Eagles' Ace Has Scoring Record in Sight

February 8, 2018

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

ERIE – The Liedel family barn in Erie has been home to some great basketball battles the past few years.

It’s also the home court for soon-to-be all-time Monroe County Region scoring champ Mary Liedel.

A senior, Liedel is in her fourth season playing for Erie Mason. She will enter Friday’s scheduled game against Onsted with 1,657 career points – just eight points shy of the all-time Monroe County Region record of 1,665 points set by Petersburg-Summerfield’s Melissa Taylor during the 1990s.

It’s ironic the 5-foot-10 senior guard could set the record against Onsted. It’s against the Wildcats that she scored 51 points in a game last year to break the Monroe County single game mark.

“I just love the game,” Liedel said. “There is just something about it. God gave me the talent to go out and play basketball, and I want to return the favor for Him. I just play my heart out for Him.”

Those games in her barn, against some of her nine siblings, helped turn Liedel into a superstar scorer.

“In our barn, we always play one-on-one,” Mary said. “My brother, Joey, and I play a lot of one-on-one. He’s really helped my game.”

Joey is a sophomore and the leading scorer on the Eagles boys basketball team. Mary has led the Eagles in scoring since her freshman year. After averaging 8.8 points a game that season, her scoring average ballooned to 24.2 points a game as a sophomore. Still, she saw room for improvement.

“My shooting percentage wasn’t where I wanted it to be,” she said. “I worked hard on that all summer. My game has grown tremendously. Even last year I didn’t shoot very well on 3-pointers. I worked hard all summer shooting to get that percentage up.”

Her junior year, she scored 585 points and was named Player of the Year by The Monroe News and second team all-state by The Associated Press. She was held below double figures just once all season. Besides the 51-point outburst, she had games of 44, 33, 32 and 30 – all while shooting 40.1 percent from the floor and 66.1 percent from the free throw line. She got to the free throw line 242 times. Three times she attempted at least 20 free throws in a game.

Blissfield head coach Ryan Gilbert called her the “ultimate competitor.”

“She’s a very humble person,” Gilbert said. “Her ability to finish around the rim and through contact is the best I have seen since I have been here.”

Another area of her game that she wanted to improve was rebounding. That mission was accomplished as she had 14 double-doubles as a junior, including a career-high 22 rebounds in one game.

Onsted head coach Brandon Arnold said that 51-point game was remarkable. Liedel was 23-for-29 from the free throw line and made 13 field goals.

“On that night she was un-guardable,” he said. “She was hitting from the 3-point line as well as her shots in the paint. She put her team on her back. She finished well, used her body to create contact, and made a lot of free throws.”

This season started out with an impressive 46-point performance against Ypsilanti Lincoln when she made all seven of her 3-point attempts. While averaging 22.5 points a game, she has increased her rebounding to 11.5 a game and also leads the team in steals, blocked shots and assists.

“I think I’m stronger and I jump higher, and I’m playing down low a lot more,” she said of her rebounding.

Tuesday, against Hillsdale, Liedel had what might be her best all-around game. She recorded her first ever triple-double with 30 points, 13 steals and 10 rebounds.

“I think it was for sure one of my best games,” she said. “I had a good defensive game with a lot of steals.”

Erie Mason head coach Josh Sweigert called it one of her most complete games.

“That game just shows what a complete player she is,” he said. “Not only did she score 30 points, but she also accumulated 13 steals by being in the right place and using her great understanding of the game to make those plays.”

Liedel is the fourth player in Monroe County Region history to pass 1,600 career points. Taylor scored two more points than Whiteford’s Karen Hubbard totaled during the 1970s, and Kiara Kudron also scored more than 1,600 points for New Boston Huron. With at least five games remaining, Liedel is likely to set a new standard that will be hard for any athlete to catch.

The Eagles have steadily improved as a team during Liedel’s time on the court, from three wins her sophomore year to a 12-4 record this season. Erie Mason won’t win the Lenawee County Athletic Association crown – Ida has already wrapped it up – but is focused on winning a District.

“That would definitely be cool,” she said. “We have a good team and a good chance. We’re really focused on that. It’s been really fun this season.”

Liedel has been in contact with some small colleges in Michigan as she considers continuing her playing career.

“I for sure want to play at the next level,” she said. “I’m just undecided where right now.”

Sweigert has had a front row seat to watch Liedel as the Eagles head coach. He continues to be impressed by her talent and work ethic.

“Mary is one of the hardest working players I have ever seen,” he said. “She is the first one in the gym and the last one to leave. She pushes herself and her teammates during practices to be the best that they can be. It would be very easy to be satisfied with where she is due to the success that she has had, but that is just not how she is. She wants to be the best player that she can be.”

As for becoming the career scoring leader in Monroe County, Liedel says that isn’t something she’s concentrating on.

“I could care less about the stats, or points or breaking records,” she said. “I just go out and try and do everything I can for us to win as a team. I’d do anything for the team.” 

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) Erie Mason’s Mary Liedel is drawing closer to setting her area’s career scoring record. (Middle) Liedel works to get past a defender. (Photos by Angie Ayers.)

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.