis), she’s a good shooter. And in the second half we put Aryana Naylor on their 32 (Rylie Bisballe), made the adjustment there, and Ari did a good job.”

Lake City led by as many as four for most of the third quarter. But McKeller’s basket with 2:10 to play in the period gave the Hawks their first lead after the break, and they never gave it back.

Lake City (22-3) went from making 41 percent of its shots from the floor during the first half to 27 percent during the second. The Hawks, meanwhile, had a key six second-chance points during the fourth quarter as they pushed the lead to as large as 12.

Naylor and McKeller both had 10 points to lead Hamady, and Naylor also grabbed eight rebounds. Williams had nine points and 12 rebounds.

“We had a lot of nerves in the first quarter, but the girls were feeling good,” Lake City coach Bill Tisron said. “The second half we were pretty tense. I thought we got good looks, but their size took over. They had a lot of second opportunities in the second half, and I thought that was the difference.”

Ardis made 6-of-12 shots from the floor for a game-high 14 points to go with four steals. Junior forward Megan Hose grabbed eight rebounds.  

Lake City was playing in its first Semifinal since the 1976 team won the Class D championship. Four starters and the top sub from Thursday should return next season, as Ardis was the only senior who saw more than a minute of action.  

“It’s been really fun. To be the first team in 43 years (at the Semifinals) it’s pretty amazing – just the experience has been awesome,” said Bisballe, the team’s leading scorer this winter. “We’re just going to be a better team (next season), and our goal is to get back here again.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Flint Hamady's Xeryia Tartt works to get past a Lake City defender. (Middle) The Trojans' Megan Hose (13) looks for an opening in the Hawks' defense.

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.